I joined Queen’s University in 2004 as a Queen’s National Scholar, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2014 (first round), and earned the Queen’s Excellence in Research Prize in 2015. My publication record is not only prolific, but also influential. Author of eleven books (including one in press and one forthcoming) and >70 refereed articles and book chapters, I have delivered 72 invited lectures in 10 countries including 27 keynote addresses, and I am regularly featured on major news media such as the CBC and BBC.
My focus on the environment evolved out of an impressive body of earlier research. After earning a SSHRC- and ORS-funded D.Phil. from Oxford University (Sociology) in 1996, I began exploring the substantive topic of the biological basis of sex, conducting large-scale quantitative and qualitative studies (e.g., 1995, 1998, Hird and Jackson 1999, 2000, 2002). My critical analysis of the evolution of scientific discourses of sex (1998a, 1998b, 2001a) led to Engendering Violence: From Childhood to Adulthood (2002; finalist for the British Sociological Association’s Philip Abrams Memorial Prize) and Sex, Gender and Science (2004). My focus on the natural sciences earned a SSHRC-funded Visiting Fellowship in the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with distinguished evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis. However, rather than simply interviewing scientists and reading their literature, I engaged with their research (see Hird 2018). Indeed, this engagement in the lab and in the field continues to be a hallmark of my work, informing a number of my publications, which explicitly address the potentials and challenges of interdisciplinary collaborations (e.g., Canning, Hird and Smith 2010; Hird 2018). My experience in the Margulis lab formed the basis of my original and ground-breaking work, The Origins of Sociable Life: Evolution After Science Studies (2009). My research demonstrating the importance of microorganisms in sustaining the biosphere met with national and international acclaim, and I earned invitations as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, and as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Uppsala and Linköping universities (Sweden). It also garnered keynote speaker invitations at such prestigious institutions as the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of California at Berkeley, The Rachel Carson Center for the Environment and Society, Brown University, The University of Bergen, Stockholm University and the École Urbaine. I also gave the United Kingdom’s prestigious Leverhulme Trust Lecture Series (2013–2014).
My current research on waste issues continues this interdisciplinary approach. I examine Canada’s waste crisis as a wicked problem that is challenging to resolve because its multi-dimensional complexity means that solutions are often contradictory: solving one aspect of our waste crisis (e.g., by developing new recycling technologies or exporting plastics) results in the creation of different problems (e.g., increasing the volume and toxicity of contaminants produced by recycling processes, increasing CO2 emissions by transporting waste long distances and further compromising already-vulnerable communities). My SSHRC-funded project, ‘Citizen Science Solutions to Canadian Waste Management Issues,’ examined Canadian landfill issues and generated six publications, a public website and a video. Its success led to my current SSHRC Insight grant-funded study, Canada’s Waste Flows, concerned with democratic dialogue and the future of Canada’s waste issues within a global context. Moreover, over the past decade, I have carefully developed relationships of trust with Inuit communities in Nunavut to work collaboratively on several SSHRC-funded projects addressing legacy and ongoing industry and military waste issues as a symptom of ongoing settler colonialism (e.g., Hird in press, 2017, 2016, 2015; Wilkes and Hird 2019; Metuzals and Hird 2018; Hird and Zahara 2017; Zahara and Hird 2015), and in working positively with communities in, for instance, developing Nunavut’s first reuse and refurbishment program. These projects have generated my monographs, Canada’s Waste Flows (McGill-University Press, 2021) and The Public Sociology of Waste (Policy Press, forthcoming), as well as 28 referred journal articles and book chapters (with several more accepted or in press). Recognized by the Canadian federal government for my outstanding contributions to waste studies research, I represented Canada at the G7 Microplastics meeting in Paris in 2019 (at Chief Science Officer Dr. Mona Nemer’s invitation) and I continue in this role as a delegate on the International Panel of Experts on Behavioral Change. My international waste studies research has also earned me a 3-year Distinguished Visiting Professorship at the École Normale Supérieure (France). As well as my 25 years of SSHRC funding success, I have achieved success in earning international funding (France-Canada Research Fund, French Embassy; Mistra-Formas, Sweden; Institut des Sciences de l’Homme, France). My current research funding (as PI and Collaborator) totals over CAD$2M and I have earned over CAD$7M in completed grants.
My research crucially emphasizes research knowledge mobilization. I have earned numerous grants devoted to knowledge mobilization, such as SSHRC’s Presidential Fund — awarded to only 58 scholars across Canada — focused on capturing the impacts of publicly-funded research. Moreover, I am frequently featured in public media such as the CBC’s Good People (season 1, episode 5), The National (interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti), CBC news, CTV news, CTV’s Marketplace and BBC news. I worked with Kim Renders on the successful Kingston production of WasteAway. I am currently working with Inuit artists on a Canada-wide touring exhibition of Inuit art that highlights the relationships between waste and settler colonialism – a portion of this exhibition will also be featured at the Musée des Confluences (Lyon, France). I give regular public talks such as the Gananoque Probus Club. Queen’s University features my research as exemplary of high-impact (for instance, e-Affect Issue 4, Fall 2013; the Office of the Vic-Principal’s Research feature (‘Diving into Microplastics: Addressing our Wicked Waste Problem’) and interdisciplinary research (representing Queen’s at Her Honourable Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell’s visit in 2015). I am also highly accomplished in training the next generation of Highly Qualified Personnel. My expertise is sought globally by graduate students; I have supervised 52 Masters, PhD and post-doctoral students in 4 countries, many of whom have gone on to careers in academia, the federal government, and non-governmental organizations. I ensure that my graduate students have a high success rate in SSHRC funding, publications, and knowledge mobilization.