Opportunities for Graduate Students

The Canadian Rivers Institute is a network of 23 Science Directors and their Associates located at 15 academic institutions across Canada and internationally. If you are interested in studying with one of the CRI Science Directors or their Associates, please contact them directly through our Science Directors page, and see below for an updated list of graduate student opportunities. 

New employment and graduate study opportunities are also posted and updated regularly on the CRI Facebook page


“There are a number of reasons that I chose CRI for my graduate education. CRI is a world-leading research institute, and it is home of a number of well-known experts in the field of Limnology. CRI provides me all the facilities I need for my research, and work in an excellent environment full of collaborative people.”

- Comments from a survey to CRI graduate students and alumni in February 2016, administered by CRI post-doctoral research fellows Dr. Meghann Bruce and Dr. Zacchaeus Compson.


Current Graduate Opportunities

Graduate Opportunity:
Modifying the Community Aquatic Monitoring Program (CAMP) to support Marine Environmental Quality (MEQ) monitoring in PEI estuaries

This PhD or Masters opportunity is a collaboration with DFO-Gulf Region.  Since 2004 DFO has been working with the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Coalition on Sustainability and watershed environmental groups to sample the nekton (nearshore fish, shrimp and crabs) in up to 36 estuaries of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Every summer community groups collect environmental data and sample nekton by beach seine from six standard stations around their estuary. These data are available for analysis and can be used to answer a variety of research questions. Recent research has shown that the head of the estuary, where rivers meet the salt water, are critically important areas for monitoring environmental quality.  Therefore, the first goal of this project is to investigate the feasibility of monitoring nekton at the head of the estuary and to compare this nekton community to the community found at the standard CAMP stations further downstream.  But we also know that in some PEI estuaries sampling with a beach seine at the head of the estuary is very difficult because of blooms of sea lettuce (Ulva sp.).  Therefore, a second goal is to investigate the potential of environmental DNA (eDNA) as an alternate method of assessing the nekton community. This project is fully funded, includes an enormous amount of existing data and is suitable as either a PhD or Masters thesis. This position is available immediately. Please contact:

Simon Courtenay, PhD
Canadian Rivers Institute at the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability
University of Waterloo
(519) 888-4567 x35796


MSc Student position in river ecosystem

Riparian wildlife linkages available at the Canadian Rivers Institute, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton
We are currently seeking a highly motivated recent biology graduate with an interest in river ecosystem science. The student will work on a project exploring linkages between agricultural riparian buffer management, river ecosystem biodiversity and energy subisidies to riparian wildlife (birds and bats). The study will apply new DNA metabarcoding approaches together with established approaches for food web analysis in river sites within a major tributary of the Ottawa River, Ontario. This project is part of a large, ongoing collaboration between scientists at the Canadian Rivers Institute, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Water and Wildlife Science Divisions, Agriculture and Agrifoods Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Previous field experience in rivers or other aquatic ecosystems is an asset, but not essential for the position. The successful applicant would also be encouraged to apply for additional support through the Canadian Federal Science Research Affiliate Program, and thus preference will be given to current citizens or permanent residents of Canada. A potential start date for the position is May 3, 2019. The position will remain open until a suitable candidate is identified. Please send applications with email addresses of two referees to djbaird@unb.ca.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Invites applications for the position of Masters Research Project

Ground truthing the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for assessing Atlantic salmon population distribution and abundance

This is a full-time (2 year) Master project based at the Saint Andrews Biological Station in St Andrews (NB) and at the University of New Brunswick in St John (NB).

We are seeking a motivated MSc student to ground truth the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for estimating the abundance of Atlantic salmon smolts. Current methods for assessing the abundance of Atlantic salmon juveniles in streams and river are time consuming, require considerable effort in the field, and risk inadvertent injury or mortality to salmon. Recent advances in the collection and analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) provide a new complementary tool that can help fill gaps in regional species distribution data left by logistically difficult traditional methods. eDNA allows for the detection of traces of DNA in water from macro-organisms. Collecting water samples for eDNA surveys is a rapid, low-cost and non-destructive method. Though interpreting the eDNA signal beyond the presence/absence of difference species can be challenging. This project will attempt to go beyond the basic eDNA detection (presence/absence) and will use eDNA signals to estimate population abundance and distribution of specific life stages.

