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Catherine Girard


Postdoctoral fellow

Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Bioinformatics, Université Laval

Charles-Eugène-Marchand Building
1030 avenue de la Médecine
Université Laval
Quebec, Canada
G1V 0A6

4186562131 extension 4863



Projet de recherche

Aerosol viruses release from the melting cryosphere: sentinel microorganisms for a changing Arctic

Viruses play a major role in controlling biodiversity and ecology of aquatic microbial communities. They control their hosts’ evolution by allowing genetic exchange, induce significant mortality in the prokaryotic biomass, and control ecosystem’s productivity by redirecting carbon into the microbial loop.

The arctic cryosphere is a reservoir for such viruses. Indeed, glaciers and permafrost, with their freeze-thaw cycles, can release viral particles that have been trapped in ice for thousands of years, recycling their genomes into modern environments. These viruses can be released into the atmosphere and recolonize aquatic ecosystems of the arctic landscape or include pathogens that could impact human health in the North. Climate change has accelerated permafrost and glacier thawing, increasing humidity and leading to greater aerosolization from water, which could increase the amount of viruses in the air and their potential dispersion in the landscape.

The “aerosol virome”, the atmospheric viral community, has long been studied in hospitals, as it can influence transmission of infectious diseases. However, few studies have focused on environmental aerosol viromes, and none have explored viruses that can be released into the atmosphere from thawing glaciers and permafrost. This is of major importance in ecology, as this recycling of newly released viral genomes could allow for a new colonization of the Arctic. This could have consequences on human health in the North, and on ecosystem productivity and nutrient transfer.

The goal of this project is to describe for the first time environmental viral aerosols in the North, and to determine how the thawing of the cryosphere contributes to the release and dispersion of viruses across the landscape. By comparing sites with different levels of hydrological connectivity and anthropic influence (Thores Lake, Ward Hunt Island, Resolute Bay), I investigate the following questions:

  1. What is the diversity of viral aerosols in the North? This is an important question, as the diversity of viruses in the ocean and glaciers of the Arctic is poorly known, and newly viruses newly exposed by climate change may impact contemporary ecosystems or human health.
  2. How are these viruses dispersed in the Arctic? This will provide information on these viruses’ potential to colonize the North.
  3. Can these viruses and their microbial hosts be used as sentinels of change in the North?
Location of the research sites

Scientific communications

Robichaud, K., Girard, C., Dagher, D., Stewart, K., Labrecque, M., Hijri, M., Amyot, M., 2019. Local fungi, willow and municipal compost effectively remediate petroleum-contaminated soil in the Canadian North. Chemosphere, 220: 47-55. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2018.12.108.

Girard, C., Charette, T., Leclerc, M., Shapiro, B.J., Amyot, M., 2018. Cooking and co-ingested polyphenols reduce in vitro methylmercury bioaccessibility from fish and may alter exposure in humans. Science of the Total Environment, 616-617: 863-874. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.10.236.

Khadra, M., Planas, D., Girard, C., Amyot, M., 2018. Age matters: Submersion period shapes community composition of lake biofilms under glyphosate stress. FACETS, 3(1): 934-951. DOI: 10.1139/facets-2018-0019.

Dubois, G., Girard, C., Lapointe, F.-J., Shapiro, B.J., 2017. The Inuit gut microbiome is dynamic over time and shaped by traditional foods. Microbiome, 5(151). DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0370-7.

Girard, C., Tromas, N., Amyot, M., Shapiro, B.J., 2017. Gut microbiome of the Canadian Arctic Inuit. mSphere, 2(1): e00297-16. DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00297-16.

Girard, C., Leclerc, M., Amyot, M., 2016. Photodemethylation of methylmercury in eastern canadian arctic thaw pond and lake ecosystems. Environmental Science & Technology, 50(7): 3511-3520. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04921.

Braune, B., Chételat, J., Amyot, M., Brown, T., Clayden, M., Evans, M., Fisk, A., Gaden, A., Girard, C., Hare, A., Kirk, J., Lehnherr, I., Letcher, R., Loseto, L., Macdonald, R., Mann, E., McMeans, B., Muir, D., ONullDriscoll, N., Poulain, A.J., Reimer, K., Stern, G., 2015. Mercury in the marine environment of the Canadian Arctic: Review of recent findings. Science of the Total Environment, 509-510(Special Issue: Mercury in Canada's North): 67-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.05.133.

Chételat, J., Amyot, M., Arp, P., Blais, J.M., Depew, D., Emmerton, C.A., Evans, M., Gamberg, M., Gantner, N., Girard, C., Graydon, J., Kirk, J., Lean, D., Lehnherr, I., Muir, D., Nasr, M., Poulain, A.J., Power, M., Roach, P., Stern, G., Swanson, H., van der Velden, S., 2015. Mercury in freshwater ecosystems of the Canadian Arctic: Recent advances on its cycling and fate. Science of the Total Environment, 509-510(Special Issue: Mercury in Canada's North): 41-66. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.05.151.

MacMillan, G.A., Girard, C., Chételat, J., Laurion, I., Amyot, M., 2015. High methylmercury in arctic and subarctic ponds is related to nutrient levels in the warming Eastern Canadian Arctic. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(13): 7743-7753. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b00763.

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