I got to know Michael when he was looking for a PhD supervisor at the University of Ottawa in 2012. It would be difficult not to have a strong first impression of him: a very tall bearded man, both gentle and energetic. His passion for the environment was obvious and his perspective was intriguing. He thought on a planetary scale, in an interdisciplinary way. While I did not have his expertise, we had something in common.
Michael started his PhD with a huge amount of knowledge and built on it, day by day. I involved him in extra projects at the Institute for Science, Society and Policy along with extra course work. He worked hard on everything coming his way and always delivered quality on time – with a smile.
The PhD fit him well. He invented new concepts and tools and finished his thesis without a hitch in 2017. He published away and scored a job with the United Nations in Bangkok. We stayed in touch and talked about how environmental accounting might save the planet.
When he returned to Ottawa he came with the gift of a huge international project. Michael became a regular presence in our department, and we elected him as an Adjunct Professor so that he could share his expertise more easily with students. In 2020, he co-authored a paper in Science, already cited dozens of times. His academic career was taking off.
Hard to believe that such a force of nature could vanish. And it's hard to describe the loss because it's many losses. The expertise, the capacity to make things happen, the love for the environment, the energetic presence, the roaring laugh. He rests respected, loved, and very much missed.
Marc Saner, Chair, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Ottawa.