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Dr. Dawn Wright
Oregon State University and
Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri)**



Dr. Dawn Wright is Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (aka Esri), a world-leading geographic information system (GIS) software and data science company. She was appointed to this post in October 2011 after 17 years as a full-time professor of geography and oceanography at Oregon State University (OrSt). As Esri Chief Scientist, Dawn reports directly to the Esri CEO with a mission of strengthening the scientific foundation for Esri software and services, while representing Esri to the international scientific community. She maintains an affiliated faculty appointment as Professor of Geography and Oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OrSt.

Dawn’s research interests include geospatial data science; seafloor mapping, coastal/ocean informatics, science communication and environmental education. She has authored or co-authored more than 180 articles and 12 books on marine geographic information systems, hydrothermal activity and tectonics of mid-ocean ridges, and coastal/ocean informatics. Dawn has participated in over 20 oceanographic research expeditions worldwide, including 10 legs of the Ocean Drilling Program, three dives in the deep submergence vehicle  Alvin and twice in the Pisces V. Her fieldwork has taken her to some of the most geologically active regions of the planet, including the East Pacific Rise, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Juan de Fuca Ridge, the Tonga Trench, and volcanoes under the Japan Sea and the Indian Ocean. In 1991 she became the first Black female to dive to the deep ocean floor in a research submersible.

In April 2021 Dawn was elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Her recent advisory board service includes the NOAA Science Advisory Board, the US National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board, the Board of COMPASS Science Communication Inc., the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, and many journal editorial boards.  She is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, The Oceanography Society, the California Academy of Sciences, and Stanford’s Leopold Leadership Program, as well as a former Oregon Professor of the Year. She holds an Individual Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Physical Geography and Marine Geology from UC-Santa Barbara, an M.S. in Oceanography from Texas A&M,  and a B.S. cum laude in Geology from Wheaton College (Illinois). 

Other interests include road cycling, 18th-century pirates, apricot green tea gummy bears, her golden retriever dog Riley, and SpongeBob Squarepants. Dawn has been featured as a LEGO minifig and in a set of trading cards. Follow her on Twitter @deepseadawn.
** "Esri is the world's sixth largest privately-owned technology company, and the world's leader in GIS software, research and development. Esri software is used in more than 350,000 organizations worldwide, including each of the 200 largest cities in the US, most of the world's governments, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, and more than 11,000 colleges and universities. Esri applications, which run on more than 1 million desktops and thousands of Web and enterprise servers, provide the backbone for the world's mapping and spatial analysis."

Mission statement: "Esri inspires and enables people to positively impact their future through a deeper understanding of the changing world around them. Governments, industry leaders, academics, and nongovernmental organizations trust us to connect them with the analytic knowledge they need to make the critical decisions that shape the planet. Since 1969, Esri has cultivated collaborative relationships with partners who share our commitment to solving Earth’s most pressing challenges with geographic expertise and rational resolve. Today, we believe that geography is at the heart of a more resilient and sustainable future. Creating responsible products and solutions drives our passion for improving quality of life everywhere."

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