MESPOM Project Offerings

The following SENS faculty are willing to work with MESPOM students interested in projects listed.

Please contact the faculty directly for more information.

MJ Barrett - Multiple Ways of Knowing and Human-Nature Interactions

MJ Barrett

Assistant professor, SENS; Assistant professor, Department of Curriculum Studies, College of Education
mj.barrett@usask.ca 
http://homepage.usask.ca/~mjb692/

Dr. Barrett has the opportunity for a student to examine threshold concepts for a new ecological paradigm. This project involves thematic analysis of qualitative data to develop and validate a set of threshold concepts that are barriers to integrating Indigenous and Western worldviews in environmental problem-solving. Threshold concepts have been developed by Land and Meyer and identified as critical for accessing “new and previously inaccessible ways of thinking about something” (2006). Skills required: The student will need strong writing and organizational skills and the ability to analyze qualitative data using NVIVO data analysis software.

Ken Belcher - Agricultural Landscapes
Ken Belcher

Professor, Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics, College of Agriculture and Bioresources; Professor, SENS 
ken.belcher@usask.ca  

Project: Understanding Tradeoffs in Water Allocation
As a critical natural resource water is being used for a number of competing uses. Water is being extracted for irrigation of agricultural crops and livestock watering, as an input in industrial and manufacturing and municipal uses. At the same time surface water has in stream value through river and lake ecosystem services, recreational value, dilution and processing of pollutants and for hydro-electric power generation.

This research project will focus on evaluating how people understand the value of these competing uses and the tradeoffs inherent in allocating water as a scarce resource. Specifically, the research project will carry out valuation experiments using the Social Sciences Research Lab at the University of Saskatchewan and a sample population of water users. This lab is set up to carry out computer based experiments social science experiments.  

Project: Appropriateness of Market-Based Policy to Provide Environmental Quality in Agricultural Landscapes
The increasingly intensive nature of modern agricultural production is imposing significant impacts on agri-ecosystems. At the same time many developed country governments are allocating fewer resources to the development and implementation of public policy to address these impacts. As an alternative to publicly funded incentive programs a range of policy instruments that rely on market exchanges between farmers and other stakeholders to improve environmental quality have been developed in various agricultural landscapes. Examples of market-based policy measures include phosphorus emission trading, water markets, wetland mitigation banks and biodiversity banks.

The project will focus on developing a relatively comprehensive literature review of market-based policy instruments that have been used to address environmental concerns. An objective of this project will be to develop an organizing protocol based on the review to facilitate understanding and selection of appropriate market-based policy instrument to meet specific environmental objectives. 

Lalita Bharadwaj - First Nations and Water Health
Lalita Bharadwaj

Associate Professor, School of Public Health; Associate professor, SENS 
lalita.bharadwaj@usask.ca  

Project: Beyond Physical: Impacts of the Water Crisis in First Nations 
Dr. Bharadwaj has the opportunity for a student to conduct a thematic analysis of qualitative data to explore and identify the barriers and challenges to water supply from a First Nations perspective.  

Skills required: Strong writing and organizational skills and the ability to analyze qualitative data using NVIVO software.  

Project: Water Consumption Choices and Perceptions of Water Related Health Risks Among First Nations in Saskatchewan
Dr. Bharadwaj has the opportunity for a student to conduct a statistical comparative analysis of quantitative survey data to explore and identify the aesthetic concerns and consumption choices of 6 Saskatchewan First Nations communities.  

Skills required: Strong writing and organizational skills and ability to analyze quantitative data using SPSS software.

Ryan Brook - Land and Resource Management
Ryan Brook

Assistant professor, Department of Poultry and Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Bioresources; Associate professor, SENS 
ryan.brook@usask.ca

Project: Delivering and evaluating aboriginal youth engagement programs

This project will develop and evaluate a process for optimizing and evaluating aboriginal youth engagement projects that are currently being conducted in Saskatchewan on Woodland Caribou (northern Saskatchewan) and Farmland Moose (southern Saskatchewan). 

Roles and responsibilities: develop an evaluation process and implement it during the delivery of our aboriginal youth engagement programs to provide critical feedback to improve and enhance future years of these programs. 

Skills required: No specific required skills, though having worked with youth and/or on knowledge translation/engagement projects would be a strong asset.

