Roser MatamalaBy Brian Grabowski • July 12, 2013
Roser Matamala is a terrestrial ecologist who specializes in biogeochemistry and global change research for Argonne’s Biosciences division.
What role do you play at Argonne and what kind of research do you work on?
I’m principal and co-investigator for a number of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects, primarily focusing on the areas of biological and environmental science. Many of those projects involve research to improve the representation of terrestrial ecosystem processes in Earth System Models. This enhances the quality of climate model projections and better prepares for and enables us to find solutions for our nation’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.
One interesting project I’m involved in is looking at carbon stored in permafrost in Northern Alaska, trying to get a sense of the amount of carbon stocks in the soil and its vulnerability. It’s an important project from the sense of understanding how much carbon is there and the potential to be released into the atmosphere with a warming climate. The amount of carbon stored in permafrost is believed to be very high as a result of organic matter stored through millennia times scales in a frozen state. If global warming were to release much of this stored carbon, it would intensify the warming of the planet.
How long have you been at Argonne and what attracted you to work here?
I started at Argonne 13 years ago, and a big reason that attracted me here was the fact that the researchers, colleagues who I still work with now, were focused on the effects of elevated CO2 levels in the atmosphere on belowground processes. They were very respected in this area, and that type of research was very important to me then, and still is now. They were doing what I wanted to do and were doing it in places I wanted to do it. So it was a perfect match for me, and for them.
Working for Argonne, it’s also very easy to collaborate and interact with scientists in other divisions that you may not otherwise typically have the opportunity to work with.
What do you like most about your job and the work that you do?
Knowing how things are related to each other. For example, understanding how the biosphere works and functions and how ecosystem components are connected. Also, understanding how the water cycle, nutrient cycle and energy cycles are related and how they work. The more we know about these relationships, the more we can change the way we do things in a way that's positive and sustainable, and that’s important to me. I am driven by always wanting to know more. There is only one world, and we need to work to keep it safe.
What kinds of mentoring experiences have you had at Argonne?
As I mentioned earlier, I first came to Argonne because of the researchers who were heavily focused in an area of interest to me. Those colleagues are Julie Jastrow and Mike Miller, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from them over the years. Earlier in my career, I also learned from Dr. Bert Drake at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Dr. William Schlesinger at Duke University. They were involved in projects for DOE, looking at elevated CO2 effects on wetlands and forest systems. I learned how wetlands and forests function and what responses to climate change we were to expect from those types of ecosystems.
How does Argonne support a positive work-life balance for you?
Argonne has always been flexible in this way, in terms of allowing you that personal balance. It's important that you get your work done obviously, but also that you have your flexibility for your family. So it’s a very positive environment that the lab provides for its employees.
I’m also a member of the Argonne Garden Club and have been involved for three years. I grow tomatoes and zucchini and some other things, and I really enjoy it.