Skip to main content
Career Profile

Chris Derksen (he/his)

Climate Scientist
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Chris Derksen en train de faire ses recherches sur le terrain en Arctique.

Chris Derksen on field study in the Arctic.

Chris Derksen en train de faire ses recherches sur le terrain en Arctique.

Chris Derksen on field study in the Arctic.

Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

I use satellite data and climate models to understand how climate change is impacting snow and ice across Canada.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Kitchener, Ontario

I now live in: Toronto, Ontario

I completed my training/education at: I have a Bachelor of Science (Geography), a Master’s of Science and a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo.

What I do at work

I work with satellite datasets to track changes in snow and sea ice across Canada. This work involves the analysis of large amounts of data. Having good programming and scripting skills is very important. Nearly all my work is done as part of a team. We work collaboratively with colleagues across Canada and internationally. We have regular project meetings to coordinate our work. We write and publish scientific papers in academic journals based on the results of our work.

My favourite part of the job is getting into the field to make measurements to ‘ground truth’ the satellite data, and improve the algorithms we use to extract information from the raw measurements. This often involves work in the Arctic. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work in parts of Canada that most people don’t get to see. Field work takes a lot of planning, coordination, and training. We use specialized field equipment to make very precise measurements of the snowpack. This includes such things as snow grain size and shape. We are trained in wilderness first aid and firearms safety.

When we return from the field, we then spend a lot of time preparing the data for analysis. We also support the scientific process by reviewing the papers and research proposals of other scientists. Nearly all scientific data is open access these days, and we try hard to make our code open as well. Properly and clearly documenting your work takes a lot of time. Every work day is a little bit different. This helps keep things interesting!

My career path is

I had a strong interest in working in the Arctic from when I was very young. As an undergraduate student in university, I had a professor who ran a field research program in the Canadian Arctic. I worked up the courage to approach him. This initial conversation led to me working with him for many years. After finishing my undergrad, he was my supervisor for my Masters and PhD degrees. I often look back on my initial conversation with him – it’s a great example of how a small decision or action can create entire pathways in life!

After I completed my PhD, I worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Environment Canada. Working as a post-doctoral researcher is a typical path into a research career. However, it is somewhat uncertain because post-docs are often temporary term positions. There were challenging aspects to life as a post-doc, but this path led directly into my career as a government scientist.

I am motivated by

Science is actually a competitive career. You are working to produce research results for the first time, knowing that other scientists are trying to answer the same questions. So the sense of discovery, and the desire to communicate new results, is very motivating. At the same time, I find my field to be very collaborative. Scientists are always sharing ideas, data, and opportunities. It is motivating to contribute to a dynamic research community. I’m also motivated to continue exploring the Arctic through field campaigns. Conditions can be challenging in the field. But field work is very rewarding, and it keeps you young!

How I affect peoples’ lives

We work to inform Canadians on how climate change is affecting our environment. This includes understanding changes to vital resources such as melt water from snow and glaciers. This information isth important for the health and well-being of communities and ecosystems. . There is increasing demand for climate change information from public agencies, private companies, and the public.  This supports the importance of our work.

Outside of work I

I try to be an active person. I’m a runner and golfer, and enjoy camping trips.

My advice to others

A career in scientific research can be very rewarding. Find that topic which stokes your interests! Be self-motivated and well-organized. Always look for new ways to improve your technical skills. Finding a mentor or other colleagues in the field who can support you and provide advice is very helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Geography
  • Math
  • Physical Education/Health
  • Science
  • Technology
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Played on a sports team
  • Was motivated by success
  • Liked reading
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades

Related Topics

Explore Career Profiles

  • Winston Campeau headshot

    Winston Campeau

    Researcher - Evolutionary Processes

    I use computer simulations and math to research how animals' behavior changes when their environment changes.
  • Kim TallBear headshot

    Kim TallBear

    Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience and Society, Faculty of Native Studies

    I teach university and do research on science and technology from an Indigenous perspective.
  • Mahesh Rachamalla in his lab wearing white lab coat

    Mahesh Rachamalla (he/him)

    Graduate Student (Toxicology)

    My research will help find solutions for protecting aquatic species from the effects of heavy metals.
  • Dr. Molly Shoichet headshot

    Molly Shoichet (she/her)

    Professor and Research Team Lead

    I teach undergraduate students in engineering and I lead a research team in biomedical and chemical engineering.
  • Kaitlin Guitard working on site of an aquaculture setting.

    Kaitlin Guitard

    Water Quality Technician

    I monitor the sea water at salmon farms for harmful plankton and jellyfish.
  • Portrait de Devon Hardy

    Devon Hardy (she/her/elle)

    Program Director

    I run a non-profit program that supports environmental sustainability in the arts.
  • Mike Bryan on walkway over fish tank

    Mike Bryan (he/him)

    Hatchery Technician

    I work at a fish hatchery in the aquaculture industry.
  • Megan Coles headshot with blurred buildings and landscape in the background

    Megan Coles

    Pediatric Nurse

    I care for the inpatients admitted to the medical-surgical units at my local children's hospital.
  • Nicole Redvers headshot

    Nicole Redvers (she/her)

    Associate Professor and Director of Planetary Health

    I carry out Indigenous health research and support Indigenous communities and organizations in their health research needs.
  • Portrait de Gabriel Hould Gosselin

    Gabriel Hould Gosselin

    Research Associate

    I support teams that collect data on the melting permafrost layer in the arctic.
  • Rhiannon Cooper headshot taken outside with trees and plans in the background

    Rhiannon Cooper


    I monitor the patterns and trends of infectious diseases across the province.
  • Khashayar Farzam headshot

    Khashayar Farzam (he/him)

    Emergency Medicine Doctor

    As an ER doctor, I take care of any patient who comes through the hospital door for literally anything!
  • Peter Vlasveld headshot

    Peter Vlasveld

    Intermediate Software Developer

    I write backend code for web apps that help in Cyclica's drug discovery efforts.
  • Andrea Brack recycling at work

    Andrea Brack

    Environmental and Regulatory Team Coordinator

    I lead a team of environmental professionals at a large petrochemical manufacturing facility.
  • Pamela Power photo taken outside in winter with trees in background

    Pamela Power (she/her)

    Water Resources Specialist

    I provide technical review of projects that may affect water resources to ensure your community’s rights and interests are being considered and protected.
  • Sara Knox headshot

    Sara Knox (she/her)

    Assistant Professor (biometeorology)

    I study ways to restore and protect ecosystems to help fight climate change.
  • Samantha Yammine

    Samantha Yammine (she/her)

    Science Communicator

    I create and share engaging science content on social media.
  • Corey Nislow headshot

    Corey Nislow (he/him)

    Professor and Genomics Research Chair

    I study how drugs work and how an individual’s genetic makeup can affect their response to drug treatment.
  • L. Creighton Avery looking at specimen using a microscope in her lab.

    L. Creighton Avery


    I examine human skeletal remains from archaeological sites to learn about their lives.
  • Yetong Dong headshot wearing lab coat

    Yetong Dong

    Research Assistant/Graduate Student

    I am studying to become a scientific researcher.