Skip to main content

Danielle Stevenson

Woman in denim shirt smiling in front of foliage.
  • Category: Presidents' Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and History, 2010
  • Current hometown: Los Angeles, CA
  • Birthplace: Oshawa, ON

About Danielle

Danielle Stevenson is an applied scientist, mycologist and environmental problem-solver. She works with soils, fungi, plants and people to address waste and pollution in creative and circular ways. In addition to her UVic degree, she has a PhD in Environmental Toxicology from the University of California Riverside. She founded D.I.Y. Fungi for research, education and action around fungal food, medicine, waste management and remediation; and Healing City Soils (with the Compost Education Centre) to provide soil metal testing, resources and community bioremediation for people growing food. Danielle is involved in many projects and organizations around the world supporting regeneration of lands and waters, environmental education and community-capacity building.

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are?

[It created] my support network—long-term friends, but also the mentors and professors that went on to write me letters, or meet with me for coffee, or invite me to come speak in their classes. I find that to be unique about UVic—fostering a community feeling. UVic was strong in fostering critical thinking, but also exposure to real world issues that are happening.

What skills or traits are needed to be good at what you do?

Curiosity is an important one, and skills pertaining to collaboration and networking and communication about complex ideas and problems. Also perseverance. The program I did at UVic really helped with that. I remember classes feeling often like it was all bad news, but they would also help us connect with community projects and international work to help solve these problems.

What accomplishment are you most proud?

I founded this program [in Victoria] called the Healing City Soils Program, and the program offers free soil-contaminant testing for people growing food, and a whole bunch of other resources and programs have stemmed off this. I saw a need that wasn't being addressed. I was meeting with city councillors. I was meeting with everyone I could think of that could help address this gap, and people kept saying, “Oh, it's not possible.” And finally, I wrote a letter to the Times Colonist and said, “Hey, I see this problem and this need. Here's what I'm proposing. Who wants to work with me on that?” And I was contacted by professors from all the local universities and colleges, including UVic. Now this program is in its eighth year, still providing these important services in Greater Victoria, and it’s become a model that's being applied all over North America.

What’s a valuable piece of advice someone has given you?

I've experienced a lot of pushback in my work because my work involves facing big problems that are painful and uncomfortable to face, and the solutions that I'm proposing and working on are different than the status quo. One thing people have told me that was helpful is that all of that pushback is a good sign because it means that you're having an impact. When you’re innovating or challenging the status quo, there's going to be pushback.

Do you have a mantra?

There's that [Chumbawamba] song that goes, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down,” I'd say that's kind of my mantra.

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?

I'm a musician. I love music. I love karaoke, but my mind always goes blank. What is the last karaoke song I did? I think I did “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper.

What is a secret talent you have that might surprise people?

I’m really good at limbo. I have a very flexible back. I used to do gymnastics… and have noted that it often surprises people… If I see a good bar, a good limbo scenario, I will take it.

What is the last great thing you've watched or read?

I haven't been watching or reading as much because of my dissertation, but Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (the Miyazaki film), I really liked that, and it connects the work that I do.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.