Diane O'Brien named director of the Institute of Arctic Biology

Diane O’Brien has been named director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology. O’Brien, a professor of biology and wildlife, has served as interim director since 2021.

A woman with short cropped gray hair wearing a black sweater stands in front of a multicolored mural.
UAF photo by JR Ancheta
Diane O’Brien was recently named director of the Institute of Arctic Biology after serving as interim director since 2021.

It’s been a real privilege to work with such an outstanding and passionate group of researchers over the last three years, and I’m looking forward to what’s next for IAB,O’Brien said. “UAF has been a wonderful place to grow research collaborations across disciplinary boundaries, and I’m hoping to preserve and foster such opportunities for the institute.” 

O’Brien, who was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences, has served as deputy director of the UAF Center for Alaska Native Health Research, as well as IAB, and has been a full professor since 2015. She came to UAF in 2004 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and Wildlife, which has joint appointments within the institute.  

She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Amherst College and her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University.

O’Brien’s research investigates nutritional questions in public health and ecology using naturally occurring stable isotopes.

“Through the years she has made UAF a better place through her thoughtful teaching and mentorships, while making significant scientific contributions in both ecology and biomedical research,” Vice Chancellor of Research Nettie LaBelle-Hamer said in an email to faculty and staff. 

IAB was established in 1963 to advance knowledge of northern biological systems through the integration of research, student training and service to the state of Alaska and the nation. The institute houses programs focused on ecosystems of the North and their responses to climate change, physiological adaptations to extreme environments, the dynamics of Alaska’s wildlife populations and their management, and biomedical research relevant to Alaska’s people, including study of food systems and behavioral health.