Research, Wildlife and Landscape Science

Image of the effects of a herbicide (bleaching) on a fern | Photo: Céline Boutin, Environment CanadaImage of black-legged kittewake | Photo: K. WooAerial photograph illustrating the mosaic of habitats in an agricultural landscape | Photo: Céline Boutin, Environment CanadaNorthern leopard frog | Photo: Erik Enderson

Environment Canada researchers contribute to the national and international scientific community to develop new insights and to provide scientific advice for decisions on wildlife and landscape conservation. Researchers help inform the policy community to design regulations and policies that protect and conserve Canadian species and habitats from toxic substances, diseases, unsustainable commercial practices, climate change and other threats.

Scientists conduct research in every region of Canada and consider all aspects of wildlife and habitat health, from the molecular to the ecosystem. Research focuses on migratory birds, species found on federal lands, and their habitats, as well as mammals, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and plants.

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Research Topics

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Agriculture, Land Use and Ecosystems

Photo of farm field being harvested |  Photo: Photos.comExamining how wildlife appear and interact in altered landscapes will help assess risk to native species as they respond to habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, and also help identify landscapes of high conservation value.

 

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Biological Test Method Development

Photo of Biological Test Methods | Photo: Environment CanadaResearchers work with government and private-sector laboratories to develop, validate and standardize toxicology test methods required for Environment Canada programs and to ensure confidence in the results of scientific study. Standardized biological testing procedures for monitoring and assessing toxic substances and complex mixtures on environmentally relevant species are essential for protection of the Canadian environment.

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Contaminants and Wildlife

Northern leopard frog gonad with both male and female tissue | Photo: C. Mackenzie, Trent UniversityProperties of various industrial chemicals, drugs, effluents and pesticides pose various health risks to wildlife populations. The immune, reproductive, growth, nervous and endocrine systems, as well as behaviour, can be adversely affected by endocrine disruptors, pesticides and herbicides, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and various emerging chemicals. Research into these contaminants, their passage through ecosystems and food webs, and their impacts on wildlife and overall ecosystem health provides information for regulating harmful substances.

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Industrial Effluents

Photo of industrial water disposal | Photo: Photos.comIndustrial effluents are complex mixtures of substances, which when released to waterways, may be harmful to aquatic and sediment dwelling organisms.

 

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Metals Toxicology

Common loon chick about to be released back into the wild after having feather and blood samples taken for mercury analysis| Photo: Environment CanadaExposure to heavy metals, like lead and mercury, can cause behavioural and reproductive impairment in various wildlife species. Understanding the abundance, movement and effects of heavy metals in ecosystems can inform regulatory and policy decisions to reduce the amount and concentration of heavy metals in the Canadian environment.

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Molecular Toxicology

Laboratory equipment | Photo: photos.comMolecular toxicology is the study of an organism’s response to natural and synthetic chemicals at the molecular level. Environment Canada researchers conduct risk assessments using molecular toxicology tools to determine which species are most at risk from chemicals in the environment. This work contributes to the understanding of toxicity and cellular processes.

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Nanotechnology

Mechanical soil mixer enclosed in a walk-in fumehood for health and safety reasons | Photo: Environment CanadaAnthropogenic activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and release of novel manufactured nanomaterials into the environment necessitate the generation of toxicity data to better understand how molecules interact within ecosystems and biota, and inform, facilitate and advise on regulations and standards designed to protect the Canadian environment.

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Sediment Toxicology

Image of freshwater midges Chironomus sp. | Photo: Environment CanadaDeveloping science-based tools to assess sediment quality and toxicity supports a broad range of programs and policies that strive to maintain the overall health of aquatic ecosystems.

 

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Soil Toxicology

Image of laboratory growth chamber | Photo: Lee Beaudette, Environment CanadaResearchers develop, validate and standardize laboratory testing procedures to assess and test chemical and microbiological contaminants in soil and their impacts on soil communities, including invertebrates, plants and microorganisms. Information helps evaluate risks of toxic pollutants to biota and ecosystems, and can evaluate the effectiveness of remediation efforts.

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Space for Habitat and GIS

Launched in November 1995, RADARSAT-1 ushered in a new age in remote sensing and firmly positioned Canada as a leader in the internationally competitive Earth observation market. It collects images of the Earth day or night and through clouds using a powerful microwave synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system | Photo: Canadian Space AgencyThe Space for Habitat project combines traditional land-based monitoring approaches with space-based technologies to design a national system that modernizes wildlife and habitat monitoring and enforcement activities.

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Toxicogenomics

Chicken embryonic neuronal cell used in molecular toxicology experiments to determine impacts of priority chemicals on gene expression in the avian brain | Photo: Environment CanadaToxicogenomics is a rapidly evolving field that is used to determine the effects of toxic substances and stressors on biological systems. Environment Canada researchers work in this emerging field to develop a greater understanding of how organisms respond to priority environmental contaminants and to identify the first signs of threats to Canadian wildlife.

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Wildlife Forensics

Image of wildlife enforcement officer inspecting waterfowl carcass | Photo: Environment CanadaWildlife forensics laboratory specialists provide timely, accredited and secure data and expertise to enforcement officers and program managers to inform conservation activities that protect and conserve wildlife species in Canada.