Merritt Turetsky
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

I am a broadly trained carbon cycle scientist and ecosystem ecologist with interests in plant ecology, biogeochemistry, and global change.

My students and I use a variety of approaches, from large-scale manipulations to laboratory experiments and paleoecological reconstructions, to understand the resilience of communities and ecosystems to environmental change.

We tend to work on a variety of research issues including permafrost degradation and changing wildfire regimes that are important to global change and environmental policy arenas. In both northern Canada and Alaska, my research is moving towards fundamental research questions that also are of interest to stakeholders in the north. Northerners are experiencing the most rapid climate change on the planet, and my research interests are aimed at helping them address what these rapid changes mean for their land, traditional foods and the quality of their water. Landscape changes associated with climate warming also will influence the resilience of power and energy systems in northern regions. For example, permafrost thaw is leading to land subsidence (thermokarst) and affects the ability of subsidence harvesters to travel across their land and access traditional foods. By conducting user-driven research that also addresses fundamental questions in ecology and global change biology, I strive to build knowledge and capacity for northern communities and governments.

Key accomplishments

  • Science Advisor to EOS, the science news magazine published by the American Geophysical Union
  • INSTAAR Director (Jan 2020 - Jul 2023)
  • Steering Committee member and Founding member, Permafrost Carbon Network
  • Member, Permafrost Action Team (SEARCH)
  • Member, National Academies' Polar Research Board
  • Steering committee to create the Canadian Permafrost Association
  • Senior scientist, Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research Program
  • Academic liaison to NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE)

Please visit my lab website ( to see examples of research projects, products (including conference posters) and videos and photos of field sites.


  • Mendenhell Fellow: U.S. Geological Survey, 2004
  • PhD: University of Alberta, 2002


  • Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher, Clarivate: 2020, 2021, and 2022
  • AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute Science Engagement Fellow