M.Sc. (2006) and Ph.D. (2013) in water sciences
Diadromous Species Scientist, Fisheries team, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
“The strength of INRS is its collegial structure. During my studies, I was able to propose ideas and be supported by both professors and administrative staff. The structure of the Institute ensures that student life and student development are at the forefront.”
As a child, Valérie Ouellet has always been passionate about nature. She was fortunate to grow up in an environment conducive to discovery and exploration in the small rural community of Padua, Québec. Her love for the environment led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at the Université de Montréal, followed by studies in wildlife and habitat management at the Université du Québec à Rimouski. She then specialized in water sciences at the INRS.
After obtaining her master’s degree (2006) and her doctorate (2013) in water sciences at the Centre Eau Terre Environnement, Valérie Ouellet was awarded a research fellowship as a postdoctoral researcher at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Ontario and later obtained another fellowship to pursue her postdoctoral research at the Stroud Water Research Center in Pennsylvania (USA). She then undertook another postdoctoral project at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
In the fall of 2021, an opportunity to join the NOAA Fisheries team as a Diadromous Species Scientist opened up. In this position she is working to understand how different environmental variables, such as water temperature and flow, and habitat connectivity, affect the habitat and physiology of key migratory fish species. She is also interested in the process of global change to better understand how aquatic ecosystems evolve in order to create strategies for restoration, conservation, and management of aquatic resources. Ms. Ouellet is currently focusing on the interactions and how human activities and climate change are affecting marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems and the productivity of migratory fish.
What she remembers most about her time at INRS is the encouragement she received from her master’s and doctoral professors along the way. According to Valérie: “The strength of INRS is its collegial structure. During my studies, I was able to propose ideas and be supported by both professors and administrative staff. The structure of the Institute ensures that student life and student development are at the forefront.” Thanks to this collaborative work environment that encourages learning, Valérie was able, among other things, to organize an international cooperation internship in Nicaragua in collaboration with AVES and INRS, in order to analyze the quality of drinking water in a number of Nicaraguan communities and to propose a new filtration system that better meets their needs.
She also believes it is important to choose the right mentors, “You want to surround yourself with people who encourage you to think outside the box, to take risks and not be afraid to think outside the box. That’s the kind of people I met at INRS.” She would like to thank Professors Michel Leclerc, Yves Secretan, and André St-Hilaire for their role as mentors and for supporting her in all her projects.
She also recalls with fondness the many activities such as the cultural dinners held at the Eau Terre Environnement research centre: “These friendly and informal activities allowed us to interact with all the students as well as the teachers and administrative staff. It encouraged us to build relationships. I am still in contact with several of my colleagues at the Eau Terre Environnement research centre.”
When asked what her greatest wish for the future would be, she answers without hesitation: “That people become more aware of the importance of water resources and aquatic ecosystems that are more vulnerable to climate change and other human pressures. In fact, many people understand the importance, but don’t necessarily feel concerned as if there is a lack of connection between the importance of our actions and the conservation of aquatic ecosystems. I would like people to understand how vital these resources are and get more involved. That’s my biggest wish.”
[As told to the Foundation in March 2022.]