Ross A. Virginia

Academic Appointments

Director, Institute of Arctic Studies, Dickey Center
Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science
Professor of Environmental Studies
Adjunct Professor of Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences
Distinguished Co-Lead Scholar, Fulbright Arctic Initiative 2015-16, 2017-19
Global Fellow, Polar Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Fellow, The Explorers Club

I am an ecosystem ecologist and member of the Environmental Studies Program faculty interested in how rapid environmental change affects ecosystems and society.  My emphasis is on understanding how climate change alters vegetation and soil and the ecological services they provide. My current research examines carbon and nitrogen cycling in the polar deserts of Antarctica and in the tundra of western Greenland. I am also interested in the relationships between the disciplines of ecology, ecosystem science, and environmental law. I am active in Arctic policy and global environmental issues as director of Dartmouth's Institute of Arctic Studies, Dickey Center for International Understanding, and as co-director of the University of the Arctic Institute for Arctic Policy. As one of two distinguished lead scholars for the U.S. Department of State Fulbright Arctic Initiative I am excited to bring together thematic teams of researchers from the eight Arctic nations to focus on issues of community resilience and sustainability under rapid social, political, and environmental change.

109 Steele Hall
HB 6182
Biological Sciences
Earth Sciences
Environmental Studies
The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding
B.S. SUNY College Envl. Sci and Forestry, 1972
M.S. University of California Davis, 1974
Ph.D. University of California Davis, 1980

Selected Publications

Gooseff, M. N., J. E. Barrett, B. J. Adams, P. T. Doran, A. G. Fountain, W. B. Lyons, D. M. McKnight, J. C. Priscu, E. Sokol, C. Takacs-Vesbach, M. L. Vandegehuchte, R. A. Virginia, and D. H. Wall. Decadal ecosystem response to an anomalous melt season in a polar desert in Antarctica. Nature Ecology and Evolution (2017) doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0253-0

Heindel, R. C., L. E. Culler, and R. A. Virginia. Rates and processes of aeolian soil erosion in West Greenland. The Holocene (2017) 1-10, DOI: 10.1177/0959683616687381 

Bradley-Cook, J I, and R A Virginia. Soil carbon storage and respiration potential across an age and climate gradient in western Greenland. Polar Biology 39:1283-1295, (2016) DOI 10.1007/s00300-015-1853-2

Heindel, R C, J W Chipman, and R A Virginia. The spatial distribution and ecological impacts of aeolian soil erosion in Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland. Annals fo the Association of American Geographers (2015) 105(5):875-890, DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2015.1059176  Press release

Mikucki, J A, E Auken, S Tulacyzk, R A Virginia, C Schamper, K I Sorensen, P T Doran, H Dugan, and N Foley.  Deep groundwater and potential subsurface habitats beneath an Antarctic dy valley. Nature Communications 6, Article number: 6831, doi:10.1038/ncomms7831 (2015)

Dugan, H A, P T Doran, S Tulaczyk, J A Mikucki, S A Arcone, E Auken, C Schamper, and R A Virginia. Subsurface imaging reveals a confined aquifer beneath an ice-sealed Antarctic lake. Geophys. Res Lett, 42:96-103, (2015)

Ball, B A, C R Tellez, and R A Virginia. Penquin activity influences soil biogeochemistry and soil respiration in rookeries on Ross Island, Antarctica. Polar Biology 38:1357-1368 (2015) DOI 10.1007/s00300-015-1699-7

Ball, B A and R A Virginia. Controls on diel CO2 flux across soil mositure gradients in a polar desert. Antarctic Science 27:527-534, doi: 10.1017/S0954102015000255 (2015)

Ball, B A and R A Virginia, The ecological role of moss in a polar desert: implications for aboveground- belowground and terrestrial- aquatic linkages. Polar Biology, 37 (2014), 651-664

Ball, B A and R A Virginia. Microbial biomass and respiration responses to nitrogen fertilization in a polar desert. Polar Biology 37 (2014):573-585

Collins, J. F., M. Sfraga, R. A. Virginia, and K. S. Yalowitz. 2013. A Euro-Atlantic Action Plan for Cooperation and Enhanced Arctic Security. Conference Report and Recommendations to the Arctic Council and Interested Parties. February 11-12, 2013, Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, Washington, D. C. and the University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy

