‘My success is in my students’ achievements.’
Colleagues and students of University Professor Marie-Josée Fortin have heard her say this, and it reflects the commitment to graduate student mentoring that’s led to her being named a recipient of the 2021 JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award.
The awards are presented by the School of Graduate Studies to an active faculty member who, over a minimum 15-year period, has demonstrated graduate supervision excellence at the University of Toronto.
Fortin is a professor in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology where she investigates the role space plays in ecological processes, biodiversity and ecosystems.
Her work intertwines several disciplines — spatial ecology, conservation, network theory, forest ecology, disturbance ecology, community ecology, landscape genetics, spatial epidemiology, geography, spatial statistics and spatially-explicit modeling.
Fortin has been inspiring graduate students for over 25 years, advising or co-advising a remarkable 60 doctoral students. The research of these young academics has resulted in over 90 research publications and almost 200 talks delivered in scientific meetings and symposia.
These doctoral students have gone onto careers in academia as well as NGOs and the private sector. Fortin’s mentorship activities are on an international scale and she has been especially active in mentoring women in the biological sciences.
For example, for two recent students, she facilitated collaborative projects with the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans during their PhDs. One is now a Research Scientist and another an Assistant researcher at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
Another student collaborated with Environment and Climate Change Canada and is now a Research Scientist with that government agency. And another collaborated with Gowlland Technologies Ltd. during her PhD and is now a Landscape Ecologist at Apex Resource Management Solutions at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
Fortin is also known for supporting students years after they leave her lab.
Says one, “Although I had graduated from her lab several years previously, Marie-Josée was very involved in helping me prepare for my first academic job interview. She spent time with me ensuring that my job talk effectively highlighted my skills and achievements while tailoring my presentation to the expectations and needs of the hiring institution.”
Fortin is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, recipient of the 2019 President’s Award from the Canadian Society of Ecology & Evolution, and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Spatial Ecology.