Gault Nature Reserve, Mont St-Hilaire, Québec

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DATES: October 29 to November 9, 2012
LOCATION: Gault Nature Reserve, Mont St-Hilaire, Québec
OFFERED BY: McGill University (accessible to non-McGill students)
RESPONSIBLE PROFESSORS: Jonathan Davies (McGill), Mark Vellend (Sherbrooke).

Course description

This intensive two week course offers a high level overview of concepts, methods and questions related to different aspects of biodiversity science. The course covers three main research axes:

  • Axis 1: Discovery of biodiversity;
  • Axis 2: Changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services;
  • Axis 3: Management and adaptation to biodiversity changes.


This course targets science professionals at a high level (particularly graduate students and post-docs) and focuses on scientific aspects of biodiversity science. We encourage applications from those with interests in systematics, ecology, environment and other aspects of biodiversity. The course is open to students from all Québec universities, and internationally; a maximum of 25 students will be selected. For the duration of the programme students will be expected to commit full time (approximately 90 hours, including theory and practicals) and participate in all aspects of the course.

Teaching location

The intensive course will be given at the Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University, a private reserve which protects 1000 hectares of natural primeval forests of the St. Lawrence Valley. Situated at Mont-Saint-Hilaire approximately 40 km from Montreal, this panoramic natural landscape is ideal for discovering nature, teaching and academic research.


Click here to download the course program.

Course material

Course booklet and recommended reading in pdf format.


Typical day

Lectures in the morning, course practical in the afternoon, time to work on the project that will serve to link the diverse aspects of biodiversity science presented during the entire course, and seminar or discussion animated by an invited speaker in the evening. Daily schedules may vary.

Course practicals

Course practicals may consist of short literature reviews, statistical analysis or computer modelling. Practicals will generally be conducted in small groups of 2-4 students, which will be assembled with the aim of mixing students from different universities and with different expertise. The objective is to encourage team work amongst students from different universities and from different research backgrounds. Students will hand in their assignments at the end of the day on which they are assigned.

Course project

The project write-up can be submitted up to one week after the course. The format of the project will be flexible, but we will expect presentation of original work, such as a synthesis of ideas, perspectives on current topics in biodiversity science, or analysis and interpretation of new or existing data.

Students can submit their work in French or English.

Course evaluation and grading

Course evaluation

  • Four short assignments, which may consist or written or oral presentations related to specific course modules (40%)
  • Class participation (20%)
  • Write-up of project (30%)
  • Project presentation (10%)


The course welcome both French and English speaking participants, but most lectures will be given in English. Students can submit their work in French or English.

Course fees

The course includes a fee of $550 for travel to/from Montreal to Mont Saint Hilaire, food and accommodation in Mont Saint Hilaire, and production of the course booklet.
–         McGill Students: please use your Minerva account to register and pay
–         Other Quebec Universities: applications should be made through CREPUQ after their university approval and McGill approval

The fee is refundable until two weeks prior to the commencement of the course.

Special students: please contact
–         Foreign students : course fee of $1,500

Note that QCBS student members can apply for an excellence award to cover the fees of the workshop.

How to apply

Because class size is limited to a maximum of 25 students, candidates must first send an application by email to

Please place the course number (BIOL 645) in the subject line and include a short (1 page) C.V. detailing your academic background (in the body of the email, or in an attached document), and a statement of interest including a description of the your current research (approximately 150 words). This letter must specify the research axis closest to your research (1 – discovery of biodiversity; 2 – changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services; 3 – management and adaptation to biodiversity changes). The letter should also indicate your university, programme (M.Sc. or Ph.D.), research supervisor and year of study.