Grad students illuminate humankind’s most vital resource

Pieter observing in Arctic regionEach March, the United Nations celebrates World Water Day. This year, Waterloo celebrated the occasion by hosting its seventh annual water research conference, organized by the Water Institute and Laurier's Institute for Water Science. Along with a plethora of speakers, the conference featured a poster competition involving 51 graduate students from across southern Ontario.

Waterloo students took first place in four out of five categories in ths poster competition. Pieter Aukes, winner in the Cold Regions Research category, displayed his research on drinking water quality and aquatic health in the High Arctic. The Ph.D student in Earth Sciences uses dissolved organic matter to test how water quality may change in an arctic environment as a response to a warming climate.

There is a lot of uncertainty around how arctic environments may respond to a warming climate. My poster was looking at how dissolved organic matter  differs among different surface waters in the high arctic, and how easily it degrades as a result of natural processes.

 

Jason Davidson photoIn the Hydrological and Atmospheric Science category, Jason Davidson, came first of fourteen poster exhibitors. Now in the fifth year of his Ph.D in Earth and Environmental Science, Davidson’s poster showed a simulation of California’s water cycle, which focuses on the interactions between its atmosphere and water resources. Using a fully-dimensional atmospheric, surface and subsurface model, the poster shows California’s water movement and how water usage is impacting local water resources.

The Western United States is facing one of the worst droughts on record. California has supplemented their decreased surface water supplies by mining groundwater. However, this supply of groundwater is limited. My research will help address the impact of climate change on North American resource management and drought preparation, and help policymakers, communities, and industries better mitigate droughts and adopt improved agricultural, industrial, and community policies.

MSc candidate, Janis Rachel Baldwin, won first out of seven in the Water Treatment and Technology category. She belongs to the Groundwater Geochemistry and Remediation Research Group at Waterloo. Engineering student, Tejasvi Hora, came first of fourteen students in the Water Policy, Management and Governance category. His poster explained a systems approach to sustainable trajectories in water-stressed environments.

The importance of the earth’s freshwater cannot be overstated. Humans, as well plants and animals, need it to survive and could do much to improve our stewardship of this life-giving resource. Luckily academics, policymakers and graduate students, are all working hard to improve freshwater sustainability, both here at home and around the world.

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