Health and Welfare

As far back as she can remember, Anik Boileau has always been fascinated by marine mammals. At the age of 7, on a trip to Percé, she finds herself face to face with a stranded fin whale. The emotion of this encounter is quickly transformed into initial scientific reflections. What happened next?

A few years later, while at Cégep and after reading Michèle Marineau’s Cassiopée – L’Été des baleines which her friend highly recommended, she discovers the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) and the student internships offered by the organization. Initially hired for 10 days, she winds up staying 5 years. Drawing from this experience, she returns to the classroom, specializing in behavioural sciences. She joins the American Psychological Association, where she takes a particular interest in behavioural neuroscience and comparative psychology. She goes on to pursue a certificate in veterinary medicine, wavering between medical and cognitive sciences. Her academic career does not stop there, and it is during her master’s studies in veterinary medicine and animal welfare at the University of Edinburgh that she fully combines her two passions. Today, she is undertaking PhD at Université Laval and the Université de Montréal in Animal Welfare Sciences with an emphasis on assessing the well-being of humpback and fin whales.

Current director of the Sept-Îles Research and Education Centre (CERSI), which she created in 2006, her mission is to assess the well-being of marine mammals, particularly humpback whales, fin whales and harbour porpoises.

“Assessing the health status and well-being of cetaceans is complex and part of an ecosystem approach. We collect physical, physiological and behavioural indicators of individuals to draw up a personal portrait of each whale, unlike conservation biology, which focuses on indicators at the population level,” notes the researcher.

She spends her summers at sea: photo-identification, behavioural studies, biopsies and analysis of drone images.   In the off-season, she returns to the Cégep de Sept-Îles where she works as a professor and guidance counsellor, sharing her passion and expertise with the researchers of tomorrow.