The first step to ensuring Earth has clean water? Building water quality guidelines for long-term sustainability. This is the end goal for Tamzin Blewett, new assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Blewett’s research centres on understanding how toxics affect both aquatic organisms and the environment, identifying myriad factors that can adversely affect water quality—knowledge we can then apply by creating new standards for water quality and safety.
Blewett joins the faculty at the University of Alberta following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Faculty of Science and her graduate studies at McMaster University.
Join us in welcoming Tamzin Blewett.
What brought you to the University of Alberta?
I originally came to the University of Alberta to do a postdoctoral fellowship with Greg Goss in the Department of Biological Sciences, funded by NSERC PDF for two years. As of April 2019, I am an assistant professor in the department, and I am excited to contribute to the department in which I did my postdoctoral fellowship.
Tell us about your research program.
My program revolves around environmental sustainability. I have a broad interest in understanding how environmental toxicants—including oil and gas effluents, pharmaceuticals, and metals from mining effluents—affect aquatic organisms, and how interaction with the aquatic environment—including temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen—alters the toxicant-organism relationship. I aim to identify factors that contribute towards adverse water quality, determine how these factors affect aquatic biota and contribute towards more effective water quality criteria and thus protection of aquatic species.
This is a critical field of study: water is a limited resource and one that will be of growing importance over the course of the next century. We need to protect our water resources by establishing water quality guidelines that ensure water sustainability.
What inspired you to enter this field?
At the end of my undergraduate degree, I joined Deborah MacLatchy’s environmental toxicology lab at Wilfrid Laurier University. I found the work both interesting and relevant to the real world, and this experience stimulated me to pursue graduate degrees in this field.
Tell us about your teaching.
I will teach courses in environmental toxicology and animal physiology. Teaching is one of my favourite aspects of academia. Personal interactions with students who are enthusiastic to learn is extremely fulfilling to me. I, in turn, want to help and challenge students to learn in the best ways possible.
As an academic, I am excited by the fact that we ultimately influence a large number of people through teaching—a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly. I have found that the most effective teachers incorporate their own research into the course curriculum. This allows for coursework that is constantly evolving and introduces students to cutting-edge research that is taking place at their university and with which they have the opportunity to be involved.