 

Markus Hecker - Predictive Aquatic Ecotoxicology
Markus Hecker

Associate professor, SENS; Canada Research Chair in Predictive Aquatic Ecotoxicology
markus.hecker@usask.ca

Project: Aquatic Impact Assessment of Municipal Effluents (AIME)

This project will be imbedded in a larger study that assesses the impact of municipal effluents on different watersheds across Canada using a novel bioassay directed approach combined with analytical chemistry (termed Effect Directed Analysis). It uses biological endpoints (cell-based in vitro assays and in vivo fish studies) and analytical chemistry to identify toxic potentials in wastewater samples collected at a number of field sites in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. The data will be used to characterize potential risks to humans and wildlife due to decreased water quality, and - if such risks are present - pinpoint the sources responsible for the observed decrease in water quality.  Furthermore, this study assess the efficiency of wastewater treatment plants to eliminate emerging contaminants such as endocrine disruptors from municipal wastewater.

Roles and responsibilities of the student (under supervision and after appropriate training by supervisor or other personnel): Collect (depending on weather) and prepare (e.g. extraction, filtration, fractionation) water samples for biological and chemical analysis. Conduct in vitro (cell lines and/or fish egg test) or fish-based in vivo assays to identify specific biological activities of samples or their fractions. Statistical data evaluation. Write a summary report, and - if permitted by the data - contribute to writing a peer-reviewed publication (student will be listed as a co-author). The student will need to complete the following safety course at the University of Saskatchewan before any work can commence (courses are between 1/2 and 1 day long): Biosafety, Laboratory Safety.

Skills required: Good English reading and writing skills. Natural science background with some laboratory (pipetting, etc.) experience. The student should be willing to participate in possible field excursions to collect samples. Basic knowledge in statistical evaluation of data sets is expected.

Project: Assessing adverse effects of emerging chemical contaminants on fishes of commercial, aboriginal, and recreational value to Canadians (AECCO)

Human activities result in the discharge of many chemicals into aquatic ecosystems. In combination with current global challenges such as climate change, these pose not yet fully understood challenges to organisms and people living in these environments. To assess impacts on the aquatic ecosystems of these regions, it is crucial to understand effects on species that serve as indicators of the health of these systems, and what their sensitivity to stressors such as contaminants is. This project investigates the sensitivity of native fish species to emerging environmental contaminants of concern (e.g. nanoparticles, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals), and compares it to that of standard laboratory model species. It aims to establish predictive models for the extrapolation of exposure risks to native species to enable better-informed environmental risk assessments for these chemicals.

Roles and responsibilities of the student (under supervision and after appropriate training by supervisor or other personnel): Plan and conduct short-term exposure studies with early life- stages of fish. Routine water quality assessment and maintenance of exposure experiments. Bio-analytical investigations (determine growth, deformities and mortality of fish; collect tissues and analyze sub-lethal biological effects such as changes in gene expression, biochemical homeostasis). Statistical data evaluation. Write a summary report, and - if permitted by the data - contribute to writing a peer-reviewed publication (student will be listed as a co-author). The student will need to complete the following safety course at the U of S before any work can commence (courses are between 1/2 and 1 day long): Animal Ethics Training, Biosafety, Laboratory Safety.

Skills required: Good English reading and writing skills. Natural science (biology) background with some laboratory experience (pipetting, etc.). Experience with working with aquatic vertebrates will be beneficial but is not critical. Basic knowledge in statistical evaluation of data sets is expected.

Andrew Ireson - Hydrological Processes
Andrew Ireson

Assistant Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability; Assistant Professor, Global Institute for Water Security; Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Geological Engineering, College of Engineering 
andrew.ireson@usask.ca
http://homepage.usask.ca/~ani378/ 

Hydrological processes determine how water is cycled through the environment, and determine the availability of water for plants, animals and humans. Models are useful tools to develop and test our understanding of how these processes work in diverse areas. However, developing reliable models is particularly challenging, largely because of large uncertainties associated with observations, and a lack of knowledge of the properties and processes that operate in the subsurface (soil and groundwater).   

Dr. Ireson is conducting research that focuses on combining field observations with models to improve process understanding. There are opportunities to conduct research in the Prairies, Boreal Forest and Rocky Mountains of Canada, supervised by Dr. Ireson. Here, the hydrological processes are strongly dominated by the seasonal snowmelt event, which occurs sometime in April-May. Suitable candidates will have some background in hydrology/hydrogeology, and will ideally have excellent computational skills. They should also be willing to conduct field work in Western Canada.

