Dr. Seeta Sistla: scientist, researcher, and new Cal Poly educator

Contributed by Jonna Lemstra, Will Peterson, & Samantha Santos | AGC 470 Students

From the highest reaches of the Arctic to right here in San Luis Obispo, Dr. Sistla is making an impact on the scientific community with her work on ecosystems and their responses to global disturbances, like climate warming. Sistla studies how soils, plants, and microbial communities respond to environmental change, and how these changes can affect larger-scale ecosystem processes and coupled human-natural systems. She is currently an assistant professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and works for the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences Department where she teaches classes on soils and natural resources. While here, Dr. Sistla is conducting research for the Polaris Project, an international scientific project working on ecosystem response to global warming in the Arctic. A project that set the stage for her research direction and the projects she is bringing into the campus community here at Cal Poly. 

Dr. Sistla comes to us from the East Coast. She completed her undergraduate degree at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. Dr. Sistla followed that up with her masters from Brown University. She then received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California Santa Barbara in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology. As a doctoral student, she began her journey as a teacher at UCSB as an instructor for Ecosystem Processes. After UCSB, Dr. Sistla made the move to Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. As an assistant professor at Hampshire College she was involved in a diverse array of disciplines such as Ecosystem Ecology: A Biogeochemical Perspective and Art and Ecology: Understanding Changing New England Environments. On top of Dr. Sistla’s professorial accolades, she is also an experienced and devoted researcher.  Dr. Sistla’s research is synonymous with the likes of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) where she was a Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellow as well as a visiting scientist for the NSF Polaris Program.  

Dr. Sistla brings a world of experience and knowledge that Cal Poly students can learn from. Through her work on the Polaris Project, Dr. Sistla has made valuable connections that are bringing great opportunities to students on our campus. In her first quarters here, she has initiated more projects on campus that deal with coming to understand the environment and trying to improve it. One of these projects includes the study of soil composition and carbon levels with the addition of compost in vineyards, a venture she is piloting with students who are just as passionate about her field of study as she is.  

To see more about Dr. Sistla's work, and the work of the AGC 470 students, head over to Streaming Science!