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

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: http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=637306&playlistId=1.2425850&binId=1.1164782&playlistPageNum=1&fb_action_ids=10153468942578112&fb_action_types=og.shares

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oui4WQbbQg0

What does a summer job in hydrology entail? Meet Adrienne Schmall…


Don’t let the last name fool you… Ms. “Schmall” is already off to some very BIG things in academia and research! A Bachelor of Science student majoring in Geological Sciences, Adrienne joined the WSRP as Research Assistant in the field season of 2015 and she quickly made an impact. Motivated to find a working experience that combined both research and the opportunity to learn more about local water systems, Adrienne jumped on the opportunity to examine wetland-to-wetland connectivity on one hand, and water movement through soil profile and shale bedrock on another end. In addition to her contributions as a Research Assistant, Adrienne took part in the 68th Annual Canadian Water Resources Association Conference and represented the WSRP extremely well by winning the award for top poster over Masters and Doctoral students who had several years of research and conference experience compared to her 3 months on the job! In addition to learning various data analysis skills, Adrienne has become familiar with the use of different research instruments in her work, from water level recorders to automatic water samplers and soil moisture measuring probes. The opportunity to conduct fieldwork with other members of the group is Adrienne’s favorite part her job with the WSRP.

Interview done and profile written by Jonathon Belanger

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.