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Jill Oakes was born June 14, 1952. She received a Bachelor of Human Ecology (1975), an Education Certificate (1976), a Master's of Science (1985) and a Ph.D (1988) from the University of Manitoba. In 1982, she earned her commercial pilot's licence and Instructor's Rating. Oakes began lecturing at the University of Manitoba in 1987 and she has also lectured as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Assistant Professor in Human Ecology from 1990-1994 at the University of Alberta as well as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Natural Resources Institute, Associate Professor in the Department of Native Studies from 1994-2004, Acting Head of the Department of Geography from 2004-2005, and is currently Professor in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of Manitoba. She has served as research associate for the Canadian Circumpolar Institute at the University of Alberta and, from 1993 to 1994, was Co-Chair of Northern Studies in the Department of Native Studies at Trent University. Oakes' many accomplishments include the development of a certificate program for Aboriginal students interested in environmental studies and a Master's program proposal for an Master's in Native Studies at the University of Manitoba. This proposal included three new graduate level courses which were approved by Senate in 1995. Oakes' work with museum collections has taken her on collecting trips to Greenland, Northwest Territories, Alaska, and the Far East of Russia and the American Southwest for the Bata Shoe Museum, the McCord Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the Universities of Alberta and Manitoba. Oakes has researched, coordinated, and curated many exhibitions including the traveling exhibition "Coats of Eider," and a documentary film directed by Oakes.
In 1995, Oakes received the University of Manitoba Outreach Award and an RH Outstanding Research Award, as well as various awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching. Jill Oakes is the author of several publications and coordinator and co-lecturer in the Inuit Lifestyles Field Course conducted at numerous locations including Delta Marsh Research Station, Churchill Northern Studies Research Centre, Goose Bay, Labrador, Iqaluit, and Meanook Biological Station, University of Alberta.