Dawn Jeannine Wright

Environmental Systems Research Institute
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Sociology, Demography, and Geography
After 17 years as a professor of geography and oceanography at Oregon State University Dr. Dawn Wright was appointed Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (aka “Esri”), a world-leading geographic information system (GIS) software, services and R&D company in October 2011. As chief scientist of Esri, Dawn works directly with the CEO on strengthening the scientific foundation for Esri software and services, while also representing Esri to the national/international scientific community. She maintains an affiliated faculty appointment within the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State.

Dawn has authored or co-authored over 200 articles and 13 books on geographic information science, as well as deep ocean mapping and conservation. She has also published widely on environmental informatics, ethics in information technology, and science communication. Dawn has also participated in over 20 oceanographic research expeditions throughout the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Southern Oceans.

In 1991 Dawn became the first Black female to dive to the deep ocean floor in a research submersible (2500 m to the crest of the East Pacific Rise), and in 2022 became the first Black person of any gender to dive the very deepest part of the entire world ocean (10,919 m to Challenger Deep).

Dawn’s recent advisory board service includes the Science Advisory Boards of NOAA, the EPA, and the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition, the Science Advisory Council of Conservation International, the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board, the Science Advisory Board of COMPASS Science Communication, Inc., the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, and many journal editorial boards.

Dawn is also an elected Fellow of: the National Academy of Sciences; the National Academy of Engineering; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the Geological Society of America; the California Academy of Sciences; the Association of American Geographers; The Oceanography Society; Stanford University’s Leopold Leadership Program (now called the Earth Leadership Program); WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery; and the Explorers Club World Center for Exploration.

Dawn holds an Individual Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Physical Geography and Marine Geology from the University of California, 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, mountain biking, apricot green tea gummy bears, 18th-century pirates, her golden retriever Riley, and SpongeBob Squarepants. Follow her on social media via @deepseadawn.

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