PhD Research on Assessment of groundwater contribution to river thermal refuges for fish in northern Quebec in relation to climate change

Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)

QC, Canada 🇨🇦

This PhD research is part of a larger project entitled “Towards restoration and protection of fish habitats affected by mining activities in the North: Focus on the Caniapiscau River watershed” supported by the Environmental Damages Fund of Environment and Climate Change Canada. The source of the Caniapiscau River is around 52° latitude. The river crosses the Nunavik from south to north for 400 km. It is located within the Ungava Bay catchment area. The upstream part of the river was diverted in 1981 when the La Grande Hydroelectric Complex was built. Its source is now downstream from the Duplanter spillway and the Caniapiscau reservoir. This river is recognized for its abundance of salmonids. It is economically important for Quebec not only for the production of hydroelectricity, but also for sport fishing. The optimal temperature range for growth of Salmonidae (trouts, chars, and salmons) varies according to species, but is between 7°C and 17°C and lethal temperature range is 25-27°C. In summer, salmonids experience thermal stress in some rivers because of higher average water temperatures that affect their growth and even threaten their survival. Some specific zones in the rivers constitute thermal refuges allowing fish to be more comfortable, grow and survive in some extreme cases. Extreme conditions are likely to occur more frequently in several rivers in Quebec due to climate change.  

The objective of this PhD project is to check for the presence of thermal refuges in the Caniapiscau River and to characterize the groundwater contribution to the river heat budget and hydraulics to better understand the temperature evolution and to anticipate changes. This PhD project includes instrumenting the river bed and banks with DTS temperature sensors and observation wells with underwater temperature and pressure sensors. Given the length of the river, work will focus on a sub-basin. Thermal properties of geological materials will be measured in the laboratory and integrated in a flow and heat transfer model coupling the surface and subsurface components to reproduce conditions and predict behaviour of thermal refuges in other rivers in Quebec. In addition to field work at the Caniapiscau River, it is possible that the study includes work on other rivers located more to the south for a better understanding of river dynamics.

September 2018

Richard Martel ,Jasmin Raymond

PhD in Earth Sciences at INRS Centre Eau Terre Environnement. For more information.

INRS offers financial support to all its students.

Physical or geological engineering (hydrogeology) Master’s degree.

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