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Research Grant Holders:

Mr. Shahid Khan & Mr. Kurt Rasmussen

Shahid Khan is a registered Professional Civil Engineer with over 30 years of experience in water and wastewater engineering throughout the province of Saskatchewan and is a recognized expert in his field of knowledge. He is directly involved in many pilot studies and research to implement new methods in water and wastewater treatment technology including in the north where extended winters, muskeg, permafrost and bedrock conditions dictate innovative approachesFor over 15 years, he was involved with the review and regulatory approval process of all municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities in Saskatchewan including the option of effluent irrigation (alfalfa, hayfield, etc).

Kurt Rasmussen is a registered Professional Environmental Engineer with 8 years of experience in project management, hydraulic pipeline modeling, conceptual pipeline design/estimating, environmental monitoring, contaminated site remediation supervision, hydrogeological investigations, regulatory compliance enforcement (environmental inspector) for natural gas and retail petroleum fuel facility demolition programs, environmental site assessments and remediations (including contaminant transport and plume delineation), and asset management. Kurt was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan and calls the prairies his home. He attended the University of Regina where he graduated with a degree in environmental systems engineering.

Both Shahid and Kurt from SaskWater will be working together on the Effluent Irrigated Woodlot Demonstration Project.

Effluent Irrigated Woodlot Demonstration Project

Climate change impact research suggests that Saskatchewan is becoming drier over time, making water in southern Saskatchewan an increasingly valuable resource. As water warms and water-flows decline, watersheds also become more vulnerable to ecosystem damage (i.e. degradation of water-body’s quality) from traditional effluent disposal practices. This suggests that land disposal systems for effluent may become increasingly appropriate for Saskatchewan.

This project will determine the feasibility of using fast growing hybrid poplar and willow trees for disposal of secondary/tertiary treated municipal wastewater effluent. An effluent irrigated woodlot is well suited for disposal of qualified community wastewater as poplar and willow trees are capable of up-taking large quantities of water and nutrient.

The project’s objectives are to quantify the minimum and maximum effluent and nutrient uptake by hybrid poplar and willow trees and to compute the sustainable agronomic rate with minimum leaching to potential underlying aquifers. Over half a dozen different species of hybrid poplars and several species of willow trees have been selected and will be assessed to see which species will be most suitable for effluent irrigation practices. The project will also assist SaskWater to develop design parameters and determine capital and operations & maintenance costs for effluent irrigated woodlots.

SaskWater’s vision is not only to address the immediate need for cost effective waste management technologies but to approach the matter holistically. We believe that wastewater is an untapped natural resource/commodity that could help communities adapt to a changing prairie climate.


Dr. Andrew Park

Andrew Park is an associate professor in the area of forest ecology at the University of Winnipeg. He has a diverse research portfolio that has included applied ecological investigations in tropical, temperate, and boreal forests, as well as participatory development in Malawi. Ecological subdisciplines in which he has worked include fire ecology, natural regeneration, gap dynamics, species-environmental relationships and forest hydrology. Over the last two years he has refocused his efforts on the adaptation of forest ecosystems to climate change. Andrew completed his B.Sc. at Simon Fraser University and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto.

A Framework for Managed Relocation of Forest Trees

Under global warming forestry practices will have to be modified, not just to adapt to a warmer future climate but to anticipate new climates with no historical analogues. Among the adaptive practices being considered is the “managed relocation” of forest trees from warmer environments to climate zones that are currently colder than they experience in their “natural” range. Although managed relocation is already practiced, we lack an adequate framework to evaluate tree species for their ability to adapt to novel climates, for social acceptability, and for potential ecological problems that they may cause. The goal of this research is to evaluate a suite of native North American tree species for their suitability for managed relocation into southern Manitoba. The research will tackle the following sequential objectives: (1) develop a framework for pre-screening tree species for their suitability for managed relocation, (2) investigate their likely response to future climate change using computer models to probe their growth and survival, and (3) establish planting experiments using a few selected species that will be monitored over the long term.



Mr. Iain Phillips

Iain D. Phillips is a scientist with the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority whose research focuses on the benthic macroinvertebrates of prairie watersheds. The majority of his lab’s work is in the south and east of Saskatchewan. Research will be focused around the lower Qu’Appelle River watershed for the summer 2007. His training is an undergrad degree in biology from the University of Regina, followed by a Masters in Ecology focusing on entomology at the University of Alberta. While finishing his B.Sc. Iain became involved in active research, first on pyrophilous beetles, then ants, and now on to aquatic insects. Iain grew up in the Qu’Appelle Valley north of Regina. He participates in canoe racing, cross country skiing and running along the river as the seasons permit, and feels privileged to be able to work in Saskatchewan again in landscapes he is so fond of.

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority - PARC Lower Qu’Appelle Benthic Macroinvertebrate Study

The Lower Qu'Appelle River is an important prairie watercourse which supplies drinking water, irrigation and recreation, and is heavily influenced by a variety of stressors imparted to it upstream in the watershed. Urban waste water, livestock, and in-stream sediment suspension all interact to create a limnological paradigm unique to southern Saskatchewan. This study on the Lower Qu’Appelle River seeks to shed light on the interaction between suspended sediment, and the biological expression of nutrient loads in the water. We hypothesize that high suspended sediment concentrations in the Qu’Appelle River force rapid light attenuation in the flowing water. This causes the aquatic ecosystem to be limited by light and not be capable of fully accessing all the nutrients in the water. Thus this flowing water body functions essentially as a nutrient pipe, moving high loads of nutrients to receiving lakes and reservoirs downstream with very little processing of the nutrients higher-up in the watershed. However, when the chocolate milk-coloured water enters downstream reservoirs, the reduced velocity allows the suspended sediment to fall out of suspension and light is able to penetrate deeper into the water column, which in turn allows for biological processing and activity. This has important implications for the management of downstream reservoirs such as the Fishing Lakes, and, ultimately, Lake Winnipeg.


Dr. Mary Vetter

Mary Vetter is Professor of Biology and Academic Dean at Luther College at the University of Regina. Her undergraduate honours degree is in Biology from Augustana College (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), her Master’s in Environmental Planning is from the University of Waterloo, and her Ph.D. in Botany is from Duke University. Her research is focused on the Holocene vegetation history of grasslands and southern boreal forest in Saskatchewan and Yukon, using pollen- and charcoal-based reconstructions, and on the Flora of Saskatchewan project for which she serves as President of the Board.

Flora of Saskatchewan Research Project Summary:

Close to 75% of the original Canadian grassland habitats have disappeared as a result of agriculture, urbanization, and resource development. The small size and isolation of most remaining grasslands means that many cannot maintain viable plant and animal populations. Although climate change scenarios for the northern Great Plains all show an increase of grassland northward into what is now parkland and southern boreal forest, these grasslands will change in composition and continue to be challenged by small size and isolation. It is critically important to conduct detailed assessments of individual grasslands and characterize their spatial distribution in order to guide conservation and management efforts under climate and land use changes.

There is as yet no complete flora guide for Saskatchewan, and a comprehensive guide to graminoids in particular is sorely needed. Graminoid (grasses and grass-like plants in the families Cyperaceae, Juncaceae, and Poaceae) identification presents many challenges for all but graminoid taxonomic specialists. Without knowledge of the existing graminoid flora and the tools to monitor grasslands in the future, adaptation of ecosystem management strategies will be poorly informed. This project will produce a complete taxonomic treatment of the graminoids—native and currently-known exotics—that are found in Saskatchewan and will comprise a section of the Flora of Saskatchewan. The Guide will include a general introduction to the morphology and ecology of graminoids; keys to the families, genera, and species; detailed species descriptions, habitat, distribution maps and line drawings; and an illustrated glossary. Saskatchewan’s first Flora is being written in sections by a consortium of botanists in the province.

Dr. Björn Wissel

Björn Wissel is the Analytical Chemist and Laboratory Manager of EQAL (Environmental Quality Analysis Laboratory) in the Faculty of Science at the University of Regina, where he also holds an appointment as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biology. Before coming to the University of Regina, Björn obtained a BS in Biology from the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, and a MS in Hydrobiology from the Technical University Dresden, in Dresden, Germany. Subsequently, he earned his PhD in Biology at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he stayed on as a post-doctoral fellow in Oceanography. His research predominantly focuses on food web analyses and conservation biology in a variety of aquatic systems, ranging from lakes, rivers, estuaries, to the coastal ocean. As a major tool to improve the quality of his research, Dr. Wissel combines stable isotope analysis with traditional sampling techniques. His work has been published in a number of biological and ecological peer-reviewed journals, and currently he holds an NSERC Discovery Grant to partially support his latest research on prairie lakes.

Prairie lakes as early indicators of climate change

Currently, the Canadian prairies experience a fairly dry climate, which promotes the formation of many saline lakes in this area. Food webs in these lakes are very diverse, but seem to be most sensitive to changes in salinity, whereby the most dramatic changes in food web composition occur at the transition from sub-saline to saline waters. Global climate change models predict that the climate in the Canadian prairies will get warmer and drier. As a consequence, salinity will increase from sub-saline to saline in many prairie lakes, and water-use practices will add additional strain to these aquatic environments. Since food webs in saline lakes are known to be particularly susceptible to a warming climate, it will be tested if these systems could act as early indicators of climate change across the prairie region. Salinity-based models for habitat loss should not only identify the impacts of climate change on human activities (e.g. recreation, fisheries), but also illustrate how various water use practices could intensify the severity of the impacts of climate change on prairie lakes. Based on model outcomes, management options and recommendations will be developed that are aimed at protecting the ecological integrity of prairie lakes as well as their values for human use.

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Scholarship Holders:

Carmela Bahiyyih M. Arevalo

Carmela B.M. Arevalo is currently a Ph.D. student at the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta. She completed her Masters degree in Forest and Natural Resources Management at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, with the support of a Fulbright scholarship and of the SUNY-ESF Short Rotation Woody Crops Program. Her research is focused on selecting and investigating plantation management techniques for hybrid and native balsam poplars as an adaptation strategy to climate change. Her work centers on being able to contribute towards helping the environment and human society face drier climates in the future. Her research interests also include tree-crop interactions between cover crops and short rotation woody crops grown together as an agroforestry system. More recently she was involved in the development and validation of aboveground biomass equations derived from various regression models for use with bioenergy crops in central New York. Originally from the Philippines, she worked for five years as a college instructor in agroforestry at Occidental Mindoro National College; and for one year as a laboratory assistant for the International Rice Research Institute at Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.

