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Arctic microbiomes: from molecules and microbes to ecosystems and health

International PhD School

2 - 12 July 2019, Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik (Nunavik, Canada)


Under the leadership of the Sentinel North program at Université Laval (Quebec City, Canada), the International PhD School (IPS) is a unique transdisciplinary training program aiming to understand the key role of microbiomes in shaping the structure and functioning of the Arctic, including their impacts on food webs, ecosystem services, and human health.

Taking place at the Centre for Northern Studies (CEN) research station in Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik (Nunavik, Canada) on the eastern shore of the Hudson Bay (55°16’N, 77° 45’ W), the school will provide participants with an integrative, hands-on experience spanning a wide range of disciplines such as Arctic microbiology and molecular ecology, biogeochemistry, complex system networks, environmental optics/photonics, remote sensing and human health.


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Program overview

The school will be centered on the themes detailed below, with a multifaceted approach including lectures, case studies and hands-on experiences supervised by renowned researchers from various disciplines. It will also include an introduction to the emerging field of environmental optics/photonics as a means to improve our understanding of the northern environment and its impact on human health.

Arctic microbiomes and ecosystems

  • Microbial diversity: community structure and function
  • Polar ecosystems: from ice and land to the oceans
  • Microbial ecosystem services

Microbiome responses to change

  • Evolutionary change
  • Responses to climate change
  • Resilience and ecosystem adaptability
  • Extreme life in the past, present and beyond Earth

Human health and microbiomes

  • Microbiomes and nutrition
  • Food and water security
  • Contaminants and bioremediation
  • Pathogens and diseases
  • The search for new biomolecules


Field and lab work

  • Field excursions to sample microbiomes in various habitats: methane-producing thaw lakes; microbial plankton in the river and sea; benthic biofilms; biofilms on fish; forest-tundra soils.
  • DNA sequencing
  • Data analysis of environmental microbiomes


The school will foster the development of transversal skills such as networking and international scientific collaboration, ethics in northern research, as well as communication and planning in a transdisciplinary research context.

During the school and over the course of the following weeks, participants will be invited to contribute actively to the analysis of the data, which could potentially lead to the publication of a joint paper.



Prior to the course, the students should plan some time for assigned reading, which will be made available 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the school, and seminar preparation (approximately 1 week of full-time study).


Who should apply

Up to 20 international graduate students with various backgrounds will be selected. The target audience are PhD students, but in some cases, postdoctoral fellows or M.Sc. students (or equivalent) with relevant professional qualifications may also apply.

Note: Due to the practical and hands-on approach of fieldwork in northern environment, all applicants should be in reasonably good physical condition, and be equipped/dressed accordingly. Details will be provided to selected participants.

  • About the CEN research station of Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik

    The location of the school is of cultural as well as scientific interest. Located at the limit of the Inuit and Cree First Nation territories, it will allow the school to promote knowledge-exchange locally through activities planned with the community of Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik.

    From an ecological/climate change perspective, the region is also of interest. First, it is in the forest-tundra zone near the southern limit of the rapidly shifting permafrost. Second, it is at the mouth of the Great Whale River that drains a large area of subarctic Quebec and discharges into Hudson Bay.


    Sentinel North PhD School - Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik Research Station

    The CEN Research station in Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik (photo: Martin Fortier)


    Sentinel North International PhD School - Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik air view

    Helicopter view of Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik (photo: Denis Sarrazin)

  • Scientific staff

    • Denis Boudreau, Professor, Department of chemistry, Université Laval, Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers (COPL)

    • Jacques Corbeil, Professor, Faculty of medecine, Université Laval, Canada Research Chair in Medical Genomics

    • Raoul-Marie Couture, Professor, Department of chemistry, Université Laval, Sentinel North Research Chair in Aquatic Geochemistry

    • Marie-France Gévry, Training programs coordinator, SN – Main coordinator for the IPS

    • Charles W. Greer, Professor, Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University; Energy, Mining and Environment, National Research Council Canada

    • Anne Jungblut, Researcher in microbiology, Natural History Museum, London, UK

    • André Marette, Professor, Faculty of medicine, Université Laval, Scientific director of the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF) and researcher at Quebec Heart and Lung Institute (IUCPQ)

    • Alex Matveev, Postdoctoral fellow in limnology and microbial ecology, Université Laval

    • Vani Mohit, PhD in Arctic molecular ecology, Scientific coordinator at Sentinel North (Thematic project 1)

    • Alison Murray, Research Professor in Biology, Nevada Desert Research Institute, USA

    • Philippe St-Pierre, PhD in Medical research, Scientific coordinator at Sentinel North (Thematic project 3)

    • Warwick Vincent, Professor in Ecology of freshwater, Department of biology, Université Laval

    Applications will be assessed by the Sentinel North IPS Steering Committee according to the evaluation criteria below.

    Knowledge exchange and co-learning are major goals and objectives of the IPS. For this reason, participants will be selected based on academic excellence, but also on willingness to share knowledge and openness to think and learn “outside the box”. Gender equality and geographical representation will also be considered.

    Evaluation criteria :

    • Academic excellence
    • Aptitude for research and leadership
    • Relevance of the candidate’s research interests with the themes of the IPS

    Participants will be notified of the final selection around March 15, 2019.

  • registration FEES

    Registration fee: $950 *

    This amount includes:

    • Registration
    • Flight from Quebec city to Kuujjuarapik (round trip)
    • Teaching and scientific materials
    • Food and lodging in Kuujjuarapik (double occupancy)

    Registration fees do not cover:

    • Your travel to and from Quebec City (including airfare, Visa fees, etc.)
    • Food and lodging in Quebec City
    • Additional excursions and activities that are not included in the program
    • Personal expenses
    • Health insurance (mandatory)

    Payment must be received in full at least one month prior to the start of the session. Payment details will be provided to the selected candidates.

    *Amount is in Canadian dollars



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Municipality of Kuujjuarapik


For more information, please contact:

Marie-France Gévry

Training programs coordinator
418-656-2131 ext. 8910


Sentinel North International PhD School on Arctic Microbiomes 2019