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38th T B Macaulay Lecture - Global soil biodiversity: establishing common ground for sustainability

The 38th T B Macaulay lecture will be given by Diana H Wall, Distinguished Professor and Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University

The annual Macaulay lecture is given to stimulate thinking and dialogue about contemporary environmental issues in order to honour the vision of Dr Thomas Bassett Macaulay. Dr Macaulay was one time President and Chairman of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada who provided an endowment to found the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research in Aberdeen in 1930. Today the work continues at the James Hutton Institute, which is a world leader in research in the land, crop, water, environmental and socio economic sciences.

Places must be booked in advance due to limited seating so if you wish to attend please email Nicola Strachan to enquire if tickets are available; there is no charge.

Watch the Lecture Here

Lecture Abstract: 

Soils are home to a vast diversity of life that is essential for a variety of ecosystem functions – from the tiniest microbes to larger soil animals and plant roots. The UN has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils to acknowledge their importance and to raise awareness on the need to protect this valuable resource for future generations. Although it is well established that soil organisms provide essential services including decomposition of organic matter, nutrient cycling, cleansing of water, and regulation of pests, the complex relationships in soil are often overlooked in management and policy decisions. The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) was established in 2011with the goal of advancing the knowledge of soil biodiversity science. The GSBI aims to increase the implementation of findings on the benefits of soil biodiversity and identify ways to restore, conserve and promote soils and soil biodiversity. Scientists investigating life in the soil emphasize the critical role of soil biodiversity at all trophic levels to soil functioning and plant production, and thus, our reliance on living soils for a sustainable future.

Speaker Details

Professor Diana H Wall

Diana Wall, University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University was appointed as the Founding Director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability in 2008. A professor in the Department of Biology and Senior Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Diana is responsible for helping faculty and students contribute to progress towards a sustainable future. A soil ecologist and environmental scientist, Diana Wall is actively engaged in research exploring how life in soil (microbial and invertebrate diversity) contributes to healthy, fertile and productive soils and thus to society, and the consequences of human activities on soil globally. Her research on soil biota, particularly soil nematodes, extends from agroecosystems to arid ecosystems. Diana has spent more than 25 seasons in the Antarctic Dry Valleys examining how global changes impact soil biodiversity, ecosystem processes and ecosystem services. She currently serves as Science Chair for the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. She has also served as President of the Ecological Society of America, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Society of Nematologists and other scientific societies. Diana received the 2013 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the 2013 Soil Science Society of America Presidential Award. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and holds an Honorary Doctorate from Utrecht University, The Netherlands. She received a B.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.


Royal Society of Edinburgh
George Street 22-26
EH2 2PQ Edinburgh
United Kingdom

About the Lecture

Dr Thomas Bassett MacaulayThe annual T.B. Macaulay Lecture is held to honour the vision of Dr Thomas Bassett Macaulay, President and Chairman of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, whose benefaction founded the original Macaulay Institute for Soil Research in 1930. He was a descendant of the Macaulays from the Island of Lewis and his aim was to improve the productivity of Scottish agriculture. This vision continues today in its successor the James Hutton Institute, a world leader in land, crop, water, environmental and socio-economic science.