Undergraduate Student Research Awards

Summer research awards provide paid employment opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in scientific research at the Faculty of Agriculture during the summer. If you would like to gain research experience in an academic setting, these awards can provide you with financial support to do so. Eligibility requirements for students and supervisors are listed under each award.


1.   Review carefully the USRA or SAURA eligibility criteria (see below).

2.   Find a potential faculty supervisor. Contact and meet with the professor to discuss a potential research project and details related to an employed summer research position. Some potential projects (this is not an exhaustive list) are listed below.

3.   Complete, with your prospective supervisor, the Summer Research Awards Application form. Only one application is needed. You will automatically be considered for both awards

4.    Submit the form and other documents to Sara Murphy (sara.murphy@dal.ca)

If you have questions, contact Sara Murphy (sara.murphy@dal.ca)


February 25th, 2022


Award winners are selected based on the student's academic record and research potential, in accordance with the set terms of the USRA and SAURA programs. Members of the Faculty of Agriculture Research Subcommittee complete the selection process by early March. Applicants and prospective supervisors are informed of the results by e-mail.

Application Form

2022 Undergraduate Summer Research application - [PDF - 253Kb]

NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA)

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) sponsors a program of Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) for outstanding undergraduate students who are interested in research. USRAs are meant to nurture and encourage undergraduate students towards graduate studies and a research career in the natural sciences and engineering. These awards provide financial support through your host university, and allow you to gain research work experience that complements your studies in an academic setting. NSERC encourages qualified Aboriginal students to apply for this award.

USRAs supplement the salary of a summer student working on an individual research project, designed with a faculty member who holds an NSERC Research Grant. Faculty of Agriculture USRAs will be held for 16 weeks in the summer of 2022. 

NSERC will no longer require professors to hold an active grant when applying to supervise a USRA student. NSERC considers anyone who is authorized by their university to  independently supervise students to be an eligible supervisor. The suitability of the supervision will be evaluated by the university as part of their award selection process.

Number of Awards: TBD
Value of USRA: $6,000 for 16-weeks. Professors are required to supplement the amount of the award by at least 25% of its value.


Eligibility Requirements:

§  Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

§  Registered in a bachelor’s degree program (at the time of application) in the natural sciences or engineering.

§  Must have completed all the course requirements of at least the first year of university study (or two academic terms) of your bachelor’s degree.  Students graduating in May are eligible to hold an award.

§  Have obtained, over the previous years of study, a cumulative average of at least second class (a grade of "B" or "B-," if applicable) as defined by your university.

§  You may hold a maximum of three university USRAs throughout your undergraduate university career.

Additional details on USRA eligibility are on the NSERC website

Awards approved for Dalhousie may not be transferred to another institution.

Sobey Agricultural Undergraduate Research Award

The Faculty of Agriculture will award Sobey Agricultural Undergraduate Research Awards (SAURA) for the summer of 2022. SAURAs support outstanding students who are in the Honours stream of an undergraduate degree program in the Faculty of Agriculture. These awards provide financial support for undergraduate honours students to gain research work experience that complements their program. We encourage qualified Aboriginal students to apply for this award.

SAURAs will be held for 16 weeks in the summer of 2022.

Number of Awards: TBD
Value of SAURA $6,000  


Eligibility Rquirements:

§  Enrolled in the Honours stream of an undergraduate degree program in the Faculty of Agriculture.

§  Completed at least 30 credit hours of course work with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

§  The student must have an identified supervisor for the summer research project.

§  The supervisor will provide additional funding (25% minimum) to bring the student salary to the recommended pay rate for students employed in the Faculty of Agriculture.

Descriptions of Available Projects for 2022

Dr. Deborah Adewole, Assistant Professor

Industry Research Chair (Poultry) – Animal Science and Aquaculture

Email: Deborah.adewole@dal.ca

Effect of a phytogenic water additive on the fecal microbiome and corticosterone of laying hens housed in an enriched caging system

The animal trial for this study has been completed. We will be analyzing the collected fecal samples for microbiota and corticosterone. The successful student will gain skills in fecal DNA extraction, corticosterone analysis, bioinformatics, statistical analysis methods, and research communication.


