Undergraduate Summer Research Awards

Summer research awards provide paid employment opportunities for students to participate in scientific research at Dalhousie during the summer. If you would like to gain research experience in an academic setting, these awards can provide you with financial support.

NSERC USRA Projects Available in Oceanography for Summer 2018

These were the supervisors who offered NSERC USRA projects in Oceanography for Summer 2018. Below is a list of projects which were available. Any interested students should contact the listed supervisor. Those wishing to apply for future NSERC USRA projects should submit the following to the project supervisor: your CV; a brief statement of interest which outlines your area of academic interest as well as past education and/or employment experiences that would contribute to your work on the research project; and official transcripts from all previously attended universities.

For more information, please contact:

USRA Coordinator: David Barclay
Phone: (902) 494-4164
Fax: (902) 494-3877
E-mail: dbarclay@dal.ca

USRA 2018 Application Form [PDF - 105 kB]

USRA 2018 Guidelines [PDF - 106 kB]

Student Eligibility

  1. Registered (at the time you apply) as a full-time student in a Science program
  2. Cumulative grade of A - or better over the previous years of study
  3. Have completed (by May) the course requirements for at least the first 2 years of university study
  4. Available for full-time employment in scientific research activities during tenure of the award
  5. For USRA rules and eligibility see: http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Students-Etudiants/UG-PC/USRA-BRPC_eng.asp 

Application Procedure

  1. Find a potential faculty supervisor (contact and meet with professors)
  2. E-mail Dept Coordinator (see application form) for department-specific deadlines and application procedures
  3. Complete the current year Summer Research Awards Application form
  4. Submit form and other documents to the coordinator (below) for the home department of your potential supervisor
  5. Deadline: Late January (date varies with department)


Supervisor: Chris Algar, chris.algar@dal.ca

Project title: Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in Bay of Fundy tidal flats

Project description: Minas Basin, in the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy, has the highest tides in the world resulting in extensive tidal flats and salt marshes. Such marshes and flats can be sites of intense organic matter and nutrient cycling and serve as a buffer between the land and the sea. This could be particularly important in Minas Basin as agriculture in the Annapolis Valley can result in high levels of nutrient inputs to the basin. The goal of this student project is to study changes in oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen dynamics throughout the duration of the tidal cycle, with the long-term goal of understanding whether anthropogenic nitrogen is mobilized or removed through denitrification on the marsh and flats, or exported to the basin. This is important for understanding the susceptibility of the Minas Basin to the negative effects of eutrophication.

Skills to be acquired during project: The prospective student will gain a variety of skills such as sediment field sampling, laboratory skills associated with nutrient analysis, and reactivetransport modelling using the R computer language.


Supervisor: David Barclaydbarclay@dal.ca

Project title: Ship noise in the Arctic

Project description: In order to accurately measure and forecast the contribution of human activities to the underwater soundscape in the Arctic ocean, the monitoring and prediction of commercial vessel traffic must be automated.  This project will develop a system for retrieving, and processing Automated Identification System (AIS) data and interfacing it with an acoustic source database and propagation modelling tool.

Skills to be acquired during project: Student will acquire skills in computer programming, database management, and underwater acoustic modelling.


Supervisor: Carolyn Buchwaldcbuchwald@dal.ca

Project title: Sources and Sinks of Nitrite in the Surface Atlantic Ocean

Project description (2-3 sentences): The student will be responsible for analyzing samples collected previously on a cruise in the Atlantic Ocean of the East Coast of the United States. Samples were collected for rates of ammonia oxidation, nitrite oxidation, and nitrate reduction under differently light and iron conditions. The student will be responsible for setting up and running the nitrogen isotope measurements, and then analyzing the data to calculate the rates of processes. 

Skills to be acquired during project: The student will learn multiple laboratory techniques including: nitrate concentration measurements using a chemiluminescent NOx detector, nitrite concentration measurements using a spectrophotometer, and nitrate and nitrite isotope measurements using thedenitrifier method.  The student will also learn how to calculate rates of processes from stable isotope labeling experiments.  Lastly, the student will be able to help with field work that others in the laboratory will be conducting during the summer. 


Supervisor: Paul Hillpaul.hill@dal.ca

Project Title: Use of Structure from Motion Analysis to Quantify Coastal Erosion Rates at Thomas Cove, Minas Basin, Nova Scotia

Project Description: The USRA holder will work with a group to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (also known as UAVs or drones) to photograph the rapidly eroding cliffed shoreline of Thomas Cove Coastal Reserve in the Minas Basin.  The photographs will be used to generate accurate 3D models of the coast with Structure from Motion (SfM) analysis. Repeated surveys will be used to develop understanding of the causes of observed acceleration of coastal retreat in the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy.

