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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
February 5, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Working late in the Hudson Bay Lowlands.

Boreal Ecohydrology Research Group

Follow the links below to learn a bit about some of my current research foci. If you have any questions about any of these research areas please feel free to contact me at any time.

Hydrology, Ecology and Disturbance in the Western Boreal Forest

Examining the hydroclimatological linkages between wetland ponds and their surround upland areas and the resulting impacts on the regional carbon balance. Special emphasis is placed on quantifying the impacts of drought and succession on carbon storage in the wetland pond complexes. My research uses a combination of a) paired catchment forest harvest experiments at fine (10ha) and coarser (>10km2) scales, and b) hydrologic modelling to develop a management framework. This framework will be used to predict the influence of forest harvest practices and initiate studies on vegetation succession on water cycling as influenced by the geology and sub-humid climate of the WBF. We will develop landscape indices that provide information on an area’s response to particular disturbances and allow non-hydrologists to assess the hydrologic impacts of forest management practices (FMP’s) on harvested sites and forest succession on reclaimed landscapes.
Specific deliverables of benefit to the Canadian forestry and oil sands industries arising from the project include: 1) new or refined landscape hydrologic models to describe the hydrologic behaviour of existing and reclaimed landscapes representative of the Western Boreal Forest; 2) effective planning tools that can be used to develop rigorous and objective scientific criteria and recommendations for cumulative risk assessment of the hydrologic consequences of FMP at a given scale, and appropriate reclamation procedures and landscape configuration of oil sands leases; and 3) appropriate and defensible soil and hydrologic indicators for monitoring and assessing success of FMP and oil sands reclamation.
We anticipate that the management framework will allow results of our research to be applied to provincial water strategies and to serve as guidelines for integrated land managers at the provincial level. The framework can also be applied at the national scale, facilitating the transfer of research knowledge among different regions. Collaboration with Dr. K. Devito (University of Alberta), Dr. U. Silins (University of Alberta), Dr. C. Mendoza (University of Alberta), Dr. T. Gan (University of Alberta), and Dr. E. Butterworth (Ducks Unlimited).

Oil Sands Reclamation of Functioning Wetland Ecosystems

This research focuses around 2 main issues of importance to the oil and gas industries: 1) restoration/reclamation of wetland ecosystems impacted by oil and gas, and oil sands, development infrastructure (i.e. roads, well pads, etc.); and 2) the reclamation of areas where the extraction of tar sands has been completed via wetland construction.

The Japan Canadian Oil Sands Company (JACOS) has constructed several oil pads and roads in an area west southwest of Fort McMurray Alberta in order to tap into the oil deposits below their holdings. Some of this infrastructure is now being decommissioned and the company is now planning to restore the wetlands in which these roads and pads have been constructed, ensuring that their peat forming role in the landscape is maintained. A road constructed on a rich fen by removing the trees (Picea mariana & Larix larcina), covering the peat with a geotextile membrane, and subsequently by several layers of gravel will now serve as a prototype road reclamation site. This project will involve: 1) monitoring the ecohydrological conditions and vegetation on the previously reclaimed and natural portions of the site and 2) setting up and monitoring of different restoration treatments. A possible second aspect of the project will be to examine the physical and chemical properties of peat that has been buried below the clay layer for differing periods of time and to examine the viability of plant propagules therein. This work is done in collaboration with Drs. Dennis Gignac and Anne Naeth (University of Alberta) and JACOS.

In the oil sands development areas near Fort McMurray, where peatlands comprise up to 65% of the landscape, most of which are fens, active mining is occurring on over 250 km2 and is expected to cover approximately 1400 km2 by 2023 (Alberta Environment, 1999). Large tracts of undisturbed peatland are being removed in the process. This research will evaluate reclamation of a mined landscape to recreate a fen and its watershed on the SUNCOR land lease. A construction plan has been created and will commence Fall 2010. The goal is to create a self-sustaining physical environment that is carbon-accumulating, capable of supporting a representative assemblage of species and resilient to normal periodic stresses. Therefore, in addition to assisting Suncor Energy to comply with its legal obligation to reclaim fens to the post-mined landscape, the research is essential to understanding design implications and to the development of more optimal designs and protocols.

Carbon & Water Exchange in the Boreal-Subarctic Transition Zone

The primary objective of this research initiative is to assess the state of CO2 gas source/sink strength and evapotranspiration losses of terrestrial ecosystems in the climatically sensitive western boreal forest - subarctic transition zone 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 trace gas fluxes and evapotranspiration, and takes the geograhical focus of the Boreal Forest to Subarctic Tundra transition zone, as this is the region expected to experience the most rapid response to any climatic variability. Special emphasis is on landuse disturbance (i.e. canopy removal and surface alterations) on radiative/thermal regimes and the resultant impacts on mass fluxes to the atmosphere. This research incorporates a range of investigative techniques ranging from chamber and micrometeorological mass flux measurements and lidar based remote sensing. Done in collaboration with Dr. W. Quinton (Wilfrid Laurier University), Dr. M. Hayashi (University of Calgary), Dr. L. Chasmer (Wilfrid Laurier University), Dr. R. Schincario (University of Western Ontario) and Dr. S. Carey (Carleton University).

Carbon-Nutrient Cycling in Multiple Landuse Agricultural Basins

The objectives of this research are: (1) Studying basin scale evapotranspiration in the establishment of an antecedent hydrologic index to predict the export of nutrients, (2) Spatial variability in trace gas exchange, and (3) the effects of nutrient loading on the productivity of riparian zone wetlands. Done in collaboration with Dr. M.C. English (Wilfrid Laurier University), Dr. S. Schiff (University of Waterloo), Dr. R. Jamieson (Dalhousie University), Dr. D. Burton (Nova Scotia Agricultural College), and Dr. R. Gordon (Nova Scotia Agricultural College) within the framework of the Water Initiative CFI-Project and Rural Water Quality Project and BIOCAP-NSERC Strategic Grant.

Southern Rockies Watershed Project

The focus of this research is to collect data on stream discharge, water quality, precipitation/snowfall and weather in the local watersheds within the Crowsnest Pass region for research on the effects of the 2003 Lost Creek Wildfire on local watersheds. This research will include effects on water quantity and quality, stream ecology/fisheries, and other watershed values. Further, findings of this research will also be used to help develop ecologically sound management practices for Alberta’s Eastern Slopes forests and their watersheds. Research is done in collaboration with Dr. U. Silins (University of Alberta), Dr. M. Stone (University of Waterloo), Dr. A. Curry (Canadian Rivers Institute), and in partnership with Alberta Sustainable Resource and Development, National Water Research Institute, Oldman Watershed Council, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Alberta Ingenuity Fund – Water Resources.