University of Ottawa
Queen’s University scientist Dr. John P. Smol goes deep below the surface of our lakes and rivers to uncover the secrets of our environmental history, written in mud and silt. His collaborator and half-brother, Dr. Jules Blais, is a University of Ottawa environmental toxicologist who studies the effects of industrial pollutants on ecological systems. Dr. Blais’s toxicological work helps define past environmental stressors, while Dr. Smol’s ecological work characterizes the ecosystem responses to these stressors.
Their work is helping to solve the many environmental and conservation issues affecting our planet’s ecosystems, from climate change and air pollution to agricultural practices and protection of fish habitats.
Their collaboration has highlighted the importance of taking a multidisciplinary approach to complex environmental interactions, drawing on disparate fields including ecotoxicology, environmental chemistry, taxonomy, aquatic ecology and the nascent field of paleolimnology – the study of past conditions of inland freshwater bodies. The research led Dr. Smol, a former NSERC Herzberg Award winner, to found the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL) at Queen’s University, considered by many to be the world’s premier training ground for paleolimnology.
Meanwhile, Dr. Blais is founding director of the Laboratory for Natural and Synthetic Environmental Toxicants (LANSET), a research and training facility at the University of Ottawa specializing in the detection and characterization of environmental pollutants. Together, they have published some 40 scientific papers in top journals, jointly co-authored over 50 conference presentations and supervised myriad students. In 2008, they were jointly named Canada’s Environmental Scientists of the Year by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and, in 2013, they have received this prestigious NSERC Brockhouse Canada Prize.