MSc opportunity: Effects of Oil Spills on Freshwater Food Webs

We are seeking a motivated, enthusiastic, and dedicated MSc student to investigate how spills of diluted bitumen and conventional crude oil can affect freshwater algae and zooplankton.

The student will collaborate with a large number of researchers and students as part of a larger project (FOReST: Freshwater Oil Spill Remediation Study) that will examine the effects of oil spills and remediation methods at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area (  During 2018, the FOReST project will undertake a pilot study, examining how different oil types (conventional crude oil, diluted bitumen) and wave activity influence food webs within four shoreline enclosures.  This pilot study will lead to a larger study in 2019 that will include a greater number of shoreline enclosures to examine the effectiveness of different remediation methods for oil spills.

The student will be provided latitude within the FOReST project to develop specific research goals aligned with their interests in the areas of zooplankton and phytoplankton.  Skills that are strong assets (but not a requirement) for this project would include one or more of the following: statistical analysis (proficiency in R is particularly desirable), field and/or laboratory experience, and course work in freshwater ecology/limnology.  The student will operate small boats, ATV’s, and motor vehicles (vans, light trucks) and a valid driver’s licence and other certifications are an asset.

The MSc student will conduct their degree at the University of Manitoba (UM) in the Department of Environment and Geography, co-supervised by Dr. Mark Hanson and either Dr. Scott Higgins or Dr. Mike Paterson (IISD – Experimental Lakes Area).  The student will spend a significant portion of their time at the IISD-Experimental Lakes Area, interacting affiliated scientists, graduate and undergraduate students, and international researchers visiting the site.  The University of Manitoba is located in Winnipeg, a city of >650,000 people with a large range of outdoor and cultural attractions.  The IISD Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) research station is located in Northwestern Ontario, approximately a 4 hour drive from Winnipeg.  Room and board while at the ELA is provided, as are weekly shuttles between Winnipeg and the ELA.

The project is funded by an NSERC CRD grant and MITACs. Students will be supported through a mix of project and UM funding at a minimum stipend of $17,500 per year. Students who are competitive for additional external funding (e.g., NSERC, UM Graduate Fellowship, ELA Fellowship, etc.) are strongly encouraged to apply.

Interested students should outline in a 1-page cover letter how their skills suit them for the proposed project, and indicate the date when they can be available to begin work. In addition, a CV and unofficial transcripts from at least the last two academic years should be provided, along with names of at least two potential references. Application information should be directed to: Scott Higgins ( Only suitable candidates will be contacted for an interview. Ideally, the student would officially begin their MSc program in September 2018 or January 2019 at the University of Manitoba.  The availability of the student for preliminary field work during May-August 2018 would be a benefit, but not crucial.

We will begin evaluating applications immediately, but the position will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.

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