McGill University Biology Professor Catherine Potvin studies science to inform Climate Change Policy. For the past two decades, she has spent much of her time conducting research in the tropical forests of Panama. For her remarkable work, the Royal Society of Canada awarded the Miroslaw Romanowski Medal 2012 to Dr. Potvin. The medal is awarded for significant contributions to the resolution of scientific aspects of environmental problems or for important improvements to the quality of an ecosystem in all aspects – terrestrial, atmospheric and aqueous – brought about by scientific means.

A major focus of her work has involved finding ways to conserve these ecologically rich forests, both as a means to preserve biodiversity and to attenuate global warming. To that end, Prof. Potvin and members of her lab have collaborated closely with indigenous communities in Panama, sharing knowledge and working with them to improve their livelihoods while avoiding deforestation.

Prof. Potvin is interested in bringing some of the lessons learned while trying to protect tropical forests to our own vision of northern Quebec and northern Canada’s development plans. She argues that it is both environmentally urgent and economically vital for Canada and other developed countries to act on climate change. According to Dr Potvin, the North, just like the tropical forest, is a resource frontier and the consequences of its exploitation should be carefully analyzed.

As individuals, Quebecers and other Canadians should ask themselves what small steps they can take to reduce their carbon footprint, she says. And collectively, they should encourage their leaders to make curbing greenhouse-gas emissions a policy priority for government.

Using a smartphone to video their day to day research, Catherine Potvin and her students bring climate change out of the labs and into the public view. New videos, photos will be posted each week on the Facebook page.



April 9, 2013