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Karen Bakker

(Ontario & St John's 1995) (6 December 1971 - 14 August 2023)

Karen first joined the Department of Geography at UBC as an assistant professor in 2002, having earned her PhD at Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. Twenty-one years later, she leaves an astonishing record of achievement: as Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study 2022-3; as recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship 2022, a SSHRC Connection Award and Trudeau Fellowship in 2017; and as Stanford University’s Annenberg Fellow in Communication, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars. She is the author of more than 100 academic publications and seven books.

In recent years, Karen brought her geographical fascination with environmental perception and scientific world-making to the realm of sound. In The Sounds of Life (Princeton 2021), Karen builds a prismatic portrait of planetary ecology through the medium of chirps, buzzes, and low cetacean moans. The book garnered immediate critical acclaim, including from the very scientists it featured. It also reaches a broad public through her recent TED Talk. Karen’s next book Gaia’s Web (upcoming with MIT Press) explores how interconnected digital and natural networks will impact biodiversity conservation, environmental governance, and cultivate greater empathy for other species. Both books drew from her Smart Earth Project seeking to mobilize digital technologies to address some of the most pressing challenges of the Anthropocene.

Read the full obituary here