Selection of hybrid and native balsam poplars for water use efficiency as a strategy of adaptation to climate change in Alberta

Climate change is expected to heighten air temperatures, bring about serious summer soil moisture deficiencies, and increase the frequency and duration of droughts in parts of the Prairie Provinces . Potential impacts include decreases in agricultural crop yields, northward shifts of the boundary of the parkland region, and decreases in the productivity of native tree species in areas they currently exist. Adaptation to climate change in forestry may involve addressing land degradation in the Prairies through the establishment of short rotation woody crop (SRWC) systems and selecting species that have high water use efficiencies suited to adapt to the projected drier future climate. This study will select the best native hybrid and native balsam poplars that will produce high biomass yields and have the highest water use efficiency under predicted drier conditions and investigate plantation management techniques for growing poplars that have the best opportunity to adapt to the changing climates. Water use efficiency will be investigated using the carbon-13 stable isotope technique. Based on the research, the study will make specific recommendations for tree species adaptation and related management techniques in the Prairies for the future.

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Jodi Axelson

I am an M.Sc student in the Department of Geography at the University of Regina. I received my B.Sc. from the University of Victoria, where my research focus was on dune migration and morphology on East Beach of Haida Gwaii, BC. This research introduced me to natural proxies, such as tree-rings, to infer past environmental conditions. My current research focuses on hydroclimatic variability in the South Saskatchewan River basin using tree-rings as a natural proxy. My field work has been based in south-western Alberta, where I have collected tree-ring chronologies from Douglas-fir and limber pine stands. I have used these chronologies to estimate what hydrological conditions were like prior to the 20th century. I believe by looking into the past we are better able to manage water resources in the future. I look forward to working with tree-rings and hope to have the chance to explore other natural proxies to examine past climate in the future.

Historical Streamflow Variability in the South Saskatchewan River Basin inferred from a Network of Tree-ring Chronologies

The growing dependence on water resources in the Prairie Provinces has resulted in increasing vulnerability to hydrological drought. It is estimated that prairie droughts will become more severe and more frequent because of climatic warming, which will likely put a strain on already heavily apportioned surface water resources in the Saskatchewan River Basin.

Instrumental/observational records of only 30-50 years greatly limit the identification and assessment of hydrological and climate trends and variability in Canada. One way to overcome the limitations of observed data is through paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Tree-ring reconstructions of streamflow in North America show that during the 20th century there were sustained periods of high flow conditions, which is especially important as many apportionment agreements were drafted during this time using limited instrumental data. Reconstructions of streamflow in the South Saskatchewan River Basin and its sub-basins will increase the time scale that we are able to examine hydroclimatic variability by over 300 years, and in some cases over 600 years, which will contribute to the understanding of long-term and future variability of water supplies in the Prairie Provinces. The results of this research can assist planners and policy makers with both risk management and resource forecasting.

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AKM Bhuiyan

A K M Bhuiyan is a PhD student at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Environment and Geography. Mr. Bhuiyan holds a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the same University. During his MSc. he was involved with a climate change impact assessment project entitled “Climate Change Damage Tolerant Transportation Infrastructure in Manitoba”. He completed his BSc. in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangladesh. After graduation, he worked with a Local Government Engineering Department, Bangladesh where he was involved with rural infrastructure development as well as technological improvement. His research interests are climate change impact assessment, climate modeling, downscaling climate data for regional impact studies, and the improvement of land surface schemes suitable for northern research.

Modelling Climate Change in Northern Manitoba with a Focus on Surface Processes

Short and long-term impacts of climate change are still poorly understood, but it is clear that these changes are expected to be significant in different regions. We are already experiencing changes in Manitoba, particularly in northern Manitoba. Many of these changes are predicted to continue, and amplify in the future. The spatial resolution of General Circulation Models (GCMs) used for future climate projections is improving. However, it is still insufficient to capture the fine-scale structure of climatic variables which is necessary for some impact assessment studies. Climate study groups are using different techniques to enhance the resolution of global model outputs. The objective of this research is to use larger scale models to examine the context of regional climate change relative to hemispheric and global scale changes under historic and future climate model projections. This research will focus on using high-resolution regional (or limited-area) climate model output with simple lateral boundaries, and driven by the output from Canadian GCM from the Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis (CCCma) to obtain higher resolution model output over the Canadian Prairies.

Climate modelling in the sub-Arctic is challenging as the region’s climate processes and feedbacks are insufficiently understood. Surface processes are loosely defined. This is identified as the most serious shortcoming of present-day arctic climate modelling. In this study, the emphasis will be to improve the land-surface schemes as the sub-Arctic land types have special features that are not well represented in the present generation of climate models. A 1-D coupled surface-atmosphere model (CLASS coupled to an AGCM) developed by the CCCma may also be used to investigate surface-atmosphere processes in more detail.

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Matthew Braun

Matthew Braun was born in Saskatoon and grew up on a small grain farm near Osler, Saskatchewan. After high school, Matthew spent three years studying in Winnipeg, earning a Bachelor of Theology. His next educational interest was in agriculture and the environment. This he pursed at the University of Saskatchewan, with one year as a visiting student at the University of Manitoba. After completion of his undergraduate degree in agriculture, which included graduating with great distinction and winning an Undergraduate Student Research Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Matthew started his master’s degree under the supervision of Dr.’s Bai and McConkey. Nearing the completion of his third degree, Matthew plans to move, with his wife Julie, to the arctic area of Canada. Matthew hopes to work for an environmental consulting agency while Julie will employ her social work. They both hope to continue travelling and meeting new people, while retaining a sense of community wherever they live.

Rangeland management under climate change

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been linked to global climate change which has been predicted to increase annual temperatures on the Saskatchewan prairies. Emissions of GHG are the result of specific soil water, nitrogen and carbon levels. Vegetation management in the topographically complex rangelands of Saskatchewan controls the efficiency of both water and nutrient use and therefore GHGs. This project attempts to quantify rangeland GHG and isolate management that would limit the water and nutrient loss they represent. Gas samples are collected from a 100 acre pasture in the Missouri Coteau using sealed chambers. These samples are analysed to determine the soil’s production or consumption of nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). During the collection season environmental parameters are continually monitored to compare GHGs and vegetation management on the rangeland site. Species composition and vegetation production data help link GHG to vegetation management on the site. In the face of changing climate, the necessity of reducing GHG emissions also requires the adaptation of ranching practises to more efficient use of soil water and nutrients. This information will help rangeland managers adapt to changes in prairie climate by decreasing soil water and soil nutrients losses on complex landscapes.

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Yanpeng Cai

Mr. Yanpeng Cai is a PhD student of the Environmental Systems Engineering Program at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Regina. He graduated from Beijing Normal University with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Mr. Cai’s research interests cover the areas of systems simulation and optimization, environmental and energy systems planning and management, uncertainty analysis, and adaptation planning for climate change. He is working on several major projects supported by institutions such as Environment Canada and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. After completion of graduate studies, he hopes to be a researcher or scientist at universities or institutions in Canada.

An optimization-simulation approach for integrated management of forests and water resources under changing climate conditions in the Swift Current Creek Watershed

Issues related to water resources and forests under changing climatic conditions are major concerns in most watersheds across Canada. This is especially true in Canada’s Prairie Provinces, which are sensitive to climate change. By the end of the 21st century, the mean annual temperature increment for Canada’s Prairie Provinces could be 2 to 5°C above the range of temperatures that have occurred over the last 1,000 years. An increase in winter precipitation and a decrease in summer precipitation may also occur. These changes would significantly affect hydrologic regimes and indigenous forest ecosystems in this region. It is necessary to develop an effective method for investigating impacts of climate change on forest and water resources management under various human interventions. The objective of the proposed research is to develop an integrated modeling system that involves a general simulation-optimization based framework for predicting hydrological and ecological responses to climate change and human activities, and facilitating decisions for adaptation measures at a watershed scale. Such a method could thus foster a holistic consideration for obtaining desired adaptation strategies within the integrated management of water resources and forests in a watershed.

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Sophan Chhin

I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta and hold an Alberta Ingenuity Scholarship and an Honorary Killam Scholarship. I was also a recent recipient of an NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship. I am previously from Winnipeg where I completed a B.Sc. in Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Winnipeg, and an M.Sc. in Botany with the support of an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship. My past work in forest ecology has appeared in several international journals including the Journal of Biogeography, Tree-Ring Research, Dendrochronologia, and Global Change Biology. My general research interests are to contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of forest ecosystems over a range of spatial and temporal scales. I wish to continue to pursue and share my research interests as a university professor.

Forecasting the impacts of climate change on the productivity of lodgepole pine forests

Adaptation to climate change requires climatically sensitive forest growth and yield models which will allow for long-term, sustainable forest management planning. In Alberta, lodgepole pine is the most common tree species in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent foothills regions, and is important to Alberta’s forest industry. To ensure the sustainable management of lodgepole pine forests, it is important to quantify what impact a warmer climate may have on productivity. The general objective is to examine the impact of climate (temperature and precipitation) on the productivity of lodgepole pine forests sampled through an extensive site network that covers northern, west-central, south-western, and south-eastern Alberta. Specifically, the objectives include quantifying (1) diameter growth-climate relationships using the technique of tree ring analysis; (2) height growth-climate relationships using the technique of stem analysis; (3) stand density-climate relationships using mortality data collected from permanent sample plots; (4) projections of growth and mortality under different climate change scenarios; and (5) climatically sensitive calculations of annual allowable cuts in timber supply models and implications to forest management planning and harvesting practices. The study will provide important insight into how forest zones will change in terms of distribution and productivity under a warmer climate. Ultimately, the study will contribute to forest management strategies that would be responsive to climate change.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is currently a M.Sc. student at the University of Regina in the Department of Biology, where he received his B.Sc. in Biology in 2007. Before attending university, Ryan received a diploma in Water Resources Engineering Technology at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST). Subsequently, he was employed with an engineering consulting firm and worked throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta, where his duties included Environmental Site Assessments, supervising bioremediation projects, piezometer installation, and water and soil sampling.

Ryan’s current research focuses on using stable isotopes combined with standard limnological techniques to quantify energy transfer through the various trophic levels in saline Prairie lakes. He was introduced to stable isotope techniques during his undergraduate studies, and will apply these techniques in his research. The goal of his research is to adapt fisheries and fish habitat management in the Prairies to help withstand the effects of climate change.

