Laurier is one of four Canadian university partners leading Global Water Futures (GWF), the largest and most-cited freshwater research program in the world. The program aims to manage water futures in Canada and other cold regions where global warming is changing landscapes, ecosystems and the water environment. It also aims to position Canada as a global leader in water science for cold regions and to address the strategic needs of the Canadian economy in adapting to change and managing risks of uncertain water futures and extreme events.
GWF began in 2016 with $77.8 million in funding from the highly competitive Canada First Research Excellence Fund. It has since attracted a total funding package of $143.67 million through linked contributions from the University of Saskatchewan ($17.5 million), University of Waterloo ($15 million), McMaster University ($12.14 million), Wilfrid Laurier University ($10.58 million), and various industry partners. In addition, GWF partners include hundreds of researchers at dozens of higher educational institutions, multiple levels of government, international organizations, civil society organizations and Indigenous communities and governments.
Laurier also co-leads two unique GWF projects with Indigenous communities:
Through GWF, Laurier has secured funding for personnel dedicated to advancing our strategic priorities in cold regions and water science. The core Laurier team includes five technical staff who will work on field sites throughout the Northwest Territories (NWT) and support analytical and instrument libraries, a data management technician, and a knowledge mobilization research specialist.
Based out of the Yellowknife research office, Casey Beel works within the GWF team examining hydrometeorological change in the Northwest Territories.
Beel is in the final stages of his PhD from Queen’s University, where he is investigating the impact and response of river systems to permafrost degradation and hydrometeorological change in the Canadian High Arctic. Prior to joining Laurier, he completed two master's degrees, one in quaternary geology at Purdue University (USA), and the other in fluvial geomorphology at the University of Otago (New Zealand).
Beel will work with faculty members and graduate students to coordinate field research programs in the territory and work to advance our understanding of the interactions between hydrology and permafrost, and how these interactions are predicted to change as the climate continues to warm and precipitation patterns change. As the senior research associate, he will also provide leadership at Laurier’s Yellowknife Research Office.
Working with GWF researchers, Heather Dixon’s work focuses on the biomonitoring of ecosystem health in the NWT.
Dixon received her PhD from the University of Waterloo, where she investigated Atlantic salmon marine feeding using stable isotopes and gut contents analyses. Prior to joining Laurier, she worked at the Atlantic Salmon Federation, researching Atlantic salmon survival during their migration to the ocean using acoustic telemetry. As the research associate, biomonitoring, Dixon’s work will focus on the biomonitoring of ecosystem health in the NWT involving investigations of the responses of diverse biota to environmental changes and resource development.
Based out of the Yellowknife research office, Niels Weiss works within a research team focused on monitoring changing permafrost in the NWT. His work aims to understand permafrost landscape sensitivity by linking permafrost change to climatic, hydrologic, and geomorphologic change, as well as infrastructure and resource development.
Niels completed his PhD in physical geography at Stockholm University (Sweden) where he studied permafrost carbon quantity, quality, and dynamics. He worked in permafrost environments in northern Scandinavia and Russia, focusing on the fate of organic matter following thaw and thaw-induced landscape change. Before joining Laurier, Niels was a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University with Stephan Gruber, where he worked on a collaborative pan-Canadian synthesis of recent permafrost change.
Working with GWF researchers, Ana Sniderhan‘s work focuses on ecosystem resilience in the NWT.
Sniderhan completed her PhD at Wilfrid Laurier University, studying the growth dynamics of black spruce in northwestern boreal forests. Her research primarily used tree-ring records to determine how these iconic boreal trees have changed their growth patterns over recent history, but she also performed experiments with black spruce seedlings to help predict the resilience of the black spruce to a changing environment. As the Ecosystem Resilience Research Associate with the Northern Water Futures program, Ana will continue to work on questions concerning the broader plant community and changes the terrestrial environment is facing in the Northwest Territories.
Andrew Spring liaises between researchers, northern communities and organizations to build broad networks of researchers, communities, and decision-makers to help facilitate knowledge transfer and communication between all parties.
He completed his PhD at Wilfrid Laurier University, focused on food security in Canada’s Northwest Territories. His work explores the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of food security and food sovereignty, climate change and pressures exerted on country food and traditional economic activity in Indigenous communities.
Andrew has a diverse background in sustainability and the environment. Trained as an environmental engineer (MASc Toronto), his expertise is creating innovative programs to engage communities in sustainable planning or environmental conservation. Working with a diverse group of stakeholders, he aims to expand Laurier’s capacity to conduct research that meets the needs of people in the North.
Working with GWF researchers, Gopal Saha supports all aspects of data management, analysis, policy, access and archiving for the research team in the NWT.
Saha obtained his PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of Northern British Columbia, where he investigated the impacts of climate and land-use changes on groundwater-surface water interaction in the Kiskatinaw River Watershed, BC. Prior to joining Laurier, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Environmental Sustainability (IES) at Mount Royal University. At IES, Saha was lead investigator, examining the effects of hydraulic fracturing and its associated activities. His research examined surface water and groundwater levels and flows, environmental flow and groundwater contribution to surface water flow under climate change conditions in the Upper Peace River Region of Alberta.
Based out of the Yellowknife research office, Bridget Rusk works as the GWF Water Quality Research Associate.
Bridget completed her MSc at McGill University, where she specialized in Integrated Water Resource Management. Her academic research experience includes remote permafrost geomorphology investigations in the Beaufort-Delta region, field- and lab-based biogeochemical studies of the Apex River in Iqaluit, NU, and various wetland studies in eastern Quebec and New Brunswick. Prior to joining Laurier, Bridget was working in the consulting industry as an Environmental Scientist. Her project experience ranges from environmental assessments of contaminated landfills in Southern Ontario, to hydrogeological investigations of proposed development sites, to post-remediation monitoring in the High Arctic.
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