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Dr. Katherine P. O'Neill

Professor - Environmental Studies

Chair - Environmental Studies

Department: Environmental Studies
Office: 107 Annex- West



Ph.D.    Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
B.S.      Environmental Science and Geology, College of William and Mary

Research & Teaching Interests

Critical Zone science and management, ecosystem and landscape ecology, Earth systems science, soils, GIS, sustainability, carbon and greenhouse gas assessments, global change, natural resources, ecosystem services


Katherine O'Neill’s research and teaching links ecosystems, soils, and human management to addresses the interconnections between land use and the ecosystem services that support human well-being (e.g., carbon sequestration, water quality, food and timber production). Prior to arriving at Roanoke in 2008, Dr. O'Neill served as a federal research scientist for the USDA Forest Service and Agricultural Research Service where her work included developing and implementing a national soil quality monitoring program, co-authoring sections of the U.S. Forest Service's National Report on Sustainable Forests (soil quality), and leading an interdisciplinary rhizosphere ecology team in the development of sustainable agricultural management practices for Appalachian farming systems.

Her work and teaching at Roanoke also builds upon her graduate training and research with the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S. Global Carbon Program) which integrated field and lab measurements with models and satellite imagery to evaluate the potential impacts of warmer climates and increased fire frequency on greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost soils in Alaska and Canada.  She is currently an investigator at the National Science Foundation’s Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory charged with developing educational materials based on emerging research into historical land use practices and the ways in which the legacy of severe soil erosion in the southern Piedmont have, and continue to, impact processes within the Earth's Critical Zone.

Critical Zone investigator profile

Willing to speak to professional, social or civic groups on

Critical Zone science, ecosystem ecology, soil ecology, carbon and nutrient cycling, sustainability, urban ecosystems, forest soils, water-energy-food nexus