Managing Saline Prairie Lakes during a Changing Climate

Due to the sub-humid to semi-arid climate in the Canadian prairies, lakes are susceptible to changes in the hydrologic budget. Accordingly, in endorheic (interior) drainage basins where evaporation exceeds precipitation, the formation of saline lakes is common. Recent climate models predict that the prairies will get even drier, resulting in higher salinities. Generally, biodiversity and species richness decrease with salinity. For fish survival, salinity tolerance is usually 1-5 g/L, but natural reproduction is commonly limited to even lower salinities. Consequently, fish populations in many sub-saline prairie lakes can only be supported through continual stocking with fish fry. Once salinity increases in response to climate warming and sub-saline lakes become saline, many lakes will be at risk of impoverishment or complete loss of fish communities. These effects could either be conveyed directly due to salinity stress or indirectly due to changes in prey availability.

This project will examine food-webs of several lakes in southern Saskatchewan, with special attention to the reliance of fish on planktonic versus benthic prey. This study will identify lakes that are at risk of biodiversity loss and fish extirpation due to fluctuating salinity, and develop long- and short-term management solutions to maintain fisheries during potential climate change.

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M. P. Giradin

I completed my undergraduate studies in Biology at the Université of Québec à Montréal including an undergraduate research project about the impact of larch sawfly defoliation on tamarack’s growth in wetlands of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Québec. This little project led me to develop a research project for my master degree. In 1999, I started my M.Sc. research at the Université du Québec à Montréal. The main objectives were to document the respective importance and the interactions of climatic variables and larch sawfly outbreaks on the dynamics of tamarack dominated wetlands. The results highlighted the contribution of several factors on the recruitment, growth and mortality of tamarack. In winter 2001, I entered the Ph.D program in Winnipeg. My work consists on analysing the relationships between radial growth of 13 tree species and climate (temperature, precipitation, drought, and atmospheric circulation). By using old living specimens and species climate response functions I intend to reconstruct the history of summer drought (as modeled by the Canadian Drought Code) and atmospheric circulation (position and frequency of ridges and troughs) in the eastern half of Canada for the past 300 years.

Spatiotemporal variability in climate and forest fire across the Quebec-Manitoba corridor reconstructed from tree-rings

In this project we aim at projecting the response of the boreal forest to climate change using historical and proxy records. Current forest-climate models are limited by uncertainties associated with climate models and the challenging modelisation of response functions that do not necessarily reflect adequately the physiological processes of vegetation. At the southern limit of the boreal forest, the distribution of tree species and forest types is largely influenced by the occurrence of spring and summer climatic patterns. Hardwood species are negatively affected by spring warmth that may break bud dormancy and exposes trees to frost damages. Conversely, conifers can take advantage of spring warmth by preserving their needles throughout the year. Both groups are however negatively affected by summer moisture stresses, hardwoods being affected at a lesser extent. This underlined the sensitivity of tree species to climate variability. This simplified view of how climate relates with tree species growth can be modelled and used to forecast species response to climate change. In addition, the tree growth and climate relationship can also be used to reconstruct the past history of climate, providing the climate dynamics community with proxy records that can be used as means of verification in their climate models. One objective of this project is notably a 300-years reconstruction of past atmospheric circulation over the Boreal Shield and eastern Boreal Plains using a dense network of tree-ring chronologies. This will document the evolution of climate and forest disturbances and will question the possible implication of oceanic-atmospheric couplings. These new contributions will allow us to 1) better take into account the climatic constraints to forest dynamics in the management plans, 2) contribute to the integrative assessment of the global vulnerability and adaptive capacity of forests (natural and under management), and 3) better anticipate future changes in the composition and structure of forest by projecting known climate-forest relationship in climate change models.

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Ryan Hangs

Ryan was raised with a healthy respect for the environment and the need for sustainable stewardship practices. In his words, “Even though I’m a ‘city boy’, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that the soil is the basis of all terrestrial biota, including you and me, so it is imperative that the earth be managed in a sustainable manner.” Ryan is currently working on a Ph.D. in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Saskatchewan. His Master’s work investigated forest soil fertility and outplanted conifer seedling nutrition. His research has since supported the fertilization of approximately 15 million seedlings annually. Ryan has received numerous awards and distinctions in both academic circles and the industry at large. Over the years he has gained invaluable experience through participation in professional and extracurricular activities that have served to enrich his perspectives and to develop his communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. Without question, however, he considers his ongoing commitment to being a dedicated husband to Lisa and diligent and loving father to Rosalie and Raymond his most prized aspiration.

Development of Hybrid Willow Bioenergy Crops as an Adaptation Strategy to Climate Change in Saskatchewan

As the world population continues to increase, the need for a reliable, clean, and renewable source of energy is becoming increasingly vital. The establishment of short-rotation intensive culture plantations, such as fast-growing shrub willow (Salix spp.), represents a compelling purpose-grown bioenergy crop option. This Ph.D. research addresses two adaptation mechanisms to climate change in the Canadian prairie provinces, namely: i) mitigating climate change through the development of hybrid willow bioenergy crops, representing a renewable and much cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, along with effecting tremendous belowground carbon sequestration, and ii) selecting appropriate willow clones possessing higher water-use efficiencies, which will be better suited to the ensuing drier climates. This work will help to fill the current knowledge gap regarding cultivating short-rotation intensive culture willow plantations in Saskatchewan, with applications to other Canadian regions. Positive, measurable outcomes are anticipated for agricultural diversification in the face of climate change, the renewable energy industry desiring reliable biomass feedstock alternatives, and strategy development for Canada’s Kyoto commitments.

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Li He

Mr. Li He earned his Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Hunan University, P. R. China, in 2002. In 2003, he was accepted for admission in the PhD program in Engineering at the University of Regina. Mr. He’s research area is mainly on groundwater modeling, watershed management, climate change, and uncertainty analysis. He has produced several publications in his research areas. Mr. He hopes his research achievements will be helpful for supporting decision analysis and policy analysis in surface and ground water resources management. On obtaining his doctoral degree, he hopes to be a professor at a university, and thereby further pursue his research and teaching interests.

Climate Change and Groundwater Resources: A Modeling System for Supporting Adaptation Planning and Strategy Analysis in the North Saskatchewan River Basin

Over the past decades, the major concerns of the North Saskatchewan River Basin’s groundwater managers have been to meet demands for regional economic development and to reduce the risks of water shortage and water pollution. River basins in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces, are facing potential climate change problems. Research on adaptation planning and strategy analysis of groundwater resources management is urgent for sustainable development of these basins.

The objective of this project is to develop an integrated groundwater management system for planning of adaptation to climate change in the North Saskatchewan River Basin. The system will provide a tool for analyzing the interactions and interrelationships between climate change and groundwater resources. It is also expected to be able to support the decision analysis and policy analysis in groundwater resources management under the changing climate. In the first stage of the project, prerequisite data in the North Saskatchewan River Basin will be investigated through extensive field trips, literature review, and downscaling/upscaling modeling approaches. In the second stage, an integrated modeling system will be developed for adaptation planning of the groundwater resources in the basin.

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Allison Henderson

Originally from Yorkton, SK, Allison is a passionate naturalist with a diverse background in biology. Her experiences in biological research have taken her to fascinating places: the algal ‘forests’ of B.C’s intertidal zone, bat roosts in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, and a seabird breeding colony in B.C’s Scott Islands. In 2005, she completed a MSc in Biology through Simon Fraser University that explored insect ecology on Costa Rican coffee plantations. During her BSc studies at the University of Saskatchewan she discovered beautiful Grasslands National Park where she recently worked as a Species at Risk technician. She is currently pursuing a PhD in grasslands conservation planning through the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan. She aspires to a career as a professional wildlife biologist.

Species at Risk Action Planning in the Grasslands of Southwestern Saskatchewan: Linking land management, rangeland health and grassland bird abundance

In Saskatchewan, climate change is a key factor in the future of native prairie grazing management. Our province’s remaining native prairie supports livestock production and provides important breeding habitat for grassland songbirds, including at risk species like Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii) and McCown’s Longspur (Calcarius mccownii). Prevention of further loss and degradation of their native prairie habitat is directly dependent on land-management decisions, in particular grazing management. Grazing management affects vegetation features that are thought to influence habitat quality for grassland songbirds. Range health assessments can be used to monitor grazing management on native prairie and can detect habitat loss - a key threat for grassland avian species at risk.

My interdisciplinary research will examine the relationship between factors influencing native prairie land-management, range health and avian species at risk abundance on private, provincial and federal native grassland of southwestern Saskatchewan. I will interview land-managers to identify social factors that influence grazing management decisions and determine whether land-manager perceptions of species at risk reflect potential for voluntary stewardship. I will use measures of range health and grassland songbird abundance to determine whether optimal management of native prairie yields optimal grassland songbird habitat. My results will determine whether range health indices can provide a novel way to achieve habitat-related grassland songbird recovery goals while optimizing production for land-managers. As part of this work, I will assess regional perceptions of climate change and discuss the implications of a changing climate on variables of range health.

Jessica Henderson

I am currently an M. Sc. student in Geography at the University of Regina. I received my B.Sc. from the University of Regina in 2005. My undergraduate research focused on determining the impacts of changes in climate on Northern Saskatchewan vegetation using remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems. After completing my undergraduate thesis, I became interested in learning more about how climate change affects the ecosystems of Saskatchewan. My current research centres on climate change on the Saskatchewan prairies, specifically Grasslands National Park. After the completion of my graduate degree I hope to continue working in the field of Geography and further develop my understanding of the prairie environment.

A Comparison of Managed Ranch Land and Natural Prairie Grassland Responses to Past Climate Influences and Future Adaptations to Climate Change through Time-Series Analysis of Remote Sensing Imagery

Grasslands National Park is a mixed grass prairie ecosystem located in southern Saskatchewan along the U.S.-Canadian border. Throughout the last century, vegetation in the Grasslands National Park area has undergone extensive changes, from natural prairie grassland to ranching and agriculture. Since 1981, Parks Canada has been acquiring land in the Val Marie-Killdeer region in order to return this land to a natural prairie ecosystem. It has been suggested that climate change will have impact on the health and productivity of national parks, especially those in the prairies. An increase in temperatures in all seasons is predicted, as well as decreases in summer and fall precipitation. The ecosystem in the Grasslands National Park area is expected to change from grasslands to semi-arid with a concomitant shift from mixed-grass to short-grass prairie.

This research focuses on Grasslands National Park and surrounding ranch lands in southern Saskatchewan. Changes in vegetation evident in remote sensing imagery acquired over the last thirty years are analyzed in an attempt to understand how they relate to variability in climatic conditions over the same period. Both unmanaged, natural prairie environments (principally within the park boundaries) and managed ranch lands (found in adjacent areas) will be examined. Similarities and differences that recent climate changes have had with these land uses will be documented. This knowledge will help provide more reliable predictions for how these environments will be impacted under future climate change scenarios and will assist both park managers and ranchers in adapting their management strategies to the new climatic norms.

