For some people, a favourite pastime is to imagine all of the things they’d do if they won a large amount of money. Thanks to a prestigious award, Dr. Harunur Rashid got a chance to bring his imagination into reality and boost the research capacity at Grenfell Campus.
In 2014, Dr. Rashid was one of three Memorial University professors to receive a national award from the Canadian Foundation of Innovation (CFI.) He used the award to buy a state-of-the-art instrument that can measure oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in liquids. Called a liquid water isotope analyzer (LWIA), the instrument is the only one of its kind in Atlantic Canada – and it’s housed in the Grenfell Campus earth science lab.
The high-precision LWIA can be used in the field or in a laboratory and it allows researchers to extract ecological, environmental, hydrological, climate and oceanographic information from a variety of natural waters such as rain, snow, rivers, groundwater and sea-ice melt. It can also measure oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in urine, blood and other liquids.
The new equipment is crucial to one of the research projects Dr. Rashid is leading. He and a group of students collected snow numerous times each day, melting it and then measuring the oxygen and hydrogen content of the water. In summer and fall, students will also collect rain and stream water for analysis. This information, combined with other data like temperature, wind speed and humidity, will measure the local water cycle and in the long term, the data will reveal any changes and trends. Changes in the amount, timing and seasonality of precipitation, snow and sea-ice melt can alter the water cycle, which in turn affects our climate and the health of our entire ecosystem.
The data collected by Dr. Rashid, his students, and co-principal investigators Dr. Bob Scott and Dr. Christine Campbell, will help create a picture of the current state of the local climate and, over time, it could help predict and mitigate climate change in Atlantic Canada.
The addition of the LWIA builds upon Grenfell Campus’s expansion into agricultural and environmental research. Dr. Rashid is proud of the opportunities the LWIA offers students. “Stable isotopic analyses are now used in nearly all facets of environmental and water research,” he said. “Access to such state-of-the-art equipment is essential for training our students to be researchers and educators in the 21st century.”