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Fostering Collaborative Urban Catchment Science in the Greater Toronto Area

Dr. Stephanie Melles, Associate Professor, Dept of Chemistry and Biology at Toronto Metropolitan University

Dr. Stephanie Melles, Associate Professor, Dept of Chemistry and Biology at Toronto Metropolitan University

On June 12th, 2023, Urban Water hosted the Urban Catchment Science workshop led by Claire Oswald and Chris Wellen. The workshop took place at the Centre for Urban Innovation at TMU.

The goals of this one-day workshop were to:

  1. Share information on the urban catchment science research, particularly related to hydrology and water quality, already occurring in the Greater Toronto Area.
  2. Identify research gaps that could benefit from a collaborative, multi-sector, interdisciplinary effort. Research areas of interest are hydrological and water quality measurements, modelling, fundamental scientific (process) understanding, and the science-policy interface.
  3. Identify next steps to address research gaps.

The morning session consisted of presentations on international urban catchment science research initiatives, lighting talks in water/stormwater management, surface water-groundwater interaction and groundwater, and aquatic ecology from different sectors. The workshop saw attendance from Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Oak Ridges Moraine Groundwater Program, as well as researchers from Toronto Metropolitan University, Western University, University of Waterloo, Ontario Tech University, and University of Toronto. Following a networking lunch, the afternoon session focused on in-depth discussions through catchment science cafes to identify research gaps and explore potential collaborative avenues.

During the cafes, participants were asked to give thought to measurements to support process understanding (e.g., What to we still need to know about urban hydrology and water quality? What can we do as a catchment science community to strengthen our monitoring programs for the mutual benefit of scientific research, watershed management, and ecosystem health?), modelling to support future predictions (e.g., Which models work well? What are the data and modelling gaps limiting our ability to make future predictions?), and science-management-policy interfaces (e.g., How can we make research design more management and policy aware? How can we improve communication of research results to decision makers?).

The workshop fostered collaboration between researchers, scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from different disciplines and organizations, leading to a more comprehensive approach to understanding and addressing urban catchment challenges. It enabled participants to share their research findings, methodologies, and best practices, facilitating a deeper understanding of the complex interactions within urban catchments. A summary of the workshop discussions is being prepared and will be shared with participants. The workshop served as an opportunity for researchers and organizations to establish new connections and provides a foundation for new collaborative urban catchment science research projects in the Toronto area.