Valerie Hongoh

Valerie Hongoh is currently a M.Sc. student in the Department of Geography at McGill University. She holds a previous B.Sc. in Environmental Science from McGill University as well as a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Concordia University. She worked as a software developer for five years before returning to pursue studies in Environmental Science. During her degree in environment, Valerie received an undergraduate NSERC scholarship to examine Host-Parasite Population Dynamics. In 2008, Valerie was awarded a NSERC PGS-M scholarship as well as a FQRNT (Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies) scholarship (declined) to pursue her Master’s research. Her current research is focused on the impacts of climate change on mosquito-borne disease in Canada. Upon completion of her M.Sc., Valerie is interested in pursuing research in the area of environmental change and ecosystem health.

A general approach to predicting the effects of climate and climate change on the occurrence of mosquito-borne diseases in Canada

Mosquito-borne disease is currently not a major source of mortality in Canada; however, recent experience with West Nile virus (WNV) in the Prairie Provinces may be an indicator of changing patterns of vector-borne disease and increasing related health risks in Canada. Vectors such as mosquitoes are known to be highly sensitive to changes in climate and the habitat distribution of these vectors may shift as a result of predicted climate change. Key to mitigating some of the health effects of a warming climate will be to determine the likely impacts that global warming might have on vector and pathogen distribution. As vector-borne disease distribution can often be predicted from the ecological and climatic risk factors of vectors and pathogens, epidemiological data of current mosquito vector distribution has been collected in response to WNV in Canada. This data will be used to construct spatial risk models of human exposure to various mosquito-borne pathogens both endemic and proximate to Canada. From this, an analysis of how these models will behave under predicted climate change scenarios will be possible and allow for a preliminary identification of potentially vulnerable communities to help mitigate some of the impacts of climate change on human health in Canada.

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Kendra Isaac

Kendra grew up in northern Alberta, in the community of Peace River, where she developed respect and appreciation for the natural environment. She received a Diploma in Environmental Monitoring and Compliance from Lakeland College in 2003. While doing her Bachelors in Environmental and Conservation Sciences at the University of Alberta, Kendra developed a keen interest in environmental economics and the social aspects of environmental issues. Currently, Kendra is working on her Masters in Rural Sociology, under the supervision of Dr. Debra Davidson, at the U of A’s Department of Rural Economy. Kendra has a variety of research interests including community sustainability, environmental governance, and issues related to resource development. After the completion of her Masters, Kendra would like to work on local adaptive strategies to address climate change and enhance sustainability. She also hopes to one day complete a Ph D in Environmental Sociology.

Governance Institutions and Community Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change in Rural Alberta

People living in the Prairie Provinces of Canada are generally considered to have a moderate to high level of capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This capacity however, is not evenly distributed among prairie populations. Rural communities, in particular, have been identified as being sensitive to the effects of climate change due to their socio-economic and geographical characteristics.

One of the factors that may potentially mitigate rural community vulnerability is the presence of effective governance institutions. This study will examine the ways in which Alberta’s governance institutions influence two rural communities’ capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Using a comparative case study approach, qualitative interviews will be carried out with individuals working for the organizations most likely to be impacted. The research will lead to a better understanding of the ways in which these institutions affect community adaptive capacity and help to improve the strategies used to enhance community resilience.

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Alena James

Alena James is a M.Sc. student in Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba. She has a Geological Engineering Degree from the University of New Brunswick and a Geology Degree from the University of British Columbia. Alena is a registered Professional Engineer and worked for five years in BC and Alberta before deciding to pursue graduate studies. In 2007, she was awarded a NSERC PGS-M scholarship to conduct her research. Alena’s research involves developing a riverbank asset management system along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in Winnipeg. After graduation, Alena plans to return to work in the engineering profession or pursue a doctoral degree.

Development of a Riverbank Risk Management System for the City of Winnipeg

Climate change has been identified as a factor that will increase the magnitude and frequency of extreme climatic events in the Prairie Provinces. Ultimately, these extreme climatic events will affect the Red and Assiniboine River levels within the City of Winnipeg. In recent years, it has been noted that there is an increase in flood magnitude and frequency in Winnipeg, dramatically increasing the number and frequency of riverbank failures. This in turn has resulted in a substantial loss of public and private property in the City of Winnipeg.

This project is directed at developing a risk management system based on today’s climate data by looking at aquifer levels, river levels and rainfall events as key factors known to directly affect the stability of natural riverbanks within the City of Winnipeg. However, the risk management model will also incorporate predictions of increased extreme climatic events to determine the effect that these events will have on future riverbank instabilities. The effects of potential climate change on future aquifer levels, river levels and rainfall events need to be examined. By completing this analysis, the project will establish how the risk levels along the riverbanks will differ between today’s climate and future climatic conditions. The risk levels will establish the basis for the proposed asset management tool that will aid the City of Winnipeg in public spending decisions to protect this valuable resource.

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Sung Joon Kim

Sung Joon Kim is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering from Inha University in Korea. After working as a Naval Officer in the Korean Navy he decided to re-orient his career in order to pursue research related to environmental issues. His research interests are the impact of climate change and variability on water resources, hydrological processes in general circulation models, downscaling of general circulation models, and land-atmosphere interactions at large spatial scales.

Effect of Climate Change on Water Supply for Manitoba’s Hydro System

Climate change is likely to have noticeable impacts on water resources in the Prairie region. Current climate models generally forecast drier and warmer conditions and increased climate variability for the Prairie Provinces. This could have a negative impact on water yield into Lake Winnipeg and is a source of concern for Manitoba Hydro, which produces the majority of its hydropower on the Nelson River. With a number of new dam projects in the planning phase there is a need to develop a better understanding of the impact of climate change on water resources in Northern Manitoba.

This study will investigate the impacts of climate change on the runoff regime of selected river basins of interest to Manitoba Hydro. GCM output will be subjected to statistical downscaling in order to obtain a better representation of climate variables at the watershed level. For the selected watersheds, downscaled temperature and precipitation variables will be fed into a hydrologic model to determine how annual yield and seasonality will be affected.

The result of this study will provide Manitoba Hydro with information on potential scenarios of climate change. This will allow the company to address environmental problems associated with climate change for future dam projects. It will also support Manitoba Hydro in planning the future supply of electricity for the province.

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Kristina Koenig

Kristina Koenig completed her undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering with distinction and honours at the University of Manitoba. She received the Doupe Memorial Gold Medal. During her undergraduate studies she received an undergraduate NSERC scholarship whereby she participated in research on a project which involved developing weather typing methods for the Canadian Prairie Region.

Currently Kristina is an Engineer-in-Training and is undertaking her MSc. at the University of Manitoba. She holds a NSERC-CGC and was the recipient of the Manitoba Graduate Scholarship (declined), University of Manitoba Graduate Scholarship (declined), Duncan Norrie Memorial Scholarship in Water Resources (2006), and the Engineering Class of 1946 Scholarship (2006).

Upon completing her MSc. Kristina plans to pursue research in the area of climate change impacts and adaptation studies. Kristina currently lives in Winnipeg and enjoys spending time with her family and friends and volunteering with youth at after school programs.

An Assessment of Statistical Downscaling Techniques for Climate Impact Studies for Central Canada

Global Climate Models (GCMs) are widely used to assess potential impacts of global climate change because they are designed to simulate the current climate and project future climate. They are however not designed for local climate change impact studies and do not permit a good estimation of hydrological responses to climate change by themselves because of their coarse spatial scales.

Statistical downscaling (SD) techniques have recently emerged as useful tools to convert GCM outputs into a useful scale for local climate change impact studies. These techniques generate scenarios for a local site by using a statistically based model which determines a relationship between large scale climate variables and local climate variables.

The general objective of this project is to advance the understanding of how climate change will affect the climatic conditions and specifically the runoff in the major river system of interest to Manitoba Hydro in the Canadian Prairie Region. This will be accomplished by testing a variety of SD techniques for their ability to simulate daily time series of local precipitation and temperature for a range of climatic conditions. Based on the research, this project will provide Manitoba Hydro with a variety of projected climate variables which will be useful in their long term planning.

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Meg Krawchuk

I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta in the Department of Renewable Resources. My primary interest is in conservation ecology and this has given me the pleasure of contributing to research in a range of ecosystems from the boreal to the tropics. My B.Sc. research focus was in evolutionary ecology, examining life history strategies in turtles; my M.Sc. research focus was in landscape ecology, examining the influence of habitat structure on insects at multiple spatial scales. The themes of my ongoing Ph.D. thesis are presented in the project summary, and clearly stems from an interest in ecosystem function, conservation and resilience. I enjoy the challenge of exploring new topic areas and the reward of finding links that seem to appear among taxa, systems and ideas. Through my career, I hope to contribute a stronger understanding of ecosystem function, dynamics and resilience in the boreal, and help to enhance social awareness of ecological issues. A big wish list.

Bioregional sustainability in the boreal mixedwood forest: Incorporating climate change into socio-economic and ecological planning

The western boreal forest is expected to undergo a great deal of change in the near future as a result of activities of the forestry and energy sectors and profound climatic change. These factors will result in changes to forest composition and weather conditions, respectively, which will be further reflected through the alteration of natural disturbances such as wildfire. These compounded effects will create unprecedented challenges for sustainable management and biological conservation.

This project will use a combination of analytical tools to examine how the interaction between alternative resource management scenarios and anticipated changes in fire weather might influence the state of the western boreal forest over the next century using a regional dynamic ecosystem simulation model and a suite of ecological indicators. We will test the hypothesis that long-term changes in climate patterns will be relatively unimportant to wildfire initiation in comparison to anticipated anthropogenic changes in forest structure. The simulation experiments will incorporate parameter estimates derived from statistical analyses of empirical data. This research is part of a trans-disciplinary, long term, multi-team effort including the Boreal Ecology and Economics Synthesis Team (BEEST) and the Boreal Ecosystems Analysis for Conservation Networks (BEACONS) group.

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Suzan Lapp

Suzan Lapp is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography at the University of Regina. In 2006 she moved to Regina from Lethbridge where she completed both her B.Sc. and M.Sc. at the University of Lethbridge in Environmental Science and also taught in the Department of Geography for 5 years. Her Masters Thesis involved the study of climate change impacts on the effect of snowpacks in the Rocky Mountains of Southern Alberta. Suzan Lapp was a recipient of the Nexen Fellowship at the U of R in 2006 and currently holds a 3-year NSERC PGS-D award. Upon completion of her Ph.D Suzan plans to further pursue research and teaching interests. Suzan enjoys spending time riding her horse, hiking, traveling and volunteering for the Regina Therapeutic Riding Association. She is very grateful to have had the continued support of her family throughout her education.

