Ross Virginia

Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science
Director, Institute of Arctic Studies at the Dickey Center for International Understanding

Dartmouth College
Hinman Box 6182
109 Steele Hall
Hanover, NH 03755
Phone: (603) 646-0192
Fax: (603) 646-1682

Ross Virginia in Virginia Valley

I am the the Myers Professor of Environmental Science in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College. I am an ecosystem ecologist interested in human influence on biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial systems with an emphasis on understanding how climate change alters plant-soil interactions and the ecology, biodiversity, and functioning of soils.

My current research examines carbon and nutrient cycling in the polar deserts of Antarctica (McMurdo Dry Valleys) and tundra ecosystems in western Greenland. I am also interested in the relationships between the disciplines of ecology, ecosystem science and environmental law. Previous research examined the desertification of southwestern grasslands and strategies for the restoration of dryland ecosystems.

Currently, I am a co-principal investigator on the McMurdo Dry Valley Long Term Ecological Research Program and serve as the Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies within the Dickey Center for International Understanding. I also direct Dartmouth's NSF funded graduate program in polar environmental change, IGERT. I am co-director of the University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy (IACP), which promotes discussion and analysis of critical issues facing the circumpolar north and its peoples as a result of climate change.

I have a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California at Davis and previously held research and faculty positions at the University of California, Riverside and San Diego State University before joining the Dartmouth faculty in 1992.

To read more about my career at Dartmouth College, check out a July/August 2012 Dartmouth Alumni Magazine Feature entitled, "The Natural."

Click for abbreviated CV / click again to close



B.S.   SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York. Forest Biology magna cum laude, 1972
M.S.   University of California, Davis. Ecology, 1974
Ph.D.  University of California, Davis. Ecology, 1980
A.M.   Dartmouth College (Honorary), 1992


2008- Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science
2003- Director, Institute of Arctic Studies, within the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding
1997-2004 Albert Bradley Third Century Professor in the Sciences
1992- Professor of Environmental Studies (Chair, 1992-2000)
Adjunct Professor of Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences
1985- 1992 Professor (1988-1992), Associate Professor (1985-1988)
Department of Biology, San Diego State University
1985- 1992 Associate Director/Director Systems Ecology Research Group, San Diego State University
1980-1985 Assistant Research Scientist (1982-85), Postdoctoral Res. Sci. (1980-82), Dept. of Soil and Environmental Science, UC Riverside

Research Interests

Polar environmental change
Ecosystem ecology and human impacts on biogeochemical cycling
Soil biodiversity and carbon cycling in extreme environments
Ecosystem ecology and its relationship with environmental law and policy
Arctic environmental policy and security

Professional Organizations/Service

Co-Director, University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy, 2012-
Pomot Member (Senior Management Group), University of the Arctic, 2012-
Trustee, Sterling College (Craftsbury Common, Vermont) and member of the Advisory Board for the Center for Northern Studies at Sterling College, 2005-2010
Co-Chair, U. S. National Organizing Committee for the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) 2007
Association of Ecosystems Research Centers (AERC), Board of Directors, 1992-1993; Treasurer, 1993-1997, 2000; President-Elect, 1998; President, 1999; Treasurer, 2000
Environmental Law Center Advisory Committee, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, Vermont, 1994- 2002
University of the Arctic (UArctic) Council Member, 2004-present

Honors and Awards

McMurdo Helicopter Operations Golden Beaker Award, 2007-08
Graduate Faculty Mentor Award, Dartmouth College Graduate Student Association, 2005
"Virginia Valley" named in 2004 by the U.S. and New Zealand Advisory Committees on Antarctic Names in honor of my research in soil biology conducted in the McMurdo Dry Valleys starting in 1989. Location: 77°29'S, 160°56'E, Olympus Range, Southern Victoria Land, Antarctica, feature ID 18694
CHOICE, Outstanding Academic Title for 2003: Law and Ecology: The Rise of the Ecosystem Regime,
Salzburg Seminar Presidential Fellow, Environment and Diplomacy, 1994
Antarctic Service Medal, U.S. Congress, awarded 1994 (Service Medal Fact Sheet)

