Dr. David McLagan

Dr. David McLagan

Assistant Professor


FEWA Lab - Fire, Earth, Water, and Air: Contaminant Biogeochemistry Lab
Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Environmental Studies
Arts and Science


Office Bruce 320/320A
Email david.mclagan@queensu.ca
Twitter @David_S_McLagan
Website FEWA Lab Website


  • Assistant Professor (teaching stream), Master of Environmental Science Program Director in the Dept. of Physical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Toronto (2021-22).
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany (contaminated site groundwater hydro-geochemistry) (2018-2021).
  • Research associate with Environment & Climate Change Canada (industrial and wildfire atmospheric emissions and plume chemistry) (2018).
  • PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Toronto (2013-2018).
  • Bachelor of Science (Environment) Honours degree from Griffith University in Australia (2009-2012).

Research Interests 

The roots of my education and research are in environmental sciences, an intrinsically multi-disciplinary area of science. Naturally, my research has evolved to be highly interdisciplinary; I have published studies spanning the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere. Central to this research is understanding the biogeochemical cycling of contaminants within and between the Earth’s “spheres” with a focus on the development of novel and accessible technologies and methods to advance our scientific understanding of contaminant biogeochemistry. This relates to my philosophy of “Global Science” that encourages the dissemination of information, intersectoral collaboration, bridging of Knowledge systems, and empowers local scientists and communities across world. I use tools such as stable isotopes, passive sampling, unpiloted aerial vehicles, sensors, and dendrochronology (among other techniques) to assess the spatiotemporal dynamics of organic and inorganic compounds in the environment.

Supervising Information

I am actively recruiting students across all levels (undergrad, Masters, PhD) and a postdoc. Current research projects involve (i) the study of wildfire contaminant emissions and plume chemistry using unpiloted aerial vehicles, (ii) assessing internal tree physiological processing of mercury and other metals using a multi-analyses approach, including stable mercury isotopes (do fungi play a role in this?), (iii) dendrochronological archiving of historical uses of mercury and other metals, (iv) The case of the missing mercury: understanding the fate of mercury used in artisanal small scale gold mining. Interested students and researchers are welcome to contact me directly about opportunities.

 2 Available PhD Positions (PDF130KB)

 Available Postdoctoral Fellowship Position (PDF150KB)


  • German Science Foundation (DFG) Research Project Grant
  • NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellowship (PDF)
  • Governor General’s Gold Medal (PhD), University of Toronto
  • NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral (CGS-D)
  • University Medal, Griffith University

Selected Publications

McLagan, D. S., Schwab, L., Wiederhold, J. G., Chen, L., Pietrucha, J., Kraemer, S. M., & Biester, H. (2022). Demystifying mercury geochemistry in contaminated soil–groundwater systems with complementary mercury stable isotope, concentration, and speciation analyses. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. https://doi.org/10.1039/D1EM00368B  

McLagan, D. S., Stupple, G. W., Darlington, A., Hayden, K., & Steffen, A. (2021). Where there is smoke there is mercury: Assessing boreal forest fire mercury emissions using aircraft and highlighting uncertainties associated with upscaling emissions estimates. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 21(7), 5635-5653. https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-21-5635-2021

McLagan, D. S., Monaci, F., Huang, H., Lei, Y. D., Mitchell, C. P., & Wania, F. (2019). Characterization and quantification of atmospheric mercury sources using passive air samplers. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 124(4), 2351-2362. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JD029373

Parajulee, A., Lei, Y. D., Cao, X., McLagan, D. S., Yeung, L. W., Mitchell, C. P., & Wania, F. (2018). Comparing winter-time herbicide behavior and exports in urban, rural, and mixed-use watersheds. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 20(5), 767-779. https://doi.org/10.1039/C7EM00596B

McLagan, D. S., Mitchell, C. P., Huang, H., Lei, Y. D., Cole, A. S., Steffen, A., ... & Wania, F. (2016). A high-precision passive air sampler for gaseous mercury. Environmental Science & Technology Letters3(1), 24-29. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00319

Wild, S., McLagan, D., Schlabach, M., Bossi, R., Hawker, D., Cropp, R., ... & Nash, S. B. (2015). An Antarctic research station as a source of brominated and perfluorinated persistent organic pollutants to the local environment. Environmental science & technology49(1), 103-112. https://doi.org/10.1021/es5048232

Full list: https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=JxH0u60AAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao