A Dream Come True

It is during a trip to Tadoussac won by chance from her high school that Marianne Marcoux makes her first whale sightings. She immediately gets “the bug” for the marine environment. She begins her environmental studies at McGill University, and later in Hal Whitehead’s laboratory for a Master’s degree in the culture and social structure of sperm whales. In the course of her work, she spends her summers at sea, where time sometimes drags on endlessly. To pass these moments of downtime, Marianne Marcoux spends a great deal of time reading, and while devouring one book in particular by Hal Whitehead on the social structure of whales, she notes a glaring lack of information on narwhals. From that moment onward, she has but one thing in mind: filling in these blank pages.

Later, she goes on to study narwhals as part of her PhD, where she attempts to apply the methods she learned from this earlier research. However, technical difficulties quickly emerge and push her to take a step back. For several years, she decides to diversify her research and takes an interest, among other things, in the evolution of cooperation among humans via social networks (Twitter) while drawing parallels with social structures and cooperation in animals. Subjects that, for her, are much more closely linked than they might appear.

A post-doctorate with researcher Yvan Simard brings her back to narwhals. She combines visual observations with acoustic data in order to better understand them. Her groundbreaking research in this field provides basic data on the abundance, age structure and dynamics of these populations.

In 2014, she joins the ranks of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, where the focus of her research is the status of beluga and narwhal populations in the Arctic. As last, she is helping DFO fulfil its mission and gathering valuable information on these still poorly known species. However, she has one last dream to achieve: to kayak in the company of narwhals.