Discovering whales, on a boat or in a lab coat!

Martine Bérubé was born in Kamouraska, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. She has therefore always been familiar with the marine environment and its inhabitants. It is however at twenty-one, on a whale-watching cruise, that she discovers a particular affection for these animals.

The following year, having completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biology, she leaves for Mingan. There, she works with Richard Sears from 1985 to 1992, first as an assistant, then as co-director of the MICS. She mainly does fieldwork, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in summer and in the Sea of Cortez during winter: behavioural studies, photography, biopsies, and, let’s not forget, all the work directly associated with the navigation of a small vessel in sometimes difficult conditions. She has discovered a fascinating world, which encourages her to learn more.

So, in 1992, she begins her doctorate studies at McGill University. She uses genetic analyses to identify the different North-Atlantic fin whale populations, including the one of the St. Lawrence River. Within the framework of her study project, she spends time at three universities, one in Denmark, one in California, and the other in Belgium.

A 1998 graduate, she worked as a research associate at the University of Wales in the United Kingdom, at the Conservation Genetics Laboratory of the University of California (Berkeley), at Stockholm University in Sweden and a sabbatical at Harvard University. Today she works at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. This molecular ecologist continues to study fin whales, humpback whales, sei whales and ringed seals. Her work is now primarily carried out in the laboratory: data analysis, writing of scientific papers, laboratory managementÉ She sometimes feels far-removed from whales! But nothing can replace the satisfaction she has knowing her contributions shed light on the biology of this mysterious animal.