Cold Regions Science

The International Network for Alpine Research Catchment Hydrology (INARCH) is a global collaborative research initiative in mountain hydrology and is led by John Pomeroy, Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change. Currently, INARCH coordinates research efforts at 23 international research sites and basins, four of which are in Canada. The overall objective of the initiative is to better understand alpine cold regions hydrological processes, improve their prediction and find consistent measurement strategies.

For more information, visit their website.

Climate and Atmospheric Science

Yanping Li, Assistant Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability is part of the PECAN (Plains Elevated Convection At Night) campaign, an international field experiment funded through the National Science Foundation held in Oklahoma/Kansas States involving scientists from NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research), many American universities, University of Manitoba from Canada, Universities and Institutes from Europe. This project focuses on the understanding of the physical mechanisms that contribute to the initiation of the warm-season nocturnal precipitation over US Great Plains. In addition, she collaborated with the hydrometeorology group at the NCAR Research Application Lab (RAL) on a Continental Scale Regional Climate modeling using 4-km WRF. This 10-year climate simulation covers both the continental US and south Canada. This project focuses on examining the extent to which global warming will affect the severity and occurrence frequency of extreme rainfall events over the Canadian Prairies as well as to diagnose the physical processes that could cause such changes.

In addition, Yanping Li, in collaboration with Profesors Roberto Rondanelli and José Rutllant from the University of Chile, is leading a project through the Canada-Latin America and the Caribbean Research Exchange Grants Program, using the Elqui Valley basin as an example to assess the water resources vulnerability of the Andes Western Slopes under climate change. The Field work monitors the Andes Barrier Jet under dry conditions using a SODAR. This is the first time in this basin that the wind has been monitored with a SODAR wind profiler. They are also monitoring the Andes Barrier Jet evolution.

Watershed Hydrology

Waterrelated problems continue to be at the forefront of environmental issues worldwide. Key to solving many of these problems is understanding watersheds research and developing new predictive approaches that work for the right reasons. Jeffrey McDonnell, Associate Director, GIWS has focused his work on basic questions regarding watershed hydrology of water delivery to streams through the examination of three basic questions:

  1. Where does water go when it rains (or when snow melts)?
  2. What flow path does it take to the stream?
  3. How long does it reside in the catchment?

His personal exploration of these issues in experimental watersheds has included research sites and funded projects in Canada, U.S. (GA, OR, WA, CA, SC, NY, VT, ID, AZ, NC, AL, AK), New Zealand, China, Japan, Luxembourg, Scotland, England, Sweden, Italy, Ethiopia, Chile, and Brazil, and his expertise in this area is sought by leading research groups world-wide. Recent high profile work on artificial experimental hillslopes includes experiments at Biosphere2, Arizona, where he has been drying down the tropical biome to assess new theories of water cycling by plants. He is cosupervising students and HQP at most of these above noted locations.

For example, Jeffrey McDonnell’s team is working at the Maimai Experimental Watershed on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The site has been the focus of catchment hydrology research since the 1970s. It stands as a quintessential steep, humid and temperate headwater system which has produced pivotal research offering insight to catchment hydrologists on the mechanisms and processes which transform rainfall into streamflow. Research at the Maimai has focused on understanding how a catchment stores, then subsequently releases water from different landscape positions, as well as how the flowpaths taken by water as it makes its way to the stream channel shape the timing, magnitude and chemical composition of the stream hydrograph. The extremely responsive nature of the hydrologic system at the Maimai has allowed researches to better identify the individual mechanisms controlling stream response in forested catchments. With more than 40 years of continuous investigation producing more than 100 research papers, the Maimai is one of the world’s foremost research catchments.

Understanding fresh water fluxes (plant transpiration, streamflow and groundwater recharge) are of fundamental importance for predicting the effects of global change on water security and ecosystem services. Therefore, Jeff’s group has been tirelessly conducting field campaigns to collect vegetation (i.e. stem), soil, groundwater, and stream water samples for stable isotope analyses from a wide range of site physiography as part of his Pantropical project. Isotope information will be used to leverage on existing site information that will be useful in understanding likely (meso to macroscale) controls on ecohydrological separation. Consequently, Jeff has 42 sites in Hawaii, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines sampled for the Pantropical two water worlds hypothesis project. In addition, other confirmed sites for the Pantropical project include Jamaica, Mexico, and Malaysian Borneo. Physiographic characteristics span a wide range: -83 to 1389 masl in elevation; 1000-3000 mm y- 1 rainfall; 1 to 20 degrees N of the equator; and from natural to plantation forest ecosystems.

Environmental Toxicology

John Giesy, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Toxicology and his research group at the Toxicology Center are conducting research of international significance in the area of eco-toxicology. In general the impact of their research is on social policy for the protection of the quality of water globally. They work on socially relevant issues to reduce uncertainty for policy makers. Consequently, their work has led to the banning globally of perfluorinated chemicals, which are now listed on the Stockholm convention and are working on projects that will lead to phasing out of perfluorinated chemicals in China. In addition, particularly in China, eutrophication is a huge issue, primarily due to the usage of fertilizers. Their work is making an impact on how to reduce the use of excess fertilizer in China. In addition, work in underway on writing the water quality criteria for China.

Currently, John Giesy and his group have active research sites in South Africa, Egypt, Germany, Czech Republic, Korea, China, Nepal, Tibet, Hong Kong, and US Great Lakes. Additional information about his group and activities are available on his research website.

Mine Reclamation

Lee Barbour, Syncrude-NSERC Industry Research Chair has active collaborations with Prof. Kevin Briggs, University of Bath, on measuring evaporation and cracking in moisture-limited soils, which is also linked to his work at the Queens University Belfast on hydrogeological responses within glacial till drumlins. This research was conducted at UK sites, which helped Lee Barbour to improve understanding of soil-atmosphere-vegetation-transfer (SVAT) processes in fractured soils related to clay-rich soils in the UK and mine waste in Canada. In addition, Lee Barbour in coordination with Jim Hendry, Cameco-NSERC Industry Research Chair maintains active collaboration with Dr. Wendy Timms from University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia in the area of stable isotope profiling and geo-lysimeters. This research has particular application on the impact of underground mining on groundwater disturbance in Australia and Canada.

Lake Biology

Michael Kehoe, Postdoctoral Fellow, GIWS is part of a successful project titled “A Flexible Underwater Distributed Robotic System for High-Resolution Sensing of Aquatic Ecosystems” funded through the SINERGIA programme, National Swiss Science foundation. The project is led by Alcherio Martinoli (Principal Applicant), Alfred Wüest, and Bastiaan Ibelings from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. It is a multi-disciplinary project, which will use autonomous underwater vehicles in conjunction with innovative instrumentation to measure the physical, chemical and biological parameters of freshwater lakes (Lake Greffen, Lake Geneva, Lake Hallwil) at extremely high resolution. This will allow greater understanding of how fine spatial structure in lake water columns contribute to phytoplankton population dynamics and diversity. A particular focus is on how phytoplankton blooms occur. Michael Kehoe is a collaborator on a subproject which will test how fine scale variation of turbulence in the water column promotes diversity of phytoplankton communities. Particularly, he will measure the sinking rate of individual phytoplankton cells using a methodology developed during his PhD programme.

A timely aspect of this project is that climate change is already changing the turbulent characteristics of oceans and lakes around the world. Information from this project will deliver novel technologies for lake (and ocean) sampling, improved hydrodynamic models and information on how turbulence affects phytoplankton communities. All of this will help to predict how climate change could impact the phytoplankton community composition and productivity in a changing climate.