Dr. Joshua Thienpont, Post Doctoral Fellow


   My research is part of a collaborative project with colleagues at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University assessing recent environmental changes in the Peace Athabasca Delta (PAD). We are using recent lake sediments, as well as semi-permeable membrane devices (SPMDs) to measure and identify total and dissolved polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in a large suite of lakes in the PAD. These lakes span important gradients of chemistry and hydrologic connectivity with the rivers systems, and will allow us to assess the potential for contamination from upstream development, and understand what limnological factors are important for structuring variability in PAH concentrations in this environment.

Dr. Jose Rodriguez Gil, Post Doctoral Fellow



Effects of Pipeline Spills in Canadian Boreal Lakes

Philippe Thomas, PhD Candidate


   As a wildlife biologist with Environment Canada, my research program is focused on the impacts of contaminants on wildlife and ecosystem health. Specifically, I am interested in the fate and transport of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs and their alkylated homologues) in terrestrial vertebrates. The oil sands’ bitumen is heavily and severely biodegraded crude oil dominated by alkylaromatic hydrocarbons and hetero-compounds, some of which are likely oxidized, increasing their water solubility and potential for bioaccumulation and biomagnification. There have been few studies on exposure of terrestrial mammals to PAHs. As such, the ecological significance and the effects of this exposure are poorly understood, especially in long-lived species, where long-term survival and lifetime productivity may be adversely affected. My PhD work aims to assess the impacts of sub-lethal, chronic exposures to alkylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in river otters. Endpoints such as tissue residues, trophic level impacts (using carbon and nitrogen isotopes as a measure of trophic position and change), endocrine disruptions (evaluated through a fecal hormone metabolite analysis) and impacts to genome health (through the measure of microsatellite mutations) are of interest in light of alkylated-PAH exposure. Co-supervised with L. Chan.

Lauren Gallant, PhD Candidate


   Bats are excellent ecological indicators due to their global distribution, long life spans, and predictable responses to environmental stressors such as climate change and pollution. In conjunction with the preservation of guano deposits owing to the protective cave environment, the high trophic position of bats can result in biomagnification of pollutants as a result of dietary intake such that bat guano deposits can be used to reconstruct historical trends. This study focuses on examining the use of a radiometrically-dated ~4,000 year old bat guano deposit from a cave, located in Jamaica, to reconstruct the historical changes in diet and contaminant exposure in bats based on changes in the chemical composition of the guano deposit. A dating profile of the guano core will be used to determine whether major changes in carbon source (based on δ13C and C/N ratio), trophic position (based on 15N), diet (based on sterols and stanols) and pesticide use (based on PCBs). This study will also examine the historical trends of 27 metals, including whether the well-documented increase in lead and mercury during the 20th century is detectable in this bat guano deposit.

Mija Azdajic, PhD Candidate


   Methylmercury is a potent neurotoxin known to bioamplify in food webs.  Communities in Canada’s northern regions consume local food such as fish, exposing them to methylmercury present in the environment.  Microbes are mostly responsible for mercury (Hg) methylation and monomethylmercury (MMHg) demethylation reactions in the environment.  Operation of Yellowknife’s Giant Mine emitted many pollutants in the atmosphere due to roasting the arsenopyrite mineral to collect gold which could have affected the concentration of methylmercury in the surrounding environment.  The main goal of my research is to investigate the cycling of mercury around the area surrounding Giant Mine by using stable isotope and metagenomic techniques.  This research will contribute to identify environmental variables responsible for the cycling of Hg.  Understanding the cycling of Hg can help to better predict and mange the effects of Giant Mine on the environment, protecting its wildlife and its residents. Co-supervised with A. Poulain.

Cynthia Cheney, PhD Candidate


   My project is focused on the contamination near Giant Mine in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada. The Giant Mine in Yellowknife operated from 1948-1999.  During this time, gold was roasted from arsenopyrite ore, releasing a variety of metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons into the environment. My research consists of three main objectives; (1) The characterization of the historical and spatial contamination of metals and PAHs in lakes surrounding the mine; (2) Creating a model to account for mixing of the lake sediments; (3) To assess the current toxicity of lake sediments in the study lakes.

Madison Bell, PhD Candidate


   The focus of my research will be to identify and optimize sediment biomarkers. Sediment biomarkers are diverse and come from a variety of sources. These diverse indicators lend themselves as useful tools to investigate past events in the environmental history of lake sediments when paired with paleolimnology techniques. Sediment biomarkers can potentially be used to investigate climate change, and archaeological sites.

Michelle-Claire Roy, MSc Candidate


   This project investigates the presence and composition of petrogenic hydrocarbons in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. My working hypothesis is that petrogenic hydrocarbons are enriched in areas draining the upstream bituminous sands areas in the Athabasca and Peace rivers, and are reduced in areas that are not hydrologically connected to these bituminous sands areas. The long term presence of petrogenic hydrocarbons in the Peace Athabasca Delta may have influenced the composition of microbial communities. I predict that hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria that utilize petrogenic hydrocarbons as a carbon and/or energy source are present in delta lakes with high PAHs and alkanes derived from the bituminous sands region. This research will evaluate whether specific microorganisms are involved in the cycling of these petrogenic hydrocarbons, and whether petrogenic hydrocarbons in the Peace-Athabasca Delta are involved in microbial respiration and metabolism.

