Dr. Melissa Lafrenière (Co-Director)

melissaDr. Lafrenière’s research investigates the control that hydrologic processes and permafrost disturbance exert on active layer biogeochemical processes and on downstream river water quality, especially nutrients and organic matter, in Arctic watersheds. This research is motivated by the potential for climate change in permafrost regions to have widespread impacts on hydrology and permafrost stability, which combined will significantly impact terrestrial ecosystem function, river water quality and downstream aquatic ecosystems. This research combines catchment scale studies of (1) the sources and quality of subsurface water flow, with small-scale field and lab experiments investigating the control of (2) the physical and geomorphological characteristics of soils, and (3) hydrology on carbon lability and biogeochemical processes in the active layer and the downstream carbon and nutrient exports.   This research aims to explicitly link investigations of the watershed scale geomorphic and hydrological controls that mobilize solutes, with studies of the site-specific controls on subsurface water flow and nutrient and organic matter cycling, and hydrological and biogeochemical modelling. This work will facilitate moving from site-specific knowledge, to a catchment scale understanding of the impact of changing climate on water quality in permafrost watersheds. This integrated research program will provide the baseline knowledge and data that is critical to informing policy and managing High Arctic water resources to ensure healthy ecosystems and protect water security in Arctic communities already subject to perceptible regional climate change.

Collecting water samples from a small pond. Photo by Sean Arruda
Downloading loggers at the ITEX study area. Photo by Sean Arruda