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Wilfrid Laurier University Office of Research Services
September 22, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

Research Opportunities



Soil – Vegetation – Atmosphere Interactions...

...Especially as Influenced by Hydrologic Conditions (Petrone)

Specific questions of interest include trace gas exchange in wetland systems, interactions between vegetation and hydrology and climate (weather), and modelling the impacts of climatic and land-use stresses on these linkages. Present research focuses on catchment hydrological processes and their influence on wetland permanence in stressed northern ecosystems (Western Boreal Forest, Arctic Tundra (Coppermine River region)). This involves combining theoretical, laboratory and fieldwork examining micrometeorological, hydrological and trace gas exchange in heterogeneous vegetated systems.

Student opportunities: Seeking Masters, or Doctoral, student(s) with a strong background in climatology with excellent mathematical and computer skills.

 
Investigation of the Canadian Tundra Carbon Dioxide Exchange

(Petrone)

The primary objective of this research initiative is to assess the state of CO2 gas source/sink strength of terrestrial ecosystems in the Canadian Arctic and to understand the mechanisms that control carbon balance so that we can predict its potential fate under a changing climate. The research proposed here focuses on CO2 only. Done in collaboration with Dr. P. Lafleur (Trent University), Dr. P. Grogan (Queen’s University) and Dr. G. Henry (University of British Columbia). This project is funded by the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, and the Northern Studies Training Program. I am currently seeking masters students to investigate the role of freeze-thaw cycles in the shoulder seasons (spring, fall) on CO2 exchange processes in the 2005 and 2006 field seasons. Interested students should have a undergraduate background in climatology and biogeochemistry.

Student opportunities: I am seeking Masters, or a Doctoral, student(s) with a strong background in climatology with excellent mathematical and computer skills.

 
Hydroecology of Northern Freshwater Landscapes

(Wolfe)

The impact of climate change and variability on water resources is a pressing issue for northern freshwater landscapes in Canada. Water in these regions plays a central role in maintaining the ecological integrity of ecosystems, economic development and prosperity, and traditional use of the land and its resources by indigenous communities. Thermokarst landscapes are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Wapusk National Park (WNP) is located on the southwest coast of Hudson Bay on the Hudson Bay Lowlands (HBL) and thermokarst processes have contributed to creating over 10,000 shallow lakes, which provide key habitat for large populations of waterfowl and other wildlife. WNP was established in 1996 to protect a representative area of the HBL, yet little is known about the hydroecology of the freshwater basins that dominate this landscape, how they have responded to climate change and variability in the past, and how they will evolve in the future. In this region, projected warming by the late 21st century is intense. Lakes in WNP typically are <1 m deep and therefore are susceptible to becoming ephemeral, which would have associated ecological and biogeochemical consequences. Exponential increases in Lesser Snow Goose populations have also decimated some areas of the coastal tundra region in the park but little is known of their impact on aquatic ecosystems. Supported by NSERC's Discovery Grant, Northern Research Supplement and Discovery Frontiers programs, ongoing research focuses on assessing the relative importance of hydrological processes that govern present-day lake water balances, and identifying relationships among hydrology, limnology, biogeochemistry and aquatic ecology over time and space across the WNP landscape. Findings will provide the basis to hindcast and predict changes in hydroecological conditions in response to climate change and variability as well as rapidly expanding geese populations.

 
Deriving open tundra snow cover information...

...for climatological analysis from spaceborne passive microwave data, Coppermine River Basin, Northwest Territories (English)

