NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Kerri Finlay

Dr. Kerri Finlay

If you find it interesting and compelling, pursue it

Assistant Professor, Ecology
University of Regina

I completed my BSc in 1999 in Ecology at the University of Toronto, where I first started research in the field of limnology. I completed my PhD from the Department of Zoology at the University of Guelph in 2005, examining the life history and diets of copepods in the Bay of Fundy. I completed two postdoctoral fellowships - one at the University of Quebec at Montreal looking at the ecology of zooplankton size spectra, and one at the University of Regina, examining carbon and nitrogen biogeochemistry. In 2009, I was appointed as a Lecturer in the Biology Department at the U of R, and was then promoted to Assistant Professor in 2016, where I am now researching aquatic ecology and biogeochemistry in Prairie lakes. I am interested in determining the role of human activities on lake water quality how to develop ecologically-sound mitigation practices for water quality improvement. I am also interested in carbon budgets in prairie lakes and ponds, and how carbon dynamics interact with climate change.

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

I love that my job allows me the freedom to pursue research that is interesting to me. It is always changing, and there's always a new and exciting avenue to explore.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?
I am researching carbon biogeochemistry in lakes, and in particular looking at how different water bodies (lakes, streams, and agricultural dugouts) in the prairies are impacting the global carbon cycle. This work is exciting because we think that some of these water bodies could be used as carbon offsets for greenhouse gas emissions in the area. I am also involved in initiating a Citizen Science program to monitor water quality in lakes in Saskatchewan - this research is particularly interesting as it allows us to work with different communities across the province and address questions that are of local interest and relevance.

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

Beyond academia, students in my field may be employed in areas such as environmental monitoring, greenhouse gas accounting, water quality analyses, and water management.

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

Males outnumber females in the professor ranks in my department, but overall, there is a fairly even split between genders in the hallway. I feel comfortable being myself in my workplace, and am confident to contribute when I know I have something to add to the discussion.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

I like to focus on the different personalities of people in my lab and workplace. Everyone has different motivations, and by understanding these, we can provide an exciting and nurturing workplace for everyone.

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

I think the presence of female role models speaks loudly to encourage girls to pursue science. Having women in authoritative and high-ranking positions, and having gender parity in teaching and research positions shows girls that there is no reason for them to not pursue their goals.

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

Follow what interests you. Don't worry immediately about the specific job at the end of your degree(s) - if you find it interesting and compelling, pursue it!

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

I have been lucky to have several female advisors and teachers during my studies - they were all strong, confident, and self-assured women who had an infectious excitement about their research. I am also lucky to have had three generations of exceptionally strong and independent women in my family - I consider my grandmother, mother, and sister to be role models for me from a young age.