Tracking contaminants, from the Arctic to the St. Lawrence

Fascinated by environmental issues and the impact of humans on their environment, Jonathan Verreault began critically thinking at an early age. As part of a school assignment, he researches pollution from wastewater discharges. He doesn’t know it yet, but this project would be the genesis of the work of a lifetime.

Drawn to the Far North and its ecosystems, he begins his studies in 1997 at the University of Tromsø in Norway. His interests include the marine world, its biology and especially the pollutants emitted into this environment. He pursues a Master’s degree in environmental toxicology – with the glaucous gull as his subject of study – and later a doctorate in the same field. After spending more than 10 years in northern Norway (including the Arctic), Jonathan Verreault returns to Canada and pursues a postdoctoral degree at Carleton University in Ottawa in environmental chemistry, where he also worked on polar bears. During his studies, he alternates between mammals and birds while maintaining ecotoxicology as the cornerstone of his research. More precisely, he focuses on the impact and fate of contaminants in organisms, their transfer to the trophic chain and, on a larger scale, their impact on the health of the species.

He is now studying emerging contaminants introduced into our daily lives following the banning of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Faced with the lack of information on these new substances, he makes it his specialty. The focus of his work is on halogenated flame retardants (HFRs), substances found in many consumer goods, including certain upholstered furniture, electronic equipment, plastics, etc., whose effects on the environment and organisms are still under-documented. His work not only serves as basic research, but also represents a valuable tool for advising governments.

Today, Jonathan Verreault, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Avian Toxicology, has left the North to focus on the species of the St. Lawrence River Basin. At the helm of numerous projects and associate professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), he has recently engaged in a collaboration with the GREMM to understand the impact of flame retardants on beluga microbiota, a pioneering project In this area that is still in its infancy.

Lastly, through his research, Jonathan Verreault seeks to better understand and describe this great epoch that we have just entered, i.e. the Anthropocene, in order to better protect the environment from human disturbances.