09/18/2013 15:11 EDT | Updated 11/18/2013 05:12 EST

Louis LaPierre resigns from federal board amid PhD turmoil

University of Moncton professor Louis LaPierre has resigned as chair of a federal environmental review panel, just two weeks after questions were raised about his academic credentials.

LaPierre cites "medical reasons" in his letter of resignation to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), dated Sept. 17.

His resignation takes effect immediately, the letter states.

LaPierre has served as chair of the so-called Marathon Panel for two years, reviewing a proposed open pit mine, to be located about 10 kilometres north of the Town of Marathon, Ont.

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LaPierre has PhD in education, not science, university says

N.B. academic Louis LaPierre's credentials face scrutiny

The federal and Ontario ministers of environment will appoint a new chair for the three-member panel as soon as possible, said CEAA spokeswoman Annie Roy.

LaPierre, who also heads the New Brunswick Energy Institute, dealing with the potential development of a shale gas industry in the province, has not responded to repeated requests for an interview this week.

Neither Premier David Alward's office nor the provincial Department of Energy and Mines could be reached for comment Wednesday on whether they have received a similar letter of resignation from LaPierre.

The federal Institute for Environmental Monitoring and Research, another group LaPierre has headed for more than 12 years, studying the impact of low-level flying aircraft on ecosystems in Labrador and northeastern Quebec, had not received a resignation as of Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson said.

A report by Radio-Canada on Sept. 4 raised questions about LaPierre's academic history. For years, the prominent professor's biography has claimed he holds a PhD in ecology from the University of Maine.

Biographical notes issued by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, when the review panel on the proposed Marathon mine was announced in August 2011, also list LaPierre as holding a PhD in ecology from the University of Maine.

The University of Maine confirmed LaPierre does have a master's degree in science education, but does not have a master's degree in wildlife ecology. The university also confirmed LaPierre does not have a doctorate from the institute.

LaPierre told Radio-Canada there was a mix up in his academic biography. He said the PhD was in association with the University of Maine and Walden University back in 1985.

He does have a PhD from Walden University, but it's in education, not science, spokeswoman Tamara Chumley told CBC News last week.

Premier David Alward has said he remains confident in LaPierre's expertise and that he's waiting to hear what the prominent academic has to say.

LaPierre has chaired and been a member of many advisory bodies.

Environment Canada has awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award and an Eco-citizenship Award.