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What Happens when Fish Go on the Pill? Trent Community Rushes to Lecture to Find Out

December 6, 2018

Trent hosts internationally renowned researcher to discuss how pharmaceuticals in our water systems can dramatically alter aquatic wildlife populations

Trent University welcomed researcher Dr. Karen Kidd on November 19, 2018 during the Schindler Lecture in Aquatic Science

Painkillers, heart pills, anti-epileptic drugs, antibiotics. A lot of the common medications we use, excrete and then flush down the toilet don’t always get completely broken down during wastewater treatment and end up “downstream,” causing significant changes to aquatic systems.

On November 29, 2018, Trent University welcomed internationally renowned researcher Dr. Karen Kidd to deliver the 2018 David Schindler Professorship in Aquatic Science lecture. Her talk, titled What Happens When Fish Go On “The Pill” and Other Pharmaceuticals?, examined how the medicine we take daily can end up in our water systems, feminizing male fish, decreasing their ability to reproduce and dramatically shrinking their populations.

“These public lectures are great because I always learn something new,” said Jacob Bothen, an Environmental Chemistry student at Trent. “I knew fish could be feminized by synthetic estrogen in scientific experiments but Prof. Kid revealed this is happening in real life, including in Ontario’s Grand River, near my hometown.”

Mr. Bothen takes in as many of Trent’s public lectures as he can because they augment his education and are relevant to real-world issues.

“Trent is the best for diving deep into big problems,” he says.

First-year Forensics student Frey Liu agrees, saying she frequently scans the bulletin boards on campus for upcoming lectures.

“I appreciate the breadth of events offered at Trent,” explained Mr. Liu. “Pharmaceuticals in our water systems is disheartening but I was glad to hear Prof. Kidd say the effects can be reversed over time as long as we take action.”

Established in 2008, the David Schindler Endowed Professorship in Aquatic Science was gifted to the University to honour the work of Dr. Schindler, who started his career in 1966 as a Trent professor and evolved into one of the world’s leading environmental scientists.