Global Outreach

Water Security is one of the greatest challenges for humankind, with global implications. There is a need a) to develop local and regional studies that are of global significance, and to share that information, b) to address key water challenges around the world, and c) to provide students and researchers with new insights and tools to address these problems. International collaboration and cooperation therefore play a critical role in advancing water science to deliver sustainable solutions.

GIWS is contributing in each of these areas, and has placed significant emphasis on collaboration with international programmes and institutions of strategic significance. GIWS welcomes visits and approaches from students, post-doctoral researchers, faculty members and Institutions for collaboration.

a)      Local and Regional Research of Global Significance

A key GIWS focus is the 408,000 km2 Saskatchewan River Basin (SaskRB). Of local and regional importance, the water security challenges and various anthropogenic stresses experienced by biomes in SaskRB are of global significance. GIWS also leads a major Canadian project Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN) to investigate and model environmental change in Western Canada (includes SaskRB and Mackenzie River Basin (MRB) 1.8 million km2), with 15 international collaborators from Europe, China, Australia and the USA. Thus the SaskRB and MRB is now recognized as one of the 10 Regional Hydroclimate Programs in the world by the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX) initiative.  Key institutional links include the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Current collaborative research also includes projects in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.

b)     Global-Scale Challenges and Leadership

GIWS place-based research seeks to inform global research, but in addition, GIWS members are active in leading key international research programmes. The emergence of Canada as a recognized leader in cold regions climate and hydrology research has culminated in the formation of CCRN.  This international leadership is evidenced through the collaborations of 18 CCRN scientists from Germany, France, USA, UK and China, as well as CCRN’s strong affiliation with the Global Energy and Water Exchanges initiative of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP).  In addition, CCRN’s mountain observatories have recently been invited to form part of WCRP’s International Network for Alpine Research Catchment Hydrology (INARCH) of 40 users from North America, South America, Europe and Asia that supports UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme along with hundreds of member nation states.  CCRN’s Water, Ecosystem, Cryosphere and Climate (WECC) observatory data also supports WCRP’s Climate and Cryosphere project, and NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite study, Airborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface study, and Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment. WECC observatories (total 14 observatories) are capable of operating at temperatures down to -60 C and at wind speeds up to 150 kph.  Each of the 14 observatories has between 3 and 18 stations and each station has many (10-30) different sensors on it. Such station-based measurements are supplimented by 1) single-variable (e.g. water level, stream flow, soil temperature) measurements from a large array of distributed logging stations, and 2) manually operated spatial surveys of snow depth and density, snow covered area, surface temperature, turbulent transfer, atmospheric temperature and wind profiles, soil texture and moisture and vegetation optical properties as well as biophysical structure.  These surveys use unique equipment and instruments that are not available anywhere else in Canada (Sodar Wind Profiler, Large Aperture Scintillometer and Canadian-developed System for Acoustic Sounding of Snow) or have specialized cold regions and Arctic applications (COSMOS cosmic ray soil moisture sensor, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for snow, vegetation, and thermal sensing and dielectric snow sensors). CCRN has an active research partnership with the NCAR and the USDA, and with these collaborators the WECC observatories are now the focus of international hydrology and climate model comparison studies.

In addition, Dr. Wheater Co-Chair UNESCO’s GWADI arid zone water program, Vice–Chair (until 2014) of the WCRP Global Energy and Water Experiment (GEWEX); 2010-13 engineer member of a Court of Arbitration in The Hague in a dispute between Pakistan and India concerning the Indus Waters Treaty; adviser to the State of Nevada, USA concerning a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

It is noteworthy that the GIWS members sit on the advisory panels for the world’s two leading water prizes (Stockholm Water Prize and Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water), has three fellows of the American Geophysical Union (only 0.01% recognized as fellows),  fellow of Chinese Academy of Sciences, fellow of Beijing DeTao Masters Academy, president-elect of the American Geophysical Union (7500-member Hydrology Section, the world’s leading scientific hydrology organization), and president of International Association of Hydrogeologists - Canadian National Chapter.

c)      Training Programmes

In 2015, CERC/GIWS trained 209 graduate students (510% increase since 2011), 60 postdoctoral fellows, research associates and research scientist (300% increase since 2011), 33 research technicians (236% increase since 2011), and 62 summer students (a 62 fold increase since 2011). These trainees belongs to at least 21 different countries. GIWS has established a new professional Master of Water Security graduate programme; developed NSERC CREATE in Water Security graduate programme.

We have hosted 137 international visiting scholars since 2011.

Over the last 5 years, 48 GIWS trainees (53% of PDFs) have accepted faculty appointments or research positions in 18 countries; our students have won 3 Vanier scholarships, 23 Canada Graduate Scholarships and 19 Tri-agency Postgraduate Scholarships.

From 2011-2015, GIWS team has published 715 journal articles (3 Nature, 2 Science), and 43 books/book chapters, contributed 554 conference papers, and presented and delivered more than 261 invited, key-note and plenary lectures.

GIWS faculty members hold visiting or honorary positions in leading universities worldwide, including Imperial College London, University of Aberdeen, Oregon State Univeristy, Langsho University, Michigan State University, Chinese Academy of Science, University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Nanjing University, Xiamen University, Hohai University, Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute, Austral University Chile, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Duke University and many others. In addition, GIWS’s international visitors provide the opportunity for Canadian researchers to interact with the world’s leading scientists, especially through the new Distinguished Lecture Series, called “Breakthroughs in Water Security Research,” brings about 11 world-leading scientists to Saskatoon for lectures, tutorials and workshops every year. The GIWS leads a formal Post Doc mentoring programme and short-course on Launching an Academic Career.

