Nathan Lemoine, '06

Focused on climate change

September 14, 2021


By Anna Funk

Nate Lemoine, ’06, loved his undergraduate research so much, he’s still doing it today. Except now he’s the professor, teaching ecology at Marquette University.

Like Richmond, he explains, Marquette is also heavily focused on undergraduate education. “That’s really important to me, specifically because I had such a good experience at Richmond,” he says. “Most of what I do now is because of what I experienced as an undergrad.”

Starting out, Lemoine wanted to become a coral reef ecologist. He says the sea sponges he studied as an undergrad weren’t terribly glamorous, but he loved the work. “[That] got me into ecology and taught me how to do research — and what research even was,” he says. “I had a great time.”

His doctoral work lured him back onto dry land, but even as he’s explored different ecosystems, his motivating question has remained the same: What will happen as the climate changes?

This spring, the Ecological Society of America named Lemoine an Early Career Fellow for his contributions to his field. It’s among the highest honors a young ecologist can receive, though he’s modest about it. “I saw the other people who got the awards, and they’re all really, really good,” he says. “I can’t tell you what put me in that group as well.”

In less than two decades, he’s studied New England bays and Caribbean coral reefs, Colorado grasslands and Wisconsin prairies — and he already has plans in the works to add African savannas to his list. He’s been a champion for improving statistical analysis in ecology and laid important groundwork for predicting effects of climate change. All along the way, he’s providing undergraduate research experiences that will create the next generation of ecologists, like his professors once did for him.