$15.8 million awarded to six Waterloo research projects aimed at tackling climate change

Monday, November 28, 2022

Landscape of factories and their white cloud emissions.

The Government of Canada's Environmental Damages Fund, administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada, is allocating $15.8 million to six University of Waterloo research projects to identify solutions to environmental challenges. Two of the projects are led by Waterloo scientists - biologist Dr. Laura Hug and earth scientist Dr. Nandita Basu.

Funded through the Climate Action and Awareness Fund (CAAF), the research supports building sustainable net-zero emissions in Canada by 2050.

"Scientific research underpins everything we do to fight climate change. This funding provides critical support, allowing government and academia to collaborate to explore practical and achievable climate change solutions. By leveraging our unique expertise, we can foster collaboration across disciplines, sectors, communities, and research bodies," said the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Mitigation of methane emission hot-spots from municipal landfills - Principal Investigator Laura Hug

Headshot of Laura Hug.
Dr. Laura Hug is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology. Her research focuses on microbial diversity and function at contaminated sites and aims to develop solutions to address the impacts of human activities on the environment.

The project aims to improve methane emission monitoring at landfills by combining state-of-the-art soil measurements with a novel application of hyperspectral infrared imaging. The team will also develop methods to reduce emissions using methane-consuming microbes from landfill cover soils.

This project targets the large, poorly quantified emissions from Canadian landfills and provides information, tools, and methods for practical solutions.

"Our planned research has the potential to address one of the key methane mitigation gaps in Canada, landfill cover soil emissions," said Hug. "Our work aims to develop tools to both more accurately detect and monitor methane emissions from covered landfills, and to reduce methane emissions at the source by enhancing microbially mediated methane oxidation."

The co-investigators on the project are: Maria Strack (Geography), Kyle Daun (Engineering), Fereidoun Rezanezhad, Sherry Schiff (both Earth and Environmental Sciences) and Josh Neufeld (Biology). The external partners are Telops, Inc., Region of Waterloo and ECCC Waste Reduction and Management Division.

Solutionscapes - Principal Investigator Nandita Basu

Headshot of Nandita Basu.
Dr. Nandita Basu, a professor jointly appointed to the Faculties of Science and Engineering, is the Canada Research Chair in Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology. She is internationally renowned in the fields of water sustainability and ecohydrology. Her new project aims at designing climate and water smart agricultural solutions in complex working landscapes.

The proposed project, called Solutionscapes, takes a synergistic approach, bringing together multiple bioenergy (manure to biogas) and nature-based approaches (e.g., cover crops, wetland restoration) in agricultural landscapes and quantifying not just outcomes for carbon, but also effects on water quality, food-provisioning, and a range of other ecosystem services. 

As part of this analysis, the team will prioritize the creation of  “solutionscape” portfolios, which include multiple, spatially targeted solution strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon while enhancing ecosystem service outcomes.

"In its quest to achieve net-zero emissions, Canada is investing in agricultural climate solutions at an unprecedented level. While the development of such solutions is not new, they have mostly focused on a single problem of interest, at a single scale, without adequate consideration of social and environmental tradeoffs. The SOLUTIONSCAPES project will enable us to develop pan-Canadian, spatially explicit solution portfolios that will move Canada towards a net-zero GHG future while also prioritizing water quality and other ecosystem service outcomes."

The co-investigators on the project are: Juan Moreno Cruz, Dustin Garrick, Bryan Tolson, Rebecca Saari, Anita Layton, Tonya DelSontro and Nancy Goucher. 

The research stemming from Waterloo's projects will advance and extend existing collaborations among stakeholders, including municipal and community organizations, academic and federal science partners, researchers and trainees, to support climate change innovation and knowledge transfer.

The other Waterloo projects funded by CAAF are:

"It's critical for us to be working toward net-zero," said Dr. Charmaine Dean, vice president, Research and International at the University of Waterloo. "Using established and emerging strengths in fundamental and applied research, Waterloo is pushing boundaries to accelerate the transition to a climate-resilient, low-carbon sustainable society, and advancing the sustainable use and management of space, land, water, and energy on a global scale."

Nationally, the CAAF funding was part of Minister Guilbeault's $58 million announcement for research projects that will advance science and technology to combat climate change.

Discovering solutions to environmental challenges impacting our world is a key priority at Waterloo. Therecent launch of the Sustainable Futuresinitiativeaims to make the University of Waterloo a global leader in sustainability research,education,andinnovationto benefit the environment, economy, and society.