Dan McCarthy

Dr. Dan McCarthy, Associate Professor

School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability (SERS) and
the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR)
University of Waterloo


I obtained my PhD from the University of Waterloo where I now work as an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies. I am also the Director of the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR). My academic background focuses on exploring the utility of complex systems-based approaches to understanding and intervening in linked social, ecological, epistemological systems.

Research with PWIP

I have strong research interests in adaptive capacity, social and environmental justice, and social innovation in the field of environmental policy. Using a critical systems perspective, I work closely with several First Nations communities in both Northern and Southern Ontario and help to foster partnerships that support Indigenous-led innovation and help to address the social and environmental justice issues associated with new resource extraction. As part of PWIP I am working with Dr. Graham Whitelaw to examine Ontario’s Greenbelt Plan review process for its impact on First Nations and the interests of environmental non-governmental organizations.  I am also the PI on a new SSHRC Insight Grant that is funding transdisciplinary, cross-cultural research on reconciliation research and education on Haida Gwaii, BC with the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society.  And lastly, WISIR is currently incubating an emerging, Indigenous-led Social Innovation Think and Do Tank, the Turtle Island Institute (TII).  TII is being led by Anishinaabe Scholar, Melanie Goodchild and as Director of WISIR we have been supporting the development of TII with funding and research support.  Once developed TII will be a stand-alone, not-for-profit, charitable institute and WISIR hopes to remain a strong research partner.

Other Research Interests

  • Investigating complex systems thinking and resilience and fostering adaptive capacity
  • Exploring critical and reflective approaches to systems thinking
  • Fostering social innovations in order to build social-ecological resilience


  • Isogai, A. D., Alexiuk, E., Gardner, H., McCarthy, D. D. P., Edwards, V., Tsuji, L. J. S., and Spiegelaar, N. 2015. Sustaining a Local Food Security Initiative in a Remote Subarctic Community: Engaging Canadian First Nation Youth in Agroforestry-Community Gardens. International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, 10(3-4): 1-17.

  • McLeod, F., Viswanathan, L., Whitelaw, G.S., Macbeth, J., King, C., Alexiuk, E., and McCarthy, D. D. P. 2015. “Finding Common Ground: A Critical Review of Land Use and Resource Management Policies in Ontario, Canada and their Intersection with First Nations.” The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 6(1). Retrieved from: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/iipj/vol6/iss1/3

  • McCarthy, D. D. P., G. S. Whitelaw, F. R. Westley, D. D. Crandall, and D. Burnett. 2014. “The Oak Ridges Moraine as a Social Innovation: Strategic Vision as a Social-ecological Interaction.” Ecology and Society, 19(1): 48. [pdf]

  • McCarthy, D. D. P., Millen, Martin; Boyden, Mary; Alexiuk, Erin; Whitelaw, Graham, S; Viswanathan, Leela; Larkman, D.; Rowe, G., and Westley, Frances R. 2014. “A First Nations-led social innovation: a moose, a gold mining company, and a policy window.” Ecology and Society 19(4): 2. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06771-190402. [pdf]

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