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Ontario Tech expert preparing for second term as the leading national researcher in Aquatic Toxicology

Dr. Denina Simmons’ Canada Research Chair renewed

Ontario Tech University researcher Dr. Denina Simmons, Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Toxicology; and Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science.
Ontario Tech University researcher Dr. Denina Simmons, Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Toxicology; and Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science.

For her outstanding record of research achievement and discovery, the Government of Canada is renewing the Canada Research Chair (CRC) appointment of Ontario Tech University researcher Dr. Denina Simmons of the Faculty of Science to a new five-year term.

As Ontario Tech’s CRC in Aquatic Toxicology, Dr. Simmons conducts research to improve the ethical use of animals in scientific inquiry and to protect Canada’s precious freshwater resources. By identifying novel molecular expression patterns in biofluids in her Aquatic Omics Lab, her team links chemical exposures to higher-level adverse outcomes in fish and aquatic organisms.

  • Did you know? ‘Omics’ is a term that has emerged to describe the field of large-scale, data-rich biology and the various branches of science whose names end with the suffix -omics, such as genomics (genes), proteomics (proteins), metabolomics (small molecules), etc. ‘Omics refers to the totality of a molecular process within an organism.
First-term CRC achievements

Dr. Simmons is forging multi-disciplinary research expertise in new areas beyond their existing environmental omics science programs. Those areas include wastewater surveillance, and using saliva ‘omics for human health. Since beginning at Ontario Tech in 2019, she has received more than $2.9 million in research funding through government grants, collaborative partnerships, and service contracts. She has published 20 peer-reviewed publications as a CRC, with another six anticipated in the coming year.

In 2022, Dr. Simmons won an Ontario Early Researcher Award to develop a biological monitoring pilot program and in support of further research collaborations with Indigenous communities in northern Ontario.

2024-2029 CRC objectives

In her second term as the Tier-2 CRC in Aquatic Toxicology, Dr. Simmons will develop a greater focus on investigating epidermal mucus (a major determinant in fish health that describes an organism’s first line of defence against microbes in water, such as bacteria), and other new non-invasive and non-lethal sample types, in addition to blood plasma. All research data collected over the past five years, and all new data collected during the second CRC term, will become part of an online webtool and database for monitoring the cumulative environmental effects of fish health in aquatic ecosystems.

Dr. Simmons will identify molecular expression patterns (MEPs) in fish epidermal mucus that are specific to individual environmental stressors in contaminated water. She will also seek to identify plasma MEPs, and link those molecular findings to higher-level adverse outcomes. This research will increase knowledge and understanding of epidermal mucus function in vertebrate fish.


“At Ontario Tech University, we are proud of the record of research discovery and innovation by our Canada Research Chairs, whose national and international leadership in their areas of expertise showcase the university’s commitment to excellence in evidence-based scholarship and application of new knowledge. Professor Simmons has been an exemplar of this leadership and I look forward to another five years of inclusive research excellence.”
-Dr. Les Jacobs, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, Ontario Tech University

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Media contact

Bryan Oliver
Communications and Marketing
Ontario Tech University
289.928.3653 (mobile)


About Ontario Tech University: Celebrating 20 years
A modern, forward-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