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Monica Turner elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 19, 2023 By Elise Mahon
Portrait of Monica Turner

Monica Turner has spent more than 30 years researching the forest ecosystem of Greater Yellowstone. Photo: Althea Dotzour

Renowned landscape ecologist Monica Turner has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of her decades of contributions to the ecological study of the forests and landscapes in Greater Yellowstone.

“This was a complete surprise! I am honored and humbled by this recognition, and very grateful,” says Turner, who is also the Eugene P. Odum Professor of Ecology and a Vilas Research Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Turner worked as a park ranger in Yellowstone National Park while in college and became well acquainted with its beauty. The experience solidified that she wanted to study natural systems and not spend her career in a clinical lab setting; It’s the reason she became an ecologist.

When the famous 1988 fires swept through the iconic landscape, Turner had finished her PhD. Seeing the change in the landscape after those fires inspired what would evolve into a long-term study on forest resilience.

She has spent over 30 years researching the forest ecosystem of Greater Yellowstone through a variety of lenses: vegetation dynamics, nutrient cycling, bark beetle outbreaks, climate change, and most notably, the impact of fires on forest resilience.

Her work and long-term research on the 1988 Yellowstone fire has helped us better understand how climate change is altering the internationally loved landscape and helped land managers plan for the future.

In Wisconsin, Turner studies abrupt change in ecological systems, land-water interactions and spatial dynamics of ecosystem services.

Turner has also served as a past-president of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), received the ESA’s Robert H. MacArthur award in 2008 and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

This election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences signifies the high regard Turner is held in by both leaders in her field and Academy members across the nation.  The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams and others to recognize exceptional achievement that advances the public good. The formal induction ceremony will take place in Cambridge, Massachusetts this September at the Academy’s headquarters.