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Catherine Potvin and Juvenal Quiroz, president of the Embera Congress of Alto Bayano in Panama
Photo: Lisa Lutz

Dr. Catherine Potvin
Professor, Department of Biology, McGill University
Trottier Fellow from the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy
Director, PFSS: Panama Field Study Semester

What I like to do on week-ends is walking in the forest. And this is also what I do as a professor at McGill University. I am a plant biologist who specialized in tropical forest ecology and conservation. Tropical forests play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle and for species conservation. Besides they are amazingly beautiful and express the full imagination of nature! I am very preoccupied by climate change and, with my research group, we are passionately searching for solutions. These entail the study of land uses and the protection of forests in full respect for the people that live in or from them. This is why the banner of our laboratory is “Science for empowerment”. For 20 years now I have been collaborating and learning from Panama’s indigenous people. Outside of academia they are my main partner. How did I get there? I earned a B.Sc. and a M.Sc. at l’Université de Montréal, and then, in 1985 I completed a Ph.D. in Botany from Duke University in North Carolina. My next step was to come back Montréal for postdoctoral studies in statistics. I joined the Biology Department at McGill University 25 years ago already. Besides all this, I am a proud mother and grand-mother.

Research Areas:

  • Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning
  • Livelihoods, Empowerment, and Biodiversity
  • REDD+: Carbon and Co-benefits
  • Science to inform Climate Change Policy

>> View Publications

Lab News:

  • Catherine Potvin has been awarded a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Vist the Royal Society of Canada website for the full list of nominations. (Sept. 8, 2015)
  • Dialogue pour un Canada vert. Radio Canada Interview (March 14, 2015)

    Launch, March 18th, 2015

    A scholarly consensus on science-based, viable solutions for greenhouse gas reduction. Produced by Sustainable Canada Dialogues, an initiative under the UNESCO- McGill Chair for Dialogues on Sustainability and the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy. Sustainable Canada Dialogues has mobilized over 60 Canadian scholars from every province, representing climate change expertise in areas from engineering to sociology.

    >> download the summary and the position paper

  • The disappearing of indigenous women in Canada is not about climate change, off course, but it is a most important issue. Thus we want to attract your attention on the solidarity campaign to be launched Monday December 1st
    >> View Details

  • The future of Candada as seen by women? This bold vision underlines the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Conferences of Charlottetown and Quebec! In 1864, 23 men, inluding Georges-Étienne Cartier, met in September in Prince Edward Island and then, in October in Quebec to discuss the basis of what Canada would become. In 2014, following a wide nomination campaign, 23 women representing all regions of Canada were selected for their renowned work in diverse fields of politics, business, culture and sciences. These women, of different backgrounds and generations, have worked on a vision that would enable Canada to evolve in a promising future. Their declaration has become public today, October 21st, 2014. Please go to http://aboldvision.ca/accueil/.
    >> Declaration of the Mothers of Conféderation

    >> Click to enlarge

  • A Panamanian newspaper reports on the work done by the Neotropical Environment laboratory in the Darien of Panama >> Read article
  • Dr. Catherine Potvin was interviewed by The Gazette (Sept. 18, 2014): "Protests aim to bring attention to need to act on climate change" >> read article
  • "Forests, culture and development in indigenous Panama" by Divya Sharma. McGill Reporter (July 2014)
  • An interview in Spanish where Catherine speaks about deforestation in the Amazon, Canada’s position on climate change as well as of a new initiative that she is piloting: the Sustainable Canada dialogues.
  • How measuring trees in Panama is benefitting indigenous groups, forests and the climate
    >> Read Blog post
  • Dr. Catherine Potvin has been nominated as one of 23 of the "most influential and aspiring women leaders" and a visionary for the future of Canada.
    Read about the project, "A Bold Vision".
    Watch the video: "Visionary Announcement"
  • Dr. Catherine Potvin is the new recipient of a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair, titled Climate Change Mitigation and Tropical Forests. Congratulations Dr. Potvin! Read more about this prestigious award here: http://www.chairs-chaires.gc.ca/media-medias/releases-communiques/2014/march-mars-eng.aspx
  • Kathleen & Sebastian’s article has been posted in Notes from the Field in the Reporter (McGill Reporter, March 4, 2014)

Biodiversity and ecosystem function [click to view video]

View list of all Researcher in the Field videos by topic


The Neotropical Ecology Lab - Mission Statement:

The Neotropical Ecology Lab from McGill University carries out interdisciplinary research focused on carbon sequestration, land cover change and livelihoods. Our interest is to provide a sound science base to assist decision making regarding forests and biodiversity in Latin America. Our approach to science builds on the notion of empowerment of all actors – from local communities to indigenous peoples and national governments. We follow very closely both the negotiations and the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Read a book designed with a Kuna artist to discuss climate change with Panama's indigenous comunities: >> Download "Nuestra Casa en el Universo" [PDF - 8MB]

Header Photo: © Johanne Pelletier
Panama Field Course Videos: © Alex Tran

Last update: Sept. 8, 2015
Webmistress: Carole Verdone-Smith, Department of Biology