Donald Alfred Chant, OC, FRSC, scientist, educator, environmentalist, executive (born 30 September 1928 in Toronto, ON; died 23 December 2007 in Kingston, ON). Chant was one of the foremost experts on the phytoseiid family of predatory mites. A professor of zoology and administrator at the University of Toronto, he was also a prominent environmental leader and advocate.
Donald Chant earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of British Columbia in 1950. He remained at UBC for his master’s degree in zoology before continuing his graduate studies in England. Chant earned his Ph.D. from the University of London. His university research led him to the forefront of nonchemical pest-control research in Canada, the US and England.
Donald Chant was a University of Toronto professor of zoology (1967–93, and emeritus professor 1993–2007) with a respected scientific record. In the late 1960s, he turned his attention to informing the public about environmental issues. He raised awareness about pesticides, pollution, wildlife preservation and arctic ecosystems. The media took to the eminent, eloquent and outspoken scientist. One of his undertakings during these years was to co-found Pollution Probe at the University of Toronto in 1969. (See also Environmental and Conservation Movements.)
From 1975 to 1980, Chant served as the University of Toronto’s vice-president and provost. He was chair and president of the Ontario Waste Management Corporation from 1980 to 1995. His mandate in this role was to find solutions for the treatment of toxic industrial waste. This was one of the complex problems he had helped bring to public debate. In his work as a professor, he directed a research program on the use of predators to control pests.
Chant’s research on pest control focused on the use of predatory mites called phytoseiids to manage plant-feeding mites. But his work on these tiny arachnids extended well beyond pest control. Chant was an internationally recognized acarologist (a scientist who studies mites and ticks). His contribution to the phytoseiid taxonomy (scientific classification system) forms a major part of his legacy in this field. He described many new taxonomic groups of phytoseiids throughout his career and in retirement.
Did you know?
When Donald Chant began his research on phytoseiids in the 1950s, there were only about 20 known species of these organisms. Today, more than 2,000 species are known.