Glen Van Der Kraak

Dr. Glen Van Der Kraak, Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph, and SOWC Ecotoxicology Node Co-Leader

Dr. Glen Van Der Kraak is the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Biological Science at the University of Guelph, where he is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology. He is a co-leader of the Ecotoxicology Node for the Southern Ontario Water Consortium – a segment of the platform that focuses on assessing water quality and analyzing its impact on aquatic ecosystems in order to support the development and testing of innovations in watershed management. He has published over 280 refereed journal articles, reviews, and book chapters and has written or edited four books.

A reproductive physiologist, he has extensive experience in the testing of chemicals and complex effluents for effects on the reproductive physiology of fish and amphibians. Dr. Van Der Kraak holds the 2002 Award of Excellence in Research, by the University of Guelph chapter of Sigma Xi and in 2014 received the F.E.J Fry Medal of the Canadian Society of Zoologists. He has served on two World Health Organization panels on Chemical Safety and was a member of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry. In the past, Dr. Van Der Kraak has frequently acted as an advisor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and related industry. He is currently a member of the editorial boards of four journals.

Dr. Van Der Kraak obtained both his B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the University of Manitoba, and his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia.

Questions & Answers with Dr. Van Der Kraak

What do you aim to accomplish through your work?
The global goal of my work is to ensure that inputs to the aquatic environment which result from human activities are compatible with sustaining fish and amphibian populations. To this end we investigate whether complex effluents (wastewater from sources such as municipal treatment plants, pulp mills and oil sands process affected waters) constitute a hazard in terms of effects on reproductive success. We work on the development of test methods in the lab and field to evaluate the effects of effluents, effluent treatment procedures and individual effluent constituents on reproductive success.

How is your research translating into real-world water solutions?
Our research is providing rapid test methods that can be used to assess the potential of water from different sites and remediation efforts to affect reproductive function in fish. This research contributes to environmental risk assessment.

Can you give a specific example?
Our research has been instrumental in defining sites in the pulping process that contribute the formation and release of endocrine active compounds from pulp and paper mills. This has led to recommendations of mill operating procedures that will limit the release of these compounds to the environment. Using the same approach we have been able to identify wastewater from municipal sources that has a high potential to affect reproductive function and through collaborations we have been able to make recommendations on treatment strategies that will limit the release of these compounds to the environment.

How has the SOWC helped support your water research?
The SOWC has supported our research by providing access to state of the art equipment that enables the study of reproductive responses of fish and amphibians in both the lab and the field. This includes not only state of the art equipment to measure reproductive hormones and gene expression but equipment that facilitates toxicological testing in both the lab and field.

What type of collaborative opportunities are you looking for through the SOWC?
We are looking to partner with organizations that have technologies that have application in the removal and modification of constituents that are released to the aquatic environment. Our expertise is in the rapid testing of the toxicological effects of constituents in the water through both cell based and whole animal based experiments.

What is unique about the capacity you are leading within SOWC?
The techniques and technologies that we use are portable and can be used in the lab and field including on site facilities at the Guelph wastewater treatment plant that have the ability to study treatment plant modifications for effects on reproductive endpoints in near real time. The research that we conduct is also scalable in terms of short term in vitro experiments through to whole animal testing that will determine toxicological effects on reproductive success in fish through lab studies with model species or through the testing of wild caught fish.