April 27, 2020

UCalgary hydrologist leads water scarcity research

Tricia Stadnyk named 2020 Faculty Research in Sustainability Award winner

It may be a regular COVID-19 isolation day for many, but in the Stadnyk household, being in quarantine is far from boring. Tricia Stadnyk, associate professor (geography), Faculty of Arts, is committed to ensuring her daughters are engaged global citizens through this pandemic with at-home science experiments.

“The other day we looked at how to clean up oil spills and what an oil spill does to the environment,” says Stadnyk. “I did a little mock simulation for the kids — we’re doing all sorts of cool science at home to get them interested in, and aware, that the environment is part of us and that we have a responsibility to the environment.”

  • Photo above: Tricia Stadnyk and her family enjoy the outdoors. Photo by Modern Photography

Stadnyk’s love of science that she’s now passing on to her kids started at an early age. She vividly remembers many hikes in the wilderness with her family and spending time outside when she was growing up.

“I remember my dad pulling a branch down off a tree and showing me the different leaves and asking me to identify the tree,” says Stadnyk. “All that kind of stuff was part of my early childhood education and experience, just this appreciation for nature.”

With her love of the environment engrained from childhood, Stadnyk was an early adopter and champion of sustainability when she attended the University of Waterloo to study in Canada’s first environmental engineering program. Fast-forward to present-day UCalgary and Stadnyk is a leading hydrologist who studies the sustainability of water resources and water security for Canada by using isotopes to predict changes in global hydrologic systems.

Renowned world water expert

She is so renowned in the hydrology field that she was asked to represent Canada on the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency committee as one of the world experts in water resource sustainability and global water balance estimation. As a result of this role, she was also recently elected the vice-president of the International Association for Hydrological Sciences Tracer Commission.

With all of her expertise, it’s no wonder that Stadnyk was the winner of UCalgary’s 2020 Faculty Research in Sustainability Award. Her critical research provides new information on the impact that climate change is having on individual processes in the hydrologic cycle, which is crucial for the agricultural and energy sectors globally.

“When you study hydrology, you’re looking at the connection with the climate,” says Stadnyk. “There are so many water myths and misconceptions about water. We take it for granted, especially in North America, that [clean] water comes out of the tap when we need it.

We abuse our water resources without any second thought to the consequences of what we’re doing. We’re heading down a very dangerous path.

While Stadnyk understands the risks associated with global water security, she’s confident that positive, sustainable change can still occur, starting with younger generations.

“Water scarcity is a very real thing,” says Stadnyk. “It’s not too late for us to make substantial, real change. This will likely occur through our children, our next generation. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to raise them to be more socially and environmentally aware. I think that’s what we have to do as parents.”

Stadnyk’s research supports United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 6, 12, 13 and 14.

The University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a road map for continuous improvement in our pursuit of excellence and leadership in sustainability. We aim to become a Canadian post-secondary education leader in sustainability in our academic and engagement programs, administrative and operational practices and through supporting community and industry in their aims for leadership in sustainability. Learn more about UCalgary’s leadership in sustainability.