Elizabeth May Chair in Environmental Health and Sustainability Candidate Research Talk: Dr. Qi Feng

Dr. Qi Feng
Department of Building
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Concordia University

Title: Novel Approaches to Assess the Transport and Environmental Impact of Petroleum-Based Contaminants in the Coastal Zone

Abstract: Coasts are transitional regions featuring intense physical, ecological, and social interfaces that are vulnerable to a variety of natural and anthropogenic hazards. Approximately half of the world’s population live within 1,100 kilometers of a coastline. The rising demand for energy and plastic production significantly escalates the discharge of petroleum-based pollutants, including oil and plastics, into coastal zones. To address this challenge, it is of utmost importance to acknowledge and prioritize the risks of pollutants through in-depth understanding of its fate and transport and conducting comprehensive sensitivity assessment incorporating the uniqueness of the coast to mitigate the risks and improve the remediation. The presented research investigated key environmental processes, less emphasized in previous studies, to bridge existing research gaps. Firstly, the impact of substrate mineral fines on oil translocation was explored, examining oil infiltration into sediments and its release from oiled sand through extensive field sampling and batch testing. The results highlight the significant role of shoreline mineral fines in oil translocation, with notable oil accumulation observed in oil-fine flocculation. Subsequently, the transport of microplastics, influenced by typical coastal processes such as tidal cycles, was investigated using novel controlled experiments to assess the impact of particle properties and environmental conditions. The findings suggest that microplastics with lower density and smaller size are more likely to reach the open ocean. In addition, the capillary fringe fluctuation driven by changes in water table could potentially serve as a pathway to transport microplastics from the substrate to the aquifer below. To better link to the real environment, a mesoscale tank was employed to simulate the infiltration and resuspension of microplastics in sloped substrates under tidal forces, shedding light on distribution patterns of microplastics influenced by particle size, density, and shape. The results imply that large, high-density, and less flat particles tend to be distributed in the lower tidal zone and deeper substrate layers. Finally, an innovative framework for coastal sensitivity assessment was proposed incorporating ecosystem service valuation and multidimensional assessment. The findings offer significant implications for predicting transport and assessing the environmental risks of coastal pollutants.

Bio: Dr. Qi Feng is an environmental scientist and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Building, Civil, and Environmental Engineering at Concordia University. Dr. Feng possesses an interdisciplinary research experience. She earned her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Concordia University in 2019. She holds Master’s degree in Ecology and Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Dr. Feng’s research extends the understanding of spilled oil and microplastics in complicated coastal settings through novel experiment designs. Specifically, her research emphases are determining the critical factors governing the pollutants transport in porous media with controlled experiments, forces analysis, and transport modeling; investigating the transport of synthetic pollutants in complicated coastal settings through novel experiment design and meso scale tank; assessing environmental sensitivity and risks to synthetic pollutants incorporating ecosystem service valuation. Through novel experiment designs and mesoscale tank, she has contributed significantly to the field. Dr. Feng has participated in 6 national research projects funded by prestigious organizations, such as Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Fonds de Recherche du Québec Nature et technologies. She has published over 20 journal papers including 12 as first author in renowned journals such as Environmental Science & Technology, Water Research, and Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Her study on the Transport of Microplastics in Shore Substrates earned her the Prix Relève étoile Louis-Berlinguet from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT). Dr. Feng's work has not only been recognized within the scientific community but has also captured the attention of the media, with highlights by Concordia News, CTV, Quebec Science, and La Presse Canadienne.

Dr. Feng's engagement with underrepresented communities, including the Snuneymuxw First Nation and the Nunavik Regional Board of Health & Social Services, underscores her dedication to applying her expertise for societal benefit. By working closely with these groups, Dr. Feng contributes to enhancing the resilience of coastal communities against environmental risks. Dr. Feng's commitment to her field extends beyond research. She has been actively involved in organizing major international conferences, such as the PEOPLE 2023 International Conference in Montreal, the International Oil Spill Science Conference 2022 in Halifax, the ITAC-MPRI Workshop 2021, and the MPRI Student Research Forum. Her organizational skills and keen insight have been instrumental in the success of these events. Dr. Feng stands out as a researcher deeply committed to environmental science. Her work is not only academically rigorous but also socially relevant, blending scientific questions with a clear focus on environmental sustainability and community welfare.





Milligan Room, 8th Floor Biology-Earth Sciences Wing, Life Sciences Centre, Dalhousie University