Hydrology, Earth and Environmental Systems

Modeling and understanding hydrological, ecological and geophysical systems and interactions with the human environment.

Our research is focused on understanding, assessing, and modeling physical environmental systems and processes and the landscapes they create, including how environmental systems are changing under natural and human-induced stress. This includes research on water supply resilience and vulnerability, marine environments, responses of river flow and glacier cover to climate change, fluvial geomorphology, erosion modeling, wetland science, and eco-hydrology.

Research also occurs at topical boundaries, using applied geomatics and other tools and exploring the implications of physical environmental change for policy, planning, and management of the human environment. This includes research focused on flood risk management, environmental impact assessment, and decision support tools for wetland assessment and watershed management.

Our Department is home to the Centre for Hydrology, a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change and the Associate Program Director of Global Water Futures. The Centre for Hydrology manages much of its research relating to mountain hydrology at the Coldwater Laboratory in Canmore, Alberta.

Some of our current research projects include: 

  • Rocky Mountain water supply resilience and vulnerability evaluation
  • Expanded testing and development of the Prairie Hydrological Model in Prairie pothole watersheds
  • Sensitivity of Dempster highway hydrological responses to climate warming
  • Long-term ecology and seabed habitat mapping, Frobisher Bay, Nunavut
  • Assessing community structure of marine benthos, Canadian Beaufort Sea shelf
  • Understanding the alterations of hydrogeomorphic processes by beavers in southern South America
  • Assessment of PAH distributions in sediments in the Alberta oil sands monitoring area and western Lake Athabasca
  • Assessing beaver influence on mountain peatland form and ecohydrologic function
  • Integrated systems modeling of land owner values and water quality in the Qu’Appelle watershed 

Applied and Scientific Geomatics

Advancing GIS, spatial statistics and remote sensing, with applications to problems in the social, physical and environmental sciences.

Our research is focused on the development of remote sensing techniques for assessing forests and grasslands productivity, using GIS and spatial statistics in health research and urban geography, and developing tools to examine human mobility, navigation, and interaction in urban environments.

Research also occurs at topical boundaries, contributing the development and application of geomatics for understanding physical systems and supporting policy and planning decisions. This includes collaborative research with computer science, plant science, and other scholars, practitioners and decision makers from the social, health and natural sciences. Our work in this area includes the development of new tools and the integration of emerging technologies, such as the development of smartphone applications for indoor positioning and mobility tracking, the use of field based sensor systems, and the integration of drones for environmental modeling.

Our research is supported in part by The Spatial Initiative, and our Department is home to its current Academic and Scientific Director.

Some of our current research projects include: 

  • Integrating measures of grassland function using Remote Sensing
  • Development of monitoring methods for dead materials in Alpine pastures using Remote Sensing data in Qinghai-Tibet plateau
  • SEA application for landscape-based, temporal analysis of wetland change in urban environments
  • Remote sensing of terrestrial non-photosynthetic vegetation using hyperspectral, multispectral, SAR, and LiDAR data
  • Detecting spatial and temporal changes in land cover on Aboriginal reserves
  • Developing indoor positioning tools for use with smartphone based tracking applications to study human movement and interaction
  • Methods development for understanding human behavior during navigation
  • Spatial analysis of and access to health care services in urban areas

Planning and Management of the Built and Natural Environment

Planning and design of urban and rural spaces, and assessing and managing human interactions with the natural environment.

Our research is focused on the built and natural environment, including human wellbeing and the planning and design of urban and rural spaces. This includes research on the origins of city form, urban quality, sustainable cities, municipal governance, Indigenous health, Indigenous urbanism, age-friendly communities and human behavior and navigation.

Research also occurs at topical boundaries, including natural resources planning and management and exploring human interactions with the natural environment using applied geomatics and other analytical tools. This includes research focused on watershed planning and management, flood risk management, environmental policy and planning, sustaining northern communities, energy policy, and environmental and social impact assessment.

Our research is supported by collaborations with a variety of external government, industry and community partnerships and on-campus partnerships. Our Department is also home to the Prairie Research Centre of the Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network, and its Director.

Some of our current research projects include: 

  • Cumulative impact monitoring for decision support in the Mackenzie Valley, NWT
  • Baseline analysis for marine shipping impact assessment in Nunavut
  • Source water protection planning with First Nations in Saskatchewan 
  • Assessing the role of environmental researchers in the transmission of land based skills and knowledge to Inuit youth in Canada
  • Indigenous health policy network analysis of northern Saskatchewan: linking climate change, youth suicide, decision making and policy gaps
  • The emergence of Type 2 diabetes in First Nations and Métis communities
  • Indigenizing city planning processes in Canada’s large Prairie cities 
  • Examining the role(s) of citizens, artists, community-organizations, businesses and decision makers in approaches to urban change that honour diversity
  • Analysis of perceptions of credible science among policy stakeholders about nuclear energy
  • Analysis of flood risk mitigation options for rural communities