Virginia, R. A. and D. H. Wall. Ecosystem Function, Principles of.  In: Levin, S. A. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, second edition, Volume 3 (2013), pp. 90-95, Academic Press: Waltham MA

Levy L, M A Kelly, J A Howley, and R A Virginia. 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 (2012) 1-5

Holm, L K, L A Grenoble, and R A Virginia. A Praxis for Ethical Research and Scientific Conduct in Greenland, Études/Inuit/Studies 35 (2011) 187-200

Virginia, R A, An Ecosystem Approach to Mountain Resorts in Mountain Resorts: Law and Ecology.  J E Milne, J LaMense and R A Virginia (eds.) Ashgate Press, (2009) 24-38

Barrett, J E, R A Virginia, et al., Persistent effects of a discrete climate event on a polar desert ecosystem. Global Change Biology 14:10 (2008) 2249-2261

Chapin, F S III, M Berman, T V Callaghan, et al., “Polar Systems,” in Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Series, Vol. 1 , R Hassan, R Scholes and N Ash (eds.), (2005) 717-743

Brooks, R O, R T Jones, and R A Virginia. Law and Ecology: The Rise of the Ecosystem Regime. Ashgate Press (2002), 430pp.

Fountain, A. G., G. Saba, S. Stammerjohn, B. Adams, P. Doran, W. Fraser, M. Gooseff, M. Obryk, J. Priscu, and R. A. Virginia.The role of a large-scale climate event on Antarctic ecosystem processes. BioScience 66:848-863 (2016)

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Works in progress

Fulbright Arctic Initiative. Dartmouth Now coverage.

US State Department DipNote on Iqaluit Meeting, May 2015.

Dartmouth takes on US leadership of the NSF funded Joint Sceince Education Project (JSEP) joining students from the US, Denmark and Greenland for field study in Greenland. Award details. PI: R. Virginia, with L. Culler, M. Ayres and M. Albert

Understanding rapid polar environmental change in Greenland. Dartmouth's NSF IGERT Ph.D. training program.

Gatekeepers of the Arctic. Documentary film in production by Corina Gamma and shot in Greenland

Nutrient cycling and soil biodiversity in an Antarctic polar desert. McMurdo NSF Long Term Ecological Research Program (LTER)

Ecology and Law in Modern Society book series.



Selected works and activities

University of the Arctic Snowy Owl Series. In this short video I describe my research on climate change and the Arctic carbon cycle and give an overview of Dartmouth's Polar Environmental Change Graduate Program.

Discovery made below Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys. Video produced by the NSF to highlight results from our study reported in Nature Communications 6, Article number: 6831 doi:10.1038/ncomms7831

In the NEWS

Arctic health and wellness- A conference hosted by the Institute of Arctic Studies and the Fulbright Arctic Initiaitve, January 2016. Dartmouth NOW Story.

Climate change in Antatarctic's desert invovles breathing microbes too. Nature World News, July 2, 2015.

Virginia Valley, Antarctica:  An upland valley E of Wall Valley in Olympus Range, located between the N part of Mount Electra on the W, and Mount Circe and Mount Dido on the E. The valley opens N to McKelvey Valley. Named by Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN) (2004) after Ross A. Virginia, Environmental Studies Program, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; U.S. Antarctic Project (USAP) soils biologist in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, 13 field seasons, 1989-2002.

77° 29' 00" S, 160° 56' 00" E

Dartmouth Now story. In a recently co-authored editorial in The National Interest and in a published report following meetings with Arctic experts and governmental and NGO representatives, Virginia and his colleagues detail a number of issues the Arctic Council should address.  April 23, 2015

How America can step up its role in the Arctic. The National Interest. April 20, 2015, Opinion Editorial

The U.S. and a Peaceful Arctic Future, The Hill, August 8, 2014

Hands Across the Melting Ice, NY Times OP-ED, May 13, 2013

Welcome to the State of Virginia, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine faculty profile, July/August 2012

Report urges action on Arctic protection. Dartmouth and its partners in the University of the Arctic Institute for Arctic Policy and the Carengie Endowment for International Peace have issued a report urging the adoption of new shipping rules, improved safeguards against oil spills, and the creation of environmental and safety standards in polar waters. May 2013.

CNN Digitial Life Podcast on Arctic Science Summit Week hosted by Dartmouth at the start of the International Polar Year, 2007.

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Lectures and Presentations