Robert Michaud's relationship with the whales of the St. Lawrence all started when he was hired to work as a naturalist aboard the first boats that started taking tourists out to see the whales off Tadoussac in the early 1980s. What had started out as a summer job turned into a career. Surrounded by acolytes as passionate as himself, he decided to found the Groupe de recherche et d'éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM) in 1985. His goal: study the whales to better understand and better protect them. He set out to use his newly acquired understanding to feed the public fascination for whales and to heighten awareness of the importance of protecting the marine environment.
The research that he was to accomplish with the GREMM was to deal mainly with the behavioral ecology of large rorqual whales and the impact of tourism. In 1987, he co-founded the St. Lawrence National Institute of Ecotoxicology (SLNIE) with Pierre Béland and is presently in charge of a long-term study on the St. Lawrence beluga whale population. He completed a masters degree at Université Laval on the distribution of St. Lawrence belugas and has since undertaken a doctoral degree with Hal Whitehead at Dalhousie University to study the social organization of the beluga.
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