NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Jen Beverly

Dr. Jen Beverly

Seek out a network of advocates and mentors.

Assistant Professor, Wildland Fire
University of Alberta

Jen Beverly is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Renewable Resources and a former research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service. She teaches and conducts research on wildfire science and management topics. Her wildfire research activities have spanned over two decades during which she has published studies in the areas of fire ecology, fire behaviour, fire-climate interactions, fire risk assessment, wildfire evacuations and landscape values-at-risk mapping. She holds PhD and MSc degrees from the University of Toronto (Faculty of Forestry) and a BES from the University of Waterloo. Jen’s diverse professional background includes leadership roles with provincial and federal government departments, wildland firefighting as a former Ontario Fire Ranger, and applied landscape assessment as a program manager in the utilities industry.

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

For me, it's all about the discovery processes. I love learning what I do not know and doing what I cannot do; using that experience to create new knowledge and understanding; and then having the privilege to share it all with students, practitioners and others.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

I study wildland fire. As a student, I worked as a wildland firefighter for six years. It instilled in me a great fascination and respect for this amazing natural phenomenon and its capacity to transform ecosystems, valued forest resources, communities and lives. I do research on a broad range of wildfire topics including fire ecology, fire behaviour, fire risk assessment, landscape values-at-risk mapping, wildfire evacuations and fire-climate interactions – but they all respond to the same core question: “How do we make better decisions about fire?”

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

Students who study wildfire would have employment opportunities as fire management practitioners in provincial/territorial agencies across Canada or internationally. Career opportunities in research could include government research agencies, like the Canadian Forest Service, or academia.

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

My field and workplace are decidedly male-dominated. There are very real and enduring biases and barriers to women working in natural resource sciences and notably male dominated fields like wildfire research and fire management. I negotiate this landscape by seeking-out positive role models and mentors; working hard to earn respect by cultivating personal connections; and stubbornly refusing to give up.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

I challenge myself to maintain an absolutely open mind about each person I encounter and to model inclusive interactions in the workplace.

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

We need more directed funding for graduate scholarships and research internships targeted at women and girls who seek to work in the sciences. We also need to start recruiting women much earlier in their academic lives. This could be supported through funded educational programs that enable researchers to promote their work to school-aged girls before they leave high school.

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

I would tell them to seek out a network of advocates and mentors who are working in their field of interest. Personal relationships are key to their academic and career success and they should never underestimate the importance of making time to build those connections.

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

I've been really fortunate to engage with remarkable mentors and role models over the years. These have included supervisors in academic and professional settings; colleagues and collaborators; and even my young son, through his wonderment and curiosity about the natural world.