Climate and Atmospheric Science

Yanping Li, assistant professor, School of Environment and Sustainability is part of the PECAN (Plains Elevated Convection At Night). PECAN is an international field experiment funded through the National Science Foundation in Oklahoma/Kansas States involving scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), many American universities, the University of Manitoba, and other universities and institutes from Europe.

The project aims to understand the physical mechanisms that contribute to the warm-season nocturnal precipitation over the US Great Plains. Li is collaborating with the hydro-meteorology group at the NCAR Research Application Lab to create a Continental Scale Regional Climate model. This 10-year climate simulation covers both the continental US and south Canada and focuses on examining the extent to which global warming will affect the severity and frequency of extreme rainfall events over the Canadian Prairies and diagnose the physical processes that could cause such changes.

Li, in collaboration with Professors Roberto Rondanelli and José Rutllant from the University of Chile, is leading a project through the Canada-Latin America and the Caribbean Research Exchange Grants Program to study the Elqui Valley basin in Chile. The team is assessing the vulnerability of water resources in the Andes Western Slopes to climate change.

Watershed Hydrology

Jeffrey McDonnell, associate director, GIWS, explores questions regarding watershed hydrology and focuses his research on the following three questions:

  1. Where does water go when it rains (or when snow melts)?
  2. What flow path does it take to the stream?
  3. How long does it reside in the catchment?

His personal exploration of these issues in experimental watersheds has included research sites and funded projects in Canada, the United States, New Zealand, China, Japan, Luxembourg, Scotland, England, Sweden, Italy, Ethiopia, Chile and Brazil. His expertise in this area is sought by leading research groups world-wide. Recent high profile work on artificial experimental hillslopes includes experiments at Biosphere 2, Arizona, where he has been drying down the tropical biome to assess new theories of water cycling by plants. He is co-supervising students and postdoctoral fellows at most of the above noted locations.

For example, Jeffrey McDonnell’s team is working at the Maimai Experimental Watershed on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The site has been the focus of catchment hydrology research since the 1970s. It stands as a quintessential steep, humid and temperate headwater system which has produced pivotal research offering insight to catchment hydrologists on the mechanisms and processes which transform rainfall into streamflow. McDonnell's research group is conducting field campaigns to collect vegetation, soil, groundwater, and stream water samples for stable isotope analyses from a wide range of site physiography as part of his Pantropical project. Isotope information will be used to understand controls on ecohydrological separation. Consequently, Jeff has 42 sites in Hawaii, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines sampled for the Pantropical two water worlds hypothesis project. In addition, other confirmed sites for the Pantropical project include Jamaica, Mexico, and Malaysian Borneo.

Environmental Toxicology

John Giesy, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Toxicology and his research group at the Toxicology Center are conducting research of international significance in the area of eco-toxicology. In general the impact of their research is on social policy for the protection of the quality of water globally. Their work has led to the banning globally of perfluorinated chemicals, which are now listed on the Stockholm convention. In addition, work in underway on writing the water quality criteria for China.

Currently, John Giesy and his group have active research sites in South Africa, Egypt, Germany, Czech Republic, Korea, China, Nepal, Tibet, Hong Kong, and US Great Lakes.

Mine Reclamation

Lee Barbour, Syncrude-NSERC Industry Research Chair has active collaborations with Professor Kevin Briggs, University of Bath, on measuring evaporation and cracking in moisture-limited soils. This work is linked to his research at the Queens University Belfast on hydrogeological responses within glacial till drumlins.

The research is conducted at sites in the United Kingdom, which has helped Lee improve the understanding of soil-atmosphere-vegetation-transfer (SVAT) processes in fractured, clay-rich soils in the UK and in mine waste in Canada. In addition, in coordination with Jim Hendry, Cameco-NSERC Industry Research Chair, Lee is working with Dr. Wendy Timms from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia in the area of stable isotope profiling and geo-lysimeters. This research has particular application on the impact of underground mining on groundwater disturbance in Australia and Canada.

Lake Biology

Michael Kehoe, postdoctoral fellow with the School of Environment and Sustainability is part of a project titled A Flexible Underwater Distributed Robotic System for High‐Resolution Sensing of Aquatic Ecosystems funded through the SINERGIA programme of the National Swiss Science foundation.  The project is led by Alcherio Martinoli (Principal Applicant), Alfred Wüest, and Bastiaan Ibelings from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.

This multi-disciplinary project uses autonomous underwater vehicles in conjunction with innovative instrumentation to measure the physical, chemical and biological parameters of freshwater lakes (Lake Greffen, Lake Geneva, Lake Hallwil) at extremely high resolution. This will allow greater understanding of how fine spatial structure in lake water columns contribute to phytoplankton population dynamics and diversity. A particular focus is on how phytoplankton blooms occur. Michael Kehoe is a collaborator on a subproject which will test how fine scale variation of turbulence in the water column promotes diversity of phytoplankton communities. Particularly, he will measure the sinking rate of individual phytoplankton cells using a methodology developed during his PhD programme.