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Discover: How a student from France fell in love with Canada and is now doing fishery research in Sudbury

Collège Boréal student researcher Olivia Baudet sits down for a chat with 'Dr. Mike'
Olivia Baudet is at one with nature here in Canada. (Supplied)

As part of’s ongoing Discover Series, Dr. Mike Commito, Director of Applied Research & Innovation at Cambrian College, who is often referred to simply as Dr. Mike on campus, is sitting down with researchers and entrepreneurs in Sudbury to spotlight the innovative work they’re doing in our community and beyond.

This week, Dr. Mike travelled down the road to Collège Boréal to chat with Olivia Baudet, who is a student researcher currently in the Fish and Wildlife Management Technology program. 

Olivia, a native of Hyères in southern France, was drawn to Sudbury and Collège Boréal from an early age. After visiting the college with her family as a 14-year-old, she immediately knew it was where she wanted to study.  

Although you can still detect, albeit slightly, her Marseille accent when she’s speaking, Olivia has eagerly embraced her new home in Sudbury. Adorning her right forearm is a tattoo of a maple leaf with a moose and owl inside of it. In addition to that piece, she has a bear tattooed on her back and a raccoon inked onto her leg. But what really gives her away is her Realtree-patterned cellphone case. She is a true Canadian now. 

Outside of her studies at Collège Boréal, which have allowed Olivia to hone her survival skills and practice electrofishing, she is also an avid student researcher in the college’s Applied Research Department. During her time at Boréal, she has worked on projects that have included the incubation and breeding of whitefish and soil analysis. 

As they looked out the window of the Alphonse-Desjardins library, in the distance Dr. Mike and Olivia could see the nearly completed roundabout on the Lasalle Extension. While she unquestionably loves Sudbury, Olivia chuckled about how her fellow drivers will adapt to the change. Olivia, however, will have no problem. Roundabouts are ubiquitous in France. 

Over the course of their conversation, which included traffic redirection, Dr. Mike and Olivia talked about her research and what originally drew her to Boréal. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Mike Commito: You’re a student researcher here at Collège Boréal, what program are you taking?  

Olivia Baudet: I graduated last year from the Forestry and Wildlife Technician program. I am currently in the third year of Fish and Wildlife Management Technology program, so it’s my last year. You can choose either forestry or wildlife management. I was always passionate about wildlife, but it’s easier to find a job in forestry without having the third year, because there’s a lot of jobs. But in wildlife, people want to do more surveying and stuff like that, so it’s good if you take that last year. 

M.C: What are your plans after graduation? 

OB: After graduation, I am not sure yet. But when I become a Canadian citizen, I want to work for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. 

M.C.: You’re from France. What initially drew you to Canada? 

OB: Yes, I’m from the southern part of France, near Marseille. I came in 2010, it was my first vacation in Canada. I always wanted to come here since I was 10 years old. I loved the kind of people and all the nature here. It’s a really great place if you like to be outside. If you like to be outside it’s a really perfect place. If you love mining, forestry and those kinds of things, it’s the place for you. People are awesome here.

M.C: How did someone from southern France discover Collège Boréal

OB: I saw the college on the Internet and I wanted to visit and see the winter in Canada. I never had snow before coming here. When I came to visit Collège Boréal in 2014, I was 14 years old and I fell in love with the college. As soon as I was 18 years old, I came here.

M.C: Can you talk about some of the research you’re doing here at Boréal?

OB: I worked in the greenhouse and aquaculture facility at Collège Boréal. In the aquaculture facility, we are currently raising whitefish. We’re taking the eggs and growing them until they are about 10cm and then transporting them to cages on Manitoulin Island to grow them to commercial size. It is more common to raise rainbow trout for research and commercial purposes, but our research seeks to determine if whitefish is more easily grown in captivity. It’s really hard to grow fish in a small space, but with the whitefish, there are fewer problems to develop them correctly using aquaculture technologies. We’re hoping that our research will help determine to commercial potential for whitefish and assist to bringing a bit of variety in the market.  

M.C: What company or group did you work with on the fishery project? 

OB: Mostly New North Fisheries, a company which raises whitefish commercially. We collect the eggs in Georgian Bay in November, incubate and raise the fry at Boréal, and then bring the fingerlings to Manitoulin in the spring after they’ve developed.

M.C: You mentioned doing research in the greenhouse, what did that consist of? 

OB: With the greenhouse, we have a research program with Laurentian University. It is about regreening. At the greenhouse, we’re growing trees professionally for research, or just for people who want trees for things like weddings. For the research program, we did some soil samples outside at random sites throughout Sudbury. We tried different kinds of fertilizers to determine which would help with the regrowth of plants and trees. To those sites, we added a mix of ash, limestone, and other nutrients.

M.C: What kind of research are you currently doing at Boréal?

OB: We just came back from electrofishing with my program. We went to Manitoulin for a week and it was to take some samples from the stream to see if there was some native species inside the stream to see if you need to do some work on the stream or not. Especially for brook trout, we’re looking for that. This work was done with Manitoulin Steams Improvement Association, an organization that works to improve the fish habitat in rivers all over Manitoulin Island. 

M.C: The research that happens at colleges in Canada is practical. You’re taking the skills you’re learning in the classroom and applying it to real challenges. Do you find it helpful in the learning process to be a part of a solution? 

OB: Absolutely. They consider you as a full technician. They don’t treat you like a student. We are actually doing things. That was really nice. 

What’s your favourite part about field research? 

OB: Being outside. I like doing the reporting but being outside is definitely the best. 

M.C: Do you ever get back to France? 

OB: I went for two weeks this summer. I didn’t miss it. It was too hot. There were too many people. I love it here. 

Mike Commito is the Director of Applied Research & Innovation at Cambrian College. If you missed Dr. Mike’s first two Q&As, you can read them here