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Reserch Interests

My interests include physical hydrology and GIS and remote sensing applications in hydrology. This interest is spread over a range of spatial scales but I spend most of my time researching hydrological processes at the basin scale. This includes my current research focus on water balance dynamics, snow cover, and the impact of hydrologic alteration by dams and waterpower facilities on meso-scale riverine processes. All focus on understanding changes to physical hydrologic systems, what this means for other physical processes and ultimately the impact on the ecological condition of of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and water resources. Results of our research are used to support more informed decisions on the use of water resources. This includes the integration of new knowledge into policy or the use of methods and tools to directly support the implementation of resource management programs. We conduct field research throughout the province but have a more concentrated field effort in the Petawawa River basin which drains a significant portion of Algonquin Provincial Park.

Research themes
  • Geography of water: Regional hydrology of Ontario.

  • Understanding and modelling water balance dynamics to identify vulnerabilities to climate change.

  • Simulating natural flow regimes in ungauged basins to establish reference conditions for environmental flow assessments.

  • Characterising natural and altered flow regimes using ecologically-meaningful hydrologic indicators that can predict and explain changes in river condition.

  • Elucidating changes to physical riverine processes in response to the alteration of river systems for waterpower.

  • Development and implementation of environmental flow assessments.

Current research projects

Variability and trends in seasonal snow cover in Ontario from 1980 to 2010 detected using remote sensing

This study focuses on documenting the variability and changes in monthly snow water equivalent (SWE) and snow cover extent (SCE) within Ontario over the recent climate normal period (1980-2010) using satellite based products (i.e. European Space Agency's Globsnow - Snow Water Equivalent (SWE); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Rutgers University - Snow Cover Extent (SCE)). Several indicators were used to assess changes in snowpack conditions at the provincial and secondary watershed scale and the non-parametric Mann-Kendall (MK) test was used to detect monotonic trends in SWE, SCE, and climate variables for the 30 years.


Trends in water year maximum snow water equivalent (SWE) for secondary watersheds in Ontario, 1980-2010.

Using water balance dynamics to identify vulnerabilities to climate change

Vulnerabilities to climate change include the degree to which physical systems respond to climate forcing. With respect to water, it relates to changes we might expect to see in the hydrological cycle of a watershed which we quantify using a water balance/budget. In this project we are characterising water balance components for watersheds across the Great Lakes Basin, assessing historical trends, and investigating regional patterns. We are also developing and validating a distributed water balance model to:

  1. Predict water balances in ungauged watersheds;
  2. Understand within-watershed heterogeneity in the fluxes of water; and
  3. Predict changes to a watershed's water balance dynamics in response to a changing climate.

Effects of altering the rate-of-change of flow

This research focuses on the effect of altering a ramping rates on downstream flow, sediment, thermal, and biogeochemical regimes. This is investigate the effects of increasing the rate-of-change of flow, to optimise energy production, on downstream ecological condition. I am not only interested in the changes in these physical regimes before and after a change in ramping rates but also in the changes related to indvidual flow events in the altered regime (i.e. individual peaking cycles).

A typical ramping cycle on the Magpie river from 09:00 hrs to 18:00hrs 15 km downstream of the waterpower facility.

Research on individual flow events includes using acoustic Doppler techniques to elucidate changes in velocity profiles and bed shear velocities during peaking cycles.


Acoustic Doppler profiles used to study changes in cross-sectional velocities though a peaking cycle.

Hydrologic indicators

Development of hydrologic indicators to characterise altered flow regimes in ecologically meaningful ways that can explain changes in river condition.  Currently work is focusing on the identification of local and global hydrologic indicators to:

  1. Assess risk of proposed development to a river's ecological condition; and

  2. Quantify the degree of post construction alteration to support effects and effectiveness monitoring programs.

Classifying flow regimes

This work focusses on methodologies to classify natural flow regimes in Ontario based on entire streamflow pattern. Outcomes of the research is to support a reference system approach for implementing an environmental flows program. Research also includes the classification of altered flow regimes in the province to understand better the relationship between ecological condition and flow alteration.

Ontario Water Level Lakes Series (OWLLS)

A series of lakes throughout the province have been instrumented to characterise natural water level regimes and to identify ecologically important components of those regimes. Originally established as part of a PhD study to understand better the impact of water level alteration on littoral benthic macroinvertebrate community structure, the network has been maintained to establish long-term time series of water level regimes in natural lakes.

Previous research projects

Ott Pluvio


Ecological linkages between riverine flow regimes, microbial processes and dissolved organic matter

This research examins linkages between hydrologic alteration of river flow regimes by waterpower facilities and dams and dissolved organic matter (DOM) and microbes. Specifically, the work is determining if the optical structural characteristics of DOM and microbial processes differ between natural and altered flow regimes. The research is being conducted with Mallory Nadon, MSc candidate in the Environmental & Life Sciences Graduate Program, Trent University in collaboration with Maggie Xenopoulos, Trent University.

Flow alteration of Rainy River in response to rule cure changes on Rainy Lake

The objective of this project is to identify changes in the flow regime of Rainy River, downstream of the dam and waterpower facilities at Fort Frances/International Falls to Lake of the Woods, and to determine the effect of these changes on the duration and timing of water levels, and thus habitat availability. Of particular interest is any change in the flow and water level regimes resulting from the revision to the Rainy Lake Rule Curve in 2000. The research is being conducted with James Luce, Postdoctoral Fellow, Trent University.