Climate moisture scenarios using dendroclimatic, historical and GCM-based precipitation records for western North America

The goal of my Ph.D. research is to develop future climate drought indices that encompass both shifts in the mean (climate change) and departures from mean conditions (climate variability) through the application of paleoclimatic, instrumental data and Global Circulation Model (GCM) output for western Canada. Tree-ring data collected throughout the study area has identified drought events in previous centuries more extreme in magnitude, frequency and duration than recorded during the instrumental record of the past century. Many of the drought events during the 20 th century have been linked to natural variability in sea surface temperatures such as ENSO and PDO cycles. These cycles also influence the atmospheric circulation patterns that control winter and spring climate variability in western North America. Statistical techniques will be used to identify the dominant climate cycles and the associated trends and periodicities that control tree growth (i.e. temperature and precipitation). The climate variability of GCM control run simulations will also be identified and compared to both the instrumental and proxy records to validate the extent to which GCMs are able to simulate natural climate variability and thus climate change. This will place greater confidence in the ability of the GCM to forecast future climate scenarios. The final step in my analysis will be to identify and reconstruct key atmospheric circulation patterns associated with the study regions climate variability. These dominant synoptic patterns will be used to generate future climate scenarios using output from different GCM scenarios. Decision makers responsible for the planning of adaptation to climate variability and change could use this data to determine potential impacts of persistent departures from mean hydroclimate (e.g., drought).

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Mark Lee

I am an M.Sc. student in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba. I received my undergraduate degree in civil engineering with an environmental option from the University of Manitoba in May of 2005 and registered as an Engineer in Training with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba. My research interests are statistical hydrology and water resource management. My current research in statistical downscaling of climate data is a contribution to a team project working to assess the impacts of climate change on the water availability for hydropower generation in Manitoba. After my graduate studies I hope to work as a professional engineer in the consulting industry on water resource management projects.

Effects of Climate Change Scenarios on Water Resources in Manitoba: Application of Statistical Downscaling Methods to Global Climate Model Data

Research for my Masters Degree aims to improve the models used to generate data for climate change impact assessment. The results of my research contribute to a project at the University of Manitoba funded by Manitoba Hydro to determine the effects of climate change on water availability for hydropower generation.

In order for Manitoba Hydro to adapt their systems and management practices to climate change, future scenarios of climatic conditions must be determined. Current global climate models provide data for future climate scenarios covering the entire globe on grid points spaced a few hundred kilometers apart. For determining the impacts of global climate change on smaller scales, such as those required for climate impact assessment on rainfall-runoff regimes in watersheds, these global climate models have too coarse a resolution.

The purpose of the research is to develop and compare statistical downscaling models to provide climate change data in the prairie region. The primary use of the data will be for hydrological modeling in the Nelson River drainage basin with the objective of determining the impact of climate change on hydropower generation. My research will provide the necessary downscaling tools specifically geared for the Canadian prairie climate.

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Hongwei Lu

Ms. Hongwei Lu is a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Engineering in the University of Regina. Her research interest is focused on environmental systems planning and management, including environmental systems analysis, system optimization modeling under uncertainty, and watershed management. Ten years of study in the field of environment provide Ms. Lu with a solid background and comprehensive knowledge of water resource management. Ms. Lu has been awarded a number of scholarships and has participated in projects focusing on watershed management in the South Saskatchewan River Basin and in the George Basin under changing climate conditions.

An Integrated Agricultural Water Resources Management System (IAWRMS) for Adapting to Climate Change in the Prairie Provinces

Water managers often face the challenge of allocating insufficient water resources to satisfy demands from both public and private sectors. This concern is now complicated by the growing issue of climate change. Climate change poses not only great challenges to water availability, but also has significant impact on water-demand systems, particularly agricultural systems where water demands of crops will be greatly affected by changing temperatures and transpiration variations. The water allocation issue is especially serious for the water authorities of those river basins where agricultural irrigation is a major consumer of water resources. Therefore, it is desirable that an in-depth study focused on the adaptation strategies for agricultural water resources management should be undertaken.

As the study needs to address a number of social, economic, environmental, ecological and political factors, it is necessary to use systems-analysis approaches to examining climate-change impacts and adaptation strategies to provide solid decision support for the authorities. Thus, an integrated agricultural water resources management system (IAWRMS) will be developed in this project for generating agricultural water supply-demand patterns under a changing climate. The Moose Jaw River is the study area.

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Ryan MacDonald

Ryan MacDonald is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta. He received an undergraduate degree in Environmental science as well as an M.Sc. in Geography from the University of Lethbridge. He was the recipient of the Alberta Profiling award in 2008 and the Queen Elizabeth II graduate scholarship in 2009. His research interests involve the interactions between hydrology and aquatic ecology, as well as the management of fresh water ecosystems. He has played a role in a number of projects looking at the impacts of climate change on mountain hydrometeorology, including work on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, Alberta. His M.Sc. work also resulted in a number of peer reviewed publications in international journals. His background in both modelling and field studies enables me to pursue a range of research questions that can be applied in a management context. In the future, he hopes to continue in a career as a researcher after completing his graduate studies.

Aquatic ecosystem response to environmental change

The eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains are subject to a number of natural and anthropogenic disturbances, including drought, wildfire, mountain pine beetle infestations, and industrial development in both the forestry and petrochemical sectors. These disturbances, amplified by climate change, pose a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems, particularly through the alteration of stream temperature regimes. The goal of my Ph.D. research is to develop and implement a spatial stream temperature model that can be used to identify where and when sensitive aquatic habitat is likely to be threatened.

This project will quantify the sensitivity of stream temperature to environmental change, and assist in determining the resulting effects on salmonid habitat. This will enable focused decision making for managing important aquatic habitat and adaptive measures can be applied to mitigate the impacts of environmental change and human activities (angling, logging, upstream water consumption, and recreational use) during critical periods.

This project will build on existing research by combining the GENESYS hydrometeorological model developed at the University of Lethbridge with data from the Southern Rockies Watershed Project (SRWP) in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. The sensitivity of stream temperature to climate change will be tested for a range of future climate scenarios, derived using general circulation model (GCM) output. These will be used in combination with landscape change scenarios, developed using existing data from burned and salvage-logged watersheds in the SRWP. Results will be used to define critical periods for native salmonids, when stream thermal regimes may exceed tolerable levels for native species.

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Linsay Martens

Linsay Martens is currently completing a Master’s of Public Policy (MPP) degree at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He previously completed a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) degree at the University of Regina. Linsay has served as a senior policy researcher with the Adaptation to Climate Change Team at Simon Fraser University. In this role, he has worked on a range of projects including examining the social policy implications of climate change and studying climate change adaptation issues in British Columbia’s energy sector. He has previously worked for the Saskatchewan Minister of Environment, the Saskatchewan Minister of Labour and the John Howard Society.

Project Summary

With half of Canada’s total cultivated farmland and over 44,000 farms, Saskatchewan accounts for a significant amount of agricultural production. Though Saskatchewan farmers have always contended with the weather, the magnitude of the projected effects of climate change may overwhelm their adaptive capacity. While some aspects of a warming climate could be advantageous for farming operations, such benefits will be countered by increased variability and greater frequency and intensity of climatic extremes. The net impact of climate change on Saskatchewan’s agricultural sector will depend heavily on the adaptive capacity of farmers. This research focuses on two specific types of agricultural producers in Saskatchewan: family farmers and Hutterite communal farmers. Using surveys and interviews to collect data, this study explores: (a) the capacity of Saskatchewan farmers to minimize risks and seize opportunities associated with climate change; and (b) potential policy options to enhance that adaptive capacity. A multiple criteria evaluation will be used to assess the potential adaptation options derived from the study. This research will benefit both farmers and policy makers as they make decisions about adaptation to climate change.

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Juha Metsaranta

I am a PhD student in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta. My educational background includes an undergraduate degree in Forestry from Lakehead University in my home town of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and an MSc from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. In the past, I have been employed as an analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Forest Service, working on projects ranging from developing knowledge management policy to incorporating natural disturbance risk into forest carbon accounting. In general, my research interests have always focused on finding solutions to resource management problems, and this continues in my current work.

Project Summary

Competition and annual weather variations are two factors that affect the growth of trees. Climate change is expected to impact the pattern of annual weather variation, and therefore will also impact on competition and growth process in forest ecosystems. As a result, understanding the magnitude and direction of the impact of climate change on these processes is important if forest management agencies in Canada wish to continue to practice sustainable forest management. I hope to make a contribution to furthering this understanding.

My research examines growth and competition processes in forest stands, and how these processes interact with annual weather variations. I am focusing on natural stands of jack pine in two study areas, located in two contrasting ecological and climatic regions in the Canadian prairie provinces. Broadly, the study areas are located near (i) Thompson, Manitoba, and (ii) Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The effect of climate change is expected to vary across the region, with change in moisture regimes dominating near the boreal-prairie ecotone in the south, and changes in temperate regimes are dominating near the boreal-subarctic ecotone in the north. Also, jack pine is an economically important species in this region. As a result, enhanced knowledge will be required to adapt existing management practices to climate change effects, and to adjust new intensive management practices to these effects prior to their implementation in this region. To develop enhanced growth models, I am using techniques from forest growth and yield study and dendrochronology (tree ring analysis). Although both of these fields deal with reconstructing the past growth of trees, little integrative work has occurred. There is much potential in such integrative work. In this study, two overall research problems will be examined. The first of these is the development of a stand level model of forest growth model that incorporates the influence of annual weather variation. This model will express growth in units that are of use to standard forest growth and yield modeling, and will be validated against independent data from existing permanent sample plots in the study region. The second is an analysis of the influence of weather variation (episodic resource inputs and depletions) on the mode of competition in forest stands. Based on the enhanced knowledge resulting from these analyses, techniques for long-term strategic forest management planning and tactical silvicultural planning can be developed that will ensure that forest management will continue to be sustainable, with management practices that are adapted to the effects of climate change.

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Adam Moore

Adam Moore completed his undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba in May of 2007. As an undergraduate he was awarded numerous scholarships as well as three NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards, which allowed him to perform research in a range of civil engineering disciplines. He has completed research in pavement design and landfill design, as well as climate change and its impact on the hydrological regime.

