Kelsey Leonard named Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Waters, Climate and Sustainability

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Kelsey LeonardEnvironment assistant professor and Water Institute member Kelsey Leonard has been named one of the newest Canada Research Chairs. With global warming now raising sea levels, Leonard’s position as Chair in Indigenous Waters, Climate and Sustainability will help her explore ways of facilitating Indigenous Knowledge to restore our threatened ocean, lakes and rivers, while asserting Indigenous sovereignty.

Leonard, who is a citizen of Shinnecock Indian Nation located on what’s commonly known as Long Island, New York, joined the Faculty of Environment in 2020. Prior to joining the faculty she held the position of Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at McMaster University where her research focused on transboundary water governance of the Great Lakes.

Leonard's SSHRC Tier 2 funding provides $500,000 over five years and she was awarded an additional $125,000 through the Canada Foundation for Innovation's John R. Evans Leaders Fund. 

Along with research, Leonard is active in many water governance-related organizations. She represents the Shinnecock Indian Nation as a steering committee member of the Mid-Atlantic Committee of the Ocean charged with the protection and restoration of America's oceans and coasts. Her scientific and policy background led to her expert testimony on ocean-based climate solutions before the U.S. Congress as America aims to correct course and regain its prominence as a global climate leader.

To learn more about Leonard, and the possibilities her work can create, watch her recent TED Talk, Why lakes and rivers should have the same rights as humans, (viewed by close to 3 million people). In the video she explores how reforming our legal system can be first step to protecting our bodies of water and fundamentally transforming how we value this vital resource.

Read another feature on Prof. Leonard's work towards legal recognition of the rights of water as a living being.

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