Martine M. Savard

Image Martine M Savard
Research Geoscientist

Isotopic geochemistry applied to environmental research on natural resources development and basin analysis

Current research and/or projects

What is the focus of your research ?

I developed and supervised the stable isotope laboratory (Delta-Lab, GSC) for 28 years. The Delta-Lab is dedicated to environmental research aiming at understanding better the pollution impacts on air, soils, trees and water associated with the extraction of natural resources, evaluating the resource potential of sedimentairy basins, and helping promote the sustainable development of groundwater resources.

What is the significance of your research?

My research on the isotopic geochemistry of nitrates in anthropogenic atmospheric plumes, and tree-ring isotopic sequences allows understanding historical changes in air quality and soil chemistry during periods when instrumental measurements were not available. More specifically, my activities focus on the carbon and nitrogen cycles and metal deposition in peri-urban regions and industrialized sectors, to better understand the dynamic of these elements from emission sources to air, soils, groundwater and vegetation. My recent work on clumped isotopes in CO2 and carbonates is placing the Delta-Lab of the Geological Survey of Canada at the forefront of paleothermometry research on sedimentary sequences.

Interesting Facts

The research of my group has now provided the scientific community with tools allowing to distinguish between natural and man-made environmental effects. I am also part of international multidisciplinary teams working together to reconstruct the past thousand years of Northern Quebec climate which is a critical region for the hydro energy sustainability in Eastern Canada. Finally, I lead several scientific projects providing key information with respect to the sustainable development of non-conventional oil petroleum resources (oil sands), with the goal of providing non-bias recommendations concerning the environmental footprint of the extraction zones. My team develops new analytical protocols and is using novel approaches to distinguish natural contaminants from anthropogenic ones, and an array of new isotopic indicators, such as clumped isotopes of C and O, to help determine the paleothermal regime of sedimentary basins.

Education and awards

PhD – Ottawa University (1991)

Master – Laval University (1986)


  • Sir William E. Logan Gold Medal 2018 for scientific development in relation to clumped isotopes for carbonates at the Geological Survey of Canada.
  • Leonard G. Berry Medal 2015 of the Mineralogical Associtaion of Canada for dinstinguished service.
  • Excellence in science 2013 Natural resources Canada award for exceptional accomplishments.
  • Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Queen Elizabeth II, October 2012. This nomination came from the works done on the accumulation of nitrates in groundwater in Prince-Edward Island which was linked with agricultural practices.
  • 400 years of women in science, Québec city 400th anniversary, winner in the public service category, 2008.
  • Scientific excellence, 2007, Achievement award from Natural Resources Canada.
  • Achievement award from the Earth Sciences Sector, 2007 in recognition for the project on nitrates cycle and water quality on Prince Edward Island and the associated results impact.
  • Award from the Public Service Chief, 2002 for the regional hydrogeological characterization project.
  • Achievement award from the Earth Sciences Sector, 2000-2002 for contribution to the Metals in the Environment Program.
  • Honorable mention for an Outstanding Journal Paper, 1993 under the Society for Sedimentology Geology.

Key publications

Key Publications

Savard, M.M., Siegwolf R. T. W., in press. Chapter 12 - Nitrogen isotopes in tree rings – Challenges and prospect. (Siegwolf R, Brooks JR, Roden J, Saurer M Eds. Vol. Stable Isotopes in Tree Rings: Inferring Physiological, Climatic and Environmental Responses): Springer.

Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Marion, J., 2020. Response strategies of boreal spruce trees to anthropogenic changes in air quality and rising pCO2. Environmental Pollution, v. 261

Savard, M. M., Cole, A., Vet, R., Smirnoff, A., 2018. The δ17O and δ18O values of simultaneously collected atmospheric nitrates downwind from anthropogenic sources – Implications for polluted air masses. Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics, v. 18, 10373-10389.

Savard, M.M., Dhillon, R.S., Lavoie, D., 2017. Clumped isotopic trends in cold-seep aragonite of the St. Lawrence Estuary
– Precipitation at Disequilibrium? 6th International Clumped Isotope Workshop, Paris, France, 10th-12th 2017, program, ABSTRACT, p. 52.

Savard, M. M., Cole, A., Smirnoff, A., Vet, R., 2017. δ15N values of atmospheric N species simultaneously collected using sector-based samplers distant from sources – Isotopic inheritance and fractionation. Atmospheric Environment, v. 161, 11-22; doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2017.05.010.

Naulier, M., Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Genneretti, F.G., Arseneault, D., Marion, J.M., Nicault, A.N., Bégin, Y., 2015. A millennial summer temperature reconstruction for northeastern Canada using oxygen isotopes in subfossil trees. Climate of the Past, 11, 521-553.

Somers, G., Savard, M.M., 2015. Shorter fries? An alternative policy to support a reduction of nitrogen contamination from agricultural crop production. J. Environmental Science & Policy, v. 47, 177-185.

Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Marion, J., 2014. Modeling carbon isotopes in spruce trees reproduces air quality changes due to oil sands operations. Ecolog. Indicators v. 45, 1-8.

Bordeleau, G., Savard, M.M., Martel, R., Smirnoff, A., 2013. Stable Isotopes of nitrate reflect natural attenuation of propellant residues on military training ranges. ES&T, DOI: 10.1021/es4004526.

Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Marion J., Arsenault, D., Bégin, Y., 2012. Evaluating the integrity of C and O isotopic series in sub-fossil wood deposited in boreal lakes – Required work for reconstructing long climatic series. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 348-349, p. 21-31.

Doucet, A., Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Marion, J., Ouarda, T.M.J., 2012. Combining tree-ring carbon, oxygen and lead isotopes and metal concentrations to reconstruct peri-urban atmospheric pollution. Tellus (B), v. 64, 1-18.

Savard, M.M., 2010. Tree-ring stable isotopes and historical perspectives on pollution - an overview. Environmental Pollution, v. 158, 2007-2013.

Savard, M.M., Somers, G., Smirnoff, A., Paradis, D., van Bochove, E., Liao, S., 2010. Nitrate isotopes unveil distinct seasonal N sources and the critical role of crop residues in groundwater nitrate contamination. Journal of Hydrology, v.381, 134-141.

Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Smirnoff, A., Marion, J., Rioux-Paquette, E., 2009. Tree-ring nitrogen isotopes reflect climatic effects and anthropogenic NOx emissions. Environmental Science & Technology, 43, 604-609