Grad profile: Jeff Wilson, Graduate Studies
Fall Convocation 2013
Katherine Wooler - October 8, 2013
Every spring and fall, we profile just a few of our amazing graduates in our Convocation keepsake. We proudly feature these stories here on Dal News. Congrats to all our new graduates!
“Sustainability research by its very nature is interdisciplinary. I don’t think there was anywhere else for me,” says PhD graduate Jeff Wilson, who reveals that he fell into ecological economics before he had even heard of the field.
“My areas of study – ecological economics and sustainability research – don’t fit in neat little boxes,” says Wilson, who has worked as a sustainability practitioner for a diverse selection of research and management groups including Anielski Management Inc. (which advises cities across Canada on environmental strategies) and Hampton and Hampton Consulting (which specializes in aboriginal issues).
Wilson completed his bachelor’s degree in environment and resource studies at the University of Waterloo, and his master’s degree in international development studies at Dalhousie.
Having now finished his doctoral degree – an interdisciplinary degree in conjunction with the School for Resource and Environmental Studies – Wilson is passionate about the potential of ecological economics to revolutionize how both society and individual households are managed.
“Many of the defining issues of our time are sustainability related,” he says. “Our research effort and innovative spirit must address these challenges. Our economy, our social fabric as a nation and our personal well-being depend on the health and resiliency of our natural environment.”
Wilson’s most recent research, funded by his Killam Scholarship, addresses different types of communities, their greenhouse gas emissions, their consumption patterns, and links between these factors and the happiness of individuals.
“The continued pursuit of an unlimited economic growth agenda threatens the health and stability of global ecological systems,” he says, elaborating on his findings that the environment cannot support current economic patterns and that higher levels of consumption do not make people happier.
Peter Tyedmers taught Wilson ecological economics when the recent graduate began his master’s in 2003. After thoroughly enjoying the class and continuing to work with Dr. Tyedmers, who advised him as both his MA and PhD supervisor, Wilson now teaches ecological economics to a new generation of students a decade later.
“I often think back to that experience [in Dr. Tyedmers’ class] when teaching to try and recreate that magic dust,” he says.
Dr. Tyedmers says that Wilson exemplifies a great PhD student because of his passion and commitment to understanding his field of study. “The fundamental aspect of Jeff’s research,” explains Dr. Tyedmers, “is that he does not just adopt the narrative of sustainability that’s out there in the broader culture but he critiques it.”
“He wants to make contributions to our understanding of the environmental consequences of our lifestyles and make a contribution to our methods,” says Dr. Tyedmers, adding that Wilson has identified new ways of quantifying the ecological footprint of smaller communities and regions.
Currently teaching part-time as an assistant professor in the College of Sustainability, Wilson has plenty of ideas for future avenues of research, including focusing on the environmental impact of income and improving data collection for local scale analyses.
Despite his busy schedule, long list of publications and award-winning academic history (he’s also the recipient of NSERC and SSHRC grants and a Governor-General’s Gold Medal), he makes sure to take time out for his family.
“I did not get here without a lot of support and love and an occasional kick in the butt,” he says, thanking his partner, Suling, and their sons among a long list of colleagues, professors and friends to whom he is grateful.
Wilson’s thank-you list is a reminder of the collaboration he so strongly supports.
“We need people to work together. Young leaders, problem solvers and academics need to bridge disciplines and be comfortable communicating and contributing in different forums.”
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