Environmental grad’s research video makes NSERC shortlist

Environmental Management and Assessment grad (2010) Josef Viscek is calling on the NC community for their votes.

Viscek is currently completing grad studies at Brock University, where he is part of a research team studying the impacts of wildfires and drought in northern boreal regions of Canada. Their one-minute promotional video Wildfires of Yellowknife, which showcases their work, has been shortlisted in a video contest hosted by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Viscek’s video is among 75 entries shortlisted as part of NSERC’s Science, Action contest. The 25 videos with the most views on March 2 will proceed to NSERC’s judges’ panel, where they will compete for one of 15 cash prizes.

Viscek said he is excited to help promote the scientific research that he and his team are doing in the north.

“It is quite the honour to have made it through the first stages of the competition,” said Viscek. “The ultimate goal of our research is to better understand wildfire dynamics in the north, and the impacts to the landscape and waterways.

“I hope that our work can help validate new ways of monitoring natural resources in the north for future conservation and policy planning.”

Viscek hopes to encourage the NC community share the video with colleagues, family, friends, students, and on Facebook and Twitter. Viewership generated will help support Viscek, a proud NC graduate, in the contest.

 

Joe Viscek graduated from Niagara College’s Environmental Management and Assessment program in 2010.

NC and beyond

A lifelong Niagara resident, Viscek enrolled at NC after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Waterloo. Without job-specific skills after graduation, he wondered ‘what’s next,’ unable to identify a clear career focus. That’s when he came across NC’s Environmental Management and Assessment post-graduate program.

“Right from the beginning, it was obvious to me that this program was a no-nonsense approach to helping students identify their path forward,” he said. “The professors, with their vast industry experience and candid approach, made the program especially enjoyable and rewarding.”

His experience at NC helped him land his first professional job in consulting/engineering. He spent six –years working in the industry, where he developed a successful track record working on large-scale projects in the energy, infrastructure and mining sectors. His research experience ranged from geoscience and hydrology work to biological field studies. Over the years, he was involved with producing numerous technical reports informing environmental planning processes for development projects in Canada. Through this work, he also developed strong relationships with agencies, First Nations, and community groups alike.

Viscek’s journey led him back to academia. He currently focuses on scientific research in Canada’s northern boreal regions, where climate impacts are becoming more pronounced.

About his work

Throughout the Arctic and sub-Arctic, there are numerous ecological stressors affecting the landscapes and biota of this environmentally sensitive region. A warming climate during the 20th century, which has occurred at rates and magnitudes in the North that exceed those in most other parts of the world, has led to cascading impacts. In sub-Arctic and Arctic regions of Canada, widespread climate warming is thought to be affecting disturbance regimes including those related to wildfire and drought. The 2014 wildfire season in Northwest Territories was notably severe with ~390 reported fires burning nearly 3.5 million hectares of forest cover. Similarly, warm and dry conditions caused low lake levels and reduced stream flow. As a result hydroelectric power generation was severely curtailed in both 2014 and 2015.

Freshwater lakes are prominent features throughout northern boreal regions which provide important habitat for flora and fauna, and resources for local communities. Increasingly, there have been concerns regarding how these northern lakes respond to fire disturbance and drought. These interactions and impacts are not yet fully understood.

This portion of the research project is being undertaken by Viscek (MSc candidate) under the supervision of Dr. Kevin Turner (Brock). It will be carried out between 2017 and 2019. The study integrates a number of analyses to identify the relative importance of climatic and catchment controls on the hydrology of 19 study lakes in the Yellowknife region. A number of datasets will be generated during the study to identify key drivers of hydrology for the lakes. This includes lake water level monitoring, local meteorological data, contemporary and historical isotope composition testing and Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling of lake catchments and land-cover. A collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) airborne remote-sensing program will help determine if such technology may be employed for lake monitoring on a broader scale.

The findings of this research program will enhance knowledge of how warming northern climate and associated landscape changes and disturbance are influencing lake hydrology. The work is part of a broader research project in the region which is using a multi-proxy, paleo-ecological approach to determine long-term (i.e., 2,000 years) records of drought, fire and water quality to inform future policy planning in the north.

 – Info Submitted by Joe Viscek

 

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