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Toxicology and Pollution Tolerance

Negative human impacts on aquatic ecosystems are virtually ubiquitous across the globe. Industrial activities and other sources of pollution have led to an increase in the concentrations of various contaminants in marine and freshwater environments. Although guidelines for threshold environmental concentrations of many toxic contaminants exist in most jurisdictions, the concentration of some toxicants can still exceed these thresholds that are designed to protect aquatic life. However, depending on the contaminant and the species, aquatic life may persist in polluted environments and our lab is interested in understanding the fitness costs associated with living in contaminated habitats. We use lab and field based approaches to investigate how species persist in polluted environments, focusing on metal and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) pollution, and the trade-offs that result as a consequence of living a contaminated life.

Surface oil slicking in creosote-contaminated Marsh Creek, Saint John, NB
Photos courtesy of Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) Saint John

Main Research Questions

1) Has pollution tolerance evolved in populations of mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) inhabiting polluted coastal environments in New Brunswick, Canada?

2) Does evolved pollution tolerance result in a trade-off in other physiological traits such as salinity tolerance or exercise performance?

3) What are the physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying acclimation to chronic waterborne copper, a potent ionoregulatory toxicant in fishes?

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