A native of Halifax, Canada, Galbraith completed an undergraduate degree in Earth and Planetary Science at McGill University in 1997, then worked as an exploration geologist in Peru and a tour guide on polar expedition cruises before undertaking a PhD at the University of British Columbia, completed in 2006. This was followed by three years of postdoctoral research at Princeton University, developing and using Earth System models, with a focus on ocean biogeochemistry and long-term climate variability. Galbraith returned to McGill University as a professor, where he worked until joining ICREA in 2015.
Over the past century, humans have emerged as a dominant component of the Earth system. For decades, it has been clear that we are on an increasingly unsustainable trajectory due to rapid alteration of climate, biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems at the global scale. Despite this clarity, we have not yet made the large changes in trajectory that are required to ensure sustainability. Part of this lack of action can be attributed to an incomplete understanding of the emergent properties of the human-Earth system, including the behavioural motivations of humans and outcomes for human experience and well-being. I am interested in using statistical analyses, simple theory and numerical models to improve our predictive understanding of the coupled human-Earth system. Most of my past work has addressed uncertainty in the natural science side of the system, including the study of past, natural climate changes, and the controls on the chemical composition and large-scale ecology of the global ocean. My focus is now on developing integrated, quantitative descriptions of the two-way coupling between natural and human elements by bridging Earth system modeling methods with social science. Most of my current work is developing these approaches for the global marine fishery, through the ERC-funded BIGSEA project.