Two Master projects and a PhD project about belugas are recruiting!

Master project – UQAR

Master project – UQAM

PhD project – UQO

Master project: Temporal Trend of Emerging Environmental Contaminants in the Endangered St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga

Project Synopsis

The St. Lawrence Estuary (SLE) beluga has been listed as an endangered species since 2014 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This small population of around 900 individuals inhabits a marine ecosystem significantly impacted by upstream anthropogenic activities. Therefore, chronic exposure to anthropogenic contaminants has been suggested as one factor affecting the health of SLE beluga and the recovery of this population. However, the occurrence and fate of many emerging contaminants in SLE beluga are unknown. The objectives of this project are to investigate the occurrence and temporal trend of industrial additives such as synthetic phenolic compounds, ultraviolet absorbents and aromatic secondary amines in SLE beluga tissues. This is a collaborative project with Université du Québec à Montréal (co‐supervisor: Jonathan Verreault), University of Montreal, University of Toronto, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and GREMM.

Additional Information

MSc‐level funding provided for two years.

Project should start in May or September 2019


• Satisfy the basic requirements for admission in the MSc program of oceanography at UQAR;

• BSc degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology, Oceanography, or a related discipline;

• Knowledge in analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry or ecotoxicology is an asset;

• Proficiency in French. Proof of French proficiency will be required for non‐Frenchspeaking candidates (e.g., international French test score > 650);

• Good communication skill in English is an asset.

To apply, send your CV and BSc transcript before February 18, 2019 to:

Zhe Lu
Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski
Université du Québec à Rimouski
Phone: 418‐723‐1986, ext. 1174
E‐mail: [email protected]

Master’s Degree Project on the Effects of Environmental Contaminants on Thyroid Functions of the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga


The St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population is considered as endangered since 2014. This small population of about 900 individuals lives in a marine ecosystem that is strongly impacted by anthropogenic activities upstream. As a result, chronic exposure to environmental contaminants has been suggested as a factor that may affect the health of belugas in the St.Lawrence Estuary and the recovery of this population. In addition, exposure to contaminants that may interfere with thyroid functions such as flame retardants (e.g., PBDEs) has been suggested as a potential cause for the unusually high number of deaths of parturient female belugas and their calves. However, the effects of contaminants on belugas in the St. Lawrence estuary are still unknown. The objective of this project is to study the effects of certain contaminants on genomic markers (gene expression) and hormones involved in the regulation of the thyroid axis in belugas. This project is a collaboration between UQAM (principal supervisor: Jonathan Verreault), Université de Montréal (Stéphane Lair) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (Magali Houde).

Additional information

Master level funding for a period of two years.

Field and laboratory work.

Starting in May or September 2019


• Meet the basic admission requirements for the UQAM’s Master’s in Biology program;

• B.Sc. in Biochemistry, Biology or a related discipline. Knowledge in ecotoxicology and environmental chemistry is an asset;

• Very good command of spoken and written English and French.

To apply, send your CV and transcript (B.Sc.) before March 1st, 2019 to:

Jonathan Verreault
Département des sciences biologiques
Université du Québec à Montréal
Phone: 514‐987‐3000, ex. 1070
E‐mail: [email protected]

PHD Scholarship Opportunity – Habitat selection, movement, and fission-fusion dynamics of the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population

Project Description

The St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population is currently listed as Endangered under the Canadian Species At Risk Act and the Loi sur les espèces menacées et vulnérables du Québec. Several threats to its recovery related to the navigation activities occurring in the population’s summer habitat are identified such as exposure to underwater noise and disturbance. Mitigating navigation impacts requires a good understanding of the factors underlying the behaviours of habitat selection along with the movements of this species in the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay (i.e. summer habitat). However, this understanding is currently incomplete because: i) few studies have tried to identify the mechanisms underlying the spatial distribution and movements of the belugas in the summer habitat, and ii) the rare studies did not consider beluga’s social behaviour or group fusion-fission dynamics.

This PhD project aims at identifying the factors (biotic and abiotic) explaining the spatial distribution and the movements of beluga groups in their summer habitat, acknowledging that habitat selection behaviours and movements might be influenced by the social and gregarious behaviour of this species. The project will also look into the group fusion-fission dynamics in the beluga’s summer habitat by exploring the conditions (e.g. habitat characteristics, time of day, group size and composition) under which pairs of known individuals are encountered in the same groups or not. This will allow to interpret the spatio-temporal variation in group size and composition and ultimately contribute to explain the spatial distribution of this species in its summer habitat. This project will provide valuable knowledge to improve our understanding of navigation impacts on the St. Lawrence beluga’s habitat selection and movements in its summer habitat. These results will be integrated in a model that simulates the movements of individual belugasvia a collaboration with modellers.

This project will be carried out using existing datasets and might also require additional fieldwork to collect new observational data. The selected candidate will be part of the Natural Science Department and will be based in Ripon (QC) at Institut des Sciences de la Forêt tempérée (ISFORT: She/He will work with researchers from the GREMM (Tadoussac) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Mont-Joli).

The desired candidate will show dynamism, motivation, intellectual curiosity and creativity, ability to work independently and as part of a team, along with a great sense of initiative. She/He will be encouraged and supported to travel for scientific communications (conferences, workshops), meetings with partners and stakeholders. The project funding is provided by the Government of Quebec. The selected candidate will contribute to the production of deliverables for the Ministry for Forests, Wildlife, and Parks and Ministry for Maritime Affairs on a yearly basis.


The candidate must hold a Master’s degree in biological sciences, or related field.

The following expertise and skills will be considered as assets:

– expertise on animal behaviour related to habitat selection and movements;

– expertise on social behaviour and fusion-fission dynamics in gregarious species;

– expertise on marine mammals;

– great expertise in data management and analysis with R software.

Project start: September 2019

Treatment: 20 000$/year for 3 years

Director: Angélique Dupuch (UQO-ISFORT)

Co-director : Véronique Lesage (DFO)

Collaborators: Clément Chion (UQO-ISFORT), Robert Michaud (GREMM), and Tyler Bonnell (Lethbridge University)

Application: Email your academic CV (long form), all academic records for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, an application letter (detailing your skills and assets related to the project requirements), and the name and contact information of 3 academic references to: angelique.dupuch @, clement.chion @, rmichaud @, veronique.lesage @, and tyler.bonnell @

Applications will be considered until the position is filled.

News - 15/1/2019

Équipe du GREMM

Led by scientific director Robert Michaud, the research team of the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) studies St. Lawrence beluga whales and large rorquals (humpback, blue and fin whales) at sea. The Bleuvet and the BpJAM leave the port of Tadoussac every morning to gather valuable information on the life of the whales of the St. Lawrence Estuary.

Recommended articles

Gala de la Terre: Belugas Given a Voice at Montréal’s Maison Symphonique

What if, for one evening, belugas were to become choir singers? Thanks to a composition by Claudie Bertounesque, which will…

|News 30/5/2024

Parasites in Marine mammals: A Toxic Relationship

Parasite. A word that often sends shivers down our spines. However, marine mammals are highly accustomed to them. Cetaceans and…

|News 16/5/2024
L’automne dernier, le rorqual commun Ti-Croche a été pourvu d’une balise pour suivre sa migration. © Pêches et Océans Canada

The Winter Migration of the Fin Whale Ti-Croche

The migrations of large rorquals still hold many mysteries. Where do they go in winter? How long do they stay…

|News 1/5/2024