Dr. Melissa Lafrenière
Professor and Head of Department
Department of Geography and Planning
I was born and raised in Mattawa Ontario, situated in the Ottawa River Valley, on the traditional and unceded lands of my Algonquin ancestors. My interest in hydrology and water quality issues sprung from growing up in an environment where much of my day to day activities and well-being was dependant on the flow and quality of the Mattawa River.
I obtained my undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of Western Ontario (B.Sc. Hon. 1996), and I pursued additional undergraduate studies as a part time student in Geology at the University of Ottawa in 1997. I conducted my graduate studies in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta (Ph.D. 2003). My thesis research investigated the hydrological and biogeochemical controls on the transport of organochlorine contaminants in glaciated alpine catchments as part of an interdisciplinary study investigating the elevated concentrations of organochlorine contaminants in the ecosystem at Bow Lake, Alberta.
I joined the Department of Geography at Queen's in July 2004. My research program at Queen’s examines the impact of climate change and anthropogenic activities on the hydrology, water quality, and biogeochemical processes of glacial and permafrost watersheds. I am the co-director of the Cape Bounty Arctic Watershed Observatory (CBAWO), a long term integrated watershed research facility on Melville Island, NU. My research combines the use of field observations and experiments across a range of scales, with laboratory experiments and biogeochemical analyses to investigate the impacts of hydrological and permafrost changes on the export, transport and cycling of carbon, nitrogen and dissolved metals and ions in watersheds in the Canadian Arctic. We engage in partnerships and knowledge exchange with the local Inuit communities who are the most directly affected by climate change, and strive to incorporate traditional knowledge to enhance the value, and our understanding, of collected data.
My research interests lie in the area of climate change and human impacts on the hydrology and biogeochemistry of alpine and arctic environments. Climate warming and human activities (e.g. urbanisation, forestry, energy production, and agriculture) are altering and will continue to alter global biogeochemical cycles (e.g. atmospheric CO2, nutrients, and contaminants) and hydrological processes. Alpine and arctic environments are particularly sensitive to climate change due to feedbacks involving the cryosphere (snow, permafrost and glacier ice) and the cycles of energy and water. High rates of deposition and accumulation of atmospherically-transported chemical also make many cold environments sensitive to anthropogenically-driven changes in atmospheric chemistry. Current research interests include investigating the influence of anthropogenic inputs on nitrogen deposition and export in alpine catchments, and describing how the biogeochemical cycles of DOC and N in arctic catchments vary with changes in climatic, geomorphic and hydrological variables. These investigations involve a combination process studies and experimentation in the field, and laboratory analyses of surface water chemistry.
Graduate students under my supervision can expect to pursue a range of research interests related to climate change and biogeochemistry (nutrients, contaminants, metals) in arctic and alpine environments.
Curriculum Vitae (PDF 286kB)