Pett-Ridge selected as a 2024 Ecological Society of America fellow

Head of the Lab’s Carbon Initiative Jennifer Pett-Ridge (Download Image)

Jennifer Pett-Ridge has been named a fellow of the Ecology Society of America.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientist and head of the Lab’s Carbon Initiative Jennifer Pett-Ridge has been selected as a fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

ESA designates fellows of the society for certain members who have made outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. Pett-Ridge was selected for her work in soil ecology.

“As a young graduate student, ESA was the first scientific society I presented at, and it has been my academic and social ‘home-base’ for almost 30 years,” Pett-Ridge said. “I am so humbled and grateful to be recognized for the interdisciplinary research I’ve had the joy to be part of in my career.”

As the child of a master gardener, Pett-Ridge acquired a taste for the outdoors from an early age and knew that she wanted to go into a field related to the environment, eventually growing to become an expert in soils.

Pett-Ridge has a track record of bringing together big teams and encouraging diverse team members’ ideas and talents. She also is passionate about training the next generation of young scientists and has played an increasing role in teaching and mentoring graduate students via her appointments at UC Merced and UC Berkeley.

In an effort to get the message out about how local communities can get involved in making a difference in removing carbon from the atmosphere, Pett-Ridge devotes significant time to public speaking, giving four to five talks a week to community members, students and scientists.

This is not the first time Pett-Ridge has received an award from the ESA. In 2023, she was honored with the Deborah A. Neher Career Award in recognition of her significant contributions to the field of soil ecology. It is named in honor of Deb Neher, who helped establish the ESA soil ecology section in 1993. At that time, ESA was mostly known for theoretical and basic work, but relatively little applied ecology. Plant ecologists viewed soil as a “black box” and soil ecology papers were not widely published in the ESA journals. Since then, soil ecology has come a long way — and is now recognized for its critical role in sustainable agriculture and a key contributor (and solution) to climate change.

Pett-Ridge’s pioneering work combines complex community molecular biology with isotope-labeling techniques, and she has worked with colleagues to develop several breakthrough technologies for identifying microbiological processes and the underlying systems biology of plants and microbes in response to climate change.

She conducts both fundamental research on the mechanisms that drive soil carbon persistence, as well as applied studies in sustainable bioenergy cropping systems. Most recently, she led the first economy-wide, country-level evaluation of the carbon dioxide removal capacity in the U.S. (Roads to Removal: Options for Carbon Dioxide Removal in the United States), supporting our national efforts to get to ‘net zero.’

Science communication is a major aspect of Pett-Ridge’s academic life — whether it be in the popular press through interviews, podcasts, videos and social media engagements, scientific lectures in academic fora, or California state extension workshops such as the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC-ANR) California Plant and Soil Conference. She devotes time to promote and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for the American Geophysical Union Biogeosciences section, and works to highlight the International Society of Microbial Ecology to new audiences in Ecuador, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the United States.

In the past 10 years, she has been an invited as a keynote speaker at more than 65 events that range from national and international conferences.

Pett-Ridge will be formally recognized for the ESA designation during an awards ceremony at the ESA annual meeting this August in Long Beach, California.