Advertised Honours Projects for 2023‑24

Lists of Honours Projects:

Joerg Behnke – Research Officer, PhD

Aquatic and Crop Resource Development Research Centre – National Research Council

We are seeking a highly motivated honours student who is interested in working at a government lab located here in Halifax, adjacent to Dal's Life Sciences Center on Oxford Street. Our lab has identified numerous oil-resistant and oil-degrading bacteria that are being sequenced and chemically analyzed to discover potential industrial applications.

The honours project will focus on validating the oil-resistance versus oil-degradation properties of these bacteria. The student will generate growth curves using optical density measurements and flow cytometry. Media preparation, sterile work techniques, flow cytometry, and working with a photometer will be the key skills for this part of the project.

The second part of the project will be computer based as we want to correlate the experimental results with the sequenced genomes. Here, the student will need to identify genes in the genomes that could be potentially involved in hydrocarbon degradation. The in-silico part of the project will teach the student to work with NCBI, blast, and a variety of gene and protein sequence analysis server.

Overall, this is a general outline of the work and we will design the project together with the student to bring their ideas and interests forward.


Caroline Chénard - (

Honours thesis Opportunity in Phytoplankton Genomic at the National Research Council in Halifax (NRC)

We are a small group within the NRC, belonging to the Aquatic and Crop Resource Development Research Centre. Our lab is located right next to Dalhousie’s Studley Campus and our research activities focus on using phytoplankton to monitor ocean health in the context of climate change and other environmental stressors. We are currently looking for a highly motivated honours student who is interested to learn molecular biological- and genomic techniques with a focus on phytoplankton response to environmental stressors.  Using strains from our culture collection, the student will characterise (via morphological identification and genomic) the phytoplankton strains selected and assess their response to environmental stressors (example: temperature and pH changes, nutrient spiking or depletion, chemical exposure). The specific phytoplankton strains and targeted environmental stressors will chosen based on the student’s interests. 


Dr. Jonathan Ferrier

1. Anishinaabemowin biology (ethnobotany)

Anishinaabemowin (Nishnaabemwin) is fundamental to the identity, relations, and self-determination of Anishinaabeg (Nishnaabeg) Indigenous peoples. Ethnobiology explores stories of how people relate and evolve with life on the land and water. Linguistic details that define the speciation and territorial ecosystems in numerous dialects. Our research training program with Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and Dalhousie Biology will help the successful student gain skills in:

Community led-research, Library research and statistical meta-analyses, Field research, taxonomy, and ecology, Food, medicine, material linguistics and glyphs, Traditional territory maps for storytelling, Peer reviewed publications

2. Anishinaabe mycology and botany: Metabolomics of biosynthetic mechanisms

Ferrier Lab fungi, botanicals, tissues and biofluids are prioritized by community-led meta-analytical consensus values from Project #1. Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, principle components analyses, and hierarchical clustering will be used to prioritize metabolite qualification and quantification via discriminant analyses of selected metabolites versus representative bioassay extracts for mechanism activities. The successful student gain skills in:

Nuclear Magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging, Metabolomics analyses, Bioassay guided isolation of active principles, Biosynthetic pathways of primary and secondary metabolites, Qualification and quantification of principle components, Biological mechanisms of ecosystems, diseases, and systems


Dr. Claudio Slamovits – Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (

We investigate aspects of the biology and evolution of dinoflagellates, an important group of marine and freshwater protists that includes photosynthetic and heterotrophic species. We are interested primarily in the origin of the highly unusual chromatin and molecular genetics of these protists and the interactions between them and members of the marine microbiome. Projects potentially available to new Honours students may involve methods on DNA analysis, genomics, wet lab molecular biology, microbiology and more. We look forward to having students interested in molecular evolutionary biology and/or symbiosis, preferably with a background given by courses like BIOC3400, BIOL3102, BIOL3042 and BIOL3046.  


Dr. Cindy Staicer (

Research topic: Conservation of Species At Risk (SAR).
Assessing the effectiveness of Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) for forest bird SAR during forestry operations. We are conducting the first field test of BMPs for forest bird SAR in Nova Scotia. The BMPs are modifications of harvest plans aimed at conserving habitat elements needed by the SAR. In this third year of the project, we are documenting the effectiveness of the BMPs that were applied in the previous year on crown lands in Nova Scotia. Several Honours projects are possible:

1. Summer field project. Research question: Are the BMPs effective? The project will document the results of BMPs applied during forest harvesting. Field work will take place between late May-mid-July (dates somewhat negotiable). Includes surveys for bird species at risk at harvest and control sites in remote areas of southwestern NS, Halifax county and Cape Breton. Requires being away from Halifax most weeks, staying at the MTRI field station or camping. The student would do field work as part of a team.

2. Fall/winter project. Research question: Did the BMPs conserve the intended habitat elements? Analysis of high-resolution drone data collected before and after harvesting at experimental sites will determine if the specific habitat elements as specified in the BMPs were actually retained during the harvest. Analysis would use various tools from remote sensing and possibly GIS to answer this question.

3. Fall/winter project. Research question: How did the BMPs affect the presence and vocal activity of the SAR (and potentially the other species in the bird community)? To answer this question the student would analyse recordings made by Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) at our experimental and control sites. Analysis would include the use of species classifiers and sound analysis software. This project would be an example of the application of Passive Acoustic Monitoring to SAR conservation.


Dr. Sophia Stone

Professor of Biology
Lab Website

Deciphering the genetic and molecular basis of plant response to multiple environmental stresses.  

As the global human population is expected to exceed 10 billion, there is a growing need to improve food security via boosting agricultural production. Compounding this problem is the negative impact of climate change on plant health and yield. This project will explore how plants utilize the ubiquitination proteasome system to regulate responses to and survive exposure to concurrent biotic (e.g. bacterial pathogen) and abiotic (e.g. drought and nutrient deficient soil) stresses.

The successful student will gain skills in:  Plant tissue culture; polymerase chain reaction (PCR); protein purification (e.g. immunoprecipitation); western blot analysis; protein-protein interaction assays; performing pathogen infection assays to characterize susceptibility of mutant and transgenic plants; phenotypic analysis to compared growth and development of mutant and transgenic plants to wildtype under various abiotic stress conditions.|