The successful candidate will be expected to conduct both laboratory and field work, as well as model the dispersal of eDNA molecules in streams and rivers. 

Minimum criteria:
• Bachelor in the life sciences or other relevant field
• Interest and skills for field and lab work
• Interest for molecular ecology and statistical analyses.

Applications and enquires:
To apply for this position, please send the following documentation to Dr. Anaïs Lacoursière-Roussel (Anais.Lacoursiere@dfo-mpo.gc.ca) and Dr. Scott Pavey (scott.pavey@unb.ca) by 01 March 2019:
•    Brief (<500 words) letter of interest outlining applicants interest and suitability for the project.
•    Curriculum Vitae
•    Names and contact details of at least two referees who can comment on the applicant’s relevant abilities.
•    Unofficial transcript
Closing date: 15 February 2019
Shortlisted candidates will be contacted by 19 February 2019
Fieldwork starting date: May 2019

DFO reserves the right to not appoint any applicants to this position as advertised.

Anaïs Lacoursière-Roussel, PhD

Research Scientist, St. Andrews Biological Station
Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Government of Canada

Chercheure scientifique, Station biologique de St. Andrews
Pêches et Océans Canada / Gouvernement du Canada



Graduate Student Position
Sources and importance of Phosphorus in PEI aquatic systems
The Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island is seeking an energetic MSc or PhD student to study phosphorus and sediment flux in aquatic systems on PEI. A great deal of attention has been put on the study of nitrogen pollution on PEI due to the dominant role of nitrogen in estuarine and coastal zone eutrophication. Comparatively little work has been conducted on annual loadings, storm flux, and sources of phosphorus, particularly orthophosphate, on PEI. Preliminary information suggests phosphate concentrations vary by almost 20-fold in PEI streams, in a gradient from West to East, do not appear to be linked to agricultural activity, and may vary substantially during rain events. The project would initially involve measuring annual phosphorus loadings in two agricultural sub-watersheds, including determining storm loading. Sources and variability of phosphorus in groundwater would be determined within those sub-watersheds. Due to the close relationship expected between phosphorus and sediment during storm event, additional sediment monitoring would be conducted using acoustic backscatter devices. The nature of phosphorus variability on UPEI as a whole would be explored, potentially investigating the age of water in the many springs with differing phosphate levels. Initial work would occur at two established monitoring field locations operated by Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada (AAFC). If a PhD were recruited for this position, the project would be expanded in order to better understand the role of phosphorus in estuarine eutrophication. The successful candidate will work as part of a team on the AAFC Living Laboratory project and this team would include members of the agricultural community on PEI and scientists at the National Research Institute in Quebec (INRS) and the University of Waterloo. The position is contingent on the successful completion of contracting with the funding partners. Applications will be sought until a suitable candidate is found, and may be directed to Mike van den Heuvel, mheuvel@upei.ca.


Aquatic Ecology/Ecotoxicology Position
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

Position: One-year term, with possibility for multi-year extension
Start date: mid March to mid April, 2019
Education requirements:  MSc in aquatic sciences
Closing date for applications:  18 February 2019

We are seeking a highly motivated individual to work in a new aquatic ecotoxicology lab at McMaster University with Dr. Karen Kidd and her group to study the effects of point and non-point sources of contaminants on aquatic ecosystems. 

