Catherine Potvin

Study program:
Department of Biology
Current affiliation:
McGill University

An expert in tropical rainforest conservation and climate change, Professor Catherine Potvin’s research seeks to foster cross-cultural learning on climate change with the goal of ensuring that Indigenous peoples of Canada become full partners in the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy and sustainable society.

Trudeau project: Acting on Climate Change: Indigenous Innovations

Project objectives:

To facilitate cross-cultural learning on climate change, ensuring that Indigenous peoples of Canada become full partners in the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy and sustainable society. To reach this objective, she proposes two specific goals:

1. Develop a participatory process to identify, document and give visibility to inspiring Indigenous peoples’ climate change and sustainability initiatives as key elements of Indigenous-Indigenous learning;
2. Establish the foundation of a long-term cross-cultural dialogue between Canada’s Indigenous peoples, a community of scholars working on climate change and decision-makers, to support culturally-relevant, evidence-based decision-making informed by Indigenous traditional knowledge.

Find out more

Catherine Potvin is a professor in the Department of Biology at McGill University and holds the Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Mitigation and Tropical Forests (Tier 1). She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She obtained her Ph.D. in botany from Duke University, North Carolina, and since then, she has always worked on issues related to global climate change.

Her current work focuses on tropical ecology, and her research supports international efforts to reduce deforestation in the tropics. She has been working with the Embera people of Panama since 1994, which has helped her develop participatory approaches to integrate the human dimension in biological analysis. Her research in Panama spans a broad range of issues from remote sensing to capacity building and conflict resolution, the unifying theme being forest conservation and climate change.

She has edited two books and published over 100 scientific journal articles or book chapters. She has received prestigious awards, both in Canada and abroad. Catherine served as Panama’s negotiator of the Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation’s initiative (REDD) in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2005-2009), which allowed her to acquire a solid international experience in policy. She is currently leading Sustainable Canada Dialogues, an initiative that mobilizes scholars from across Canada to propose a blueprint for Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

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  • September 20, 2016
    The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation supports cutting-edge research initiatives that engage communities in Canada and abroad