Isla Myers-Smith is a global change ecologist from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She studies plants in the Arctic and beyond and how ecosystems are responding as the planet warms. Myers-Smith works with her research group Team Shrub using tools from measuring tapes to drones to capture Arctic change in the Yukon territory in northwest Canada and around the tundra biome. In the summer of 2019, Myers-Smith returned to the Arctic with the Greening Arctic project to capture the hotspots of tundra vegetation change at landscape scales. This research will fill in the gaps between on-the-ground ecological monitoring and satellite observations from space. The Greening Arctic project aims to improve predictions of plant responses to climate change in the rapidly warming Arctic.
In particular, her research investigates the spread of willows and other shrub species into arctic and alpine tundra. Shrubs have the potential to restructure tundra ecosystems by changing ecosystem functions and creating feedbacks to climate warming that could further the increase of shrubs. She collaborates with researchers working at sites around the circumpolar Arctic to synthesize their combined data to better understand vegetation change in tundra ecosystems.