Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

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New Faculty Profile: Theresa Johnston, PhD

By Kristen Torres | Student reporter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theresa Johnston has always loved science.

Since completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in natural resources and environmental sciences and her PhD in comparative biosciences—all from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign—Johnston has worked toward figuring out what effect chemical toxicants have on the health of humans and other organisms. 

Here, Johnston talks about her ecotoxicology research, her stint working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and her love for composting.

Tell us a little about you research.

I’m an ecotoxicologist. Specifically, I study the effect that chemicals in the environment have on reproduction and behavior in fish and birds.

Why is this research area so important?

We’re living in nature and within a wider environment. We’re dependent upon it and influence it in a variety of ways, so we need to try and make sure that influence is as sustainable as possible. Researching the effect of toxic chemicals in the environment helps to figure out how our practices are effecting other organisms around us.

Are you working on anything new right now?

I’m writing up papers surrounding the research I did with the U.S. EPA in Rhode Island. I studied the effect of pharmaceuticals in the environment upon fish reproduction. Pharmaceuticals, such as the components of birth control pills enter our waterways through waste water treatment effluent. These chemicals were designed to have a physiological effect, so the aquatic organisms, including fish, respond to birth control in a similar way as humans. They produce fewer eggs. I found that this corresponds with changes in their hormone levels.

 What attracted you to Loyola?

I grew up Catholic and loving science, so I love that I can be at a place that combines both. I love that I can be an effective teacher knowing that the two disciplines go well together and that you can’t have one without the other. I have also never heard a bad thing about Loyola—while I was applying and interviewing for a teaching position here, everyone just kept telling me great things about the University.

And finally, what do you like to do with your free time?

I love running and gardening. I’m also an avid composter.

Read more about Dr. Johnston