Selected Publications

Barrett, J. E., R.A. Virginia, W.B. Lyons, J.C. Priscu, D. M. McKnight, P. T. Doran, A. G. Fountain, D. H. Wall and D. L. Moorhead. 2007. Biogeochemical stoichiometry of Antarctic dry valley ecosystems. J. Geophysical Research 112, G01010, doi:10.1029/2005JG000141

Brooks, Richard O., Ross T. Jones and Ross A. Virginia. 2002. Law and Ecology: The Rise of the Ecosystem Regime. Ashgate Publishers Ltd.: Aldershot, Brookfield USA, Singapore, Sydney, 430 pp. For the Series: Ecology and Law in Modern Society, edited by R. O. Brooks and R. A. Virginia

Craine, J. M., et al. 2009. Global patterns of foliar nitrogen isotopes and their relationships with climate, mycorrhizal fungi, foliar nutrient concentrations, and nitrogen availability. New Phytologist 183:980-992, doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02917.x

Doran, P. T, J. C. Priscu, W. B. Lyons, J. E. Walsh, A. G. Fountain, D. M. McKnight, D. L. Moorhead, R. A. Virginia, D. H. Wall, G. D. Clow, C. H. Fritzen, C. P. McKay, and A. N. Parsons. 2002. Antarctic climate cooling and terrestrial ecosystem response. Nature 415:517-520

Holm, L. K., L. A. Grenoble, and R. A. Virginia. 2011. A praxis for ethical research and scientific conduct in Greenland. Études/Inuit/Studies, Vol. 35 (1-2): 187-200, for the issue on "Intellectual Property and Ethics"

Levy, L. M. A. Kelly, J. A. Howley, and R. A. Virginia. 2012. Age of the Ørkendalen moraines, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland: Constraints on the extent of the southwestern margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet during the Holocene. Quaternary Science Reviews 52:1-5

Reynolds, J. F., R. A. Virginia, P. R. Kemp, A. G. de Soyza, and D. C. Tremmel. 1999. Impact of drought on desert shrubs: Effects of seasonality and degree of resource island development. Ecological Monographs 69:69-106

Virginia, R. A. and D. H. Wall. 2013. Ecosystem function, principles of, In: Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, 2nd edition, S. A. Levin, editor in chief. Academic Press, In Press

Virginia, R. A. and K. S. Yalowitz (Editors). 2012. A New Paradigm for Arctic Health: Challenges and Responses to Rapid Climate, Environmental and Social Change. Workshop Report of an International Conference, May 23-25, 2011, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH and the University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy,

Virginia, R. A. 2009. An ecosystem approach to mountain resorts. Pgs. 24-38, In: Milne, J. E., J. LaMense, and R. A. Virginia (editors). Mountain Resorts: Ecology and the Law. Ashgate Publishers Ltd.: Aldershot, Brookfield USA, Singapore, Sydney. For the Series: Ecology and Law in Modern Society, edited by R. O. Brooks and R. A. Virginia

Virginia, R. A., and D. H. Wall. 1999. How soils structure communities in the Antarctic Dry Valleys. BioScience 49:973-983

Wall, D. H. and R. A. Virginia. 1999. Controls on soil biodiversity: insights from extreme environments. Applied Soil Ecology 13:137-150

My full CV (pdf)

Virginia Valley

Since 1989, I have spent over 20 field seasons conducting long-term ecological research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. In 2004, the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN) honored my research by naming a portion of the McMurdo Dry Valleys after me! Virginia Valley is an upland valley east of Wall valley in Olympus Range. It is located between the north part of Mount Electra on the west, and Mount Circe and Mount Dido on the east. The valley opens north to McKelvey Valley.

Virginia Valley satellite image | Current weather conditions