Karen Bakker Obituary, Funeral, Burial Death Cause

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We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Karen Bakker, PhD, who until very recently was a member of the NRC Council. Karen had been a member since June 2019 and was re-appointed for a second mandate in September 2022. As a Council member, Karen was an insightful and a compelling voice for research excellence, the mobilization of digital technologies, and inclusive innovation.

An interdisciplinary environmental scientist, Karen earned her B.A&Sc. from McMaster University in 1995, and her PhD in 1999 from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Karen was a former Canada Research Chair in Political Ecology at the University of British Columbia. In 2015, she was awarded Annenberg Fellowship in Communication by Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences; in the same year, she was also a Cox Visiting Professor at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. Her research was recognized by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Impact Award in 2017. She was also the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2022. An author of more than 100 academic publications and 7 books, Karen has left a remarkable legacy of achievement and impact.

Karen regularly acted as an advisor to national and international organizations, and was a past board member of the International Institute of Sustainable Development, as well as the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Council of Canadian Academies. Karen also served as Vice‑President, Strategy for Vancouver-based Riipen, a Future of Work tech platform.

We extend our deepest condolences to Karen’s family and friends and her many colleagues and collaborators. We will miss her friendship, wise counsel and enthusiasm for the NRC’s work.

Who was Karen Bakker?

Karen Bakker (6 December 1971 – 14 August 2023) was a Canadian author, researcher, and entrepreneur known for her work on digital transformation, environmental governance, and sustainability. A Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford, Bakker was a professor at the University of British Columbia.

In 2022–2023 she was on sabbatical leave at Harvard, as a Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow.

She was the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Stanford University’s Annenberg Fellowship in Communication, Canada’s “Top 40 Under 40”, and a Trudeau Foundation Fellowship.

Bakker’s research focused on the intersection of digital technologies and environmental governance, digital environmental humanities, digital geographies, political ecology, and political economy.

In the early part of her career, she focused on water and climate issues. More recently, she had been concentrating on digital tech and environmental futures studies: critical yet pragmatic projects that advance regenerative sustainability and environmental justice.


Bakker was born in Montreal and raised in Ottawa. She trained in both the natural and social sciences at McMaster University (a combined Bachelor of Arts and Science (minor in Physics), followed by a PhD in geography at the University of Oxford). She published over 100 academic publications, including seven sole-authored and edited scholarly books. Her work has been cited over 18,000 times.

She also served as a policy advisor to organizations at the forefront of digital innovation on environmental issues, including the Digital Research Alliance of Canada, Future Earth, Sustainability in a Digital Age, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Her advisory roles have also included the IPCC, National Round Table on Environment and Economy, OECD, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, and OHCHR.

Bakker was a member of the Decolonizing Water research collective and the Riverhood project team (funded by the EU), s well as the Coalition on Digital Environmental Sustainability, and the Policy Network on Environment of the Internet Governance Forum. She was also a board member of the National Research Council Canada, and a member of the editorial board of Global Environmental Change.

Bakker delivered over 200 conference presentations and invited lectures over the course of her career, at academic institutions such as Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA. These span several disciplines including geography and environmental studies, computer science, urban studies, labour studies, political ecology, and political economy.

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