Skip to content
UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS | INTERNATIONAL ARCTIC RESEARCH CENTER

People of IARC

breen

Amy Breen

Research Assistant Professor Amy Breen joined IARC in 2014. She's a botanist with a background in plant ecology, biology, and ecosystem modeling. She works to produce more inclusive and accurate forecasting tools for Arctic ecosystems.

Contact Amy Breen

What do you think people would find interesting about your work?

I’m interested in how vegetation responds to wildfire disturbance. In the Integrated Ecosystem Model (IEM) for Alaska and Canada project, I’m collaborating with project leaders David McGuire and Scott Rupp to build a dynamic model framework that allows exploration of the impact of climate variability and change on ecosystem components, such as vegetation, fire, and permafrost.

I’m also involved with NASA’s ABoVE (Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment) project, in an effort to collect and archive vegetation plot data in Alaska for the Arctic Vegetation Archive. This resource will eventually span the entire circumpolar Arctic, and provide a key missing link for deriving predictive models of future vegetation distributions under different climate-change scenarios.

How have your background and personal interests influenced your scientific career?

I got my start in science through fieldwork, which I love. From the beginning, I was interested in science because it gave me the opportunity to get my hands dirty. In high school I had a job at a greenhouse, where I learned plant names. My father, who is an amateur naturalist, also encouraged me. In college I studied botany, and that put me on a long path to today, where I’m still dedicated to identifying plants across the Arctic tundra.

I did post-doctoral work in modeling, which I knew would be important for a 21st century scientific career. I believe this blending of field study and modeling is crucial for the work I do, including my research and my work with students. It also gets me outside, where I’ll take any chance year-round to ski, run, climb, and bike.

Do you have advice for young people interested in scientific careers?

Don’t take rejection too hard. In a world of competitive funding and expertise, doing science as a job requires resilience, humility, and introspection. Getting used to the idea that you can’t be 100% successful in every attempt and that it shouldn’t keep you from trying, will make any young scientist’s life easier and happier. And follow your passion—you’re much more likely to pursue your work through adversity if you pursue study of what you really love to do.

Amy Breen samples post-fire tundra vegetation at the UAF Quartz Creek site on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska. (Photo by T. Hollingsworth)
Amy Breen samples post-fire tundra vegetation at the UAF Quartz Creek site on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska. (Photo by T. Hollingsworth)
Amy Breen (left) teaches her students about vegetation sampling in the field, using an optical device on a tripod to measure plant cover at each point along the transect. (Photo by H. Cheong)
Amy Breen (left) teaches her students about vegetation sampling in the field, using an optical device on a tripod to measure plant cover at each point along the transect. (Photo by H. Cheong)
Breen (top right) collects ice samples every five vertical meters from the ice wedge on rappel during a trip to the North Slope of Alaska, to sample 30-m yedoma (organic-rich Pleistocene-age permafrost) exposure on the Itkillik River. (Photo by J. Strauss)
Breen (top right) collects ice samples every five vertical meters from the ice wedge on rappel during a trip to the North Slope of Alaska, to sample 30-m yedoma (organic-rich Pleistocene-age permafrost) exposure on the Itkillik River. (Photo by J. Strauss)