Julia Diaz is a microbial biogeochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, 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. Many anthropogenic disturbances are currently altering marine phytoplankton communities, causing these critical microorganisms to employ complex stress responses that help them adapt and endure under challenging conditions. The Diaz lab studies how marine phytoplankton use stress to their advantage by employing strategies to obtain essential yet scarce nutrients like phosphorus from seawater and by dissipating excess light energy through the production of extracellular reactive oxygen species. Working across a range of natural complexity — from pure enzymes to model cultures and natural plankton communities — her group is currently unraveling the biochemical mechanisms of diverse phytoplankton stress responses and their implications for a changing ocean.
Originally from Atlanta, Julia earned a B.S. from the University of Georgia in 2006 and completed her doctorate as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow 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. In 2015, she returned to her home state as a faculty member at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. She was awarded a 2018 Sloan Fellowship in Ocean Sciences and currently leads a diverse and talented research team in her position as assistant professor in the Geosciences Research Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.