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Frédéric Pitre

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Frédéric Pitre
Photo: Frédéric Pitre

Ph.D. Forest biology, 2007
Université Laval et AgroParisTech

  • Botanist, Montréal Botanical Garden
  • In charge of the Montréal Botanical Garden library
  • Associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Université de Montréal

Research interests and expertise

  • Soil-plant relationships
  • Molecular physiology of plants
  • Tree biology
  • Phytoremediation

About my work… 

I’ve been a researcher at the Botanical Garden since 2012, where I specialize in plant molecular biology. My research is aimed at understanding the physiological and metabolic mechanisms that allow plants to withstand environmental stress. For that, I use tree species like willows or poplars. I mostly grow them in contaminated soil to test their phytoremediation (using plants to decontaminate soil) properties. When exposed to stress, plants employ defence or tolerance mechanisms, but they may also degrade or detoxify the contaminants. That’s what interests me! To identify and understand these mechanisms, I study the genes expressed by the plant when it is contaminated. I also try to identify the molecules that have changed and whether the plant’s vital functions (respiration, photosynthesis, etc.) are affected. I’d like to be able to improve plants’ decontamination properties and their environmental applications.

Another aspect of my work involves producing biofuels and bioproducts. I try to identify compounds generated by plants in response to stress that could be commercialized (bioethanol, pharmaceutical or industrial applications, etc.).

Why I like research

I’m super-curious, and I’ve always been interested in trying to understand the world around us. I do that by conducting research, but also by travelling, another of my passions. My work lets me ask and answer questions – to satisfy my curiosity! I feel privileged. I’ve always been fascinated by plants, and it’s very exciting to be able to come up with alternative solutions to help restore environments. In future, I hope these solutions will be more broadly applied.

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