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Leading Dal’s ocean research efforts

Inspired by a childhood growing up near the ocean in Nova Scotia, Anya Waite, Associate Vice-President Research (Ocean) at Dal, and Scientific Director for the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) completed an undergraduate degree in oceanography at Dalhousie and a PhD at the University of British Columbia. “I loved going to sea,” she says. “I loved being on ships, studying the ocean.”

Post-doctoral degrees in the U.S. and New Zealand followed before she secured a professorship at University of Western Australia in Perth, where she spent 17 years doing ocean research and teaching environmental engineering to undergrads. “I think the whole engineering mindset is hugely beneficial for us as scientists, when we reflect on our research and ask, ‘How can I be useful?’”

“Going deeper into the ocean we have to move into water thinking. The densities are different, the motion is different.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Dr. Waite eventually moved into a position as section head of polar biological oceanography at the prestigious Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. In that role, she pushed for and achieved a full assessment of gender equity at the institute, which had become somewhat conservative and insular in its hiring practices. “As soon as you open up to international competition, you bring in all sorts of new blood. People who don’t look, act, sound or even speak the same way. And that’s where you break open. What they found out is when you open up recruitment, you can get gender equity—50-50, women and men.”

WHY SHE DOES IT: One of OFI’s mandates is to help researchers apply their knowledge. “As the world moves into the next stage of awareness of what humans are doing to the planet, we need solutions. We need to be able to understand the ocean well enough to do that, and to reach out to society in a deeper and clearer way. That’s something I can get really passionate about.”