Professor Randy Dahlgren
Since his childhood days on the family farm in Kennedy, Minnesota, Dahlgren has been “working the soil”. As a graduate student at the University of Washington, he began studying volcanic ash from the recently erupted Mount St. Helens and its rejuvenation effects on soil. You could say he became a volcano chaser after that experience, researching active volcanos in far-off places, such as Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and the Canary Islands.
More recently, his research focuses on the nitrogen found in rock, “a natural source that’s been neglected”, Dahlgren says. “Nitrogen out of rock is like a slow-release fertilizer”. His current work is the convergence of his past research, looking at soil and water chemistry and the unexpected sources of nutrients – the kind of scientific exploration Russell Rustici would have wanted. Income from an endowed faculty position allows the holder to take risks, often resulting in high impact findings that can be leveraged to secure additional extramural funding.
Ever the outdoorsman, Dahlgren continues a long UC Davis tradition of leading the annual soil science summer field study course of California ecosystems. His passion for exploration and teaching earned him the prestigious UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement in 2012.