World Wetlands Day 2017

On Thursday, February 2, 2017, the Ecohydrology Research Group, of the University of Waterloo's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, hosted its annual research symposium in celebration of World Wetlands Day. 

Our Motivation

Wetlands are highly productive environments that support biodiversity and provide vital ecosystem services. Wetlands protect against flooding, filter contaminants and excess nutrients, stabilize shorelines, refresh groundwater supplies, and help regulate earth's climate, while lessons learned from natural ecosystems can be used to engineer more effective constructed wetlands. Canada is home to 1/4 of the world's wetlands, spanning 1.5 km2 or 15% of Canada's land area. The University of Waterloo is located in southwestern Ontario, an area which has lost 75% of its wetlands due to development, agriculture and pollution in the past 200 years. The Ecohydrology Research Group at the University of Waterloo hosted their 3rd World Wetlands Day to highlight the importance of wetland conservation and how future climate change and human impacts with influence these previous environments. 

The Event

The full day program featured 9 presentations from wetland researchers, followed by a student poster session and reception. The event was concluded with the Distinguished Science Public Lecture titled “From the age of carbon to the age of water – the role of wetlands,” presented by Dr. Ania Grobicki, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The symposium brought together scientists and young researchers from the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, McMaster University, McGill University, Nipissing University, Western University and the University of Windsor, together with members of industry and NGOs, in order to facilitate the dialogue on wetland conservation and to highlight recent scientific advancements. Speakers discussed a variety of wetlands conservation perspectives and research topics including: human-induced environmental stressors on aquatic biota, influence of landuse planning decisions on wetlands, contaminant transport and greenhouse gas exchange in peatlands, habitat restoration in Cootes Paradise Marsh, nutrient cycling in Hamilton Harbour, influence of wetland size on watershed nutrient dynamics, and an exploration of the historical ecology of Anishinaabeg traditional territory in Southwestern Ontario.

Student & Community Participation

Over 100 people attended the symposium, which was also available via an online live-stream and live tweeting (@UW-Ecohydrology). The seminar presentations and Distinguished Lecture are currently available for viewing on our YouTube page

The wetlands poster session and student poster contest attracted more than 30 entries and was sponsored by the Water Institute. University of Waterloo student, Linden Fairbairn, won the undergraduate student poster prize with her poster entitled, "Effect of salt water intrusion on carbon dioxide fluxes in coastal peatlands". Tash-Leigh Gauthier, PhD student at the University of Waterloo, won the graduate student poster prize for her poster, "Compression of sphagnum moss may increase hydrological connectivity in restored cut-over peatlands: Preliminary results of field scale compression". The complete list of poster presentations can be found below

Summary & Acknowledgements

Overall, the event was a tremendous success and helped to facilitate multi-faceted discussions between presenters and participants focused on the importance, conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. We look forward to organizing next year’s celebrations. 


We gratefully acknowledge the support from the University of Waterloo community, in particular the Faculty of Science and the Water Institute. We also acknowledge the support of the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) program. A special thanks is extended to all of our poster judges and student volunteers, who helped make this event a success.

Organizing Committee: Philippe Van Cappellen, Fereidoun Rezanezhad, Chris Parsons, Christina Smeaton, Erin Jones, Tatjana Milojevic, Kimberly Van Meter, Heather Neufeld, Amy Geddes

Additional Details


Jan Cibrowksi, University of Windsor: Developing Great Lakes wetland bioindicators of environmental condition and recovery from degradation with reference to watershed based risk of stress

Owen Steele, Ducks Unlimited Canada: Wetlands and flood attenuation in Ontario: natural adaptation to a changing climate

Colin McCarter, University of Waterloo: Domestic wastewater (nutrients) transport in peatlands and peat

Maria Strack, University of Waterloo: Land-use change induced greenhouse gas emissions from northern peatlands: impacts of oil sands extraction and mitigation opportunities

Gail Chmura, McGill University: Blue carbon consideration can stimulate restoration of marine wetlands and mitigate climate change

Jennifer Bowman, Royal Botanical Gardens: Habitat changes in Cootes Paradise Marsh following 20 years of carp management