The requirements for this position include, but are not limited to:

• An MSc in aquatic sciences (preferably specializing in aquatic ecology or aquatic ecotoxicology) from a recognized University
• A resident of Canada
• Knowledge of ecological and ecotoxicological principles
• Experience conducting field work on streams, rivers or lakes
• Working knowledge of macroinvertebrate taxa
• Valid driver’s license
• Strong working knowledge of statistical modeling, experience with R is an asset
• Enjoy working outdoors
• Ability to work in remote field environments
• Highly motivated and accountable
• An effective communicator (written and oral)
• Ability to work effectively in a team environment as well as independently

The responsibilities of this position include, but are not limited to:

• Organize and manage regional field projects including logistics, equipment, and sample collection
• Field work to collect benthic macroinvertebrates, fishes, water quality samples
• Lab processing of biological samples for chemical analyses
• Collection and quality assurance of data, database management
• Data analysis, comparison of findings to relevant studies
• Report and manuscript writing

More information about current research projects can be found at www.karenkiddlab.com

A C.V., statement of interest and the names and contact information for 3 references should be sent to Dr. Kidd at karenkidd@mcmaster.ca


ANTICIPATORY: Freshwater Fish Habitat Research Scientist

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is planning to hire Scientific Researchers focused on freshwater fish habitat science to support Departmental program needs. These research scientists would join an existing complement of DFO scientists engaged in freshwater fish habitat science and would be expected to develop diverse research programs (e.g. experimental, observational, modelling) aligned to DFO’s mandate for the protection of fish and fish habitat in Canada’s freshwaters.

A primary role for these positions is to conduct research and provide science advice related to regulatory decision-making and policy development to support management programs (e.g. related to the protection of fish and fish habitat).

Each position includes the following key activities:
· Providing expert scientific advice and recommendations within a subject-matter area (e.g. advice on the impacts of or offsetting for development projects on fish and fish habitat, advice on standards and guidelines related to the protection and monitoring of fish and fish habitat, advice on science-based tools for regulatory decision-making).
· Developing an active research program related to freshwater fish habitat science aligned with the Department’s mandate and program needs.
· Developing modified or novel approaches, theories, concepts, ideas or solutions and applying them to the design, implementation and/or evaluation of scientific research projects.
· Applying comprehensive or in-depth knowledge of concepts, theories and research methods appropriate to relevant scientific fields and subject matter areas.
· Writing, reviewing and publishing scientific papers, reports, manuscripts, and authoritative reviews.
· Leading, and/or participating in science advisory processes to transfer science advice to internal and external management clients.
· Managing assigned human, financial and material resources.
· Developing proposals for funding and cost recovery arrangements, negotiating collaborations, and acting as scientific authority for approved professional service contracts.



 Dr. Joseph Culp, Wilfrid Laurier University

MSc Position: Ecological Research in Arctic Freshwater Ecosystems

Motivated MSc student sought to participate in novel Arctic research based out of the newly completed Canadian High Arctic Research Station, Cambridge Bay, NU. (https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1314731268547/1314731373200).

PROJECT AIMS: To develop an improved understanding of how human-induced changes in Arctic freshwater ecosystems (i.e., climate change, resource development) may impact the northern freshwater ecosystems.

The research project will be part of a series of interlinked thematic studies aimed at developing a comprehensive, multi-trophic understanding of the functioning and connectivity of aquatic ecosystems within the Greiner Lake watershed, Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, using the watershed as a model Arctic ecosystem. The overall aim is to establish and validate monitoring protocols for aquatic ecosystems in the north, thereby providing tools to government agencies for the continued routine monitoring of the systems and a means by which the significance of the accumulation of future ecosystem impacts may be determined.

The WLU MSc student will work with students from the University of Waterloo and the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi in a novel and exciting integrated environmental assessment program.

Required qualifications:
• B.Sc in Aquatic Ecology, Environmental Science or related discipline 

• Interest in designing experiments and conducting field monitoring in remote locations
• Ability to work as part of a team 
• Meet graduate studies enrolment requirements at Wilfred Laurier University

Additional desired qualifications:
• Experience in conducting aquatic fieldwork, ideally in remote locations
• Knowledge of univariate and multivariate statistical analyses
• Experience working with a diversity of project partners including Inuit communities 
• Experience with ArcGIS
• Ability to write and present in English 

MSc Stream habitat and productivity oriented: Research will focus on understanding the role of stream-lake connectivity by examining the importance of lake abiotic properties and associated food webs as sources of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus subsidies to stream food webs. This study will be part of interrelated studies that will examine the effect of lake systems on downstream riverine food webs, including the effects on standing crop biomass and community-wide niche space of stream food webs (e.g., juvenile fish, invertebrates, plant biomass, and decomposition).

