Arctic ecologist to head York’s sustainability institute

Ecologist Dawn Bazely (right) has been appointed the new director of York’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS).

“I wanted the job,” says Bazely, “because, as an ecologist, everything I do is about understanding how to manage ecosystems in ways that will sustain them into the future.”

She also sees her three-year appointment as a chance for York “to show the world how to use true interdisciplinary collaboration to make sustainability real and give York’s interdisciplinary branding guts and legs.”

Over the past 25 years, Bazely has done field research in many ecosystems, including arctic tundra, sub-arctic and temperate salt-marshes, deciduous forests, temperate managed grasslands and prairies and her research findings on white-tailed deer and lesser snow geese have informed wildlife and conservation management in Canada. In 2003 she published a book on the ecology and control of invasive plants with Judy Myers of the University of British Columbia. She is currently leading an interdisciplinary project based in Canada, Norway and Russia on human security in the Arctic, specifically the impact of oil and gas development on people and ecosystems.

Bazely has collaborated with many other scientists outside her field and says communication is key to implementing sustainable solutions. “We already have much of the scientific know-how essential for achieving sustainability,” she says. “Sure, there will always be a need for innovative scientific research, but the chief barrier to progress is communicating the science in meaningful ways that motivate people to alter their behaviour,” she says.

“Achieving sustainability will require enormous amounts of innovative thinking, learning to listen to people’s concerns about their security, confronting their differences and reaching a consensus for change,” says Bazely. “The challenge facing academics is not just to step out of our silos and talk to each other about our research, but also to work with outside communities.”

Stan Shapson, York’s vice-president research & innovation, announced the appointment. “Dr. Bazely is an internationally renowned scientist, dedicated to York University and keen to provide the leadership and ideas necessary to move our research agenda forward. I’m confident that she will help set in motion the growth of IRIS into Canada’s preeminent centre for sustainability research.”

York established IRIS two years ago. Sustainability is one of four University-wide research priorities and the institute brings together researchers from many disciplines, including environmental studies, science and engineering, business, law, education, social sciences and humanities to produce sustainable solutions to a broad array of political, economic, scientific, social and environmental challenges. The institute not only promotes interdisciplinary collaboration among academic researchers, but partnerships with policy-makers, industry and non-governmental organizations.