You can draw a clear line in Marc Cadotte’s career as an ecologist all the way back to his childhood spent in northern Ontario, where his passion for the natural world began.
He grew up in Hearst, a small northern Ontario town about 930 km north of Toronto, and also spent time in Moose Factory, an even smaller northern Ontario town at the foot of James Bay.
“As a child, I was surrounded by nature. I could look into my backyard and see bears and moose and all sorts of wildlife roaming around. I could also go off and explore the local forests and rivers, so I had daily contact with nature.”
Cadotte, who joins Associate Professor Diana Fu as U of T Scarborough’s newest members elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, says moving to southwestern Ontario near the end of elementary school really opened his eyes to environmental change brought on by human activity.
“In northern Ontario, the insects are more severe, the winter is more severe – nature is just a greater part of your life. When I moved to Chatham, the contrast was so stark, it was like nature was almost entirely removed,” he says.
“I was fortunate in many ways that I moved at an impressionable time in my life, and just seeing the difference of going to a place where I had to find nature, instead of nature finding me,” he says.
He completed his undergrad and master’s degree at the University of Windsor where he credits the mentorship of plant biologist Professor John Lovett-Doust with setting his research career in motion.
“He was a huge influence,” says Cadotte, who runs the CUBES Lab at U of T Scarborough.
“He introduced me to scientific research, and after a couple of years gave me the freedom to pursue research projects and start my own research program. He was really supportive, and helped me overcome some of my own weaknesses. He’s retired now, but we still keep in touch.”
Cadotte, who joined the biology department at U of T Scarborough in 2009, is a community ecologist, a subfield of ecology that focuses on patterns of diversity, species co-existence, and multi-species interactions, like those between predator and prey, or herbivores and plants.
He’s a renowned expert on urban ecosystems, specifically the role different native species play in maintaining urban ecosystem function, and the role invasive species play in affecting urban ecosystems. He’s also a prolific researcher, having published over 150 articles, accumulated over 11,000 citations, and is listed among Web of Science’s top one per cent most cited environmental scientists since 2017.
Science communication and outreach have always been important to Cadotte.
In addition to serving as executive editor of the Journal of Applied Ecology, and editor-in-chief of Ecological Solutions and Evidence. He also serves as the chair of Applied Ecology Resources, a platform that brings together different sources of information, including peer-reviewed research articles, case studies, research summaries, and data reports, which have value for designing ecological management and policy initiatives.
Cadotte also held the TD Professor of Urban Forest Conservation and Biology, a limited-term chair focused on urban environmental and biological science research, as well as community science outreach programs.
He currently runs a monarch butterfly program with Grade 2 and 3 students in several local schools, and also runs several local pollinator gardens where he shows Grade 6 students how to collect data.
“Teaching is a personal passion. I really enjoy being able to teach people of all ages about the natural world, whether it’s through exciting stories and anecdotes or just showing them real examples from nature,” he says.
“I also feel an obligation to give back. Most of my education and my funding has been supported by the public, so I feel a responsibility to pass on to others what I’ve learned as a way of giving back.”