We are looking for a masters student and a PhD student Special skills: ability to work in arctic winter conditions, some knowledge of stable isotopes, hydrology, remote sensing. Project Description: This study examines the distribution of snowfall within a large 2500km2 basin of the Coppermine River system in the low arctic tundra landscape some 325 km north of Yellowknife, NWT. Specifically the project will be comparing the volume of water within the snowpack which we have measured at a few hundred sites to a signal of naturally occurring radiation being emitted from the ground surface and the snowpack. A satellite measures this natural passive microwave radiation with radiometers. It is possible to measure different wave lengths of this radiation as some components of the radiation are emitted with less energy. By using two different wave lengths it is possible to ascertain how much water is available in the snowpack. This has been done in the prairie provinces of Canada where the landscape is reasonably simple. In the arctic tundra interpretation of the radiometer data is not as straight forward as for the prairies. In the tundra, small depressions in the landscape, like streams or river beds, accumulate very large amounts of snow while ridges may not have any snow accumulation; as well there is a large distribution of lakes and ponds in the tundra and the lake ice seems to interfere with the passive microwave radiation we are detecting with the radiometers on the satellite.

By utilizing radiometers placed nearer the surface we can discern differences in the emission of radiation from lake ice through the overlying snowpack. Using a small aircraft equipped with radiometers enables detection of passive microwaves over a larger area than the ground based system but at a much finer scale than the satellite. By comparing the different signals at the different scales the radiometers on the satellite, the aircraft and the ground instrument have it becomes possible to build a mathematical relationship which corrects errors inherent in the satellite image due to snow distribution or lake ice. In addition we will be sampling surface water and by using natural tracers within the water we can determine the percentage of the snowpack water that is reaching the lakes and streams and rivers through the springmelt and summer months.
Faculty contact: Mike English (Project PI) Co-PI’s: Chris Derksen, Anne Walker, John Gibson -- respectively: Meteorological Service of Canada, Climate Research Branch National Water Research Institute, Environment Canada and Dept of Geography, University of Victoria. Research Associates: Arvids Silis, Meteorological Service of Canada, Climate Research Branch. (click here to see faculty list and contact information)<

Funding agencies: Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (2005-2008) Canadian Water Network/NSERC Centre for Excellence on Water Quality(2000-2005) Polar Continental Shelf Project (ongoing) Indian and Northern Affairs Canada – Water Resources Branch- Yellowknife 1998-present) Water Survey of Canada – Yellowknife (2005) Broken Hill Property Limited (1998-present)

 
Ecohydrological and Biogeochemical Processes...

...in the Western Boreal Plain (Petrone)

This research examines the hydroclimatological linkages between wetland ponds and their surrounding upland areas and the resulting impacts on the regional carbon balance. Special emphasis is placed on quantifying the impacts of petroleum development, forestry, drought and succession on carbon storage in the wetland pond complexes, and linkages with the upland forested areas. Collaboration with Dr. K. Devito (University of Alberta), Dr. U. Silins (University of Alberta), Dr. C. Mendoza (University of Alberta), Dr. E. Butterworth (Ducks Unlimited Canada) and Dr. I. Creed (University of Western Ontario). Funding for this research comes from NSERC, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Alberta Pacific Forest Products, Syncrude Inc., the Sustainable Forest Management Network, and the Northern Studies Training Program. Dr Petrone is currently seeking a masters/doctoral student to investigate the sources of moisture for mature aspen stands under differing climatic stresses. Masters students are also needed to study the effects of vegetation succession on pond evapotranspiration and carbon sequestration, as well as assess the spatial variability in evapotranspiration with surficial geology in the Western Boreal Forest. Field work for these projects will involved remote work in the North-Central portion of Alberta. Interested students should have a solid background physical geography, climatology and some biogeochemistry, as well as a desire for work in the outdoors.

Student opportunities: Seeking Masters, or Doctoral, student(s) with a strong background in climatology with excellent mathematical and computer skills.

 
Synoptic Climatology and Surface Energy Balance Study

(Petrone)

This research will involve a synoptic climatological analysis of the Western Canadian Boreal Forest zone, and much of the Southern and Montane areas of Alberta, in addition to ground energy balance research at similar sites throughout the province, to study the influence of large scale weather on the surface hydrological regimes.This research will be in collaboration with K. Devito, T. Gan and U. Silins (University of Alberta). Funding for this project is provided by NSERC, Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Sustainable Forest Management Network and the Northern Student Training Program.

