Anna Virkkala Ph.D.

  • Research Scientist
Anna Virkkala

Dr. Anna Virkkala studies climate change and its impacts on ecosystems, with a focus on Arctic-boreal regions. She seeks to increase our understanding of the variability and drivers of plants, microbes, and their carbon cycling across these northern environments using a wide array of methods, including field and remote sensing, literature review, and a variety of computer models. One of her main goals is to reduce uncertainties in Arctic-boreal and permafrost carbon budgets so that their carbon emissions and climate feedbacks can be better understood.

Left: Dr. Virkkala doing chamber measurements to quantify the rate of carbon cycling in the ecosystem. Right: Fieldwork in the northern Fennoscandian tundra.

Photos by: Markus Jylhä.

Dr. Virkkala’s research focuses on carbon cycling both at local and regional scales. She has spent several summers in northern Arctic Europe to understand the fine-scale heterogeneity in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide fluxes. She is also one of the leading experts in northern carbon flux synthesis efforts and has extensive experience in leading research with collaborative networks across large scales. As a physical geographer, she is actively working to map and understand “carbon hotspots” across the entire region. 

Passionate about teaching and working with curious early career researchers, Dr. Virkkala has co-supervised several bachelors and masters theses, taught eight courses at the University of Helsinki, and supervised research assistants at Woodwell Climate. She also served as a terrestrial working group fellow in the International Arctic Science Committee from 2018-2019 and is currently coordinating the Arctic-boreal carbon flux network for Permafrost Pathways as well as the Arctic-boreal carbon flux synthesis effort in the International Permafrost Association. She has also written articles that popularize her science.

I could stare at maps showing the distribution of carbon sinks and sources every day. It is so fascinating - but also terrifying - to try to understand what drives those carbon hotspots and how they might look in a warmer climate.


A severely eroding hillside sloughs land towards the water due to permafrost thaw

Permafrost Pathways

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