Program Structure and Elements


The student LEADERS will engage in activities related to diverse research topics concerning watershed sustainability. Individual research projects will reflect the high level of scientific expertise of the co-applicants, while interactions among student LEADERS will reflect the diversity of disciplines, including collaborative projects featuring co-supervised students that will provide unique research opportunities. Knowledge mobilization will be emphasized in training the student LEADERS, especially where scientific research informs policy, risk assessment and integrated watershed management.

The research team assembled for the LEADERS project represents a unique blend of interdisciplinary researchers and partners with key interests in integrated watershed management issues, including water treatment and water-related impacts on ecosystems and human health. The student LEADERS will have well-defined individual research projects within the fields of their supervisor or co-supervisors, but as a group they will cover a wide range of research topics within watershed sustainability.

Intersecting Research Themes including Human Health, Ecosystem Health and Water Resources

Undergraduate training within the LEADERS CREATE is designed to motivate students to pursue graduate studies with us by involving them in cutting edge research as research assistants to graduate students and faculty. Undergrads will gain critical skills that will prepare them for graduate school, such as research methodologies, research integrity, analysis of data and knowledge translation. In addition, undergrads can also be involved in the Water Initiative for the Future (WatIF) conference to develop their professional skills.

Graduate Courses: A combination of existing and new courses will provide the student LEADERS with a scholarly foundation in watershed and related sciences, including the interdisciplinary aspects of water issues. Students will take 4 one-term courses, with 1 core course taken by all student LEADERS and three other courses selected to support their individual research areas. One core course is Water Policy and Governance (recently developed, currently taken by Natural Science and Engineering (NSE) and non-NSE students). This course will be further developed to allow students from Ryerson and INRS-ETE to take the course remotely with their peers at Queen’s, using high quality teleconference lecture facilities. 

Workshops: There will be a series of one-day workshops addressing either Water Sustainability topics or Professional Skills. Some examples of workshops we have already held include: Field Methods in Ground Water and Surface Water at the Kennedy Field Station, Water Sector Entrepreneurship and Technology Implementation, Seeking and Securing Opportunities, and Indigenous Engagement in Research and Training. Many workshops are hosted by our partners and may include site visits to natural, agricultural, industrial, commercial, and community locations.

Peer to Peer and Peer to Mentor Program: The CEC-REN and BWRC will host regular seminars and webinars open to student LEADERS. A mentor program will be developed around the seminars and Workshops to connect students with partner organizations in their chosen fields. This incubator approach will allow students to learn critical disciplinary skills and to plan their career development, and may identify internships for some students. The LEADERS will also host a yearly symposium featuring students presenting to one another, faculty and external partners. This year, the LEADERS & PEOPLE Virtual Symposium hosted two Career Panels, "Explore your best career fit – things you want to know about different sectors" featuring representatives from different sectors including Industry, Academia, Government, and Non-Government Organizations. 

Graduate Internships: Our stakeholder organizations will offer paid internships to Graduate Students. This will augment the training program by providing experience addressing real water-related problems. This provides an opportunity for the stakeholders to access Highly Qualified Professionals (HQP) that fit specific needs in the short-term while creating connections for potential longer-term employment. 

Postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) are key individuals in the overall strategy to train and equip future Canadian water professionals with the skills they need to succeed. PDFs will be assigned to guide the major multidisciplinary and collaborative research projects within the CREATE, providing a local point-of-contact for the graduate students to see how their project fits in the larger context, and to guide the sharing of results at the bench level between graduate students where this is needed to accomplish research goals. PDFs with day-to-day availability are key to graduate student success in collaborative research, and this experience is also highly valuable to PDFs who wish to gain experience in the oversight of research.

