Sentinel North

Harnessing the power of light for the benefit of human health, the environment, and sustainable development in the North


About Sentinel North


The Sentinel North Strategy

In 2015, Université Laval received a $98 million grant from the federal government’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the largest research grant in its history. The Fund helps Canadian universities compete with the best in the world and implement large-scale, transformational and forward-thinking institutional strategies. Among other strengths, Sentinel North distinguished itself with its focus on transdisciplinairy research.

In a context of accelerating climate change and social and economic development in the arctic and subarctic regions, Sentinel North will provide knowledge to monitor and prepare for changes in northern environments at scales ranging from microbiota to entire ecosystems and using the best technology and intervention strategies in the pursuit of sustainable health and development (see Conceptual diagram).

Based on three broad themes, Sentinel North’s ambitious research program encourages the development of research teams and joint projects focusing on discovery, transdisciplinarity, innovation, collaboration, national and international partnerships, and technology transfer.  

As a far-reaching, synergistic initiative, Sentinel North draws together more than 30 cutting-edge research programs for which Université Laval is already recognized as a world leader, including the four Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) developed at the University:

Sentinel North is also establishing:


Governance of Sentinel North

Overall activities of Sentinel North's strategic research are supported by its Scientific Directors and its Executive Director. 

Scientific Directors

The scientific leadership and strategic direction of the program are established by two Scientific Directors named by the Steering Committee.The Scientific Directors are ex-officio voting members of the Steering Committee, and chair the Strategic Advisory Committee with which they develop and direct the Research Management Strategy.

Executive Director 

The Executive Director is in charge of operations and daily activities of Sentinel North. He directs the administrative centre which includes administrative offices of the program, its personal and equipments. The Executive Director works with the Steering Committee and the Scientific Directors to elaborate, establish and implement strategic, operational and scientific plans of the program.

Sentinel North's governance is also supported by its administrative centre located on the campus of Université Laval, under the direction of the Executive Director and several committees. 

Steering Committee

Sentinel North’s steering committee is charged with providing the institutional resources and vision necessary to follow through on the research strategy. It approves program expenses and is tasked with oversight and strategic consulting in matters of overall direction. It is also responsible for monitoring the program’s progress, performance indicators, and deliverables.

A majority on the steering committee is drawn from university management and the faculties involved in Sentinel North. External members and partners will also be invited to be part of the committee.

Steering Committee Members*

  • Éric Bauce (Chair), Professor, Département des sciences du bois et de la forêt
  • Josée Germain, Vice Rector, Administration and Finance
  • Angelo Tremblay, Vice Rector, Research and Innovation
  • André Darveau, Dean, Faculty of Sciences and Engineering
  • Rénald Bergeron, Dean, Faculty of Medicine
  • François Gélineau, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Marcel Babin, Scientific Director, Sentinel North and CERC in Remote Sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier
  • Yves De Koninck, Scientific Director, Sentinel North and Research Director, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec
  • Martin Fortier (nonvoting member), Executive Director, Sentinel North

*Deans of faculties involved in Sentinel North will be assigned seats on a rotating basis.

Strategic Advisory Committee

The strategic advisory committee makes recommendations to the scientific and executive directors regarding Sentinel North’s strategic plan, scientific priorities, and calls for proposals.

The committee comprises research centre scientific directors, Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) holders, user sector representatives (i.e., industry and government), and any other individual deemed necessary by the steering committee.

Strategic Advisory Committee Members*

  • Marcel Babin (Co-Chair), Scientific Director, Sentinel North and CERC in Remote Sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier
  • Yves De Koninck (Co-Chair), Scientific Director, Sentinel North and Research Director, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec
  • Edwin Bourget, Vice Rector, Research and Innovation
  • Louis Fortier, Scientific Director, ArcticNet Network of Centres of Excellence, Project Leader, CCGS Amundsen Research Icebreaker
  • Martin Fortier (Nonvoting member), Executive Director, Sentinel North
  • André Marette, Scientific Director, Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF)
  • Pierre Marquet, CERC in Neurophotonics
  • Younnès Messadeq, CERC in Enabling Photonic Innovations for Information and Communication
  • Gina Muckle, Professor, Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments
  • Denis Richard, Research Director, University Heart and Lung Institute of Québec
  • Thierry Rodon, Director, Interuniversity Centre for Aboriginal Studies and Research (CIÉRA)
  • Réal Vallée, Director, Centre for Optics, Photonics, and Lasers (COPL)
  • Warwick F. Vincent, Scientific Director, Centre for Northern Studies (CEN)

*Each research centre is initially represented by its scientific director but may subsequently designate an alternative representative to sit on the committee.

International Advisory Committee

The international advisory committee provides high-level advice to the steering committee, strategic advisory committee, and scientific directors regarding the program’s strategic and scientific thrusts. This advice is used for comparative analysis in accordance with international standards and to deal with the conflicting interests within the network structure.

The committee is made up of internationally recognized scientists and research figures.

Scientific Review Committee

The scientific review committee conducts evaluations, monitors progress, and makes recommendations to the scientific directors and the steering committee regarding research proposals received in response to calls for proposals by Sentinel North. The committee’s deliberations take the form of peer reviews.

The committee is composed of scientists and stakeholders from outside Université Laval who are recognized authorities in Sentinel North fields of research and have been selected in such a way as to limit potential conflicts of interest.


Canada First Research Excellence Fund


Launched in December 2014 as part of the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) invests approximately $200 million per year to support Canada’s postsecondary institutions in their efforts to compete with the best in the world, to seize emerging opportunities and strategically advance their greatest strengths on the global stage, and to implement large-scale, transformational and forward-thinking institutional strategies. These institutional projects must align the Government of Canada’s science, technology and innovation priority research areas.


A first competition, with a funding envelope of $350M, attracted 42 proposals from 36 universities. Following an exhaustive evaluation, de CFERF Steering Committee approved the funding of five proposals, including Université Laval’s Sentinel North.

With $98M in funding over 7 years, Sentinel North will deploy a multisectoral and transsectoral approach, built on a convergence of strategic research areas where Université Laval assumes a national and international leadership: Arctic sciences, optic-photonics, microbiota, cardiometabolic health and brain health. The program will support a wide range of expertise that can contribute to its research themes and to its objective of improving our understanding of environmental changes and of their consequences on human health in the North.