Research for Conservation

Nadia Ménard is interested in marine ecosystems and their conservation. Although she had specifically elected not to specialize in whales (a very popular choice) at the beginning of her biology studies, her career at the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park quickly brought her back to them, much to her delight. According to the biologist, whales can teach us volumes about how ecosystems work and provoke a sense of awe that moves people to take action for their conservation. Now a source of inspiration, whales occupy a large part of Nadia’s career.

Upon completing her bachelor’s degree in biology in 1990, Nadia Ménard was hired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to study fish populations in the Saguenay River. For this native of the Saguenay region, this was the first time she would work on the river that coloured her childhood.

In 1992, she was hired as a park ranger for the Marine Park in Tadoussac; she became a marine biologist in 1998. That same year, she completed a master’s degree in biology with a focus on pelagic fish schools, particularly capelin, a species that is abundant in whales’ feeding grounds.

As a biologist specializing in conservation, a branch that aims to reduce the impact of anthropogenic activities on ecosystems, she finds it gratifying to see the direct impacts of her research. Over the course of her career, most of the studies she has undertaken have contributed to conservation measures for the most widely-practised activities in the Marine Park, namely marine mammal observation, shipping, and ice fishing on the Saguenay Fjord.

Over the past 20 years, she has collaborated in over 50 research projects in the Marine Park region on a wide range of topics such as water, sediments, invertebrates, fish, birds, seals, whales, marine ecosystems, watercraft and even humans! She has also coordinated projects to develop the Marine Activities Regulations as well as the  Guide for Eco-Responsible Practices for whale-watching.

In recent years, Nadia Ménard has developed a small obsession: to understand why the number of minke whales observed at the head of the Laurentian Channel has diminished. Hypotheses include changes in the distribution of fish and krill schools, which support the high marine fauna biodiversity in the Marine Park. This is the subject of one of her studies, summarized in the report “Tiny prey, Giant predators“.