Student opportunities: Seeking Masters, or a Doctoral, student(s) with a strong background in climatology with excellent mathematical and computer skills.

 
Integration in Resource and Environmental Planning...

...and Management: Concepts, Methods, and Evaluation at Multiple Scales (Slocombe)

This project explores the theory and practice of integration (conceptual or informational, and procedural or practical) within the context of resource and environmental management (REM) for sustainability, conservation, and development. We are examining integration at several scales, with an emphasis on links among local and regional levels. The research focuses on case studies in the Nicola Valley, Northern Vancouver Island (each in B.C.) and the southwest Yukon (Kluane region). Cases from forestry, protected areas, community planning and regional planning, and regional development are inlcuded in this research. Funding agency: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Student opportunities: Masters and doctoral students with a background in one or more of: resource and environmental management; planning; policy and program evaluation, forestry, or protected areas management.

 
The Influence of Active Layer Development on Surface Water...

...Quality in Low Arctic Tundra, Coppermine River Basin, Northwest Territories (English)

Funding agencies: Canadian Water Network/NSERC Centre for Excellence on Water Quality (2000-2005) Polar Continental Shelf Project (ongoing) Indian and Northern Affairs Canada – Water Resources Branch- Yellowknife (1998-present) Water Survey of Canada – Yellowknife (2005) Broken Hill Property Limited (1998-present)

We are looking for a masters student who has some knowledge of hydrology and chemistry and is interested in conducting field research in the low arctic.
The storage and transfer of water within the arctic tundra landscape is strongly controlled by the depth of the active layer and its rate of growth. The relevance of this process is important not only to understanding the cycling of water within the tundra system but plays a very important role in dictating surface water chemistry. The depth of growth of the active layer is intimately tied into surface energy dynamics. In a changing climate scenario it is proposed that the active layer will increase in depth which will result in a change in hydrological storage and flow pathways and we suspect a change in surface water chemistry. Open pit mining in this area of the Coppermine River basin began four years ago at the Ekati Diamond mine, since that time the Diavik mine has opened and the Snap Lake project is in the initial stages of development. Associated with the open pit mines are high quantities of dust contamination which can alter snowpack surface albedo and promote earlier than normal melting of the snow and thus initiate earlier development of the active layer and perhaps deeper formation. Alteration of natural processes like this example play a role in possible change in surface water chemistry during the growing season. Another problem associated with the open pit mining industry is possible contamination of the tundra by byproducts associated with blasting rock. In this case deposition of ammonium on the landscape has increased since mining began in 1998. This research examines water issues related to the natural landscape and natural inherent variability in both the climatology and related hydrology.Co-PI’s : Sherry Schiff1, Chris Derksen2,1. Earth Sciences Department, University of Waterloo 2.Meteorological Service of Canada, Climate Research Branch.

 
Hydrology and Geochemistry of Groundwater - Surface Water...

...Interactions in a First Order Agricultural Watershed, Strawberry Creek Watershed, Near Mary Hill, Ontario (English/Petrone)

This project has opportunities for students who have a strong physical geography, chemistry or microbiology background. A four season project has been ongoing for eight years with four honours, four masters and a PhD theses completed at the site. In addition we have had one post doctoral fellow from Switzerland and a visiting scientist from Japan participate in research at this site. The scope of the project involves many aspects of catchment hydrology and chemistry. Specifically we are focusing on how groundwater processes play a role in nitrogen, carbon and phosphorous chemistry in agricultural catchments. We are currently developing a project with researchers from Nova Scotia which examines in detail nitrogen chemistry and how variable the nitrogen cycle is in agricultural catchments. This study will examine the link between controls on nitrogen cycling in the cultivated and fallow fields and nitrogen in subsurface runoff and losses to the atmosphere.PI’s Mike English (Faculty contact at WLU), Sherry Schiff1 and Richard Petrone2 Earth Sciences Department, University of Waterloo Geography, Wilfrid Laurier University. Funding agencies: Canada Foundation for Innovation (Water Initiative Group).