Meet the recipients of MEOPAR and RQM’s TReX Graduate Student Awards!

By April 7, 2021April 9th, 2021No Comments

Back in October, MEOPAR and Réseau Québec Maritime teamed up to launch the first call for the TReX Graduate Student Awards—an exciting opportunity for grad students to contribute to the RQM-MEOPAR Tracer Release Experiment (TReX) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This funding is awarded on a semester basis, providing stipends for students carrying out research activities on the TReX project.

Today, we’re not only introducing the successful applicants lending their expertise to TReX—who you can read all about below— but also launching our next call for the TReX Graduate Student Awards. Applications for the Fall 2021 semester are open from now until May 12, 2021. For full details on this opportunity, click here.

Allison Chua 

I am a PhD Candidate with Dr. Douglas Wallace in the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University. I have a BEng and an MASc in Mechanical Engineering, and prior to beginning my PhD, I worked as a Production Engineer at Irving Shipbuilding. My research focuses on the development and testing of novel underwater vehicle platforms and sensor packages that can be rapidly deployed to characterize the spatial and temporal evolution of unpredictable ocean phenomena, such as a marine oil spill and subsequent response efforts. The Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Remotely-Operated Vehicles (ROVs) that I work on are based on small, open-source, and commercially-available platforms that allow modular integration of various payloads, making them very versatile instruments that can be used for a range of purposes and address the challenge of capturing ocean events that change in three dimensions and over time.

Within the TReX project, I hope to use these vehicles to capture the dispersive behaviour of a surface release of dye, both spatially and temporally, to increase our understanding of the dynamics of a coastal estuary like the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This knowledge will also aid in our understanding of surface contaminant releases, such as marine oil spills, improving our ability to respond to them. For more information on how we develop underwater vehicles for scientific research, please visit my website at

Sam Stevens

As a PhD candidate studying physical oceanography at the University of British Columbia, my research focuses on the circulation of water through the deeper regions of Canada’s coastal areas and the associated movement of pollutants through these systems. I achieve this by analysing measurements from various observational programs and regional models and by designing simple instruments to measure the ocean. As part of the TReX program, I am designing a subsurface float to measure currents in the deeper waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This simple float will consist of a GPS and a carefully calculated amount of weight which, when deployed, will drift below the surface of the ocean for a period before jettisoning its weight and resurfacing. Upon resurfacing, the float will transmit a GPS signal, providing a point-to-point measurement of the subsurface currents in the St. Lawrence. We aim to deploy these floats in tandem with the proposed dye release experiment, helping us to understand the prevailing transport pathways and the dispersal of contaminants in the deeper waters of the region.

Joshua Johannes Creelman

I am currently enrolled in the Master of Applied Science program in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Dalhousie University. After completing an undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, I focused on lab-on-chip nutrient sensors, environmental DNA samplers, and compact fluorometers with an accepted publication and another in preparation.  My thesis research is toward detecting harmful algal blooms using fluorometry.

The aim for TReX project is to develop a low cost fluorometer for the surface water and deep-water experiments measuring rhodamine B with at least a lower limit of detection of 1nM. The sensor contains two main components: an optical assembly design for effective light collection, and a signal processing firmware development in the form of a lock-in amplifier for reliable and precise measurements. The optical assembly consist of an LED light source, collimating lenses for focusing the excitation beam, a source filter (excitation filter), collimating lenses for collecting fluorescence, a filter for fluorescence (emission filter) and a light detector. This optical setup is not a traditional orthogonal setup; the light source being orthogonal to the detector, but rather a 65° setup such that all optics can be placed on one side of a flat interface between the sensor and the environment.  Ray-tracing simulations have been completed, a 3D printed prototype manufactured, and initial verification tests completed demonstrating the necessary 1nM limit of detection.  Firmware development and data logging will be completed in the coming months for deployment of a compete submersible sensor in June.

Manal Nouri

I’m from Algeria, the place where I grew up and developed a love for the marine sciences. After finishing my studies, I went to France to widen this affection but it was not enough, my hunger for marine studies urged me to test a new experience— so I immigrated to Canada as part of the ISMER Excellence in Oceanography scholarship in Rimouski.

My academic career has always been focused on geoscience and coastal planning, because I followed an engineering cycle in coastal planning in Algeria completed by a master’s degree in coastal engineering and geoscience in France. This training allowed me to acquire skills in the coastal field, the monitoring of the evolution of the coastline and numerical modeling. which I believe, I will strengthen them by integrating this doctoral program in physical oceanography where I will work on “surface dispersion of the Saint-Laurent maritime estuary” under the direction of Cédric Chavannes and Dany Dumont and the co-supervision of Rich Pawlowicz as part of the TREX graduate scholarship program that I also benefit.

This opportunity allowed me to be surrounded by a qualified research team. It is with great motivation and enthusiasm that I join the UQAR family.

Donovan Allum

I am a PhD student in the applied math department at the University of Waterloo studying fluid mechanics with a focus on direct numerical simulations of cold lakes subjected to solar radiation. I obtained a Master’s degree in Materials Science at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario in 2019 studying the theoretical physics of high-temperature super conductors. I have a B.Sc. (honours) in mathematical physics, also from Trent University, obtained in 2016.

The project I will be working on over the next two terms is focused on the evaluation of Lagrangian techniques (i.e., the mathematics describing the motion of ocean floats) to provide insight on how to improve drift prediction in ocean forecast models. The Lagrangian techniques are (a) the computation of finite-scale Lyapunov exponents to study dispersion at different length scales and, (b) calculating finite-time Lyapunov exponents to identify Lagrangian coherent structures. The improvement of drift and dispersion models have several real-world applications including supporting search and rescue operations, planning for oil spill response, and tracking marine pollution and contaminants.