Julia Diaz is an assistant professor in the Geosciences Research Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. By undertaking research at the intersection of marine microbiology and geochemistry, she seeks to determine how the ocean’s smallest inhabitants shape the natural world in big ways, from impacts on the climate system to natural resources and environmental health. Diaz focuses on two primary aspects of marine biogeochemistry: the phosphorus cycle and biological production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). She is interested in exploring how anthropogenic disturbances affect these natural processes. For example, environmental changes cause marine microbes to employ complex stress responses that help them adapt and endure under challenging conditions. The Diaz lab studies how marine microbes use stress to their advantage by employing strategies to obtain essential yet scarce nutrients like phosphorus from seawater and by producing reactive oxygen species to protect themselves against physical and biological threats. Working across a range of natural complexity—from pure enzymes, to model cultures, and natural plankton communities—her group is currently unraveling the mechanisms of diverse microbial stress responses and their implications for a changing ocean.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Diaz earned a BS in biology from the University of Georgia in 2006. With support from an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Diaz completed her PhD in Earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011. She conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with postdoctoral fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the NSF Ocean Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship program. Before coming to Scripps Oceanography she was an assistant professor at the University of Georgia (UGA) Skidaway Institute of Oceanography from 2015-2019. She was awarded a 2018 Sloan Fellowship in ocean sciences and a 2020 early career award in marine microbial ecology and evolution from the Simons Foundation.
Diaz enjoys communicating science to broad audiences and has written for Encyclopedia Britannica and the Britannica Blog. She has also contributed to an article about science communication that was published in Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin. Diaz has interacted with K-12 audiences through numerous outreach initiatives in partnership with Savannah Science Seminar and the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium. She also contributes to digital resources for science education through the development of an app that teaches young learners about ocean science and the phosphorus cycle.
(Updated March 2021)