Currently Adam is working towards a M.Sc. in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba. He was awarded the NSERC PGS-M in May of 2007. Adam is interested in hydraulics, hydrology and water resources in general, and he hopes to pursue a career in the hydropower industry in Manitoba.

Validation of the Canadian Regional Climate Model for use on the Canadian Prairies

Current and future climate change is expected to have a significant impact on different industries throughout the Canadian Prairies, including hydropower generation and agriculture. In an attempt to study climate change globally, extensive Global Circulation Models (GCM’s) have been developed to simulate current climate as well as project future climate scenarios. For certain studies it has been noted that the resolution of the GCM output is too coarse to obtain detailed results. In order to overcome this deficiency two methods of downscaling have been studied; statistical and dynamical. Dynamical downscaling is performed with the use of Regional Climate Models (RCM’s), which are nested within GCM output as boundary conditions.

This project will study the outputs of the Canadian Regional Climate Model within the Canadian Prairies. A validation process will include comparing selected statistics of historical records to output from the RCM to determine its usefulness in climate change studies. The results of this study will further be used to compare the results of different downscaling methods in the Prairie Provinces. The results of these studies aim to provide possible resources to industries, in order to determine changes to future management strategies which will help in adaptation to the changing climate.

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Chuck Mrena

Chuck has been a natural resources consultant for almost ten years. He is a trained facilitator. As a consultant he worked on numerous regional and international projects including the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development, the International Flood Mitigation Initiative (IFMI) (as a staff person and facilitator for the province of Manitoba), and on a review of the Kyoto Protocol when it was first released in 1997. He has also worked with and for a number of NGOs including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Manitoba EcoNetwork. Chuck has worked for the Department of National Defence, several Manitoba Conservation Districts, and all levels of government.

Chuck has a B.Sc. (University of Winnipeg) with majors in geography and botany, holds a Master of Natural Resources Management (focused on bioengineering) and is currently working on his PhD (University of Manitoba). He has instructed a course entitled Climate Change in Canada: Implications and Policies since January 2004.

Identifying policy mechanisms to support the integration of adaptation to climate change impacts in decision-making processes

There has been little research into the development of policy mechanisms that would provide for the inclusion of adaptation in decision-making processes. This thesis will identify policy mechanisms that could support the integration of adaptive responses to climate change impacts in decision-making processes. For the purpose of this thesis, policy mechanisms are defined as guidelines, regulations and legislation as well as the processes used to support decision-making.

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Julie Nielsen

I am currently pursuing a MSc in Environmental Science, River and Riparian Research/Hydro-ecology, at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta. Growing up on the west coast of BC, I have worked, mostly seasonally, in the Forestry sector for over 10 years, with positions in silviculture, forest engineering, forest firefighting, watershed management and renewable resources. I have a Forestry Technologist Diploma, with Honours, from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and went on to receive my BSc in Environmental and Conservation Science, Conservation Biology, with Distinction, from the University of Alberta. Currently I hold a Post Graduate NSERC scholarship and in addition, while at the U of L, have received the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship. I intend to pursue a career as a Registered Professional Biologist, specializing in wildlife and/or ecology, and am currently a student member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB). I hope to contribute to the field of natural resource management with innovative thinking, advanced technical skills and knowledge in order to enhance current environmental practices and conditions. Further, I would like to work with First Nations groups across Canada with respect to natural resource management issues.

The effects of a changing climate on river hydrologic regimes in a semi-arid landscape: female cottonwoods at a greater disadvantage in natural groves along regulated rivers in southern Alberta

Over the last century, a change in the magnitude and timing of seasonal flow events in southern Alberta rivers has significantly contributed to a decline in riparian woodland health and ecological integrity. I have developed a multidisciplinary approach to my thesis question: “How do cottonwood genotypes (sex and species) respond to water-induced stress as juvenile individuals and as mature populations?” Two complementary studies, a greenhouse project and a field population study, comprise my thesis research. Each is designed to determine if cottonwood sex and species can affect an individual’s vigor, fitness and ability to survive in a water-stressed habitat, specifically in drought conditions. The recently discovered trend of male-biased cottonwood populations on rivers that have experienced declining flows (via regulation and/or a changing natural flow regime), has led to a hypothesis that mature female cottonwoods are less drought tolerant than males. In order to perpetuate healthy, sustainable riverine ecosystem communities in an increasingly drier climate, the implementation of new flows that meet instream flow needs for riparian cottonwood populations (especially female trees) will be required. Studying the relationship between hydrologic patterns and this keystone riparian species provides an opportunity to contribute novel scientific research and data necessary for future river management and developing measures that will mitigate adverse impacts to semi-arid woodland ecosystems.

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R. Cynthia Neudoerffer

Cynthia Neudoerffer is a licensed Professional Engineer with a Bachelor and Master of Applied Science degree in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo, Canada. Cynthia currently holds a SSHRC doctoral fellowship at the University of Guelph and was the recipient of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2001 (declined) & 2000), a Two-Year Entering Williams Scholarship (1999 & 2000), a University Graduate Scholarship (1999), and was the OAC nominee for the Alumni Doctoral Award in 1999. She has also received a number of travel scholarships (EJLB Foundation Travel Scholarship (2003), Robb Travel Scholarship (2002), Davidson Memorial Travel Grant (2002)) to present her work at academic conferences in Montreal , Victoria and Washington DC . Cynthia’s work has been published in several international journals, including Biomass & Bioenergy, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, and Energy Policy. Upon completing her doctorate Cynthia hopes to pursue an academic career using complex adaptive hierarchical systems theory and participatory ecosystem approaches to study climate change adaptation, ecosystem health, rural energy, and gender issues and interactions. Cynthia is married, has an eight-month old daughter and lives in Winnipeg .

Building eco-social resilience of a rural watershed on the Canadian Prairies – a climate change adaptation strategy

Water availability and quality are dominant and ongoing issues on the Canadian Prairies. Recent outbreaks of waterborne disease in Walkerton, Ontario (2000) and North Battleford, Saskatchewan (2001) have heightened concerns about the vulnerability of drinking water supplies, especially in rural areas. Climate change, including possibly warmer temperatures, drier conditions, greater incidence and severity of both drought and heavy rains, and reductions in water availability and quality, holds the potential to exacerbate water problems even further. A pressing question in the face of these combined threats is how can rural communities adapt to protect themselves? What actions should they take? How should they organize locally to take action?

This research is based on the idea that understanding our past can help prepare us for the future. As such, it asks the question how are rural communities on the Prairies currently organizing to adapt to soil and water problems caused by too much (spring flooding / summer storms) or too little (drought) precipitation? What conservation actions are farmers taking and how are they organizing to address these local concerns? To answer these questions the research is focusing on a case study of the Deerwood Soil and Water Management Association, a local farmer’s group in south-central ( Miami ) Manitoba . Since 1984 Deerwood has been actively engaged in a number of watershed management activities, including building a network of small dams to control run off and prevent soil erosion. The research will study how these activities protect the watershed from the damaging effects of extreme weather, why the community was motivated to act, and how the group has achieved organizational success. The lessons learned from the Deerwood experience will help provide a roadmap for other rural Prairie communities interested in and needing to adapt to environmental change, including climate change.

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Santiago Olmos

Santiago Olmos is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta in the Department of Rural Economy. He holds a Master’s degree from the University of Guelph, and has worked for a number of years on issues of climate change vulnerability and adaptation. Whilst studying for the Master’s degree at Guelph, Santiago spent a summer working as intern in the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in Rome. Following completion of the Master’s degree, he completed an internship through the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research Oslo (CICERO) – where he worked on a range of climate change-related issues. Santiago has also worked as consultant for a number of organizations, including the Canadian government, and spent two years at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth working on other research projects. Santiago currently lives in Edmonton and enjoys spending time with his children. He hopes to continue to work in research, and possibly teach at a post-secondary institution in future.

Climate change vulnerability and adaptive capacity in forest-based communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan

The research project will contribute to increasing knowledge on vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in the context of resource-based communities in Canada by documenting existing vulnerabilities and adaptive capacity in communities of the boreal forest region of the Prairie provinces. In such communities, economic well-being and the preservation of traditional lifestyles will depend to a great extent on the ability to adapt to expected changes in the frequency of forest fires, insect outbreaks, and other factors related to the forest ecosystems’ ability to continue to provide a set of key products and services under a changed climate.

Sectors or communities that are highly dependent on climate-sensitive resources are generally regarded as highly vulnerable to climate change. The proposed research will aim to address the question whether dependency on the forest resource is a key determinant of vulnerability to climate change in the study communities. In addition to examining issues such as resource-dependency, economic diversification, and socio-economic conditions through the use of various quantitative indicators, this research will explore issues of social capital and risk perception as possible determinants of adaptive capacity at the community level. A minimum of two case studies will be conducted as part of this research. Case studies will be conducted in forest-based communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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Cesar Perez-Valdivia

Cesar is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Regina. He holds a bachelor degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of La Serena, Chile and a Master of Applied Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Regina. In the past his research has been focused on hydrological variability and climate change impacts on North Central Chile in the frame of the Institutional Adaptation to Climate Change Project, and climate and groundwater variability and paleo-hydrology in the Canadian Prairies using tree rings as proxies. In the present his research is linked to the evaluation of beneficial management practices in agriculture and their impacts on water quality for which his main focus is to evaluate the applicability and performance of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model to represent hydrological processes in the southeastern Saskatchewan.

Modeling streamflow in a snowmelt dominated watershed in south-eastern Saskatchewan using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT)

Agriculture in the Canadian prairies has an important role in the local economy and society, being the main economic activity in many small towns in the Prairies. Traditional methods of agriculture which include the use of pesticides and the addition of nutrients to the soils are common practices. As with any other human activity there are environmental impacts such as soil degradation and erosion, pollution of groundwater resources and surface water bodies produced by agricultural activities. In order to reduce these impacts a series of best management practices (BMPs) in agriculture have been introduced and implemented within the past decade. The objective of these practices is to reduce and/or prevent erosion and control pollutants released from agricultural fields.

Among the many impacts that climate change could have on the Canadian Prairies are changes in the variability and magnitude of extreme events such as droughts, storms and floods which will have an impact on soils and water quantity and quality. Soil erosion produced during periods of droughts or extreme precipitation events and degradation of water quality produced by the transport of higher concentration of pollutants in to water bodies due to runoff and infiltration during extreme events are just some of the concerning impacts that could be increased by climate change. Therefore, management practices to prevent and control pollution of water systems are indispensable to maintain and preserve aquatic ecosystems, water quality and agriculture over time.

This research is in the framework of the Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices project in Saskatchewan, with its main objective to quantify the effect of beneficial management practices on water quality. In order to reproduce and quantify the impacts of agricultural activities on soil and water quality, hydrological modelling is required. This research proposes the use of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model on the Pipestone Creek watershed located in southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada.

The SWAT model will be adjusted, calibrated, applied, and validated to the hydrological response units (HRU) defined within the Pipestone Creek in order to model streamflow and runoff at the creek. Since snowmelt is the dominant hydrological process in cold regions the snowmelt module will be analyzed and modified if required for a better representation of snow hydrology processes which include snow accumulation and snowmelt.

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David Reynolds

David Reynolds holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in environmental geosciences from the University of Calgary and an MBA in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development from the Haskayne School of Business (U of C). His doctoral research focus at the U of C Geography Department is on assessing the vulnerability and adaptability of skiing-dependent business establishments in Banff and Jasper National Parks to the long-term effects of climate change. Dave has been employed by the City of Calgary for 16 years in environmental management and planning functions, including the Coordinator of the Office for the Environment and, most recently, as the Division Manager for Climate Change & Strategic Initiatives, which received the Alberta Emerald Award for its climate change strategy. He was seconded for 16 months to Alberta’s Climate Change Central to set up and administer the Alberta government’s Municipal Energy Efficiency Program (ME first!). Dave has also worked at Parks Canada, British Columbia Institute of Technology, B.C. Ministry of Environment, the Yukon government’s Renewable Resources Department, Norecol Environmental Consultants and Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is President of Discovery Environmental Consulting Ltd. in Calgary.

Assessing the socio-economic vulnerability and adaptability of skiing-dependent businesses in Banff and Jasper National Parks to the long-term effects of climate change

Skiing is one of the most important winter activities occurring in Banff and Jasper and is a major contributor to Alberta’s GDP. The total number of skiers visiting the parks is important to the Banff and Jasper economies because skiers patronize local skiing-dependent and other business establishments (e.g., accommodations, ski shops, shuttle bus/taxi services, rental vehicle agencies, and local food and beverage establishments). Amongst the most important factors that attract skiers are good ski hill facilities, snow conditions and temperatures. Climate change may: a) significantly reduce the amount; b) change the timing; and c) shift the location of snowfall in the parks. Any changes to snow conditions and temperatures could influence the number of skiers who are attracted to the parks.

This study will assess what the socio-economic vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the skiing-dependent businesses in Banff and Jasper may be to the effects of climate change on snow conditions and temperatures in 2020 and 2050. The research question is whether or not the skiing-dependent businesses are able to adapt effectively to the changing socio-economic environment resulting from the long-term changes to snow conditions and temperature.

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Sara Sadri

I have been studying water resource science for the greater part of a decade. Since I started my Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Irrigation engineering at the University of Tehran, I knew I would continue my study of water resources up to a PhD level. The major part of Iran has a very dry climate, so I became familiar with droughts as extreme hydrological events and the problems associated with them. After completing a Master’s degree in environmental engineering and wastewater issues at the University of Manitoba, I started my PhD at the University of Waterloo in 2005 under the supervision of Professor Donald H. Burn. My research is on the effect of climate change on drought frequency in the Canadian Prairie Provinces.

Effect of Climate Change on Drought Frequency Analysis in the Canadian Prairie Provinces Using Statistical and Soft Computing Techniques

For water resource management and planning, understanding the probability of an extreme hydrological event is of vital importance. Despite the high economic and social cost of droughts, there are few avenues presently available to estimate the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts under conditions of climate change on the Canadian prairies. This project develops a methodology for drought frequency analysis based on Canadian prairies historical streamflow data records while considering its non-stationarity nature using stochastic and soft computing techniques such as dynamic neural networks. Projection of non-stationarity using dynamic neural networks means considering time as a factor in training of drought quantile trend estimation. The project uses sixty sites from the Canadian Prairies. This study has strong implications for water resource management projects including dam construction, urban water distribution systems design, water storage, and agricultural projects.


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Amy Sangster

Amy Sangster is currently a M.Sc. student at the University of Saskatchewan. She completed her B.Sc. in agriculture, majoring in animal science, at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. After completion of her degree, she was able to gain a diverse background in the agricultural industry through her former positions as a teaching and research assistant, farm labourer, sales representative and her most recent position as a ruminant/field crops specialist with AgraPoint International. During her position with AgraPoint she developed a strong interest in pursuing studies in the field of soil science. From working and speaking with farmers she became aware of the challenges that the industry faces in terms of sustainability. Specifically she became interested in investigating the role that legumes could play in tightening the nitrogen cycle and the effects legumes have on soil organic matter quality. After graduation, she hopes to continue working with producers and contribute to a more sustainable Canadian agricultural industry.

Optimizing crop rotations under a changing climate

In order for Western Canada to maintain or increase agricultural production under a changing climate, it is important that farm management practices maintain or improve soil quality. Over the last few decades, substantial increases in crop yields have been mirrored by a greater dependence on nitrogen fertilizer. Traditional farming practices have also led to a decrease in soil organic matter. Pulse crops may provide part of the solution in achieving a more sustainable cropping system for western Canada. The ability of pulse crops to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a plant-available nitrogen form has been well documented. However, the amount of nitrogen fixed and the amount of nitrogen available in the following growing season needs to be measured in order to make sound decisions when making changes to fertilizer applications. Also, it is suspected that pulse crops have additional benefits to soil quality, specifically in terms of soil organic matter. Soil organic matter is important for many reasons, including its ability to cycle nutrients, improve moisture retention and improve soil structure. These characteristics of soil organic matter serve as a means of crop protection in a changing climate. This project will measure various forms of nitrogen throughout the growing season and investigate soil organic matter characteristics influenced by pulse crops in rotation.


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Jeremy Schmidt

Jeremy Schmidt was raised on a small farm near Camrose, Alberta. He has had a long-standing interest in environmental issues as a former whitewater kayak guide and forestry firefighter for Alberta Sustainable Resources Development. He completed an undergraduate degree in Geography and Philosophy at the University of Lethbridge, a master’s in Geography at McGill University, and is presently pursing his doctorate in Geography at the University of Western Ontario. He is very active with the student and young professionals branch of the Canadian Water Resources Association and is co-editing a new book on water ethics under an international advisory board that includes global policy experts. He has been the recipient of masters and doctoral scholarships from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. His recent work has been published in journals such as Alternatives and Canadian Public Policy.

The Last Watershed: Ethics and adaptation in Albertan water policy

To achieve sustainable water use, Alberta must adapt to the impacts of climate change and to changing social and economic water demands. Alberta is presently addressing adaptation challenges by decentralizing water management to local watershed councils and by promoting a new water ethic through its Water for Life strategy. However, environmental variability, local water use concerns and urban and rural differences mean that the new water ethic must navigate local conflicts in a manner congruent with the province’s larger agenda for policy reform. In this respect, it is critical to ascertain: 1) What Alberta’s new water ethic entails in its scientific and socio-economic commitments; 2) What ethical values are actually employed by water users in Alberta; and, 3) How decentralized institutions address ethical issues in local water use dilemmas. Accordingly, this project first considers Alberta’s Water for Life strategy and examines the ethical principles promoted in decentralized decision-making. Next it conducts a quantitative survey of individual water users to assess how values differ regionally, by water use and with respect to both procedural fairness and distributive justice. Finally, it conducts qualitative interviews with decision makers to assess institutional adaptability in achieving procedurally fair and just outcomes to policy dilemmas. The expected contribution is a framework that clarifies ethical claims in policy, identifies the ethical values of water users and evaluates those institutions charged with guiding Alberta towards sustainability.

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Elizabeth Starks

Elizabeth Starks is a M.Sc. student of Limnology at the University of Regina. She completed her B.Sc. in Ecology, Evolution and Behavioral Biology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. Her undergraduate research focused on statistical improvements of genetic assessments of managed wildlife populations. Elizabeth has a broad ecological background with a uniting interest in conservation and management of dynamic systems. Her work and research experiences include threatened species conservation, forest microbiology and molecular ecology. She is currently investigating the effects of climate change and human activities on the health and sustainability of aquatic organisms of the Great Plains. Her goal is to develop recommendations for sustainable management of fisheries and land-use in climate-stressed prairie catchments. Elizabeth intends to pursue a career in aquatic resource management to foster a more sustainable future.

Dynamic Prediction of Human Impacts in Climate-Stressed Prairie Lakes

While some ecological zones will shift northward due to climate change, novel zones will also arise with conditions unfavorable to current aquatic species communities. These destabilized communities will have higher sensitivity to the effects of fisheries and land-use practices. Without careful management, species extirpations, fisheries losses and invasions of unwanted species could compromise the environmental and recreational value of prairie lakes. This research will produce adaptive decision-making tools that address the complex interacting effects of climate change, fisheries activities and land use on aquatic ecosystem health and stability.
This project will develop spatiotemporally predictive tools that examine human impacts on ecosystem structure and function in a progressively drier environment. To assess the impact of these changes on ecosystem function and stability, I will conduct a food web analysis to evaluate the influence of stocked predatory gamefish on prairie lakes of southern Saskatchewan.





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Scott St. George

I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arizona and am originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba. I received my B.Sc. from the University of Winnipeg and my M.Sc. from the University of Western Ontario, under the supervision of Dr. Brian Luckman. My research uses natural 'proxy' records (such as tree rings) to learn more about past hydrological and hydroclimatic conditions. Most of my work has been focused in southern Manitoba and the Red River Valley, where I have used tree-ring records to estimate what climatic and hydrological conditions were like prior to the 20th century. I have also been involved with projects studying climate variability in the Canadian Rockies, groundwater trends in the Canadian Prairies, and the application of tree-ring methods to the management of urban forests in western Canada. After completing my degree at the University of Arizona, I hope to return to my position as a scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. I am optimistic that my time south of the border will lead to better communication between scientists working on topics related to past environmental change in Canada and the United States, and hope that future research will begin to explore climate dynamics in North America as a whole.