Christine Ridenour, University of Waterloo: Internal phosphorus and silicon loading in a degraded coastal wetland (Cootes Paradise Marsh, Lake Ontario): Insights from a sediment core incubation experiment

Frederick Cheng, University of Waterloo: Size matters: Small wetlands as biogeochemical hotspots in landscape nutrient cycles

Rick Fehr, Nipissing University and Western University: When wetlands were supposedly settled and redeemed from their evil state: Reconsidering Indigenous and settler histories in Southwestern Ontario

Poster Presentations

  1. Kelly Biagi: 2017 CYHS Workshop at the CGU Annual Meeting 2017: Vancouver, BC
  2. Zahra Akbarzadeh: Anthropogenic Changes to the Global N cycle by River Damming
  3. Tariq Aziz: Valuation of ecosystem services: making them more relevant for local policy makers
  4. Matt Dyson: Waterfowl nest success in the western boreal forest: Does industrial development alter predation rates?
  5. James Elliott: Hydraulic parameterization of Sphagnum moss for simulating an aging Sphagnum moss colony
  6. Matthew Elmes: Exploring the hydrological and meteorological conditions leading to the 2016 Horse River Wildfire, and the subsequent burning of a fen watershed in Northern Alberta, Canada
  7. Linden Fairbairn: Effects of Salt-water Intrusion on Carbon Dioxide Fluxes in Coastal Peatlands
  8. Tasha-Leigh Gauthier: Compression of Sphagnum moss may increase hydrological connectivity in restored cut-over peatlands: Preliminary results of field scale compression.
  9. Jennifer Gleason: The influence of land use and hydroperiod on wetland macroinvertebrate communities
  10. Lu Huang: Internal loading of nutrient silicon in freshwater
  11. Sarah Irvine: DOC dynamics in a constructed fen in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region, Alberta
  12. Wynona Klemt: Is the Athabasca River Being Polluted from Alberta Oil Sands Development? A Paleolimnology Study
  13. Igor Markelov: Internal Phosphorus Loading in the lakes.
  14. Christopher Parsons: Sediment Phosphorus speciation and mobility under dynamic redox conditions
  15. Pritichhanda Nayak: Analysing species diversity and grain size distribution for habitat restoration: The case of Point Pelee Ramsar Wetland, Canada
  16. Danny Oh: Effect of freeze-thaw cycles on greenhouse gas fluxes from Sphagnum peat soils: a physical process view on mechanisms
  17. Fares Osman: Sources of Sulphate in the Nikanotee constructed fen watershed within the Athabasca oil sands region, Alberta, Canada
  18. Helen Powley: Nutrient Dynamics in the Mediterranean Sea: Threats and Resilience
  19. Geertje Pronk: Linking Water Table Dynamics to Carbon Cycling Using an Artificial Soil Column Incubation
  20. Fereidoun Rezanezhad: Structure of peat soils and implications for water storage, flow and solute transport: A review update for geochemists
  21. Courtney Robichaud: Effects of invasive Phragmites australis on wetland avian communities
  22. Md Abdus Sabur: Internal Loading of P and Si: Competitive Sorption on a Model Iron(III) oxide
  23. Christina Smeaton: Bioenergetic Controls on Subsurface Microbial Activity
  24. Alanna Smolarz: Hydrological Dynamics of Critical Wetland Habitat for Reptiles along Eastern Georgian Bay
  25. Severin Stojanovic: Water Column Stability as a Predictor of Algal Dynamics in Tributaries to the Three Gorges Reservoir
  26. Owen Sutton: Groundwater Flow Modelling at a Constructed Fen, Athabasca Oil Sands Region, Alberta
  27. Sabrina Touchette: Carbon and methane exchange in a restored peatland: evaluating the role of graminoid species
  28. Christine van Beest: Spatial and Temporal Changes in Nutrient Cycling and Carbon Fluxes of Western Boreal Peatlands Impacted by Wildfire
  29. Brandon Van Huizen: Seasonal Ground Ice characteristics of a Western Boreal Plains Peatland and its potential impacts on early growing season Evapotranspiration rates
  30. Stephanie Slowinski: Where does the carbon go? Tracing biomass growth using bioenergetics
  31. Pranjal Nayak  & Alen Ciric: Sea Level Rise and Thermal Expansion (elementary school entry)