Ditchley Proust Questionnaire - Dr Dawn Wright

Dr Dawn Wright Answers the Ditchley Questionnaire.  

A leader in the application of GIS technology in ocean and coastal science. 

Dr Dawn Wright is Esri's (a leading spatial analytics and GIS organisation) Chief Scientist. Over the past 25 years she has participated in initiatives around the world to map, analyse and preserve ocean terrains and ecosystems. 
Dr Wright attended the Transforming Ocean Data conference at Ditchley. 

What are you working on right now?  Actually several projects simultaneously at the moment:  

Editing a new book due out soon, GIS for Science: Applying Mapping and Spatial Analytics, Volume 2 which brings to life a continuing collection of real-world examples of scientists using geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial data science to expand our understand of the world.   

A new partnership that Esri was asked to participate at the ground floor of what could be a very big and impactful partnership, with the Ocean Data Foundation (ODF) of Oslo, Norway. At the helm of this is Ditchley colleague Linwood Pendleton, and based in part on the Transforming Ocean Data meeting at Ditchley last October.  

New collaborative work -- where our technology will be involved in various research projects -- with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Biodiversity Observation Network (BON), the Microsoft AI for Earth initiative which is building a Planetary Computer”, and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half Earth all of which are working very hard to help save the Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystems. 

What was your first experience of Ditchley?  My first and only experience thus far at Ditchley has been the Transforming Ocean Data Workshop this past October. I absolutely adored it: the grounds and tour, the lovely staff, and of course the discussions. I am already an “anglophile,” so this visit sent that into the stratosphere.  

What should change for good after this pandemic – generally speaking?  Day-to-day, longer-term my hope is that we will all be better people, realizing what is truly important and not important in our lives, and we’ll be able to show more unity, solidarity, compassion, understanding, when it comes to others. This also includes truly understanding how crucial citizen volunteers, teachers, gig economy workers (e.g., delivery drivers), grocery story workers, health care workers are.  

What will you do differently as a result of this experience?  Expressing my deep appreciation much more often to the health care workers, grocery story workers, delivery drivers that I encounter whenever I go out (I am still on lockdown).  

Name one likely change in your work/sector as a consequence (of the pandemic).  Working from home will be viewed much more favourably now.  

The technology that has most changed my life most is…  The smart phone.  

The best (political or other) biography you've read is…  A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer by Diana Preston. A close second is Lab Girl by my friend Hope Jahren.   

Which living person do you most admire?  My own mother, with former President Barack Obama a close second.  

The company I wish I’d started…  Pixar!  

Ditchley really should hold a discussion on…  How best to improve or to fix global supply chains (including maritime). The COVID crisis has disrupted supply chains around the world in a significant way. Businesses and governments are struggling to adequately compensate and respond to the disruption.   

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  The so-called “gift of the gab” (and as often associated with politicians). 

What’s your most treasured possession?  My plush Snoopy which has travelled with me everywhere, even down to the ocean floor in the Alvin and Pisces submersibles.   

Which talent would you most like to have?  I think it would be nice to be a good dancer. I have absolutely no talent there!  

What was your first ever job?  Delivering a neighbourhood newspaper on my bicycle.  

What’s your favourite journey?  Given that I no longer live right on the ocean, my favourite journey is heading to the Pacific Ocean en route either to San Diego or Santa Barbara, California!  

Who would you invite to your dream virtual dinner party?  The American footballer Tobin Heath, the professional cyclist Peter Sagan, the British actress Emily Blunt, and Disney’s animator first African-American animator Floyd Norman.  

What’s your motto?  Right now, it’s a combination of “Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on!” and “We should not be afraid of being measured, unless we are afraid that we will not measure up.”  

Dawn Wright is Chief Scientist with the Environmental Systems Research Institute.