The application of climate and paleoclimate data to water management for hydropower in Manitoba

The risk of severe droughts occurring in the future is estimated by the frequency of similar droughts in the past. Unfortunately, because instrumental records of precipitation and streamflow in the Canadian Prairies are relatively short (generally 30 - 100 years), it is very difficult to estimate how often droughts occur and how dry the very worst events can be. My research uses geological and biological evidence to learn more about hydrological and hydroclimatic conditions before regular instrumental monitoring began. I am currently working at the eastern edge of the Prairies, in the Winnipeg River Basin. Hydropower is one of the chief activities supported by the river; dams on the Winnipeg River and at downstream locations produce more than $1 billion of hydroelectric power annually. Severe drought in this area has an enormous impact on power generation in Manitoba, and understanding its frequency and causes is a critical part of good water stewardship. My project uses a combination of climate and tree ring data to evaluate changes in hydroclimatic conditions in the Winnipeg River Basin during the past several hundred years, and to determine the frequency, severity and causes of droughts and low flows. This research will evaluate the accuracy of worst-case scenarios used currently for drought planning and lead to better estimates of drought risks for a watershed critical to the production of hydroelectric power in the Canadian Prairies.

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Qian Tan

Qian Tan is currently a PhD student of Environmental Systems Engineering Program at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Regina. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Environmental Engineering from Chongqing University, China. Ms. Tan has been awarded a number of provincial and institutional scholarships and awards. She has broad research interests in the interdisciplinary fields of environmental and energy studies, including adaptation planning, energy systems planning, environmental systems analysis, watershed management and waste management. She has been actively participating in many major projects regarding climate change adaptation, including a NSERC Strategic Grant Project.

Modelling climate change impacts on Saskatchewan’s energy system

Climate change causes significant impacts on the energy system in Saskatchewan, resulting in potential risks to the production and supply of energy in this province. At the same time, energy-related activities play a critical role in climate change. Interrelationships between energy systems and climate change are thus complex and uncertain, which are further intertwined with effects from human interventions and adaptations. This poses a challenge for science-based decision making in the energy system of Saskatchewan, leading to a desire for achieving integrated planning under synthetic impacts of climate change, policy interventions and adaptations.

The research will focus on the development of an integrated model for adaptation planning and vulnerability analysis of Saskatchewan’s energy system under changing climatic conditions. The proposed methodology will include investigation of the energy system, development of an integrated model for adaptation planning and vulnerability analysis, community and stakeholder involvement, as well as policy analysis. A number of inexact programming methods for the management of energy-related activities/services will be developed, facilitating the reflection of uncertainties and complexities of the energy system in Saskatchewan. Results of the proposed research will have potential capabilities to be promoted as an original contribution to knowledge in adaptation planning and vulnerability analysis.


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Jessica Vanstone

J.Vanstone pic
Jessica Vanstone is a Master’s student in the Department of Geography at the University of Regina. In 2006, Jessica received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, and in 2007 completed her Honour’s Bachelor Degree in Geography, also from the University of Regina, where she studied the dendroclimatic potential of bur oak in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan. As a Master’s student, Jessica has also been a recipient of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research Graduate Scholarship in 2008 and 2009. For the past four years Jessica has been employed as a research assistant at Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, in Regina, where she continues to study, focussing her research on the hydroclimatic variability in the Prairies using tree-rings as a natural proxy. Upon completion of her graduate studies, Jessica hopes to pursue a career in research and contribute to the area of climate change impacts and adaptation.

Project Summary

This study will examine the effects of climate/environmental change on water resources in the Canadian Prairies and Great Plains using tree-rings as a natural proxy to investigate the full range of hydroclimatic variability (i.e. prolonged periods of drought) within the Prairies. A dense network of Q. macrocarpa (bur oak) tree-ring chronologies were collected over the 2008 and 2009 field seasons from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Dakota to create robust reconstructions of historical precipitation, temperature and streamflow for the region. A further step will be taken with the inclusion of studying not only annual ring-width chronologies, but also early- and latewood chronologies to enable the identification of spatial and temporal (seasonal) trends in terms of hydrological and meteorological drought frequency, severity and synchrony. Spectral analyses of the reconstructions will be carried out to identify common cycles of variability at interannual and mutlidecadal scales, as well as to provide insight to possible synoptic-scale drivers of drought, such as El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), patterns that influence the climate of the Prairie region. The significance of this study is in the use of dendro/palaeoclimatic data to gain a longer perspective on hydroclimatic variability than what is provided by instrumental records, which will in turn contribute to the understanding of long-term, and adaptation to possible future variability, of water resources and quantity in the Prairies.

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Shannon White

I am an MSc student in Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta. I hold a BSc in Environmental Sciences from the University of British Columbia. During university breaks, I have returned to my small hometown in BC’s Okanagan Valley, first to work as a natural history guide at an ecological rehabilitation centre, and later as a field assistant researching the effects of biological control and climate change on the noxious weed Centaurea diffusa. I also facilitated a national park feasibility discussion for youth in the South Okanagan. At UBC, I worked with CWS to evaluate the environmental and human health effects of the pesticide MSMA used for mountain pine beetle control. After graduating, I spent a year in Brazil on a CIDA/UBC/EYA project working with municipal politics and low-income youth in an imperilled watershed region.

After finishing my MSc, I wish to continue working in our socially, economically, and ecologically important grassland ecosystems, developing novel methods of mitigating our anthropogenic effects, whether climate change, overgrazing, or invasive species introduction.

Understanding and Adapting to Climate Change Impacts on Rangeland Biodiversity

Climate change is predicted to elevate temperatures in Canada's prairies. Precipitation is also predicted to change, and drought frequency and severity could increase. Understanding interactions between climate change and grazing is imperative in ensuring rangeland sustainability, as well as increasing our abilities to capitalize on rangeland's properties as a carbon sink and promote ecosystem biodiversity and function. I am part of a large interdisciplinary team investigating these interactions. This three-year project encompasses prairie regions in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Specifically, my research questions are:

    How will climate change and defoliation interact to alter primary production?
    How will climate change and defoliation interact to cause shifts in plant community composition?
    How will climate change and defoliation interact to affect forage quality?

This information will be critical for land managers planning to adapt to the effects of climate change on rangeland health.


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Dani Xu

Dani Xu is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of Soil Science. She received a B.Sc. from the University of Alberta (2004) and a M.Sc. from the University of Saskatchewan (2006). Her general research interests are analytical chemistry, geochemistry and land use management. She hopes to pursue a career in research and contribute to the overall goal of sustainable living.

How do land use practices affect the type, amount and fate of pesticides detected in the bottom sediments of prairie wetlands?

The Prairie Pothole Region of Canada encompasses 1.6 to 4 million wetlands scattered amongst 17 million hectares of agricultural lands. It provides key habitat for 50-80% of the continent’s waterfowl. Wetlands also provide hydrological benefits such as flood control, ground water recharge and water filtration. Drying of the wetlands as a result of climate change can exacerbate the decline in fresh water quality and quantity. The dwindling of fresh water supply is a growing concern of many Canadians and the international community, therefore scientifically sound guidelines for protecting and managing wetlands is needed. My PhD project is part of a large NSERC Strategic Project Grant (SPG) that addresses the target area “Healthy Environment and Ecosystem”, by focusing on the impact of land management and herbicide use in prairie wetland ecosystems. Specifically, I will examine the effects of different land use practices on sediment quality and herbicide sorption capacity, as well as the type, amount and fate of herbicides detected in bottom sediments of prairie wetlands.

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Sitotaw Yirdaw

Sitotaw Yirdaw is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba. He completed his M.Sc. in Water Resources Engineering at the Katholieke University of Leuven and the Free University of Brussels, Belgium with the support of a Flemish Interuniversity council scholarship. He holds a B. Sc. in Hydraulic Engineering from Arba Minch Water Technology, Ethiopia. Mr. Yirdaw has worked as a research assistant on GIS and remote sensing applications on groundwater bodies and as an instructor at Arba Minch Water Technology, Ethiopia. Recently he used time-varying gravity information from GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite measurements to determine time-varying watershed moisture storage in the Mackenzie River basin to increase understanding of the impacts of climate change. His current research is focused on vulnerability of groundwater resources under climate change. He is interested in coupling physically based mathematical models of both land surface and groundwater systems to predict changes in water quantity given drivers of future atmospheric climate and adaptive behaviours dictated by value-based economic analysis.

Vulnerability of the Assiniboine Delta Aquifer under Climate Change

How will climate change impact Manitoba’s groundwater resources? The answer is not clear. It has, however, been widely accepted that climate change will have an impact on the atmosphere. Projections of climate change, extracted from global circulation models indicate temperature increases for Manitoba ranging from 3-4ºC in summer to 5-8ºC in winter and a speed-up of the hydrologic cycle resulting in more frequent extreme events such as the occurrence of floods and droughts. While moisture projections are less certain, current estimates indicate increases in spring precipitation ranging between 5-20% and decreases in summer precipitation on the order of 10-20%. There may also be significant shifts in precipitation form as either rain or snow. To assess these atmospheric changes on groundwater resources and how we might adapt to them, a case study based on a large sand and gravel aquifer system known as the Assiniboine Delta Aquifer will be conducted. The generalized approach will be to use physically based mathematical models of both the land surface and groundwater systems to predict changes in water quantity given drivers of future atmospheric climate and adaptive behaviours as dictated by value-based economic analysis.

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Xiaodong Zhang

Xiaodong Zhang is currently a PhD candidate in the Environmental Systems Engineering Program at the University of Regina. He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Environmental Engineering from Tsinghua University, China. His research interests focus on surface and ground water pollution control, watershed and water resources management, climate change, and environmental systems analysis. Mr. Zhang has produced a number of peer-refereed papers in international journals and conferences and has received a number of national, provincial and institutional awards and scholarships. He has participated in major research projects funded by NSERC, Environment Canada, Natural Resource Canada, and the United Nations Development Programme. After obtaining his PhD degree, he hopes to be a well qualified researcher and realize his dream of devoting himself to teaching and research work in the field of environmental science and engineering.

Adaptation of Small Communities in the South Saskatchewan River Basin to Climate Change Impacts on Microbial Contamination of Surface Water Supplies

Located in geographically isolated rural areas surrounded by agricultural land, the source water to small drinking water utilities is often subject to run-off pollution. The characteristics of run-off pollutants have been changing due to shifting weather patterns and hydrological regimes. How climate change will impact spatio-temporal variations of run-off pollutants is important for the design and planning of small utilities and to protect public health in local communities. Most current small utilities suffer from shortages with respect to funding, personnel, and training limitations and face many obstacles such as a lack of response capabilities to microbial water contamination. Such deficiencies may increase the vulnerabilities of existing small utilities under climate change. This proposed study therefore aims to identify the relationship between extreme weather events and microbial quality of surface water supplies in selected small communities in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, assess health risks associated with microbial contamination and vulnerabilities of small utilities, and develop adaptation strategies to confront negative impacts of climate change on drinking water quality. The results will help design adaptation options for local communities to deal with potential water contamination problems under changing climatic conditions.

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