Geography prof Marc Saner named science adviser for Natural Resources Canada

Faculty of Arts
Marc Saner
As we navigate the changes in nature and society caused by the climate crisis, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) relies on its science advisers for input on science and science policy. The federal government department has over 5,000 employees, many of whom are scientists. It can now count on one more, uOttawa professor Marc Saner, for advice.

As a new departmental science adviser, Saner’s main goal is to create connections, notably between scientists and policy-makers, but also with senior management, other researchers, Indigenous communities, the public and the younger generation — with which he’s quite familiar.

For Saner, it is a privilege to work with young people. “It’s simply fun!” he says. With his new position, he’s hoping to connect his students to NRCan. Indeed, some already work for or with the department.

After being recruited by uOttawa in 2010 to establish the Institute for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP), Saner chose the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics as his home. Five years later, he found Professor Monica Gattinger to replace him at the ISSP and started teaching and researching full time. He now teaches uOttawa students about environmental ethics, regulation and governance.

It might be surprising for some that Geography, Environment and Geomatics is part of the Faculty of Arts, but not for Saner. “The employers love how versatile we are here. One of the main problems employers face is to find someone who fits in the team — someone who is tolerant, someone who can talk and write, and has general sense of politics. The arts teach you all this!” With a career background in ethics, ecology, risk governance and philosophy, Saner knows a thing or two about job market versatility.

Working in environmental studies, Saner has no illusions. “You have to be honest about the state of the world and its decline,” he says. However, he refuses to let this turn him into a pessimist. For him, “optimism can be grounded in the simple fact that we don’t know yet and that many solutions are in the works.” Indeed, many predictions have turned out to be simply wrong. For example, London is still habitable and our cars, quite sadly, aren’t close to flying yet.

While his students keep him optimistic, working with the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics also contributes to Saner’s realistic but hopeful outlook. His colleagues and their work help inspire him, including Jackie Dawson for her scientific management of ArcticNet and her involvement in the International Internet Preservation Consortium and Mike Sawada for his work on artificial intelligence in geomatics. The list goes on.

An innovative department means innovative programs. In fact, the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics recently introduced a one-year Master of Science program on the Anthropocene. This new graduate program will allow students to get an integrative and experience-based diploma.

Whether in his new work at Natural Resources Canada or with his uOttawa students, Saner looks forward to building bridges between communities and allowing the younger generation to lead the conversation.

Congratulations from everyone at the Faculty!