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 over 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.” She advocates for public science, excellent science communication, equity, diversity, and Inclusivity in STEM. In 2022, her work on the under-appreciated contributions of 19th century women to Ontario horticulture will feature in an edited book on Canadian botany in the 1800s.
Dawn has received many teaching awards over the decades, including being singled out in the Globe and Mail 2014 Universities Report as York’s "Hotshot Professor." In 2022, she (again) received the Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in teaching. Recently, Dawn received the Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities’ Award of Excellence for future-proofing students, by leading the way in adapting virtual teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
In 2022, Dawn was awarded the 2022 Sandford Fleming Medal for Excellence in Science Communication—granted annually to an individual working in Canada who has made outstanding contributions to science communication.
From 2006 to 2011, Dawn led the Canadian section of the International Polar Year project, GAPS: Gas, Arctic Peoples and Security. She spent 2011 to 2012 on sabbatical as a Bullard Fellow at Harvard Forest, Harvard University, and as a Visiting Researcher in the Biodiversity Institute at Oxford University. In 2018, she was a visiting professor in Environmental Studies at Visva Bharati University, West Bengal, India, undertaking ecotourism research comparing the charismatic megafauna of the Arctic (polar bears) with the Sundarbans (tigers).