A University of Northern B.C. professor is being recognized for her innovative work to conserve critical northern lands and tackle issues normally ignored by other researchers.
Pamela Wright, a UNBC professor in the department of ecosystem science and management, was presented with the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership – Professor, at a virtual ceremony today (Nov. 24) in recognition of her collaborative work with community partners and students to conserve Canada’s northern lands.
Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada for business and academia.
One of Wright’s interns, Dr. Karine Pigeon, is currently conducting research to help communities, the outdoor recreation industry and provincial government understand the impacts of recreation and tourism on the forests.
“As a society, we tend to focus on the environmental impact of industries like mining, forestry, and oil and gas,” Wright stated in a press release. “Recreational use can be equally problematic, and we’ve been ignoring it. Now, the pandemic has brought this to the forefront.”
The team is partnering provincial and federal park agencies and other land managers to develop new tools and techniques to reduce the cumulative impacts of outdoor recreation.
In a related project, Wright is working with Indigenous organizations, conservation groups and other partners to identify important lands for conservation. This is billed as groundbreaking work that incorporates the impacts of climate change to identify areas that area at greater risk.
“In the large, remote wild northern landscapes we’re studying, there’s very little Western science to turn to because we just don’t spend the time and money to collect data,” said Wright.
Wright blends traditional Indigenous knowledge of the land with western science, translating oral history from years of experience living on the land into a mapped format.
“We can look at a model of how a conservation system should work and where important habitat should be, compare it to Indigenous knowledge and see how the two fit together,” she said.
The Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership – Professor is presented to an academic supervisor with an exemplary record of developing collaborations with industry and partners, providing valuable research and training experiences to their interns, and initiating research projects with significant outcomes through their Mitacs funding. Wright is one of eight Mitacs award winners nationally, chosen from thousands of researchers who take part in Mitacs programs each year.