The impacts of climate warming are greatest in the Arctic. As the Earth warms, Arctic biodiversity will be squeezed out. Top predators provide unique opportunities to assess changing ecosystems because they integrate information over many scales. As food for Northerners, they also provide early warning signals for human health. Seabirds are some of the most visible components of Arctic biodiversity and have long been used as indicators for environmental change in the Arctic. However, in the absence of large commercial fisheries, we often have limited understanding of forage fish distributions and their impact on seabird movement and reproductive success in the Arctic. This project proposes to use an unmanned surface vehicle to measure forage fish density and distribution alongside tracking of thick-billed murres and recording of their reproductive success. Thick-billed murre diet has changed from primarily Arctic cod to primarily capelin over the past few decades, a clear indication of Atlantification of Hudson Bay. This project will provide unique insight into the links between changing forage fish densities and seabird movement and fitness.

Your role: 

We are looking for an MSc or PhD student to join the dynamic group of researchers from Department of Natural Resource Sciences of McGill University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Environment and Climate Change Canada. The student will lead a study to measure fish stocks using an unmanned surface vehicle, record thick-billed murre foraging success and effort using GPS-accelerometers and quantify reproductive success using video of nesting birds. The results of this work have the potential to inform marine spatial planning in northern Hudson Bay, where is a proposed marine protected area. The student will have the opportunity to learn to co-develop scientific research, conduct urban fieldwork, and improve conservation policy and practice. The potential start date is June 2024 (with enrollment into the graduate program in September 2024) and the student will be co-supervised by Dr. Kyle Elliott (McGill University), Dr. Grant Gilchrist (Environment Climate Change Canada) and Dr. Jonas Hentati-Sundberg (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences).

Selection Criteria:

Essential Skills and Qualifications

1. An undergraduate degree in ecology, conservation science, environmental science,

geography, or related field. Relevant work related experience will also be considered.

2. Strong research, leadership, and communication skills.

3. Inter-personal skills.

4. Enthusiasm and kindness.

5. A desire to make the world a better place for people and nature.

Desirable Skills

1. Experience identifying birds.

2. Coding skills in Program R.

3. Scientific communication and/or working with the public

Application details – Applicants should send the following to Kyle Elliott ( by December 8th 2023:

1) Letter of interest summarizing your experience;

2) Curriculum Vitae;

3) Contact details for three references;

4) University transcripts (unofficial are fine).

Please use the subject line Seabird-Fish application.