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Working towards a sustainable future

Researchers from across Queen’s are making discoveries that help us protect our planet.

Image of Queen's University Biological Station
Queen's University Biological Station (Photo by Allen Tian)

Queen’s recognizes that climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, and it is helping to create a more sustainable world through the knowledge and innovations that are being produced by researchers in all areas of the university.

Across Queen’s, faculty members have dedicated themselves to researching questions connected to the environment and sustainability. Taking interdisciplinary approaches to topics as wide ranging as water quality, health, economics, and engineering, Queen’s researchers are making discoveries that will help make the future of our planet greener.

Several Queen’s faculty members are actively exploring the effects that human societies are having on the environment. For instance, Dr. Diane Orihel, Assistant Professor in the Biology Department and Queen’s National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology, is working to understand how chemicals effect the environment.  Currently, she is the principal investigator on a project that studies the impact of diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” on fresh water.

Similar to Dr. Orihel, Dr. John P. Smol, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, uses lake sediment samples to unravel the history of environmental change in order to improve understanding of human impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Dr. Smol leads an international program in the field of paleolimnology that tracks long-term trends in climatic change and develops new approaches to studying water-quality problems, among other goals.  

Water quality is also a primary focus of the Beaty Water Research Centre, which investigates a variety of issues related to the environment. Four faculty members affiliated with the centre were recently awarded with the NSERC Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. Drs. Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering), Michael Cunningham  (Chemical Engineering, Chemistry), Philip Jessop (Chemistry), and Warren Mabee (Geography and Planning, School of Policy Studies) were recognized with this prestigious award for their work in enhancing the value and sustainability of our natural renewable resources through collaboration. With the funding provided by the award, this team of researchers aims to design solutions, such as green industrial processes, to address problems caused by climate change.

Developing innovative solutions that protect the environment also motivates the research of Dr. Kerry Rowe, Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. To help guard the environment from contamination by waste, Dr. Rowe is currently developing new guidelines and techniques for building waste-disposal sites.

In order to tackle the problems of climate change, society will need policy solutions as well as scientific innovations. That is where the work of Dr. Kyla S. Tienhaara, Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment, comes in. Dr. Tienhaara studies government interventions in the economy through public policies that aim to achieve environmental sustainability. Through this research, Dr. Tienhaara aims to increase the environmental outcomes of future government spending initiatives.

Dr. Heather Castleden, Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relationships for Health, Environments, and Communities, is addressing problems created by climate change by bringing together different systems of knowledge. By applying Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to research involving social and environmental justice and health equity, Dr. Castleden’s work aims to reconcile relationships between Indigenous peoples and Settler Canadians as well as society’s relationship with the land, water, and air that sustain us.

Beyond our individual researchers, Queen’s also has a number of research centres and institutes that investigate an array of different issues that bear on the environment and sustainability, such as the Queen’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy, the GeoEngineering Centre at Queen’s-RMC, and the Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePower).

To learn more about the many Queen’s researchers who are making discoveries that will help lead to a sustainable future, visit the new Queen’s research website.