Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
Dr. Joshua Schimel’s research lies at the intersection of microbial and ecosystem ecology. His work focuses on how the environment controls the composition of microbial communities in soil and how, in turn, those microbes regulate whole ecosystem processes such as greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient cycling, and plant productivity. A major thrust of Dr. Schimel’s work has been in the Arctic, where there are large pools of decomposable carbon in the soils and the climate is warming rapidly. His work is focused on understanding how climate change will alter the release of carbon dioxide, methane, and nutrients from Arctic peat soils and how that will alter the composition and size of plant communities across the landscape. One important aspect of this work has been investigating winter processes, since soil biology does not shut down during the long Arctic winter, and these processes are important in Arctic biogeochemistry. Other aspects of Dr. Schimel’s research are focused on California ecosystems, trying to understand how the stress of the long summer drought regulates soil microbes, and how the replacement of native plants with invasive Mediterranean annual grasses has altered biogeochemical cycles, such as the availability of nutrients in the soils.
Dr. Schimel has been active in U.S. science planning, particularly in the Arctic. He is currently Chair of the Arctic System Science Steering Committee and is a former Chair of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Office of Polar Programs Advisory Committee. Dr. Schimel also has served on the NSF Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education, working on developing plans for future interdisciplinary environmental initiatives. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, Dr. Schimel is chair of the Environmental Studies Program and has served as chair of the University Council of Graduate Student Affairs.