Meet Thierry Chopin: UNB professor and France’s seaweed knight

[Canada] You may call him Thierry Chopin, the chevalier of seaweed. The expat Frenchman and current professor of biology at UNB, is being knighted by his native country for his extensive research about and passion for seaweed.

He’ll soon receive his title when he’s awarded the Ordre du Mérite Maritime — a distinction recognizing French merchant marines, naval personnel and civilians all over the world who distinguish themselves in maritime activities.

“France, where I was born, is recognizing that I have done all this work on both sides of the big pond,” he said with a laugh.

Swimming in wine before the sea

Chopin was originally a seaweed ecophysiologist and biochemist in Brittany, northwestern France, before he moved to Canada in 1989 and became fascinated with aquaculture.

Now, part of his work includes cultivating salmon and shellfish alongside seaweed to create a balanced, and environmentally friendly, ecosystem management strategy for the fish farming industry.

His love for the sea started an an early age, he said, being born in wine country of eastern France where he was “swimming in the Beaujolais wine before swimming in the sea.”

He recalls vacationing with his family along the coast of France. He said sailing the waters there gave him an appreciation of the sea and instilled his love of the Atlantic.

“What do I do?” he remembers thinking. “I wanted a profession where I can stay near the water.”

And so marine biology became his calling. Now, after a lengthy career, he’s being recognized for his passion and dedication to the field.

Ceremony in Moncton, Nov. 21

“It’s not a medal that is given very often so it’s a community of what in France people call Gens de mer (seafaring people),” he said.

“What is the common link between all of us is this passion for the sea and the different way of being involved with the sea.”

Chopin will be invested into the order by the ambassador of France to Canada in a ceremony in Moncton on Nov. 21.

Unfortunately there won’t be a sword, valiant steed or any kneeling involved in the ceremony, he chuckled, but he does hope there might be a seahorse to go with his new title.


Photo: UNB professor Thierry Chopin will be knighted into the Order of Merit Maritime by the French ambassador to Canada in a ceremony in Moncton on Nov. 21. (Submitted)

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