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Jackie Dawson (she/her/they)

Professor and Canada Research Chair
University of Ottawa
Dr. Jackie Dawson doing field research on Beechy Island, Nunavut.

Dr. Jackie Dawson doing field research on Beechy Island, Nunavut.

Dr. Jackie Dawson doing field research on Beechy Island, Nunavut.

Dr. Jackie Dawson doing field research on Beechy Island, Nunavut.

Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

I work with large teams of academics, Inuit knowledge holders, and decision makers to understand the risks and solutions to environmental change.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Barrie, Ontario

I now live in: Ottawa, Ontario

I completed my training/education at: Master of Business - University of Otago, New Zealand; PhD Environmental Change, University of Waterloo, Ontario.


What I do at work

I help to lead a large science network called ArcticNet. This network includes more than 350 scientists and Indigenous knowledge holders. We work together to make new discoveries about Arctic climate. We study how impacts to the environment are affecting society, culture, and well-being. I also advise graduate students at the University of Ottawa and teach them research skills.

My research focuses on the impacts Ecotourism has in the Canadian arctic and sub-arctic. I also study how maritime shipping in a time of climate warming will affect the Canadian arctic. I am looking at the possible effect to both the Inuit communities and culturally significant marine protected areas.  We usually use remote sensing and geographic information systems to understand the changing world. You can learn more about my research, and why it is important, in this YouTube video.

My career path is

I was always interested in the environment. Growing up I always wanted to be outside. I loved being out in nature. I went to overnight summer camp where I learned how to canoe, kayak, rock climb and hike. When I graduated high school, it just made sense that I would do something related to the environment. I decided to study geography.

After I completed my geography degree, I worked for a couple of years with Outward Bound Canada. I was giving kids similar experiences as I had at summer camp. I became interested in how the ways we used our environment, could have negative effects on the environment we loved. I completed a Master of Business degree in Tourism. After this, I went on and completed a PhD in studying environmental change.

I played many team sports growing up. This taught me about the importance of working together to achieve collective goals that are about much more than any one individual. I also spent time traveling overseas in Oceana and Asia. In this way, I learned about other cultures and about the world. This helped me to understand even more that diversity and inclusion are key ingredients to both success and to discoveries.

I am motivated by

I am an introverted person.  However, I also love working in teams to make a difference in the world. Being a scientist allows me to work with others. It also gives me time to think and solve problems.

How I affect people’s lives

The discoveries we make are shared with decision makers and Indigenous leaders. They use this information to create policies and strategies that support self-determination and sustainability.

Outside of work I

I enjoy coaching my oldest son’s basketball team. I also help to support my youngest son’s hockey team. I love to read, travel, and fix things around the house!

My advice to others

Mentors matter! No matter what age or stage you are at find a mentor who you admire and respect. This person will be someone who reflects and supports your life goals and objectives. When you find a person like this, ask them lots of questions. Use their input to decide what will work for you and what won't work for you. Create your own path by observing and listening the mistakes and successes of others

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Physical Education / Health
  • Science
  • Technology
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Learned best "by doing"


Royal Society of Canada

Let’s Talk Science appreciates the support of the Royal Society of Canada in connecting us with this individual. 

The Royal Society of Canada is a member driven organization that recognizes Canada's leading scholars, researchers, artists and scientists from across disciplines and across generations in order to help build a better future in Canada and around the world. Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada work together to provide timely content on issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries.

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