Skip to main content

Ontario Tech receives its first Tier 1 Canada Research Chair

OSHAWA, Ont. - In a victory for the environment and Ontario's newest university, one of Canada's foremost experts on ecological toxicology has been awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Toxicology by the federal government.

Dr. Douglas Holdway, a professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), will receive more than $1 million in research funding in equal amounts over seven years. The total award of $1.65 million includes $125,000 in infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and $125,000 in matching funds from the Ontario government. The news was formally announced in Vancouver today. Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs are renewable indefinitely beyond the initial seven-year period, provided that grantees maintain their record of research excellence.

"We're looking to make a contribution to Ontario and the entire country," said Holdway. "We definitely want to do research that makes a difference, and I'm committed to that."

Holdway's research focuses on the impact that very brief, or "pulse," exposure to toxic compounds has on aquatic life. Whereas some scientists study aquatic life exposed to contaminants over hours or days, Holdway looks at contact over minutes or seconds. In the case of methoxychlor - an insecticide that was eventually banned in the 1980s due in part to Holdway's efforts - fish were exposed for only a few minutes and were thought to be safe. But the chemical was so strong that, even after brief exposure, it could cause deformities or other abnormalities in future generations. Studying such compounds is made all the more difficult by the fact that pulse exposure may leave no detectible trace in fish or animals.

"We're proud that the funding announced today will support research by Canada's leading scholarly and scientific minds," Prime Minister Paul Martin said today in announcing this year's Canada Research Chairs. "From health care, to the environment, to building stronger communities, the work of these Canada Research Chairs will have a direct impact on the lives of Canadians and help position Canada as a world leader in the 21st century economy."

Kamiel Gabriel, UOIT's Associate Provost, Research and Graduate Programs, echoed the prime minister's remarks. "Professor Holdway's research is of great importance to Ontario and Canada," he said. "It will provide environmental managers with a better set of tools to mitigate the impact of contaminants."

Among other things, the Canada Research Chair funding will create more opportunities for undergraduates at UOIT to carry out research related to aquatic toxicology, and will help spur the establishment of a graduate program in the field. It will also promote increased collaboration between the university and organizations such as the Canadian Water Network, the Canadian Rivers Institute, and the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters.

"UOIT Science is extremely proud of this award, and it is a reflection of the research excellence of UOIT's professoriate," said Dr. William Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Science. "Professor Holdway is a world-class aquatic toxicologist, and we were thrilled to attract him back to Canada from Australia."

Holdway completed an undergraduate honours degree in marine biology from the University of Guelph in 1976, and took a master's degree in aquatic toxicology from the same university in 1978. He earned his PhD in marine biology from the University of Guelph in 1983. After completing post-doctoral work in Canada, he was hired in 1986 by Australia's Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute, a government research laboratory. He later joined the faculty at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where he worked until 2002. He and his wife, Tracey, have two sons and a daughter, ranging in age from 10 to 15.

About the University of OntarioInstitute of Technology

As the province's newest university, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology provides a unique combination of academic knowledge, vibrant student life, leading-edge research, and hands-on skills. The university offers career-focused undergraduate degree programs in the fields of business and information technology, health sciences, social science, applied science, the pure sciences, engineering, and education. It is also developing leading-edge research and graduate programs, and is Ontario's first laptop-based university. Sharing selected services with DurhamCollege, UOIT welcomed its first students in September 2003. To find out more, visit or call 1.866.844.8648.

About Ontario Tech University
A modern, forwarding-thinking university, Ontario Tech advances the discovery and application of knowledge to accelerate economic growth, regional development and social innovation. We inspire and equip our students and our graduates to make a positive impact in a tech-focused world. For us, it’s not only about developing the next tech breakthrough. Understanding and integrating the social and ethical implications of technology differentiates us as university. Learn more at

Media contact
John Schofield
Communications and Marketing
Ontario Tech University
905.721.8668, ext. 2162