Véronique Carignan (née Oldham)
Assistant Professor of Oceanography
Appointed to SEA Faculty in 2022
PhD, Oceanography, University of Delaware
BSc, Chemistry, University of Toronto
Research Areas & Interests:
Broadly, I enjoy studying and understanding how electrons are transferred in the ocean, from elements to organisms to systems – with a focus on the chemistry of elements called trace metals. The Earth’s flow of energy – from animals, to plants, to microbes – is dictated by electron transfers: that is, moving electrons from one molecule or element to another in order to gain energy. These types of reactions have dictated the evolution of life on Earth. Photosynthesis is perhaps the most familiar such reaction, where the electrons from carbon dioxide and water are used to make oxygen and sugar. However, before the appearance of oxygen-generating metabolisms, early life metabolism was governed by different electron transfer reactions – most of these involving metals because of their ability to readily donate and accept electrons. As a result of this early evolution, metals still play a central role in microbial life, as essential elements in enzymes responsible for processes like photosynthesis and protection against toxicity. Understanding how metals cycle in the ocean is therefore central in understanding life on Earth, as the inventory of metals has been subject to shifts in chemistry over the Earth’s history. These shifts have thus driven biological evolution on Earth – emphasizing the profound impact of changing conditions and metals on biological communities in the ocean. Beyond marine chemistry and trace metals, I have strong interests in coastal sustainability, garden design, native plants, hiking, swimming and my corgi Mortadella.