OTTAWA, February 3, 2014 — For University of Ottawa professor Jules Blais and his brother, Queen’s University professor John Smol, working together to save the environment runs in the family — they’ve been doing it for 15 years. While Blais’ toxicological work helps define past environmental stressors, Smol’s ecological research demonstrates how the ecosystem responds to these stressors. Their unique approaches, coupled with their common interests, were recognized recently when the pair won the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada’s Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering.
“I got a sense from an early age that the environment was going to be a defining issue for this generation,” said Blais, a biologist. His collaboration with his sibling has highlighted the importance of taking a multidisciplinary approach to complex environmental interactions, drawing on unrelated fields to unravel the legacy of toxic chemicals. “We wouldn’t have had the different viewpoints that make our research successful if we had been in the same field of research,” he said.
The brothers’ research has enabled policy makers to make informed and proactive decisions in areas such as regulating contaminant emissions, agricultural runoff, clear-cutting, climate change, protection of fish habitats and air pollution. Over the past 15 years, their work has brought to light environmental issues around the globe. As a duo, they have published over 40 scientific papers, co-authored over 50 conference presentations and supervised a wide range of students.
This year, the brothers are proud to share the Brockhouse prize, considered by some to be the country’s second highest research award. It recognizes teams of researchers who have a record of excellence in interdisciplinary research in the natural sciences and engineering.
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