Dr. Travis Esau, Assistant Professor

Mechanized Systems Research Program

Department of Engineering, DAL-AC

Email: tesau@dal.ca



The intern will help to develop and evaluate advanced automated mechanized systems (hardware and software) to reduce the amount of human labor and resources required for select agricultural field operations. They will participate in a combination of field and laboratory research while following strict University Covid-19 safety precautions. The selected candidate will contribute to the research and development of various sensing solutions across multiple projects within the Mechanized Systems and Precision Agriculture Research Program at Dalhousie University under the supervision of Dr. Travis Esau. The selected candidate will immediately help contribute to addressing the needs concerning image training for various sensing technologies. In addition, they will be helping with the development of a control system to link new machine vision systems to existing agricultural equipment to allow for real-time sensing and application. Involvement will focus on the design, build and testing of various cross-platform control systems.

The successful student will gain skills in:

Computer programming, arduino coding, robotics, machine learning, deep learning, electronics, instrumentation in agricultural production systems, UAV’s, RTK-GPS, and various machine systems.


Dr. Rebecca Meagher, Assistant Professor

Animal Welfare

Department of Animal Science, DAL-AC

Email: Rebecca.Meagher@dal.ca

Maternal effects on mink kits

Early environments are very important for behavioural development, but we have limited information about how best to target methods of improving welfare of mink either directly through the physical environment in the juvenile period or through their mothers. This project would investigate some effects of the mother's background on young mink kits in spring-summer 2022, in collaboration with a Masters student conducting a long-term study. The successful student will gain skills in behavioural observation, data handling, and farm animal management.

What do young dairy cattle find rewarding or unpleasant, and how do they respond? 

Assessing the emotional states of animals is crucial for understanding and improving animal welfare. We are still developing methods of assessing these states, particularly lesser studied but important welfare problems such as boredom. This pilot project aims to identify stimuli that dairy cattle clearly find pleasant or unpleasant, which can then be used to validate new methods of distinguishing between positive and negative emotional reactions to situations.


Dr. Fraser Clark, Assitant Professor

Dept of Animal Science and Aquaculture

EMail: Fraser.Clark@dal.ca 

How Will Climate Change Affect Marine Crustaceans?

Ocean acidification and warming ocean temperatures has already been extensively documented locally and globally. We are increasingly seeing more days of elevated coastal water temperatures, but its impact on commercially valuable marine crustaceans is unknown. This project will examine physiological and immunological impacts of acute and chronic temperature stress on lobster and crab species native to coastal Nova Scotia. The student will learn skills including experimental design, animal handling, biochemical assay design, non-invasive heart-rate monitoring and microcomputer-based experimental sensor construction. There will also be opportunities wo work with and learn from graduate students, and the principal investigator, in a supportive research environment.


Dr. Scott White, Assistant Professor

Department of Plant, Food and Enviromental Science, DAL - AC 

Email: Scott.White@Dal.Ca

St. John's Wort Project

Common St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum L.) is an invasive species in Canada and occurs as a weed in a wide range of natural and agroecosystems. The plant is most effectively managed with tillage, but this is not possible in many of the ecosystems where this plant occurs. The plant is tolerant to many herbicides and selective control with herbicides is not possible in many crops. As such, traditional management of this weed has relied heavily on the use of classical biological control organisms, notably the leaf-feeding beetles Chrysolina quadrigemina (Suffr.) and C. hyperici (Foster). Both species have provided effective control of H. perforatum throughout Canada, though declines in efficacy of this biological control agent have recently been reported in western Canada, possibly due to evolved resistance of H. perforatum to biological control via increased density of leaf glands containing toxins that deter herbivory. Concurrently, weed surveys of wild blueberry fields in Nova Scotia indicate that the percentage of fields containing H. perforatum in Nova Scotia increased from 11.3% in 1984-1985 to 43.6% in 2017-2019. General observation suggests less occurrence of Chrysolina spp. on H. perforatum, but there are no data to support this observation. Similarly, no research has been done to determine if H. perforatum is adapting to biological control agents in Nova Scotia in a manner similar to that observed in other regions of Canada. The objective of this research will be to 1) survey H. perforatum populations in wild blueberry fields for presence or absence of Chrysolina spp., and 2) determine if H. perforatum populations in Nova Scotia exhibit adaptations to biological control agents that have been observed elsewhere in Canada. The ideal student will be independent, have a strong track record of high marks on writing assignments in courses taken, be a team player, and be willing and able to work outside under field conditions on a regular basis.


