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Marc St-Arnaud

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Marc St-Arnaud
Photo: Mohamed Hijri, Université de Montréal

Ph.D., 1998
Université de Montréal 

  • Botanist, Montréal Botanical Garden
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Université de Montréal

Research interests and expertise

  • Biodiversity and microbial soil ecology
  • Mycorrhizal symbiosis
  • Biocontrol
  • Biofertilization
  • Bioremediation
  • Sustainable agriculture

About my work…

Just as we humans live in association with billions of bacteria, plants also maintain close relationships with microbial communities. I specialize in molecular microbiology, and work on what we call the soil microbiome. The microbiome refers to microbial communities (bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc.) and all their genes, and their interactions in a given environment. I am specifically interested in the microbiomes associated with plant roots. Although some of them are damaging to plants, many of them can help plants assimilate nutrients or combat pathogens. My work is aimed at understanding how these microorganisms affect plants and their relationships with the soil and other organisms. I also try to identify the mechanisms involved in these interactions in order to create different applications for agriculture. For instance, I try to improve crop yields by acting on the environment or on growing practices that boost the presence of beneficial microorganisms.

Decontaminating soil with plants, or phytoremediation, is another aspect of my work. There I focus on soil microorganisms that can break down pollutants like hydrocarbons, for instance. I try to manipulate soil parameters to support these microorganisms and speed up the inherent soil degradation process.  

Why I like research

Research is never boring – there’s always something new! I like to understand how things and nature work. Curiosity is what motivates me. I want to advance science in my field. So I try to find ways of delving deeper into what we know and improving existing processes. What I find most satisfying is obtaining results with practical applications for society. I also enjoy the multidisciplinary approach that is often needed for research projects, because it brings in complementary expertise. 

 

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