Category Archives: Field work

Testing the “two-water-worlds” hypothesis in southern Manitoba ~ by Janelle Laing

During the 2015 field season, members of our research group conducted a study on the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba; the study aimed to test the “two water-worlds” hypothesis, which suggests that plants preferentially access tightly-bound soil water over mobile soil water. We collected rainwater, streamwater, mobile soil water (using suction lysimeters), bulk soil, and mature tree and shrub twigs. All samples were then tested for stable water isotopes to compare the isotopic signature of the different water types, assuming that clustered water types originate from the same source.

Here is a video summarizing one day of sampling:

What is the relative importance of soil water versus bedrock groundwater?

While most of Prairies are relatively flat, the Pembina escarpment (also called Manitoba escarpment) is a striking topographic feature responsible for the presence of few steep-sloped landscapes in Manitoba. Because the escarpment is associated with the presence of different shale units and bedrock fractures, however, its impact on regional hydrology is probably much more complex than we think. To start tackling that mystery, Adrienne Schmall and Cody Ross set up a new project southwest of Miami, MB in the South Tobacco Creek Watershed. Adrienne will notably study water infiltration through soil and shale units just above the Pembina escarpment, and she will use both geological mapping and stable water isotopes to help her do that. Adrienne’s very first step was to do a little bit of plumbing to capture water seeping out of soil horizons and shale units, and that first step was completed in the past few days. See pictures below!


Soil horizons and shale units exposed in the South Tobacco Creek Watershed


Close-up view of PVC pipes and flexible tubing routing water from soil horizons (or shale units) to collection bottles

2015 MCDA Tour hosted by the Lasalle Redboine CD

As part of Laura Blunden’s summer experience with the Watershed Systems Research Program (WSRP), she played an instrumental role in partnering with various stakeholders and was fortunate to attend the Manitoba Conservation District Association’s (MCDA) tour. The tour was held on June 16, 2015 by the LaSalle Redboine Conservation District for the Pelly’s Lake watershed management project. During the tour, conservation and municipal officials opened the culvert gates that released water held from spring melt at Pelly’s Lake. The LaSalle Redboine Conservation District built the Pelly’s Lake dam last year in collaboration with many landowners who donated portions of their property for the project. This initiative allows the valley to back flood and mimic how the water would naturally flow over the landscape over time. The slower flow reduces flooding, improves habitat protection, and allows for cattails to take up the phosphorous from the water. The water is held in Pelly’s Lake wetland as part of a water management strategy in which every year approximately 5,000 kg of phosphorous are prevented from draining into Lake Winnipeg through the use of cattails. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) performed a cattail harvesting demonstration during the tour where participants learned about the uses of harvested cattails, including transforming them into biofuels and soil amendment products; meaning farmers no longer have to import soil amendment products from such long distances. CTV was present on site to conduct a news report of the event, which can be seen here:

Tour visiting Pelly's Lake Dam

Tour visiting Pelly’s Lake Dam

Pelly's Lake Dam

Pelly’s Lake Dam

Justin Reid and Colby Desender from LaSalle Redboine Conservation District

Justin Reid and Colby Desender from LaSalle Redboine Conservation District

Quick recap of the 2015 MSSS Tour

On June 18, 2015, Laura Blunden attended the Manitoba Soil Science Society (MSSS) tour with the University of Manitoba Watershed Systems Research Program (WSRP). The tour stopped at the Classen Farm, which is currently being studied by Ph.D. student Kokulan Vivekananthan and other researchers from the University of Manitoba and the University of Waterloo to see the effects of tile drainage and water retention on runoff and nutrient export from agricultural fields. For more information on the Classen Farm research you can download the pdf brochure: Classen Brochure Final_ReducedSize.

Colby Desender from the LaSalle Redboine Conservation District discussed the engineering of the water retention pond, while David Lobb and Kokulan Vivekananthan talked about the science behind the research, and farmer Carl Classen discussed the benefits of enhanced water drainage for his field. Some benefits include reduced flooding, healthier crops and less runoff of nutrients. Mitchell Timmerman from MAFRD (Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development) is a pedologist who was also at the tour and illustrated the impact of nutrient management in soils using a rainfall simulator. A short YouTube video is also available to see what type of research is conducted at the Classen Farm:

New dye tracing experiment this summer

A dye tracing experiment was conducted at the Classen site in the La Salle River watershed on June 8th, 2015. Blue dye was applied to two plots and soil profiles were excavated three days later to reveal the flow pathways present in the thick clay soils of the area. After getting covered in blue dye and a few blisters later, we were able to capture many photos of the stained soil profiles, which will be analyzed to determine the dominant flow processes.

Here is a quick video summarizing the experiment:

The experiment was planned and led by summer student Matthew Walker. Matthew also benefited from the help of fellow summer students Aaron Desilets, Brendan Brooks, Laura Blunden and PhD student Kokulan Vivekananthan for the dye application and soil profile excavation. Stay tuned for the results of the blue-dyed soil profile analysis.

La Salle River Watershed sampling in spring-summer 2015

Summer students Madison Hutchinson and Laura Blunden have been sampling surface water in the La Salle River Watershed throughout the summer! This work was done as a collaboration between the Watershed Systems Research Program, the LaSalle Redboine conservation District and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. All samples – collected weekly – will be analyzed for nutrients as well as stable water isotopes. Laura and Madison are pictured below at three of the sampling sites near Elie, West of Elie and Sanford.


2015 Spring Freshet in the Catfish Creek Watershed

Here is a quick update on our work in the Catfish Creek Watershed, near Pine Falls, MB, Canada: Cody Ross, MSc student, is currently conducting dye tracing experiments to assess the relative importance of overland flow and subsurface flow in the establishment of riparian-stream connectivity. The Catfish Creek Watershed is characterized by a near even mix of agricultural and forest land, and it is dominated by a large network of municipal and provincially controlled drains. This watershed is extremely responsive to snowmelt and rainfall events, which makes it a great candidate to conduct this kind of study. Want to see it for yourself? Check out two quick time-lapses compiled from field camera photographs captured at two locations within the watershed: a small stream flowing through a forested riparian area, and a man-made drain flowing through a grassland riparian area.

Grassland Site:

Forested Site: