Over $1.5 million in research funding to a UNBC professor will help better understand the impacts of climate change and human activity on the long-term security of the Nechako watershed.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada has named UNBC environmental science professor Dr. Stephen Déry as the first NSERC and Rio Tinto senior industrial research chair in climate change and water security.
An industrial research chair facilitates research collaborations between universities and partners in the private or public sectors, which results in economic, social and/or environmental benefits, stated a Nov. 4 media release.
The $1.5 million in research funding from NSERC and Rio Tinto will allow Déry, an expert on climate variability and climate change, to quantify their roles and the role of water management on the Nechako River basin’s water supply.
“This five-year program of research builds on the capacity my research group has developed over the past 15 years and will make use of the latest technology and state-of-the-art numerical models in advancing our knowledge on the impacts of climate change on water security in the Nechako watershed,” says Déry.
He added that it is important to collaborate with private sector companies such as Rio Tinto, so that their research findings are applied to help manage environmental impacts of industrial activity.
“This partnership will build on Rio Tinto’s long standing support for the UNBC and commitment to managing the Nechako watershed responsibly,” said Rio Tinto BC Works general manager Affonso Bizon.
“We share UNBC’s commitment to advancing education and research in the region, and look forward to seeing the findings from this work to build on our environmental management program for the Nechako,” he said.
This funding from NSERC and Rio Tinto will additionally support 13 students, ranging from doctoral candidates and post-doctoral fellows, to masters students and senior undergraduate researchers, stated the media release.
“Dr. Stephen Déry’s research into the consequences of climate change on the water cycle in the north is of up most importance to Canadians and is an ideal fit for UNBC’s first Industrial Research Chair,” says UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks.
Weeks added that the collaboration between NSERC, Rio Tinto and UNBC will create knowledge around the future of the Nechako River and will contribute to the ongoing global conversation around climate.
The three main themes for research are — hydro-meteorological monitoring and data collection; atmospheric and terrestrial rivers; and hydrological and water temperature modeling.
Some specific projects include expanding the number of hydro-meteorological research stations in the Nechako River basin, monitoring the terrestrial impact of atmospheric rivers (a long band of moisture plumes that often result in heavy precipitation events, colloquially known as Pineapple Express storms), and projecting the future hydrology and water temperatures of the Nechako watershed, as stated in the media release.
This project is supported by the Research Support Fund, a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; Canadian Institutes of Health Research; and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, which assists Canadian post-secondary institutions and their affiliated research hospitals and institutes with the expenses associated with managing the research funded by these three federal research granting agencies.