Research

Our laboratory investigates sources of anthropogenic contaminants into the environment, environmental exposure or contamination, ecological implications, and the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies. Although the majority of our work revolves around plastic debris and associated additive chemicals, we also work on other anthropogenic stressors including climate change, road salt, and flame retardants.

Sources, pathways and exposure of anthropogenic contaminants 

In our laboratory, one of our research objectives is to determine and quantify the sources and fate of anthropogenic contaminants in freshwater and marine habitats. We also measure environmental concentrations so that we can better understand exposure in wildlife and humans. Current and ongoing projects include measuring the sources and sinks of microplastics into urban watersheds across North America and in the Eastern Canadian Arctic; measuring road salt, PAHs and tire dust in local Toronto streams; measuring microplastics in local aquatic wildlife, sportfish and drinking water; examining the fate of microplastics in individual animals and in food webs; and examining plastic debris as a source of chemicals to aquatic habitats and wildlife.

Ecological implications of anthropogenic stressors

One of our main objectives is to test hypotheses about the ecological effects of contaminants alone and in mixtures. We conduct research to understand the mechanisms of impact and how contaminants affect individual organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems. Current and ongoing projects include analyzing the weight of the scientific evidence regarding impacts of plastic debris to wildlife, measuring ecologically relevant impacts of microplastic debris, road salt, and climate change (alone and in combination) in laboratory experiments under environmentally relevant exposure scenarios, and observational experiments in the field to help determine how individual and combined stressors impact ecological populations and communities.

Method Development to Quantify and Characterize Microplastics

Because measuring microplastics in environmental samples is not always easy, we also work on method development to improve extraction, quantification and identification techniques. Some of what we do includes work to reduce the limit of detection for microplasitcs, building spectral libraries relevant to microplastics, and helping inform field sampling and laboratory analyses for governments and agencies.

Applying Science to Policy

We believe that policies and management strategies should be informed by science. We conduct research that measures the effectiveness of different proposed mitigation strategies, particularly for preventing plastic debris or cleaning up plastic pollution from the environment.