Prof Isla Myers-Smith

Chancellor's Fellow, Chair of Climate Change Ecology

  • Global Change Research Institute
  • School of GeoSciences
  • University of Edinburgh

Contact details



113 Crew Building
The King's Buildings
West Mains Road

Edinburgh, Scotland
Post code


I am a Chancellor's Fellow and Chair of Climate Change Ecology at the University of Edinburgh. My research examines the ‘greening of the Arctic’ and how plants are responding to climate warming and impacts including shrub expansion and permafrost thaw. My research group Team Shrub and I use tools from measuring tapes to drones to capture Arctic change in the Yukon Territory in the Canada Arctic and around the tundra biome. I work collaboratively with local communities and international research teams to better understand environmental change in the Arctic and beyond.


PhD Ecology, University of Alberta

MSc Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks

BSc Agroecology, University of British Columbia



Philip Leverhulme Prize Geography (2022)

Royal Geographical Society Walters Kundert Fellowship (2018)

Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution Early Career Award (2016)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Head of Post-graduate Research (Training & Progress) in the School of GeoSciences

Undergraduate teaching

Data Science in Ecology and Environmental Science, Conservation Science, Research and Project Management in GeoSciences

Current PhD students supervised


Elise Gallois (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2019 - 2023) Microclimate influences on tundra plant growth and phenology

Jospeh Everest (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2020 - 2024) Functional diversity in a warming Arctic

Calum Hoad (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2020 - 2025) Abiotic drivers of Arctic greening

Gerte de Jong (co-supervised PhD, UGothenburgh, 2020 - 2024) Winter and microclimate influences on tundra plant phenology

Diana Jerome (PhD, UEdinburgh/UHelsinki, 2021 - 2025) Climate sensitivity of shrub growth across the tundra-forest ecotone

Madelaine Anderson (co-supervised PhD, USherbrooke, 2021 - 2025) Plant phenology influences on tundra plant spectral diversity and traits

Megan Stamp (co-supervised PhD, UEdinburgh, 2022 - 2026) The drivers and consequences of community phenological cohesion



Erica Zaja (MSc, UEdiburgh, 2022 - 2023)

Past PhD students supervised


Gergana Daskalova (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2017 - 2021) Attribution of biodiversity change to global change drivers around the world

Mariana García Criado (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2017 - 2022) Quantifying distribution shifts of woody plant species under climate change

Sandra Angers-Blondin (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2015 - 2018) Climatic and biotic controls of shrub growth and expansion in the Arctic

Haydn Thomas (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2015 - 2018) Climate change as a driver of Arctic tundra shrub expansion

Jakob Assmann (PhD, UEdinburgh, 2015 - 2018) Phenology shifts and greening of Arctic tundra vegetation with climate change



Lia Lechler (MSc, UEdinburgh, 2021 - 2022)

Lisa Pilkinton (co-supervised MSc, UGlasgow, 2021 - 2022)

Naphon Oley (co-supervised MSc, UGlasgow, 2021 - 2022)

Karol Stanski (co-supervised MSc, Edinburgh - School of Informatics, 2017 - 2019)

Meagan Grabowski (MSc Committee, UBC, 2013 - 2015)

Benjamin Marquis (MSc Committee, USherbrooke, 2013 - 2015)

Research summary

Our research group works at the interface between global change biology, macroecology, biogeography, community, ecosystem ecology and remote sensing.  Much of our research focuses on understanding the biological and climatic drivers that promote shrub expansion and the ecosystem consequences of this vegetation change for ecosystem functioning and the conservation of tundra ecosystems.

Knowledge exchange

Current project grants

RESILIENCE: Pathways of resilience and evasion of tipping in ecosystems (2022 - 2027), European Research Council Synergy Grant

TundraTime: Plant phenology change as a driver of Arctic greening trends (2022 - 2026), NERC (NE/W006448/1)

Knowledge Hub: Ecological Change and Livelihoods in the Porcupine Caribou Summer Range (2021 - 2024), Canadian Mountain Network

CHARTER: Drivers and Feedbacks of Changes in Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity (2020 - 2024), Horizon 2020

Accessing ‘Our Island’ (Qikiqtaruk) in a rapidly changing Arctic using immersive virtual reality for community engagement (2021 - 2023), National Geographic Society (NGS-82542T-2)

Disentangle the drivers of Arctic greening (2019), National Geographic Society (NGS-60126R-19)

Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory (2018 - 2022), NSERC Discovery Frontiers Program

Past project grants

United Kingdom & Canada Arctic Partnership Bursaries Programme (2017 - 2021)

Walters Kundert Fellowship, Royal Geographical Society (2018)

NERC ShrubTundra: Climate as a driver of shrub expansion and tundra greening (2015 - 2018), UK Natural Environment Research Council (NE/M016323/1)

sTundra (2013 - 2014), German Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Science (sDiv)