Merritt Turetsky

Merritt Turetsky


  • Director of INSTAAR

Departments / Academic Programs


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

Contact Information

Social Networks


Ecosystem ecology, Wetland ecology, Carbon cycling, Permafrost science, Fire ecology, Biogeochemistry

Research Interests

With more than 20 years of experience working in boreal and arctic ecosystems, my work contributes to theoretical predictions of ecosystem structure and function, but it also applies to regulation of carbon in a global change world.  I am passionate about northern ecosystems and the people who depend on them. Through research, engagement, and teaching, my primary aim is to train the next generation of scientists in the interdisciplinary skills required to tackle ongoing challenges in the north related to food and water security, energy sustainability, carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, and landscape change.


I am a broadly trained 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 strike to build knowledge and capacity for northern communities and governments.

Recognitions and key accomplishments

  • 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)
  • AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute Science Engagement Fellow

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

I also frequently engage with the media and have even produced my own science segment on live TV!  Check out short clips of science communication on our lab website ( or


  • Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher, Clarivate, 2020