Paul Jones - Environmental Pollutants
Paul Jones

Associate Professor, SENS; Associate Professor, Toxicology Centre 
paul.jones@usask.ca   

Project: Development of a Bayesian Belief Network to Assess Fish Health 
The assessment of fish health depends on a variety of measurements at several levels of organization. These measurements can include both quantitative and qualitative data. Current projects carried out in collaboration with First Nations Communities in Canada’s north are aiming to assess the impacts of upstream industrial activities on the health of fish in the Slave River and Delta. As part of this assessment we wish to integrate western science techniques with local and traditional knowledge to better understand impacts on fish health. The use of Bayesian belief Networks (BBNs) is attractive for these types of study as they permit the integration of different forms of knowledge. This project will assess the utility of this approach to the current studies and will also use historical datasets to explore the desired structure and properties of BBNs   

Project: Assessment of Different Pattern Recognition Techniques for the Apportionment of Pollution Sources 
Increasingly statistical pattern recognition techniques are being used to evaluate the nature of complex environmental pollutant mixtures. A variety of approaches, many relying on Principle Components Analysis (PCA), have been used with varying degrees of success. While these exercises are relatively straight forward when the contributing source patterns are known they become much more complex and equivocal when source patterns are unknown. In essence, in these cases the desire is to ‘decompose’ the complex mixture to permit source identification and apportionment. This project will use synthetic and ‘natural’ contaminant data sets to compare the utility of the various methods currently available. 

Karsten Liber - Experimental Aquatic Ecotoxicology
Karsten Liber Professor, SENS; Director, Toxicology Centre
karsten.liber@usask.ca

Project: Pesticide Ecotoxicology

One of the biggest challenges in aquatic toxicology is to provide good risk assessments of contaminant mixtures. Pollutants are rarely present in the environment as single contaminants,but generally present along with a variety of other contaminants that can vary in concentration both spatially and temporally.

One category of pesticides that has received a lot of attention in recent years is a group of insecticides called the neonicotinoids.  These insecticides have become the largest group of insecticides used globally and low concentrations of these chemicals have been detected in surface waters all over the world.  Although these insecticides are usually found in very low concentrations (<1 µg/L levels), they are toxic to non-target aquatic organisms at such low levels.  In addition, there are several different neonicotinoid compounds on the market and several are used in the same areas at the same time.  As a result, surface waters in these areas often contain low levels of several different neonicotinoids.  This project will evaluate the mixture (combined) toxicity of several different neonicotinoids to a model aquatic invertebrate species.  The objective would be to determine if toxicity of different neonicotinoid mixtures is additive, as would be predicted based on their identical mechanism of toxic action.  Special emphasis would be placed on determining whether the toxicity relationship is molar concentration dependent and how important molar ratios of the different compounds are in the toxicity outcome.

Yanping Li - Regional Climate Change
Maureen Reed

Assistant Professor, SENS; Global Institute for Water Security  
yanping.li@usask.ca 

Project: The regimes of convective rainfall over the Canadian Prairies

The proposed research project for a student is to examine the regimes of warm-season convection and the initiation mechanisms of severe thunderstorms over the Canadian Prairies. Detailed satellite and station data analysis from the Saskatchewan River Basin project will improve the understanding of the land-atmosphere interactions and their contribution to convection initiation.

Skills Required: Experience with big data analysis. Ability to gather, understand, and critically analyze data from all relevant sources. Programming skills, such as Fortran, Matlab, R, Python, etc. Experience with large datasets analysis on multiple computer platforms (Unix/Linux, Windows).

Project: Assessing the water resources vulnerability of the Canadian Prairies under climate change background

A project is available to work on the regional climate simulation of future precipitation changes east of the Rockies. Regional climate analyses, based on high-resolution model simulations, will enhance global model capabilities for future precipitation change projection, as well as human impacts on regional climatic and hydro-climatological regime changes due to land-surface changes. The proposed research project for a student may include any of the following: (i) run the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model which covers the Saskatchewan River Basin; (ii) couple the WRF regional climate model with land-surface model to study the convection initiation mechanism and its related large-scale/regional circulation features to demonstrate whether the WRF model can reproduce these mechanisms. iii) Conventional ground and satellite observations, as well as those made by the various instruments deployed in the Saskatchewan River Basin research sites, will be utilized to evaluate the model's capability. 

Skills Required: Experience with numerical modeling. Ability to gather, understand, and critically analyze data from all relevant sources. Programming skills, such as Fortran, Matlab, R, Python, etc. Experience with large datasets analysis on multiple computer platforms (Unix/Linux, Windows). 

Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt - Water Quality Modelling and Surface Ice Process
Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt

Associate Professor, SENS; Associate Professor, Global Institute for Water Security 
karl-erich.lindenschmidt@usask.ca   

Project: Water quality modelling of the Qu’Appelle River, Saskatchewan, Canada 
Water quality sample data that has been collected along the Qu’Appelle River (e.g. nutrients, oxygen, chlorophyll-a, etc.) will be used to calibrate and validate an established model (WASP v.7) to determine the ecological state of the river system. Scenarios can then be run to mimic management and policy strategies, such as reducing nutrient load by upgrading a treatment plants, regulating discharge during flood or drought events, etc.).   

Project: Modelling river ice processes along the Saskatchewan River 
The South Saskatchewan River downstream of Lake Diefenbaker is regulated by the Gardiner Dam. One of the dam’s uses is the generation of hydropower. Variable discharge in winter is required to cover peak demand for electricity. Using a river ice model, a safe maximum amplitude of the discharge can be determine which will not breakup the ice cover in winter and cause mid-winter flooding along the river.   

Project: Winter limnology study of selected reservoirs in Saskatchewan 
Ice cover thicknesses and snow depths on Canadian prairie reservoirs during the winter season can affect the production and oxygen levels in rivers. The length of the ice covered season (from autumn freeze-up to spring breakup) will also affect the lake’s aquatic ecosystem. Data from several winter seasons can be analysed to made deductions of the future state of these reservoirs in regards to climate change.   

Project: Modelling temperature and salinity stratification in reservoirs 
An established lake/reservoir model is to be used to mimic the stratification of water temperature and salinity in a Canadian Prairie reservoir. Included in the model is an ice module to simulate ice thicknesses during the course of the winter season. The calibrated model can be used to run long-term simulations of climate change scenarios.   

Project: Analysing remote sensing data with ArcGIS to determine geomorphological changes or rivers 
Satellite and aerial imagery from different years can be drawn upon to determine geomorphological changes of the river network. Correlations with discharge and water level data can be used to determine the effect of flooding and ice jamming on morphology.

Marcia McKenzie - Sustainability Education
Marcia McKenzie

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education; Associate Professor, SENS; Director, Sustainability Education Research Institute 
marcia.mckenzie@usask.ca 
http://www.seri.usask.ca/
www.usask.ca/education/people/mckenzie.htm

Project: Sustainability Education 

The Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN) is a collaborative partnership of leading Canadian environmental policy organizations, North American educational organizations focused on sustainability in early childhood to grade 12 education and post- secondary education, and Canadian and international academic researchers. 

SEPN’s research addresses the current lack of coordinated analysis and development of sustainability in education policy and practice in Canada. We examine existing and new policies, practices, and innovations in relation to governance, curriculum, research, operations, and community outreach and determine which are most promising for enabling educational change for a more sustainable future.  Our core focus is the policy-practice gap. Traditional policy analysis traces policy from development to implementation. SEPN uses practice to critically examine policy, and develop research-based situated models for furthering sustainability through education policy and practice. 

The research is organized into two subthemes, EC-12 (Subtheme A) and PSE (Subtheme B), and three iterative Themes, (1) Document Analysis, (2) Community Engagement, and (3) Knowledge Mobilization

For more information on SEPN, visit sepn.ca. 

SEPN is looking for students to work on a variety of research projects.  Possible areas of focus include:  Aboriginal education settings, early childhood education settings (e.g., forest schools), GIS mapping of sustainability features, or other areas of SEPN’s research.

Skills Required: Very good English reading and writing skills; fluency in French is an asset.  Excellent interpersonal and communication skills (written and verbal); ability to work productively, both individually and in groups; ability to work independently and efficiently; strong time management skills.  Experience and familiarity with discourse analysis and critical policy analysis and familiarity with analyzing qualitative data using NVivo 10 is also an asset.

 

Christy Morrissey - Avian Ecology and Wildlife Ecotoxicology
Christy Morrissey Assistant professor, SENS; Assistant professor, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Science
christy.morrissey@usask.ca
http://homepage.usask.ca/%7ecam202/

Project: The impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on wetland invertebrates
Wetland habitats in Canada’s Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) are under serious threat from eutrophication, use by livestock, vegetation loss, lowland drainage, sedimentation, and chemical contamination. There is a growing concern that pesticides and other chemicals designed to improve agricultural production are degrading wetland water quality with suspected consequences for waterfowl and other wetland birds who consume invertebrates. A relatively new class of insecticides – neonicotinoids have rapidly become one of the most commonly used pesticides in Canadian agriculture, and may have direct effects on wetland ecosystems through reduced insect abundance and diversity.

The student will do lab work on existing samples to assess Macroinvertebrate abundance, diversity and biomass from a range of sites with differing agricultural impact and neonicotinoid use.