Dr. Joanna Wilson

What is the overall goal of your research program?

The overall goal of my basic research program is to understand the evolution and function of cytochrome P450 enzymes.  These enzymes are important for metabolism of xenobiotics such as drugs and environmental contaminants.  They also play critical roles in the production and metabolism of important biological signalling molecules such as steroid hormones.  For this research we are involved in mining genomic data to annotate novel CYP genes and performing phylogenetic studies to understand how this superfamily of proteins has involved.  Our computational research raised functional hypotheses about novel CYP enzymes.  Through wet lab studies, we examine the expression of these genes and test their catalytic function.

We also have an applied research program.  The goal of this side of my research is to determine the effects of environmental stressors, particularly organic contaminants such as human drugs.  We have begun to study the effects of abiotic stressors such as temperature with the ultimate goal of understanding how multiple stressors (temperature, oxygen, chemicals etc) impact aquatic species.  We are particularly interested in reproductive and developmental effects as these are critical for estimating population impacts of the compounds we study.

What would be one of your biggest research highlights?

Some of our most recent research on pharmaceuticals effects in fish are attracting attention.  We have shown the chronic, environmentally relevant concentrations of common human drugs decrease reproduction in fish.  This work may prove to be important for environmental regulations as the European Union is moving towards regulating concentrations of human drugs in the environment.  While much of my research is environmentally focused, this is the first time my research is being directly applied to water quality guidelines which is very exciting.

How can we find out more information about the research you do?

You can find more about what we do on our lab web site: WilsonToxLab.ca.

What are your main interests outside of research?

Much of my time outside of research is devoted to my family.  I am actively involved in their schools with science outreach.  I am involved in their sports programs.  On weekends, I love to cook.