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Innovative research in environmental sedimentology at INRS

June 9, 2017 | Gisèle Bolduc

Update : November 12, 2020

In Canada, over half the population lives in coastal areas, which is why it is important to understand the processes behind the erosion, transport, and deposit of sediment in lake, estuary, and marine environments. This area of research is what motivates Pierre Francus, an INRS Centre Eau Terre Environnement research centre professor who was recently named chairholder of a Tier 1 – Canada Research Chair in Environmental Sedimentology.

The chair’s research will involve observing and analyzing physical models reproducing a variety of erosion, transport, and deposit phenomena in the lab using INRS’s CT scanner. It could shed new light on certain fundamental equations of sediment dynamics and offer a better understanding of sediment deposit and erosion processes. 

Left: Professor Pierre Francus holder of a Canada Research Chair in Environmental Sedimentology Level 1.Photo : Christian Fleury. Right: Obinna Nzekwe, Ph.D. Student in Professor Francus’s team placing a sediment carrot in the LITRAX Core ScannerTM. Photo: Laëtitia Boudaud

Professor Francus could even take his research further to accurately identify the mechanisms responsible for lacustrine hypoxia and eutrophication, soil erosion, and factors that influence the frequency of flooding both at the regional and global scale. He takes an original approach by comparing geographic and historical data from watersheds to data collected from annually laminated (or varved) sediments from around the world. These sediments are archive that provides paleoclimatic data with a high level of chronological precision (on an annual or seasonal basis), making it possible to study natural variations in the natural global and regional hydroclimatic system, as well as those caused by human activities. 

The scientific advances conducted by the research chair team could have a major impact on the planning and management of marine, coastal, lake, and river environments. Many fields (e.g., dredging companies and engineering consulting firms) could also benefit from the cutting edge research developed by the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Sedimentology. 

Chairholder bio

Professor Pierre Francus holds a master’s degree in natural science and a PhD in geology from the Catholic University of Louvain and did his postdoctoral research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Since joining INRS in 2003, he has made major contributions to the paleoclimatic study of the Arctic using non-destructive sediment analysis methods. Professor Francus is considered a leader in the field of environmental sedimentology and is known worldwide for his work on varves and for developing an original, ground-breaking technique for analyzing images of thin sections of unconsolidated sediments.