Departmental Research Areas

Research by the faculty associated with the School of Environmental Studies is currently directed toward three distinct, yet overlapping areas. Within these major themes, we focus on sustainability through a multidisciplinary approach involving the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology

Analysis of chemicals, their fates in the environment, and pathways for exposure and effects in plants, animals, and humans, and remediation. The Analytical Research Unit, which is managed by the SES, contributes strongly to this theme, as well as to many other researchers at Queen’s. The ASU provides analytical support and training for members of the Queen’s research community (including faculty and students of the SES), and expertise and analytical services for remediation of contaminated sites in Canada’s Arctic, as well as training opportunities in remote arctic communities. This area is a specific sub-cluster under the Environment and Sustainability research cluster of the Queen’s Strategic Plan.

Within this area, projects have included: studies of the processes that control biomagnification of chemicals in food webs to levels that are a threat to human consumers of fish and wildlife; the embryo-toxicity of petroleum hydrocarbons such as benzene and alkyl polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons; the sources, transport, fate, and effects of metals and organic compounds released by activities such as gold mines and tar sands extraction; historical trends in contamination reflected in sediments and soils of contaminated ecosystems; environmental risk assessment and bioremediation; and microbial ecology and environmental technology.

Ecosystem and Human Health

The application of a systems approach to understanding the impact of human activities on climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem functions and human health. This research strength contributes strongly to the subcluster of ‘Ecology, Evolution and Conservation of Biodiversity’ under the Research Cluster of ‘Environment and Sustainability’.

Within this area, projects have included: the impacts of climate change on the distribution and survival of tree species in Canada’s northwest; the forms and bioavailability of arsenic to humans exposed to arsenic contaminated dusts from goldmine tailings; indoor air quality, human health and well-being, and economic status of South Africans; the risks to human health of consumption of fish from chemically-contaminated ecosystems; the genetic and physiological basis for xenobiotics in humans; semi-automated detection of drinking water contamination by bacteria; and the use of long-term data, including sedimentary archives, to track changes in toxic contaminants.

Environment and Society

Finding solutions to environmental problems and sustaining living resources involving the investigation of systems of cultural values, social justice and economics. Past projects have included: land-use planning, development and social justice in Cree communities of northern Ontario; environmental ethics and the perception of nature; social development in post-apartheid S. Africa and interactions among social status, living conditions, and human health; and understanding Canada's waste flow including the material, political, economic, historical and cultural decisions contribute to our current and influence our future waste management practices.