Please send your CV, unofficial transcripts, a list of three references (along with contact phone and email), and a cover letter summarizing your qualifications and research interests to:
Dr. Joseph Culp of Wilfrid Laurier University at (jculp@wlu.ca).

Application deadline: 30 June 2018 but applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Dr. Adam Yates, Geography Department, University of Western Ontario 


PhD Position: Effects of nutrient loading from groundwater on algae communities in small, agricultural streams
Motivated PhD student sought for a unique opportunity to conduct research on algae response to groundwater inputs of nutrients in agricultural streams. The student project is a component of interdisciplinary research project funded by the NSERC Strategic Project Grant program involving ecologists, biogeochemists, hydrogeologists and engineers from Western University and Environment and Climate Change Canada. The student project will include a mix of observational and experimental field studies aimed at identifying the role of groundwater fluxes of nutrients as a control of spatial variation in algae community structure and function in small agricultural streams in southern Ontario, Canada. Student responsibilities will include designing and executing experiments, analyzing and reporting research outcomes, as well as coordinating with the larger research team.

Applicants are expected to have a strong background in aquatic ecology, environmental science or related discipline and interest in designing experiments and conducting field and lab work. Ability to work as part of a team is a must.

The successful candidate will be based in the Geography Department at Western University in London, Ontario, with opportunities for temporary placement in labs of Government collaborators.

Required qualifications:

  •  M.Sc. in Ecology, Environmental Science or related discipline
  •  Meet enrolment requirements of the Dept of Geography at The University of Western Ontario (http://geography.ssc.uwo.ca/grad)

Additional desired qualifications:

  •  Experience conducting aquatic fieldwork
  •  Knowledge of univariate and multivariate statistical analyses
  •  Demonstrated written and oral communication skills
  •  Valid Driver’s license

Please send your CV, a list of two references (along with contact phone and email), unofficial transcripts and a cover letter summarizing qualifications and research interests to Dr. Adam Yates at adam.yates@uwo.ca. Selected candidate can start as early as May, 2018 but opportunities for a September, 2018 or January, 2019 start date are available. Applications will be reviewed as they are received and will continue until the position is filled.

Dr. Michael van den Heuvel and Dr. Andre St-Hilare, University of Prince Edward Island

PhD Position: Environmental Flows
The Canadian Rivers Institute is seeking a talented researcher to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental flows as it relates to water use and extraction on Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. The province of PEI is 100% dependent on groundwater for domestic and industrial use and is in the process of developing a Water Act to govern those resources. The purpose of this project is to conduct biological and hydraulic validation of environmental flow guidelines in order to determine whether those guidelines are appropriate for PEI stream conditions. These studies are generally being conducted within the international framework of Ecological Limits of Flow Alteration (ELOHA). The science conducted will help to develop regulations for environmental flows associated with the Water Act. Research will be focussed on the examination of stream systems where water extraction is occurring including measurement of impacts on fish populations and communities, hydraulics of PEI streams as it applies to fish habitat. Reference sites will also be sampled.

Desired qualifications:
Field experience with fish and fish capture is an advantage
- Experience with stream hydraulics or hydrological modelling would also be an asset, though training will be provided if required. 
- Competitiveness for national or regional scholarships and past research productivity will also be a criterion for selection. 

The position will be based at the University of Prince Edward Island under the co-supervision of Drs. Michael van den Heuvel (UPEI), and Andre St-Hilaire (INRS). The search will continue until a suitable candidate is found. Applications, a cover letter, CV, and transcript can be emailed to mheuvel@upei.ca.