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Dominique Poulin

Mission Scientist
Canadian Space Agency
Dominique Poulin headshot
Dominique Poulin headshot
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Location Now
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I am in charge of a mission whose goal is to acquire data from space, to monitor water quality in coastal areas and inland waters (e.g. algae).

About me

I was born/grew up in:  I was born in Lachine and grew up in Delson in Quebec.

I now live in:  I currently live in the province of Quebec.

I completed my training/education at: 1) McGill University – B.Sc – bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences / Water Environments and Ecosystems - Biological Stream.

2) University of Quebec in Montreal – D.E.S.S. - postgraduate diploma specialized in geomatics.

3) University of Quebec in Montreal - M.Sc – master's degree in geography, Territorial planning and geographic information system profile.

What I do at work

I lead a team of experts to develop a solution to monitor water quality from space. This system will allow us to collect data on the quality of water in coastal areas as well as inland water such as lakes. For example, we will be able to monitor things like the amount of algae in the water. 

A project like this has a lot of steps and needs input from many people. One of my main tasks is to identify and understand the needs of the people who are involved in the project. For example, there are scientists who will want data on how human activities affect bodies of water. Others need data for monitoring water quality to help conserve fish habitats and people who take part in nautical activities. 

I lead a working group in which we share our knowledge and points of view on the project. There are several different engineers in this group. Some specialize in optics. Others specialize in systems control and orbits. There are scientists who study the color of water to monitor water quality. There are project managers, policy analysts and program officers who specialize in water color applications. Basically, the team includes everyone related to making observations of the Earth on the theme of water. I also sit on an international scientific committee. Here, we share our knowledge, the progress of our missions, and ideas for collaboration.

Another role of mine is to promote this mission in order to create business partnerships. I’m also involved in explaining the importance of this mission to decision-makers who can help fund our work.

The main skills required to do this job are:

  • being able to analyze and make sense of scientific and technical information;
  • providing leadership to motivate and direct the work team to achieve a common objective;
  • being curious;
  • having good communication skills (French and English);
  • having a good understanding of the data life cycle.

My career path is

When I was a high school student, I was interested in several professions. These included orthodontist, photographer, graphic designer, accountant, and psychologist. My interests were in STEM and the arts, but with human aspects. So I decided to continue my studies in Natural and Environmental Sciences.

Studying at McGill University was an opportunity for me to develop knowledge in a variety of areas. It also helped me improve my English. I actually spent a session studying in Kenya during my degree. I traveled across Kenya with my teachers and other students. We learned about the ecosystems and people of this country. I love meeting new people!

It was while swimming around coral reefs during my trip to Thailand that the idea of doing postgraduate studies in geomatics arose. Since then, I have continued to study how to obtain data from above the Earth’s surface. This Earth-observation data gives us another perspective of the planet.

I am motivated by

I like to make myself useful at work. I like to share my scientific, technical and operational knowledge with my colleagues. I’m always looking for new ways of doing things. I like to get involved in several projects and work with multidisciplinary teams. These are teams made up of professionals specialized in different fields.

I enjoy learning new things!  I have worked in several positions within the Canadian public service. In each role, I had the common goal of protecting aquatic ecosystems using different approaches. These included:

  • collecting samples in the field;
  • applying the law to address issues;
  • using data to support decision-making;
  • identifying user needs for data collection (e.g. from space) to contribute to scientific progress.

What I like most about my career is that my background is varied. I have many skills that allow me to take on different roles. I’m like a jack of all trades! This diversity keeps me motivated. It is exciting!

How I affect peoples’ lives

Climate change affects our bodies of water and the use we can make of them. Because of this, I am happy to contribute to the protection and conservation of this resource. It is thanks to science and technology that we can offer solutions to improve water management. Science and technology provide data that can help improve the detection of pollution and reduce the effects on the environment.

Outside of work I

As a mother of three active children, I like to support them in their sporting activities. I get involved as a volunteer and go to see them during their training. I also practice alpine skiing and road cycling. I have been a member of a photography club for five years.

My advice to others

Be curious and embrace change. This open-mindedness will allow you to make many discoveries. It will also allow you to grow both professionally and personally.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Math
  • Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Liked helping people
  • Was motivated by success
  • Was really creative
  • Felt great satisfaction getting good grades
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do

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