Serena Moseman-Valtierra

  • Associate Professor
  • Biological Sciences
  • Phone: 401.874.7474
  • Email:
  • Office Location: CBLS 489
  • Website


Coastal ecology is a vital area of research in order to understand and, ultimately, protect some of the planet’s most valuable, productive, and beautiful ecosystems. I specialize in salt marsh ecology and biogeochemistry and work to discern ways that human impacts (such as nutrient loading, sedimentation, and biological invasion) have altered nitrogen cycling in coastal wetlands. Although coastal wetlands are usually nitrogen-limited, human activities have significantly altered global nitrogen cycles through industrial nitrogen fixation and N loads to the coasts have increased worldwide. With collaborators and students, my research addresses ways that increased N loading affects the structure and function of wetland ecosystems. Our recent studies have revealed an unexpected, potential effect of increased inputs of nitrate to coastal salt marshes – stimulation of N2O (nitrous oxide) emissions! N2O is an agent of stratospheric ozone depletion and a potent greenhouse gas (with about 300 times the global warming potential as CO2 over 100 years). This means that pollution of wetlands may stimulate harmful feedbacks on climate change (Moseman-Valtierra et al. 2011). The cycling of nitrogen in wetland sediments is mediated by intricate interactions between plants and diverse microbial communities that coat plant shoots and pack plant rhizospheres (roots and surrounding sediments). Therefore, in order to understand how these consortia respond to environmental shifts, I combine biogeochemical tools (flux chamber measurements, enzymatic assays, isotopic analyses) and molecular techniques (T- RFLP) with ecological experiments in the field and lab. Ultimately, my goal is to identify ways to sustain coastal wetlands in the midst of rapidly expanding human populations and global climate change. I particularly enjoy working with students on this research and encourage those with interests in coastal ecology to contact me.


B.S. (Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution), 2002, U.C. San Diego
M.S. (Oceanography), 2003, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Ph.D. (Oceanography), 2008, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Selected Publications

  1. Moseman-Valtierra S., Gonzalez R., Kroeger K., Tang J., Chun W., Crusius J., Bratton J., Green A., and J. Shelton. 2011. Short-term nitrogen additions can shift a coastal wetland from a sink to a source of N2O. Atmospheric Environment DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2011.05.046
  2. Larsen L.G., Moseman-Valtierra S., Santoro A., Hopfensperger K., and A.J. Burgin. 2010. Eco-DAS: A complex systems approach to predicting effects of sea level rise and N loading on N cycling in coastal wetland ecosystems. In: Proceedings of Ecological Dissertations in Aquatic Sciences published by American Society of Limnology and Oceanography.
  3. Moseman S.M., Armaiz-Nolla K., and L. A. Levin. 2010. Wetland response to sedimentation and nitrogen loading: diversification and functional decline of nitrogen fixing microbes. Ecological Applications 20 (6):1556-1568.
  4. Moseman S.M., Johnson R., Zhang R., and P.Y. Qian. 2009. Differences in cordgrass structure between a mature and developing marsh reflect distinct N2-fixing communities. Wetlands 29(3): 919-930.
  5. Moseman S.M., Zhang R., Qian P.Y. and L.A. Levin. 2008. Diversity and functional responses of nitrogen fixing microbes to three wetland invasions. Invasions Biology DOI:10.1007/s10530-008-9227-0.
  6. Moseman S.M. 2007. Opposite diel patterns of nitrogen fixation associated with salt marsh plant species (Spartina foliosa and Salicornia virginica) in southern California. Marine Ecology 28(2): 276-287.
  7. Moseman S.M., Levin L.A., Currin C.A., and C. Forder. 2004. Infaunal colonization, succession and nutrition of macrobenthic assemblages in a restored wetland at Tijuana Estuary, California. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 60: 755-770.