Skills to be acquired during project: Structure from Motion Analysis, RTK GPS surveying, UAV piloting.


Supervisor: Markus Kienast, markus.kienast@dal.ca

Project title: Oceans and global change

Project description: The ocean initiates, amplifies and mediates global climate change on time-scales ranging from less than a year to thousands of years. Understanding the ocean’s past variability - recorded in the sedimentary archive - is thus of paramount importance for climate science.

Skills to be acquired during project: Students in my lab get to use different analytical techniques to extract from the sedimentary record detailed information on the ocean of the past. See www.oceanbiogeochem-atdal.org for more.


Supervisor: Anna Metaxasmetaxas@dal.ca

Project title: Monitoring of benthic populations in coastal habitats and deep-sea areas designated for protection

Project description
: The student will: (1) assist in the analysis of the distribution of benthic fauna and factors that regulate them in shallow- and deep-sea regions currently under consideration for marine protection; and (2) assist with field work documenting the spread of a marine invasive species in the Atlantic Canada.  

Skills to be acquired during project: Image analysis, statistical analyses, experimental design, experiments in the laboratory, and assisting in field work conducted with SCUBA and in sampling from small boats.


Supervisor: Eric Olivereric.oliver@dal.ca

Project title: Trends and variability in coastal British Colombia marine heatwaves

Project description: Ocean temperature extremes (marine heatwaves) have dramatic impacts on marine ecosystems and it is important to understand their historical variability and drivers. Coastal British Columbia has long, centennial records of daily ocean temperature which can be used to examine past marine heatwave events. This project will examine the historical variability of marine heatwaves in this record as well as identify large scale drivers (El Niño, Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and long term change (anthropogenic climate change).

Skills to be acquired during project: Skills to be acquired will include programming (Python and/or MATLAB), understanding large-scale climate variations, and statistical analysis techniques.


Supervisor: Eric Olivereric.oliver@dal.ca

Project title: The Madden-Julian Oscillation, snowfall and storms over eastern North America

Project description: The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is a large-scale mode of climate variability which operates on intraseasonal time scales (30-90 days) i.e. longer than typical weather variations (2 weeks). The MJO is known to drive variations in snowfall over southern New England, due to changes in the tracks of winter nor’easters. This project will examine to what extent the MJO is responsible for changes in winter snowfall and storms over the broader region, including the Maritime Provinces of Canada.

Skills to be acquired during project: Skills to be acquired will include programming (Python and/or MATLAB), understanding large-scale climate variations, and statistical analysis techniques.


Supervisor: Helmuth Thomashelmuth.thomas@posteo.org

Project title: Carbon analysis in Arctic waters

Project description: The Canadian Arctic Archipelago has been sampled for the marine carbonate system almost annually since 2007. The samples from the 2017 CCGS Amundsen expedition will be analyzed and interpreted.

Skills to be acquired during project: Expected skills that will be acquired by the student are basics in acid-base and analytical chemistry. The project will involve maintaining and producing world-class data for the marine CO2 system. Basic understanding of chemical oceanography will be acquired.


Supervisor: Doug Wallace, douglas.wallace@dal.ca

Project title: Biogeochemical nitrogen cycling in a lake containing anoxic, ancient seawater

Project description: The student will participate in biogeochemical sampling at the field site in British Columbia. Afterwards, the student will learn a method for analyzing the isotopic composition of nitrate (δ15N) and apply it to analyzing the samples.

Skills to be acquired during project:
Biogeochemical field work: Niskin sampling, sensor deployment, sample preparation in the field.
Nitrate isotope analysis using the cadmium/azide reduction technique and isotope ratio mass spectrometry.
General research experience in aquatic biogeochemistry.

Special requirements: Must be motivated and physically able to participate in about two weeks of field work, which includes sampling from a small boat (may include long working hours).


Supervisor: Doug Wallace, douglas.wallace@dal.ca

Project title: Investigating the inorganic carbon cycle in the Labrador Sea using samples collected in 2014 and 2015 by the CERC.OCEAN group

Project description: measurements of stable isotopic ratios of carbon (d13C) on dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) using an innovative method such as the cavity ring-down spectrometry, as well as the assessment of storage conditions on DIC between two sets of Labrador Sea samples. 

Skills to be acquired during project:
Carbonate Chemistry background.
Laboratory experience with special focus on isotopic composition analysis.
Quality control assessment of the data analysed.
Data Analysis.