French-born, he grew up and completed his secondary education in Mexico City. He then moved to Canada where he undertook his undergraduate and graduate education. He completed a B.Sc. in 1989 in Marine Biology at McGill University (Montreal), followed by a M.Sc. in 1992 and a Ph.D. in 1997 at the University of Quebec in Montreal in Environmental Sciences (geochemistry). His graduate research focused on understanding the cycling of trace metals (mercury), nutrients (phosphorus), and terrestrial organic matter in freshwater and marine systems. He was educated in and speaks fluently three languages (French, English, and Spanish). He also studied Mandarin in Mainland China in the late 1980s, as part of a Minor in East Asian Studies. He lives in Galveston and has three children, Naomi, who recently graduated from his alma mater McGill University, as well as Noah and Teva who are respectively attending Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin. He became an American Citizen (and Texan) in the spring 2009.