Marine acoustics in the service of whales

As a young graduate of Université Laval’s marine biology programme, Yvan Simard decided to dive into the field of marine ecology research. He started out by studying the population dynamics of northern shrimp for the Quebec government and eventually joined the Groupe interuniversitaire de recherche océanographique du Québec (GIROQ), an oceanographic research group. He then participated in oceanographic studies of James Bay and Hudson Bay. While working on his doctorate, his specific field of research began to take shape. At the time he was attempting to develop methods to study the three dimensional organization of zooplankton, such as krill—which is the main diet of rorqual type whales—and certain species of fish, such as capelin. He was able to put these methods
to good use in the Pacific while conducting post-doctoral work at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in British Columbia. Thus, the smallest organisms led him to the study of the giants of the St. Lawrence.

Yvan Simard has been a specialist in marine acoustics marine acoustics at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont-Joli since 1986. Moreover, he holds the Fisheries and Oceans Canada chair in applied marine acoustics for research into resources and the ecosystem at the Institut des sciences de la mer (ISMER) based at the Université du Québec à Rimouski. Among his many interests are a project to study the various oceanographic factors that explain the large concentrations of whale food found at the head of the Laurentian Channel and the study of whale vocalizations. The ultimate purpose of the latter project is to develop a method to identify and locate whales so as to identify their critical habitats. On top of the numerous hours spent in the field over the course of the summer working on his many projects, trips abroad to give conferences and time spent in his office analyzing data, preparing reports and writing articles, Yvan Simard is also an associate professor at the ISMER. As such, he directs several oceanography graduate students.

The techniques used by Yvan Simard open a window onto the underwater world and the phenomena that explain the presence of whales in the St. Lawrence.