M.Sc. Position to Study Juvenile Lobster Behaviour

Interested in aquatic animal behaviour, with practical implications for sustainable fisheries and marine conservation?

Interested in building expertise in a range of techniques, including field work (snorkeling or SCUBA), Remotely Operated Vehicle use, and machine-learning-assisted video analysis of behavioural observations?

Our research is focused on building a more detailed understanding of juvenile lobster behaviour. We have developed tripod-mounted underwater camera systems that are effective at recording lobster behaviours in their natural habitat. The cameras provide unprecedented detail over durations far longer (up to 9 h of recording time) than has been achieved in past studies via SCUBA or other methods.  To date, we have focused on foraging behaviours of adult lobsters.  Our goal now is to shift our focus to juvenile lobsters behaviour and behavioural ecology.  Additional observations are planned using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

Our primary goal is to establish a baseline data set of juvenile lobster behaviour.  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has recently created a series of marine protected areas in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Scallop Buffer Zones exclude scallop dragging, and are designed to protect juvenile lobster habitat. Our behavioural work will establish a baseline for on-going monitoring of juvenile lobsters into the future.  The behavioural data will be combined with additional population density surveys to assess the effectiveness of the marine protected areas, to help manage the lobster fishery, and to monitor the possible effects of climate change on the lobster population. 

Position start date: Sept 2023 or Jan 2024

For further information or to apply, contact Dr. Russell Wyeth: rwyeth@stfx.ca

PDF version

Congrats Makayla

Kudos to Makayla, winning the Biology communication award for posters at this years Science Atlantic Undergraduate Biology Conference! Makayla’s Honours thesis focused on detailed descriptions and quantification of the movement patterns of the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. The overarching goal is to understand odour-based navigation strategies in the snails, and Makayla’s research lays the groundwork for experiments that can hopefully tease apart the strategies the snails may be using.

Michael Murtaugh

I am an international master’s degree student, originally from Long Beach, California, although most of my professional studies involving Marine Biology were accomplished in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. My main interests in Biology have always been evolution, macro-invertebrate taxonomy and ecology of biofouling assemblages. I have worked as an independent biofouling consultant for marine fish farms in Mexico, and now I am excited to start a new project focused on antifouling effectiveness of UV radiation. This antifouling technology may be the next big step towards cleaner and more efficient maritime transportation, but until then I will put it to the test and analyze its effectiveness in depth through my work in the Wyeth Lab at StFX.

Post-doc position available

Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Sustainable Anti-biofouling Technologies

  • Are you passionate about developing sustainable solutions to environmental challenges in trillion-dollar ocean industries?
  • Are you interested in developing interdisciplinary skills in collaboration with experts from industry and academia?

Memorial University of Newfoundland-Grenfell Campus and St. Francis Xavier University, through funding from the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), Mitacs and industrial collaborator Graphite Innovation and Technologies (GIT), are recruiting a Post-Doctoral Fellow to develop cutting edge anti-biofouling technologies for ocean industries in Atlantic Canada.

For more information and how to apply, please click here.

In the news

We’re in the news! Hakai magazine has a big article about the complexities of the bait issue in lobster harvesting. Our research on lobster foraging responses is highlighted as part of the varied efforts being put towards alternative bait adoption in the fishery. Hopefully this can help build some momentum towards switching to more sustainable bait options in the long run. Big kudos to the small army of students who have worked on the project over the years: Grace, Rachel, Michelle, Gavin, Laura, James, Aidan, Megan, Max, and Lia, and thanks to Moira Donovan for the article.

Aaron Cogger

My name is Aaron Cogger, and I am from Antigonish Nova Scotia. I am an alumnus from StFX’s Aquatic Resources Program, along with Dalhousie’s Master of Marine Management Program. During my time at StFX, I previously worked in the Wyeth lab, helping to research behavioral toxicology in American lobsters. Now I am back in the lab with the biofouling team, researching marine safe methods of preventing fouling growth on boat and ship hulls through a variety of experiments. I am delighted to be back in the Wyeth lab, along with expanding my research skillset and studying new topics to accompany my interest in marine protection.

Emilie Knighton

My name is Emilie Knighton. I’m originally from Georgetown, Ontario. I am currently working on my Master’s in biology at Acadia University, studying the costs of Conspecific Brood Parasitism in Red-Breasted Mergansers. I completed a BSc with a Joint major in Aquatic Resources and Biology from StFX, following which I worked with the Herring Science Council, which provided me with the opportunity to complete research preparations, survey planning and data gathering in ever-changing and challenging conditions. I worked alongside different fishing boats to complete plankton tows, tag live fish and complete bio-acoustic surveys. I am working in the Wyeth Lab as a research technician, studying alternative lobster bait technology – providing me with a further peak into the secret life of animals. 


Congrats to Katherine P who led this manuscript as well as Kylie, Lexie, Ally, and Emmerson who all shared in the work. Using an image time series of macroscopic marine inverts, we show that even a single dose of ultraviolet light can reduce or delay marine biofouling. In addition, by adding an analysis of the new settlers immediately before and after the ultraviolet treatment, we show that the mechanism of action is probably direct toxicity of the ultraviolet light for those new settlers.

Full Text Link

Purvis, K., Curnew, K.H., Trevors, A.L., Hunter, A.T., Wilson, E.R., and Wyeth, R.C. 2022. Single Ultraviolet-C light treatment of early stage marine biofouling delays subsequent community development. Biofouling: 1–11. doi:10.1080/08927014.2022.2095906.

Alternative Lobster Bait Technology Researcher Position Available

NOTE: this position has been filled

NOTE: remote work is a possibility for this position

The Wyeth Lab at St. Francis Xavier University is seeking to add to our research team. Our fundamental and applied research program explores more sustainable options for bait use in the lobster fishery. The new researcher will help coordinate and complete analysis of lobster responses to different lobster bait technologies. The researcher will work under the supervision of Dr. Russell Wyeth, helping with many aspects of data management and analysis. The researcher’s primary role will be to support the successful analysis of existing data sets, working with both the supervisor and students to analyzed abundances of lobsters, behavioural video and audio, and environmental data relevant to assessing lobster responses to different bait technologies. In addition, the researcher will help to prepare oral and written communications about the data and our conclusions. Administrative tasks in support of the supervisor will also be involved, as well as opportunities to engage with other active research projects.  

Note: the position is subject to final budgetary approval once a candidate is selected

Duties and responsibilities

• help the project lead with overall organization of research activities
• help with specific project planning and administration
• co-supervision of student researchers
• data analysis
• materials and equipment management
• help with report and manuscript writing  

Knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge and skills
• ability to work independently
• meticulous organization
• time management
• effective oral and written communication
Desirable knowledge and skills:
• ecosystem-based fisheries management
• lobster harvesting
• research experience
• reading and summarizing scientific literature
• digital photography
• image processing
• digital video production
• software: MS Excel, SPSS, R
• statistical analysis
• scientific presentation
• scientific writing
• marine field work experience  

Eligibility Requirements (based on this program)

  • Post-secondary graduates
  • No more than 30 years of age at the start of the position
  • Canadian citizens, permanent residents or persons granted refugee status in Canada*
  • Legally allowed to work according to the relevant provincial and Canadian legislation and regulations
  • Available to work for at least six months (26 weeks)

Employment Period

07/16/2022  – 02/28/2023, with the possibility of an extension


$1200 + 4% in lieu of vacation, biweekly

Application Procedure

Send a resume/CV, unofficial transcript, and a statement of interest to rwyeth@stfx.ca