World Wetlands Day 2014 Event Report

Reported by Christina Smeaton, Postdoctoral Fellow, Ecohydrology Research Group

Given that Canada is home to 25% of the world’s wetlands, the University of Waterloo’s Ecohydrology Research Group wanted to highlight one of Canada’s and the world’s most important yet commonly overlooked natural resource.

Our Motivation

The University of Waterloo is located in Southwestern Ontario, Canada in an area that has lost approximately 75% of its wetlands since its settlement in the 1800s.  With the ever increasing demands and stress on wetlands by urban development, climate change and land use we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of wetlands and the Ramsar Convention. 

The Event

 "Our true value is in the fields, wetlands, and the forests."

The Ecohydrology Research Group hosted a one-day symposium entitled, “A Celebration of World Wetlands Day: Seminars and Poster Session” on January 31, 2014 at the University of Waterloo. The full-day program consisted of 8 talks followed by a panel discussion and a research poster session.

The event brought together scientists, economists and policy experts and facilitated a dialogue with the community on wetland conservation and sustainability.

 "The beaver is an often overlooked contributor to the carbon balance in peatlands."

Speakers introduced participants to a variety of wetlands conservation perspectives and research topics such as assessing the vulnerability of northern Canadian peatlands to wildfire and examining socio-ecological issues including examining power, politics and marginalization in Chilika Lagoon, India.

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Faisal Moola from the David Suzuki Foundation gave an inspirational talk entitled, "We're richer than we think: recognizing the true value of nature in our lives".

Panel session

The closing panel discussion was moderated by our research group leader, Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen, Canadian Excellence Research Chair in Ecohydrology. 

Five panelists, Kevin Rich, Sheldon Smith, Prateep Nayak, Mike Waddington and Merrin Macrae discussed and debated five hot topics with participation from the audience. Questions ranged from whether or not natural wetlands can be replaced by constructed ones to how wetlands protection agencies and the agricultural sector can work together to their mutual benefit.

Student and Community Participation

Over 120 people attended the event which was also live-streamed online and live tweeted (@UW-Ecohydrology). Over 50% of the attendees were students. By the end of the day our online viewership was more than 100 people. The videos of the talks and panel discussion archived on our YouTube page and have been viewed more than 200 times over the past month.

Philippe Van Cappellen, poster prize winner Kim Van Meter, and Sheldon Smith

A student poster session and contest sponsored by Stantec Consulting was held with more than 15 participants. PhD Student, Kim Van Meter won the poster contest with her research poster entitled, “Size Matters: Geomorphic vs. Anthropogenic Controls on Wetland Distribution in a Prairie Pothole Landscape”. 

Several community members from outside the university attended the event including those representing various NGOs such as rare Charitable research reserve, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Grand River Conservation Authority, Southern Ontario Water Consortium, Aquafor Beech Limited and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Kim Van Meter (centre), poster contest winner, with Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen (L) and Sheldon Smith (R)

In recognition of World Wetlands Day, Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen was interviewed by Radio Canada to discuss the importance of wetlands. The Imprint, the official student newspaper of the University of Waterloo also profiled the event in a print article and online


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.

 Philippe Van Cappellen, Fereidoun Rezanezhad, Erin Jones, Chris Parsons, Christina Smeaton


We gratefully acknowledge the support from the University of Waterloo community including the Faculty of Environment, Faculty of Science, Office of Research and The Water Institute. We also thank the Canadian Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) program. A special thank you to Stantec for sponsoring the graduate student poster contest.

 Canada Excellence Research Chairs, Ecohydrology Research Group, the Water Institute, University of Waterloo, Stantec, UW Faculty of Environment, UW Faculty of Science

Additional Details 

Guest speakers

  • Faisal Moola – Director General (Ontario and Northern Canada), David   Suzuki Foundation
  • Kevin Rich - Provincial Policy Specialist, Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • Sheldon Smith - Senior Hydrologist, Stantec
  • Rebecca Rooney – Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Waterloo
  • Jonathan Price – Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo
  • Prateep Nayak – Assistant Professor, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo
  • Mike Waddington – Professor, Department of Geography and Earth Science, McMaster University
  • Tim Moore – Professor, Department of Geography, McGill University

Panel Discussion Questions

  1. What are the greatest current and future anthropogenic threats to wetlands?
  2. Is wetland protection compatible with current modes of economic development that aim to maximize economic growth?
  3. To what extent can we replace natural wetlands by constructed wetlands? 
  4. How effective have provincial, national and international policies and regulations been in slowing down the degradation and loss of wetlands?
  5. How can wetlands protection and the agricultural sector work together to their mutual benefit?


World Wetlands Day Symposium - PROGRAM
Talks and panel in DC 1302; breaks, posters and reception in the Fishbowl (DC 1301)
Time Speaker Affiliation Title

George Dixon

VP University Research, University of Waterloo Welcome Address
9:15 Mike Waddington McMaster University, School of Geography and Earth Sciences Hot Hot Peat! Ecohydrological vulnerability of northern peatlands to wildfire
9:45 Prateep Nayak University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development A social-ecological system in crisis: Power, politics and marginalization in Chilika Lagoon, Bay of Bengal, India
10:15 Sheldon Smith Stantec Engineered Wetlands: where we are and where are we going?
10:45                                                                    Break
11:00 Rebecca Rooney University of Waterloo, Department of Biology Wetland function and health: assessment in service of a new Albertan wetland policy
11:30 Jonathan Price University of Waterloo, Department of Geography and Environmental Management Dewatering of the De Beers Victor diamond mine, James Bay Lowland: The role and response of peatlands

Tim Moore

McGill University, Department of Geography Carbon Cycling in Peatlands
12:30                                                                      Lunch
14:00 Faisal Moola David Suzuki Foundation Keynote speaker: "We're richer than we think: recognizing the true value of nature in our lives"
14:45 Kevin Rich Ducks Unlimited Canada Ontario wetlands policy:Where do we go from here?
15:15                                                          PANEL DISCUSSION
16:00                                                     Reception and Poster Session

Poster presentations

Title Presented By
The Influence of Riparian and Hyporheic Zones on the Hydrology and Biogeochemical Responses in a Stream Amanda Niederkorn
Snow Dynamics and Water Fluxes Within a Constructed Watershed in Northern Alberta, Canada Scott Ketcheson
Fen Design for Oil Sands-Mined Land Reclamation Rob Reid (and 4th year team)
Use of Thermal Imagery for the Detection of Biomass Loss in the Western Boreal Forest Kayla Noble
Coupling of Multicomponent Reactive Transport and Travel Time Modeling at Multi-Scale Groundwater Basins Gabriel Bacca-Cortes
The Power of Wetlands in Treating Sewage in Developing Nations? Tanisha Rajput
Global Retention of Nutrient Silica by Dammed Reservoirs Taylor Maavara
Sediment Nutrient Dynamics Under Redox-Oscillating Conditions (Cootes Paradise, Ontario) Chris Parsons
Size Matters: Geomorphic vs. Anthropogenic Controls on Wetland Distribution in a Prairie Pothole Landscape Kimberly Van Meter
The Effect of Sphagnum Profile Structure on Vertical Water Flow in Regenerating Peatlands Neil Taylor
Mechanisms of Enhancing Social-Ecological Resilience in Human-Altered Wetlands through Community Participation Abdullah Al Mamun
Influence of Glacial Landform and Landscape Position on Groundwater and P Dynamics of Shallow Lakes-Wetlands on the Boreal Plains Janina Plach
Economic Valuation of Ecosystem Services in the Grand River Watershed Tariq Aziz
Embedded Hydrologies Miriam Ho