Julia Huggins

Naturalist

Julia grew up skiing, camping, and climbing in the mountains of Wyoming and sailing, sea kayaking, and tide pooling along the coast of Maine. She studied biology and environmental studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. As an undergraduate, she studied fungal ecology and soil chemistry in the Pacific Northwest old growth forests. Her work focused on how symbiotic relationships between trees, mushrooms, and soil bacteria drive ecosystem-level processes. This research in microbial ecology has brought her to remote corners of the world, including the rainforests of New Zealand, Patagonia, Ecuador, and Alaska.

Julia is now working on her PhD in biogeochemistry at the University of British Columbia where she studies how chemical processes carried out by tiny microorganisms shape the global environment. Though her background is in forest ecology, she enjoys masquerading as an oceanographer in her current role as chief scientist on marine research expeditions in the Pacific Northwest. Julia is inspired by the complexity of interactions between microorganisms. She believes they hold the key to addressing many global challenges, such as adapting to climate change and cleaning up environmental contaminants. She loves whales, bears, and bald eagles, but she will probably be most excited about the rare variety of Usnea lichen on the tree branch next to the charismatic megafauna.

Throughout her research career, Julia has combined her love of the outdoors with her work as an educator and naturalist. Julia was an intern with a program that teaches college-level biology courses on backcountry kayaking expeditions through Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage. She has also worked as a naturalist on backpacking trips in Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, and she is a co-founder of a non-profit that supports outdoor education for underprivileged youth. She believes deeply in the power of place-based education; sharing the things that inspire her about the natural world is the root of her motivation for research and science outreach.  

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