What does a summer job in hydrology entail? Meet Janelle Laing…

FaceShot_JanelleJanelle, an Environmental Science student at the University of Winnipeg, joined the WSRP in the summer of 2015 as an Ecohydrology Research Assistant to explore whether plants are preferentially utilizing tightly-bound water over free flowing water in various settings. Within a short period of time, Janelle learned a great combination of laboratory and field sampling techniques with the luxury of having her field sites within walking distance. Of course, Janelle also learned that as with any field-based project, one should always expect the unexpected as unforeseen situations may arise that are beyond control (e.g., “unforecasted” rainfall events, malfunctioning equipment and so on). Although frustrating at times, her struggles to sample appropriately sized and aged twigs from trees remains one of Janelle’s more memorable times when reflecting upon her first summer with the WSRP. And like many others, Janelle has appreciated the opportunities to work outdoors and with others in the group. Janelle’s work has continued throughout her studies into 2016 as she used the data collected during her summer work for her Honor’s Thesis.

Interview done and profile written by Jonathon Belanger

Our group at the 2016 CGU-CMOS meeting

Our group will be sharing findings about new research in surface and vadose zone hydrology, ecohydrohydrology and water water quality dynamics… with a strong focus on the Prairies. If you will be in Fredericton, NB between May 29 and June 2, 2016 for the 50th CMOS Congress & joint CGU Annual Meeting, come talk to us! List of presentations below:

Ali, G., Wilson, H., Penner, A., Ross, C., Rabie, M., Haque, Md. A., and Elliott, J. (INVITED). ‘Linking phosphorous export dynamics to landscape heterogeneity and climatic variability: can c-Q relations help?’

Haque, Md. A., Ali, G., Ross, C., Schmall, A., and Bansah, S. ‘Water storage dynamics in geographically isolated wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region’.

Bansah, S., Ali, G., Haque, Md. A., Laing, J., and Schmall, A. ‘A quick evaluation of water isotopic signatures and water travel times in a cold Canadian Prairie watershed’.

Ross, C., Ali, G., Belanger, J., Schmall, A., Walker, M., and Laing, J. ‘Assessment of the relationship between near-surface soil moisture and runoff generation in a near-level Prairie watershed’.

Rabie, M., Ali, G., Spence, C., Schmall, A., Ross, C., Haque, Md. A., and Bansah, S. ‘Variability of water quality in space and time in a cold, mesoscale, heavily engineered Prairie watershed’.

Laing, J., Ali, G., Casson, N., Moore, D., Hanson, M., Belanger, J., Bansah, S., Walker, M., Blunden, L., and Ross, C. ‘Plant water usage in a Canadian Prairie context: Using stable water isotopes to identify uptake sources’.


NSERC awards for two new group members

Congratulations to Manon Soulard and Kelsey Margraf for being awarded NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRAs). Manon and Kelsey will be joining our group this summer to work on hydrobiogeochemistry projects, more particularly on the water and nutrient exchanges that occur between surface and shallow subsurface soil layers at the edge of farm fields and within man-made drainage ditches. Welcome on board!

What does a summer job in hydrology entail? Meet Laura Blunden…

FaceShot_Laura1As a Hydrology and Biogeochemistry Field and Research Assistant, Laura’s summer 2015 position with the WSRP was as varied as her academic background and work interests. Laura will soon graduate with an Honors Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography, including a Minor in Biological Science, with aspirations to obtain a second degree at some point (possibly a Master’s degree or delving into Environmental Law). Either way, Laura has already proven she is a strong multi-disciplinary individual, passionate about the environment and with a drive to continue learning. A further testament to this, Laura was motivated to join the WSRP by “…the fact that the program provided training in multiple areas of research”. In a short amount of time, Laura found that she learned “Tons!” In just two months, she became familiar with different sampling techniques, filtered samples with Agriculture Canada, created maps and brochures and helped organized tours of experimental farms where hydrogeochemical research is taking place as part of the WSRP outreach. Despite having some high profile responsibilities in her work, Laura acknowledges that there are some days when you can expect to get your hands dirty: she cites having her rubber boots stuck in the mud as her most memorable (and recurring) moments. Like many others in the group, the opportunity to work outside remains a favorite aspect of working with the WSRP for Laura. And like others, leisure time is also spent outdoors camping, hiking or heading to the beach.

Interview done and profile written by Jonathon Belanger

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 does a summer job in hydrology entail? Meet Matthew Walker…


Meet Matt, the man who lives Environmental Science at work, at home and at play. A former Environmental Design and Architecture student, Matt joined the WSRP as a Biogeochemistry Field Assistant for the 2015 summer field season before entering his fourth and final year at the University of Manitoba in Environmental Science. Matt found his true passion in Environmental Science and Hydrology after taking a 3rd year Hydrology course with Genevieve (Ali). It was after this course that Matt decided about to learn more about rivers, streams, watersheds and how water transports chemicals and solutes in subsurface flows and throughout streams. Matt is a critical thinker and found that working with the WSRP gave him an opportunity to learn about Hydrology through a more holistic lens. He quickly learned the challenges of field-based research and that “…you never know what mother nature’s going to do”, citing a major rainfall event in which many instruments were damaged or floated away downstream. Fitting with his critical thinking, Matt also “learned a lot about farming and what goes on beneath the surface”, such as the intricate process from field to table that is often overlooked when we sit down for a meal. Matt is appreciative of the fact that working for the WSRP has “drastically broadened [his] perspective of how important the soil and water beneath really is”. Another, rather humorous, ‘challenge’ of field-based research Matt cites specific to his work was the side effects of working with blue dye and the awkward looks he would receive when noticing his blue hands, despite his valiant efforts to clean them. The most enjoyable part of working for the WSRP is that every day and every week is a little different and there is no redundancy, according to Matt. He also enjoys the opportunity to get outside often, given his passion for the environment, staying active and appreciating nature.

Interview done and profile written by Jonathon Belanger

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