Pierre Francus

Canada Research Chair in Environmental Sedimentology

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Université du Québec, Institut national de recherche scientifique
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


Research involves

Studying sediments as natural archives of climate and environmental change and using scanner photography to characterize the key processes of sediment erosion, transport and deposition.

Research relevance

This research will measure human impact on the environment to establish national and global environmental policies, as well as improve marine, coast, lake and river development planning.

Sediments to Understand the Past and Predict the Future

We know that our planet is experiencing a period of unprecedented change. But it is not possible to measure the impact of human activities on natural planetary cycles without understanding the key processes that regulate these natural phenomena. Current upheavals and greater human pressure also have an impact that accelerates soil and coast erosion. Meanwhile, in other areas, sediments accumulate.

The sediments that are deposited in annual layers, called varves, are exceptional natural archives of climate and environmental change. It is possible to date them very accurately, and they can provide precise measurements of the quantities of materials deposited over the course of a year.

Dr. Pierre Francus, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Sedimentology, has developed a series of innovative techniques to measure these varves through scanner photography and image analysis. Francus and his research team collect and measure varves throughout the world. They seek to detail the history of oxygen depletion in lakes as well as their eutrophication (pollution via deoxygenation), erosion changes in catchment areas, and the frequency and intensity of floods.

They are studying the physical models of rivers, lakes and beaches in the laboratory by placing a hydraulic channel through a CT scanner. This will enable them to characterize the key processes regulating sediment erosion, transport and deposition, as well as to review the fundamental laws of sediment dynamics.

Ultimately, their research will help us better understand the impact of humans on the environment, and establish relevant national and global environmental policies.