Research

Projects on the go…..

Understanding Sources of Streamflow Using Water Isotopes: The Wasi Watershed Case Study.  Research Team: Nathan Mountain, MESc. Student, April James, Krys Chutko (faculty, Dept. of Geography, Nipissing University).

The Wasi watershed (235 km2) is 83% of the area contributing runoff to Callandar Bay, ON.

The Wasi watershed (235 km2) is 83% of the area contributing runoff to Callandar Bay, ON.

The Wasi watershed, a 235 km2 area with three sub-catchments (Wasi, Graham, Chiswick), accounts for 83% of the catchment area flowing into Callander Bay, Lake Nipissing. High total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in the watershed and occurrence of blue green algae in the Bay downstream has targeted this watershed for continued study by the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority (NBMCA).

Water isotope ratios change by evaporation, rainout, and mixing of water sources.

Water isotope ratios change by evaporation, rainout, and mixing of water sources.

In 2012, we designed a study of stream water sources in the watershed using water isotope and hydrochemical methods. Understanding where and how water moves into the streams in the watershed will ultimately help inform water quality issues.

Water oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) in stream water in spring and summer. Blue areas in summer show the dominant influence of groundwater during dry summer conditions.

Water oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) in stream water in spring and summer. Blue areas in summer show the dominant influence of groundwater during dry summer conditions.

In partnership with the NBMCA, we sampled streamflow at 18 existing NBMCA study locations. Samples were collected biweekly under baseflow conditions from May through August 2012. Local residents volunteered their private wells to sample groundwater (purged through their existing residential water system) and rainfall was sampled during spring and summer rainstorms.

Analysis of water isotopes (oxygen and hydrogren) for collected samples show the changes in the influence of summer evaporation on lake and streamflow and where in the watershed groundwater inflows dominate streamflow even during the dryest conditions in late summer (blue areas, summer diagram).

Mapping the various influences on streamflow is helping plan for future studies of water quality in the watershed.

 

A Hydrologic and Isotope Analysis of the Sturgeon River in Northeastern Ontario.  Research Team: Nancy England, MESc. Student, April James, Krys Chutko (faculty, Dept. of Geography, Nipissing University), Rich Pyrce, Ministry of Natural Resources – South Porcupine.

The Sturgeon River watershed (~7000 km2) is a major inflow to Lake Nipissing.

The Sturgeon River watershed (~7000 km2) is a major inflow to Lake Nipissing.

The Sturgeon River watershed is a ~7000 km2 area generating a major inflow to Lake Nipissing. The watershed houses diverse and valuables community resources supporting recreational activities (e.g. Lake Temagami), agricultural production and hydropower generation.  Water levels in Lake Nipissing are managed to minimize risk to flooding, maintain ecosystem and fisheries health and support recreational activities.

Water levels in Lake Nipissing are managed to  managed to minimize risk of floods, meet ecological requirements and support recreational activities.

Water levels in Lake Nipissing are managed to managed to minimize risk of floods, meet ecological requirements and support recreational activities.

Challenges in managing river and lake levels come from uncertainties in monthly and daily rainfall, and snowpack development and melting during springtime. In 2013, we began a study of the Sturgeon River watershed to examine the sources of riverflow using water isotopes. Our aim is to inform future management practices by improving our understanding of the relative influences of rainfall, snowmelt, lake and groundwater inputs to river flow across this large watershed.

Water isotope ratios change by evaporation, rainout, and mixing of water sources.

Water isotope ratios change by evaporation, rainout, and mixing of water sources.

Riverflow and major adjacent lakes were sampled biweekly from January-December, 2013. Snowpack and snowmelt samples were collected during winter and rainfall through the rest of the year. Local residents of the watershed volunteered their private wells to sample groundwater (purged through their existing residential water system).

Analysis of samples for water isotopes (oxygen and hydrogen) is ongoing in the Department of Geography at Nipissing University.  These data will be combined with information on river flowrates to understand how snowmelt influenced river flow during the 2013 spring freshette and how lake and groundwater contribute through the rest of the year.

 

Characterizing Thermal Stratification Patterns in Callander Bay
June – October 2013.  Research Team: Jamie Lavigne, MESc. Student, Dan Walters, April James, Krys Chutko (faculty, Dept. of Geography, Nipissing University).

Dr. Krys Chutko and Jamie Lavigne pose with the newly installed buoy in June 2013.

Dr. Krys Chutko and Jamie Lavigne pose with the newly installed buoy in June 2013.

The input of excess nutrients to our waterways is one of the many variables that contribute to the increasing occurrence of blue green algae.  In Callander Bay, Ontario, this not only poses health threats (Callander Bay is the municipal water source) but also negatively impacts local tourism and recreational use of the Bay.

Buoy (white triangle) and spot sample (black triangle) locations with bathymetry of the Bay.

Buoy (white triangle) and spot sample (black triangle) locations with bathymetry of the Bay.

One gap in understanding of the inputs of nutrients to the bay is the question of how much comes from internal loading, where nutrients like phosphorus can be released from sediments back into the water column under low oxygen conditions.

During the summer of 2013, our team installed a buoy and instrumentation to monitoring the thermal stratification patterns in the Bay.  The buoy was donated by the Dorset Environmental Science Centre (Ontario Ministry of Environment) and was installed with the help of our local Ministry of Natural Resources office.

Schematic of buoy installation and suspended equipment (left).  Rope with instruments in lab before installation on buoy, 2013.

Schematic of buoy installation and suspended equipment (left). Rope with instruments in lab before installation on buoy, 2013.

Jamie Lavigne, Dept. of Geography took on this project for her MESc thesis, regularly checking on temperature, light and dissolved oxygen sensors hung in the water column below the buoy and performing spot sampling at 5 additional locations around the Bay.

In this first year of the project, data was collected from June to end of October 2013.  We will examine the data this winter and the buoy will be redeployed in spring 2014 for a second season.