Current Research


Stony Mountain Headwater Catchment Observatory

SMHCO was created to determine the hydrological and geochemical function of headwater catchments and their importance for water availability in the Athabasca River Basin. It uses innovative technology and research techniques to further our knowledge of these vital landscapes. Overlooked, these ecozones may well have a disproportionally significant hydrological significance on Alberta's river systems. This project aims to determine the redistribution and storage of water between and among forested hillslopes, wetlands and watercourses. Thus unlocking the key to understanding water quantity and quality at a much larger scale. 

This research focuses on headwater catchments within the Athabasca River Basin (ARB), one of Alberta’s largest and most important river systems. The underlying hydrological and biogeochemical processes that impact these important ecosystems may well be determined by the function of these headwaters. Increasing our knowledge will better help manage these wetlands and provide better tools for long term sustainability.

Remote Sensing Equipment for Environmental Research

The group has begun collaboration with Riot Technology Corp. (RT) to provide real-time in field implementation of their technology. Riot Technology Corp. (RT) has been developing and testing a newer, innovative technology that is capable of much greater communication distances between individual nodes, while consuming far less power called ‘Low Power Wide Area Sensor Networks’ (LPWAN). The AU hydrology lab is testing these innovative technologies for field measurements and developing an ongoing network for distributed environmental data collection across scales.
This project aims to understand the underlying controls on the communications capabilities of the technology and goes far beyond simply field-testing the RT technologies. Communication performances will be related to detailed landscape (e.g., distance, topography and vegetation) and meteorological (e.g., rain events, air temperature) analyses to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the underlying variables that govern communication capabilities and ultimately improve the collection of data in remote locations.

Biogeochemical Processes of Catchment Wetlands

Wetlands are key ecosystems for the storage, transformation and transport of nutrients and potentially dangerous contaminants. Carbon and nutrient fluxes can drive methylation and demethylation rates of Hg creating dangerous bioaccumulative risks that can impact the entire region. SMHCO involves a collaborative effort to better characterise the driving mechanisms that govern water quality throughout the catchment. Incorporating a suite of biogeochemical tests along with the fundamental hydrological connectivity, the group is creating a functional framework for the management of headwater catchments. Observations of mercury, major ions, nutrients and isotope tracers establish useful tools to better improve and protect Alberta's water quality.