PROFile: Ryan Bullock

Canada Research Chair in Human-Environment Interactions

Ryan Bullock, the Canada research Chair in human-environment interactions at the University of Winnipeg, started his career path later in life.

He returned to university at 27 after working in construction and carpentry and touring with his rock band full-time for three years.

“I went back to university after being on the road with the band, and I looked through the program offerings at a local university (Algoma University) ... Geography was the one,” he says.

“I went into that and never looked back, for human geography primarily, a lot of courses in physical geo, ecology, environmental biology to make an interdisciplinary degree,” he adds.

Throughout his undergrad, master’s, PhD and post-doc, his main focus was on how society interacted with the environment in both positive and negative ways.

“At its core, what I’m interested in is how people make decisions about using natural resources - how we use them, the distribution of the benefits of those resources and also the distribution of the costs - how we (negatively) impact ecosystems, but also what actions are taken to positively impact them,” Bullock says.

With his role as Canada Research Chair in Human-Environment Interactions, he gets to focus on a lot of areas like systems thinking, environmental history and also the political economy.

“I think most of us don’t like to be pigeonholed too much, so it’s a very general name,” he says.

Part of his job is also to develop new concepts, create new language and make good suggestions on what they want to change in regard to policies and practice around the environment.

“For example, student projects, researcher projects, post-doctoral research fellows that we work with … It’s very important that the research has some kind of applied value, and I think that’s the carpenter and the cook coming out of me too,” Bullock says.

“We want the research to do something at the end of the day,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re doing research that benefits society at the end of the day and have very, in some cases where it’s appropriate, have tangible outcomes.”

Q&A

What was your worst grade in university? Let’s go back to high school geography. I laugh about these things with my family and friends. High school was not happy for me, for varied reasons, not because I didn’t value education. I got a 50 in senior geography in high school, and now I have a PhD in geography, and I’m a Canada research chair in human-environment interactions. So maybe that says something about the system, or maybe it says something about me, or both.

I’m embarrassed to say that my average in university, I never got a grade below an A. My lowest grade was 84. That is simply a function of time spent in the library, time on task.

What’s your favourite thing about yourself? I have a letter of recommendation from Gil Moore from Triumph (Canadian band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and a letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Published in Volume 72, Number 16 of The Uniter (February 1, 2018)

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