Dr. Vasantha Rupasinghem, Professor  

Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals 

Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences, Truro Campus 

Email: vrupasinghe@dal.ca

Recovery of high-value carotenoids from fresh produce waste: 

In Canada, nearly half of the food supply is wasted, and significant potential exists for upcycling fresh produce waste to generate new economic opportunities. In this project, we will investigate the application of novel green extraction technologies to recover bioactive carotenoids from green leafy fresh produce waste of Nova Scotia grocery chains. The extracted carotenoids will be characterized for their chemical composition, ability to scavenge free radicals, and selected biological activities in vitro.

The successful student will gain skills in:

Green extraction technologies, separation and analytical chemistry, and measurement of antioxidant capacity among others.  


Dr. Paul Manning, Assitant Professor

Department of Plant, Food and Enviromental Sciences

Email: paul.manning@dal.ca

Numerous insects feed on the dung of mammals. Interactions amongst and within coprophagous insect species help support numerous benefits in managed and natural landscapes. Working with Dr. Paul Manning, the student would develop research questions focused on: nutrient cycling, community ecology, and insect behaviour. Possible research areas could include:

1) Linking the activity of dung insects to greenhouse gas emissions from livestock dung
2) Estimating dung beetle dispersal in the field using mark-release-recapture
3) Comparing functional efficiency of native vs. introduced dung beetle species on dung burial


Dr. David Barrett, Associate Professor 

Department of Animal Science

Email: david.barrett@dal.ca

Evaluation of an intracervical artificial insemination (AI) technique of semen from/to the same or different sheep breeds (1 project) 

Semen and the morphology of the cervix varies across breeds. The techniques of AI have pros and cons. For example, intravaginal AI is a cheaper procedure, and less invasive, technical, and successful than transcervical and laparoscopic AI. The intracervical AI procedure may be a good middle ground and has not been thoroughly studied.   

The student will gain skills in: 

Animal handling; estrus synchronization; artificial insemination; collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; ultrasonography; hormone immunoassays.  

The effects of hot, humid summers on ruminant health, welfare, and performance in the Atlantic region (5 or more projects) 

With climate change, the Atlantic region is becoming hotter and more humid for longer durations during the summer. The effects of heat and humidity on ruminant health, welfare, and performance have generally been studied in areas of the world where high heat and humidity historically and normally exists during the summer.    

The student(s) will gain skills in animal handling. Also, some of the following skills will be gained, but dependent on project: 

measuring physiological (heart rate, respiration rate; body temperature), growth performance (body weight; body condition), and reproductive performance (estrus detection; pregnancy) parameters; leukocyte analysis; collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; collection and analysis of animal behaviour data; ultrasonography; hormone immunoassays; historical data analysis.  

The effects of consuming red clover (RC) pasture and beneficial fatty acid supplements on ram lamb sperm production (1 project) 

Components of the diet, such as fatty acids and phytoestrogens, can affect puberty and future reproductive performance. Fish oil (FO) is a good source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) and has been shown to affect reproductive events. There is an increase in n-3 PUFAs and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in lambs that consume RC pasture. Both fatty acids have been shown to reduce body fat. Also, phytoestrogens are found in RC. 

The student will gain skills in: 

Histology; image analysis. 

Effects of feeding ewes supplemental red clover (RC) around breeding on reproductive performance (1 project) 

Components of the diet, such as phytoestrogens, can affect reproductive performance. Phytoestrogens are found in RC. It is unclear if the consumption of RC by breeding ewes will effect reproductive performance. 

The student will gain skills in: 

Animal handling; estrus synchronization; collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; ultrasonography; hormone immunoassays.  

Does prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) induce ovulation in the absence of corpora lutea (CL) in dairy cattle? (1 project) 

Often controlled breeding protocols using PGF2α need to be used to maximize reproductive herd performance. It is unclear if a luteolytic dose of PGF2α induces ovulation in the absence of CL in cattle and this has been under-examined in pre-pubertal dairy heifers as has the effects of a sub-luteolytic dose.   

The student will gain skills in: 

Animal handling; drug handling; collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; ultrasonography; hormone immunoassays.