July 16th, 2024

U of L researchers targeting Eastern Slopes snowpack in new project

By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on April 20, 2022.

Instrumentation at the Westcastle Field Station at the foot of the Eastern Slopes. Photo by Thomas Porter.

The University of Lethbridge’s Chris Hopkinson is heading a new project at the post-secondary institution that will see a partnership between academics and the public and private sectors to help understand the conditions of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes and vegetation snowpack resources.
“Alberta’s Eastern Slopes are changing, and with land use practices under increasing pressure, it’s imperative policy makers fully understand the relationship between snowpack and downstream river runoff in managing our water resources,” he stated in a release.
The project was funded by an Alberta Innovates investment of $583,000 over four years and will combine satellite imaging and airborne lidar data with on-ground monitoring devices to gain a better perspective of historical and future trends in Eastern Slopes landcover, snowpack and water balance.
“Mountains are incredibly valuable to us, not just for their easy access to natural resources or as indicators of environmental change, but also for their recreational and spiritual values,” says Hopkinson, a researcher in the Department of Geography & Environment and the Advanced Resolution Terradynamics Monitoring System Laboratory (ARTEMIS). “More than anything, they are the source of our most critical resource – water.”
An outcome of this project would be to see source water protections which are often referred to as natural water towers, as a majority of Alberta cities draw water from rivers that begin as glacial or snow melt in the eastern slopes.
“With changes in climate and the many land cover changes that have occurred due to resource extraction, wildfire, insect outbreaks and other successional processes, there is a growing concern that the water resources we have come to rely on over the last century may not be available in the future,” said Hopkinson.
Find out more in this video with Chris Hopkinson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xONTuEKIP8
Eventually the project will support the creation of innovative high tech online resources for public high school education on the Eastern Slopes land and water resources and valuable research and training opportunities for the U of L’s graduating students.

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