NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Dr. Christy Morrissey

I have been very fortunate to work in a department and university that is inclusive of women.

Associate Professor, Biology and School of Environment and Sustainability
University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Morrissey is an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the department of Biology and the School of Environment and Sustainability.

Her research expertise is in avian ecotoxicology, aquatic ecology, ecophysiology, and wildlife conservation.

Christy has 18 years experience working on issues related to environmental contamination and the use of birds as indicators of environmental change. She has published over 50 journal articles, book chapters and reports. She has been an advisor and member of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and works closely with provincial and national governments on regulatory issues of pesticides, wetlands and the conservation of migratory birds.

Dr. Morrissey has been featured very broadly in the national and international media including CBC’s Quirks and Quarks and The Nature of Things, Audubon Magazine, Science Daily, and a full feature documentary film about songbird declines called “The Messenger” released in 2015.

Additional information about her current projects and publications

As an academic, what is your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of the job is learning new things everyday! I love working with students, postdocs and other collaborators on new projects. I also really appreciate that everyday is different and that for the most part, I make my own schedule.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

I conduct diverse research on ecotoxicology issues that affect wildlife- namely wild birds.

I have exciting work on the toxicological effects and fate of pesticides in agroecosystems and how this can alter food chains. I also conduct studies of industrial pollutants like PCBs and PAHs on migratory birds to look at how chemicals influence migratory behaviour, their ability to put on fat to fly long distances and their overall migration success.

My work uses a combination of lab and field studies that directly complement each other. I am always excited to test what we see in the lab holds in the field setting and vice versa. This allows us to test cause and effect as well as ecological relevance of pollutants that are found in the natural environment.

What types of professions can students graduating in your field enter?

Students are qualified to do consulting, work as government scientists and managers, work for the agricultural industry, university labs and as researchers or biologists in non-government organizations.

Is your workplace male-dominated? If so, how do you negotiate being a woman in a male-dominated workplace and/or field?

My academic workplace is male-dominated. However, I have been very fortunate to work in a department and university that is inclusive of women and provides good support for women to succeed in their careers. I am very comfortable working in a male-dominated workplace because I find that respect and equality comes naturally when you demonstrate your abilities. Confidence and competence is key to that.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

I have a lab with students of different genders and backgrounds. I have a greater proportion of women in my lab - not deliberately. But I think female students naturally gravitate to female advisors. So it is really important to have more female faculty.

What kinds of systemic support could institutions provide to help encourage girls and women to pursue careers in science and engineering?

I don't think there is a barrier anymore to girls and young women entering the science and engineering fields. The trouble now is retention. Women need to see and believe there are options for balancing career and family. I think we need more role models to show this is possible and re-entry training or fellowships that allow women to come back after a break in career.

What advice would you give to girls or young women who are interested in careers in science or engineering?

Go for it and don't doubt yourself! When I was an undergraduate student, I started out in an Arts program because I did not have any female scientist role models and thought science was "hard". I realized half way through my degree that this was a mistake. I quickly changed gears and forged my own way to study and pursue science. I never looked back...

As a professional in science or engineering, who are your role models and mentors?

A big one is Rachel Carson- author of Silent Spring. But I have more present day role models and mentors- John Elliott, a wildlife ecotoxicologist of Environment Canada has been a long time mentor and former PhD supervisor. Karen Kidd, an aquatic ecotoxicologist with UNB, is a role model for her leadership, ability and vision to do BIG research along with her poise and grace.