Jonathan Seguin, MSc Candidate


   My project will be conducted at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area and will be focusing on determining the various effects of diluted bitumen (dilbit) exposure to fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) and amphipods (Hyallela azteca) from surface, aqueous and sediment exposures in mesocosm enclosures. This experiment will hopefully shed light on the bioaccumulation potential of various polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkyl PAHs and other constituents found in dilbit to fathead minnows and amphipods. These species are a part of the lower trophic levels of the aquatic food web and have the potential to affect higher trophic organisms. This is an important study sdue to planned development of new pipeline projects, such as the Energy East Pipeline and the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would transport dilbit, thus increasing the potential of pipeline spills in Canadian Boreal lakes.

Sawyer Stoyanovich, MSc Candidate


   The oil sands industry contributes to Canada’s economy, yet there is also controversy over the safety and transport of diluted bitumen (dilbit) through pipelines. In a first of its kind experiment, we will add dilbit to in-situ mesocosms at the IISD-Experimental Lakes Area to mimic a pipeline spill. My research will focus on characterizing the behavior of dilbit in a freshwater system by looking at the weathering of its components through processes such as evaporation, emulsification and photo/biodegradation as well as monitoring physical/chemical changes throughout the duration of the experimental spill. We will also be conducting an environmental mass balance for dilbit in the water column to track the fate of its harmful constituents (PAHs, metals, petroleum hydrocarbons) and highlight potential pathways of toxicity to the surrounding biota. With this research we hope to inform evidence-based management strategies for the transport of dilbit in Canada.

Alexandre Salat, MSc Candidate


   The focus of my research will be to determine the toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) found in lake sediment collected from the Athabasca Oil Sands using bioassays and exposure of fish larvae. I will be monitoring changes in sediment toxicity through time using dated lake sediment cores. As a result of increasing bitumen extraction, PAHs are released into the atmosphere and deposited to lakes. Aquatic organisms at various trophic levels are at risk of being exposed to PAHs, resulting in potential negative impacts to ecosystem health. PAHs are known to be carcinogenic and toxic to both humans and animals, raising concerns of the possible impacts of increased PAH deposition in the environment. Through toxicity exposure experiments to oil sand sediment, I will contribute to the growing body of knowledge on the effects of PAHs in the environment.

Kirsten Smythe, MSc Candidate - Chemical and Environmental Toxicology                        


   The Athabasca Oil Sands are an extensive area of large industrial activity. Open-pit mining operations have been the dominant method of extraction for years, however, as the availability of surface extractable bitumen lessens, the use of in-situ­ operations are increasing rapidly to access the deeper deposits. My project is composed of three sub-themes that work together to assess the impacts of in-situ operations with respect to their emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) within the Primrose Oil Field. Subt-heme one will assess lake sediment cores and water samples to determine the PAH and C14 signature with respect to proximity to in-situ operations. Sub-theme 2 will use snow pack samples as well as spruce needles to assess the atmospheric deposition of PAHs and to determine if there is a distinct in-situ volatile chemical signature. Sub-theme three will be an experimental lake mesocosm study to assess the speciation of bitumen using compound specific radiocarbon analyses that can be used to identify previous bitumen seeps associated with in-situ operations.  Co-supervised by Jack Cornett

Claudia Tanamal, MSc Candidate


   Assessing Arsenic speciation in contaminated areas from the Giant Mine, Northwest Territories, Canada, as well as human total exposure and risk assessments from the ingestion, inhalation and dermal exposure from Arsenic byproduct buildup. Co-supervised by Laurie Chan.

Brian Moeun, MSc Candidate


   My research focus is on the bioaccumulation of metals originating from sediment collected from the Athabasca oil sands by wood frog tadpoles (Lithobates sylvaticus). My research examines the accumulation of metals to tadpoles from exposure from contact via sediment and water to determine primary routes of exposure. Bioaccumulation and toxicokinetic data will allow us to determine which metals are of greater concern and should be monitored more closely.

Past Research Members

Bontle Mbongwe, MSc

Ucu Rahayu MSc

Andrew Wilkinson, MSc

Deborah Davidson, MSc

Cecilia Tolley, MSc

Marc Demers, MSc

Dr. Eva Krümmel, PhD

Dr. Irene Gregory-Eaves, PDF

Tania Delongchamp, MSc

Dr. Brad Mills, PhD

Susanna Atkinson, MSc

Mahsa Fathi, MSc

Tim Seabert, MSc

Shinjini Pal, MSc

Samantha Brimble, MSc

Emily Choy, MSc

Dr. Annick St. Amand, PhD

Dr. Karen Foster, PhD, PDF

Angelina Buchar, MSc

Dr. Jamie Doyle, PhD, PDF

Dr. Ahmed Al Ansari, PhD

Michelle L. Brazeau, MSc

Charlotte Lessard, MSc

Ramin Deison, MSc

Dr. Arthur Zastepa, PhD

Graham Irvine,  MSc

Sophie Chiasson-Gould, MSc

Rebecca D’Onofrio, MSc

David Eickmeyer, MSc

Cyndy Desjardins, MSc

Travers Pretorius, MSc

Claudine Lefebvre, MSc

Dr. Salma Akhtar, PDF

Dr. Adam Houben, PhD

Julie Bilodeau, MSc

Dr. Jennifer Korosi, PDF

Dr, Wenhan Cheng, PDF

Dr. Diane Orihel, PDF

Jennifer Keir, MSc

Kathryn Hargan, PDF






Dr. Jinping Li, Visiting Scientist

Dr. Huijun Liu, Visiting Scientist

Dr. Michael McLaughlin, Visiting Scientist