SFU scientists among Stanford’s Leopold Leadership fellows

Training will focus on effectively communicating scientific research on hot environmental topics

SFU scientists among Stanford’s Leopold Leadership fellows
Photo of Isabelle Côté (left) and Wendy Palen via SFU’s Flickr page.

Simon Fraser University biologists Isabelle Côté and Wendy Palen are among 20 mid-career academic environmental scientists to be selected as 2015 Leopold Leadership Fellows, according to an SFU media release.

The Leopold Leadership Program at Stanford University provides fellows with intensive leadership training to help them engage effectively with leaders in the public and private sectors who face complex decisions about sustainability and the environment.

Côté‘s research focuses on the ecological impacts of marine invasive species and how best to control them. “This is the most important accolade and opportunity of my scientific career,” she says in the release. “The program is unique because it targets communication and leadership as critical skills needed to translate knowledge into action.

“Over the past few years, I've delved more and more into various forms of science communication for general audiences, but I'm looking forward to learning how to convey the importance of my own work, and of science in general, to decision-makers.” Côté hopes that the program will help her become an effective spokesperson for Canadian oceans.

Palen investigates trade-offs between energy development and the environment, especially freshwater ecosystems, with the aim of informing conservation policy and practice.

“I'm honoured to join this unique network of academic scientists who are committed to translating their science for more effective conservation and management,” says Palen. “My current research is focused at the intersection of applied ecology and evidence-based decision-making, and includes engagement with regional and national stakeholders in some of the most debated natural resource issues in Canada (oil sands, renewable energy, climate change mitigation).”

Palen says the opportunity will enable her to hone skills in facilitation and strategic communication to improve the efficacy of her own research efforts, as well as to offer similar training to the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows of SFU’s Earth to Ocean Research Group. The two researchers are founding members of the group.

Dean of Science Claire Cupples says: "I'm particularly pleased that Wendy and Isabelle will be able to focus on effectively translating their knowledge to action in addressing critical issues in sustainability. This complements and strengthens SFU's commitment to engagement and community outreach."

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