Though Natalie Griffiths, Ph.D., entered college planning to pursue medical sciences, a research experience with a world-renowned ecologist changed her path. She went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in zoology and physiology from the University of Toronto and a doctoral degree in biological sciences from the University of Notre Dame.
Now, Griffiths contributes to environmental research as a staff member in the Climate Change Science Institute and the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“My research uses field studies to advance understanding of how carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycle within environments, and how these important elemental cycles may be affected by environmental change,” Griffiths said. “For example, what are the effects of increased temperatures and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on carbon and nutrient cycling in peatland ecosystems? Or how does growing pine trees for bioenergy affect water quality?”
Her work involves collecting data in the field and the laboratory, analyzing the data, and preparing publications and presentations to communicate her findings to the scientific community.
Additionally, Griffiths dedicates time to sharing her interests with students of various academic levels in programs administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). She credits numerous mentors throughout her life with instilling a passion of scientific discovery and impacting her decision to pursue a career in the environmental sciences.
“As a mentor to participants in the ORISE programs, I hope that these experiences provide students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in conducting research at a national laboratory, which can help inform their career interests,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths enjoys guiding interns through the research process and reaching new discoveries as a team. However, she considers tracking the careers of former ORISE interns one of the most rewarding aspects of her role.
“I believe that the ORISE programs are mutually beneficial,” Griffiths said. “ORISE interns gain experience in conducting research at a national laboratory. In turn, I am always learning something new from the students and continually improve my mentoring skills.”
When she is not studying ecosystems, Griffiths can be found hiking and camping in the Smoky Mountains, rock climbing, competing in triathlons, or gardening.
The Science Education Programs at ORNL are administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.