Title Type of Offering Mandatory or Optional
Water Policy and Governance Course Mandatory
WatIF Conference Conference  Mandatory Participation

Optional Committee

LEADERS Annual Symposium  Conference  Mandatory Participation
Water Sustainability Series Workshop Mandatory 1 per Year


Water Sector Entrepreneurship and Technology Implementation Workshop Mandatory
Presentation Skills Workshop Mandatory 
Communication in Environmental Studies Course Optional
Leadership or Project Management Workshop Optional
Ethnics and Professionalism Workshop


Cultural Safety Certificate Optional



Professional skills training will follow the “Professional Skills Development For Graduate Students” guide published by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (2008), and include the four priority skills areas (Communications, Management, Teaching and Knowledge Transfer, Ethics) identified in that guide.

Communication Skills: The LEADERS CREATE will require participating students to attend a workshop designed to improve their presentation skills. Every year, the team will meet at an Annual Symposium where students will present their research. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to present their research at the WatIF conference every two years. Through their involvement in internships, participants will gain considerable experience within many different forms of communication within the work environment (team meetings, product briefings, knowledge translation, media releases, etc.).

Management Skills: Students enter the LEADERS CREATE program by first submitting an application, and submitting a progress report on their work each year. Through components of the application, the students will learn management skills such as organization, financial management and setting research goals and milestones. The annual progress report and assessment will reinforce these training elements. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a leadership or project management workshop, and will acquire additional skills support through involvement in the WatIF conference and internships. Students will be allowed, on a case-by-case basis, to substitute similar training opportunities at external organizations.

Teaching and Knowledge Translation: The LEADERS program offers students the opportunity to hone their knowledge translation beyond the mandatory presentations at annual symposia. Offered through the School of Environmental Studies at Queen’s, students may optionally take a newly developed course: Communication in Environmental Science, which takes students beyond the traditional avenues for scientific knowledge translation. Students will also benefit from a workshop offered at Queen’s entitled Communication: Telling Your Story, Understanding Theirs. This workshop is designed to help students translate their research outside the academic environment, to stakeholders in media, government and the general public. Through participation in the WatIF conference committee, students will be required to set outcomes and goals for the conference. This will include being inclusive and adaptable to the wide range of disciplines and interests present in such a multidisciplinary event.

Ethics and Cultural Sensitivity: The LEADERS program will offer Ethics training to participating students. Mitacs offers a Career Professionalism workshop that will be available to the students. This workshop immerses students in many different themes around professionalism that will play an important role in their careers later on, such as codes of conduct while representing work organizations, effective communication and professional interactions with co-workers. Many First Nations communities across Canada face severe water issues. Therefore future professionals in water resources must have an understanding of the cultural aspects of First Nations communities with respect to water. The Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre at Queen’s offers a certificate in cultural safety training. Student in LEADERS will be encouraged to take this training. In addition, a workshop will be developed specifically dealing with ethics. This will include ethics involving professionalism around the scientific process (authorship, integrity of data, etc.). This workshop will to allow students to develop a research ethics proposal / application. This will ensure participants are exposed to the multidisciplinary and multi-cultural nature of research ethics. Participants will be encouraged to use their own research to apply for or renew ethics approval if appropriate.

The LEADERS program includes a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students, along with PDFs, to hone their professional skills in the Water Initiative for the Future (WatIF). WatIF is a biannual, international conference that is completely designed, organized and delivered by students. It covers all facets of water disciplines, which brings participants from the social, natural, engineering and health sciences, making this a truly multidisciplinary event.

The LEADERS program will take over the role of supporting the WatIF conference, and LEADERS students will be given an opportunity to play lead roles in the conference planning and delivery. Students are recruited into positions including stakeholder liaison, finance, media relations and conference content. The WatIF conference involvement includes developing a business plan and seeking out funding and support from external companies and other organizations. Students will contact experts in the water resources fields to be speakers and mentors during the conference, which will increase their professional networks. Past WatIF conferences have shown that the committee members gained key skills such as project management, effective written and oral communication, finance accounting and ethical professionalism; skills that they would not have developed to such a level through traditional training opportunities.