Jessica Head

Assistant Professor

514-398-7841  | jessica.head [at] mcgill.ca (Email) |  Macdonald-Stewart Building MS3-045  | Website @JA_Head

Degrees

BSc Biochemistry (McGill University)
PhD Biology (University of Ottawa)

Short Bio

Jessica Head is an alumnus of McGill University and the Macdonald campus, completing a BSc in Biochemistry in 1997.  After graduating from McGill, Dr. Head worked in the pharmaceutical industry, gaining valuable laboratory experience and knowledge of the private sector environment.  She then enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Ottawa under the supervision of Dr. Sean Kennedy, graduating in 2006.  Her thesis examined the molecular basis underlying variation in responses to environmental contaminants among individuals and species of birds.  Following her graduate degree, Dr. Head completed a post-doc at Environment Canada’s National Wildlife Research Centre (NWRC) in Ottawa where she worked on a molecular method for ageing birds.   In 2008, Dr. Head joined the University of Michigan as a Research Investigator.  Her laboratory focused on aquatic ecotoxicology (birds and fish), and was located at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Dr. Head joined McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences in August 2014, as an Assistant Professor.  Her laboratory focuses on genetic and epigenetic factors underlying responses to environmental contaminants in fish and birds. 

Research Interests

Dr. Head’s research focuses on effects of early life exposure to environmental chemicals in fish and birds. This research is multidisciplinary, integrating aspects of molecular biology, ecology, and risk assessment. Laboratory models are used to study molecular mechanisms underlying biological responses to chemical exposure. These finding are applied to assessing the health of wild animals through field studies and the use of molecular biomarkers.

A current focus of students in the Head lab relates to describing the role of epigenetics in moderating persistent responses to environmental chemicals in fish and birds.

Current Research

Dr. Head’s research focuses on understanding and predicting the effects of environmental chemicals on the health of birds.  This research is multidisciplinary, integrating aspects of molecular toxicology and avian ecology.  Laboratory models are used to study molecular mechanisms underlying avian responses to chemical exposure.  These finding are applied to assessing the health of wild birds through field studies and the use of molecular/genetic biomarkers.

1. Environmental Epigenetics: A Mechanistic Approach to Describing Persistent Effects of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Birds (funding: NSERC Discovery grant)

2. Environmental Epigenetics of PAHs in Birds: Effects of Embryonic Exposure on Hatchling Sensitivity (funding: FRQNT – Nouveaux Chercheurs)

3. EcoToxChip: A toxicogeneomics tool for chemical prioritization and environmental management (funding: Genome Canada)

4. Identification of priority contaminants and their potential effects on early-life stages of the endangered copper redhorse (funding: DFO – National Contaminants Advisory Group)

Courses

AEBI 211 Organisms 2 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


ENVB 500 Advanced Topics Ecotoxicology 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Publications

View a list of current publications.