Dawn is a biology professor in York University's Faculty of Science. She directed York’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability for seven years, receiving the university’s Sustainability Leadership Award and the title of University Professor in 2017.
Dawn wears many academic hats, but at heart, she’s a grass biologist. She has spent nearly forty years studying grasses and their grazers, including snow geese and St Kilda’s Soay sheep. Dawn cut her botanical teeth in the sub-Arctic salt marshes west of Cape Churchill, where she spent five years becoming a world expert on goose poop.
Dawn’s Zoology doctorate from Oxford University looked at sheep grazing behaviour. Her many scholarly publications include the edited volume, Environmental Change and Human Security in the Arctic (2014). She advocates for public science, excellent science communication, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity in STEM, and has received multiple teaching awards.
In 2003, she received York’s Faculty of Science and Engineering Excellence in Teaching Award, and in 2013, the York University President’s University-Wide Teaching Award (UWTA) in the senior full-time faculty category. In 2014, Dawn was singled out by the Globe and Mail as York University's "Hotshot Professor" in their Universities Report.
From 2006 to 2011, Dawn led the Canadian section of the International Polar Year project, GAPS: Gas, Arctic Peoples and Security. She spent 2011–12 on sabbatical as a Bullard Fellow at Harvard Forest, Harvard University, and as a Visiting Researcher in the Biodiversity Institute, Oxford University. In 2018, she was a visiting professor in Environmental Studies, Visva Bharati University, West Bengal, India, where she began Ecotourism research comparing the charismatic megafauna of the Arctic (polar bears) with the Sundarbans (tigers).