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Student Profile: PhD candidate Michelle Wauchope-Thompson

Michelle Wauchope-Thompson is a PhD student working with SENS assistant professor Helen Baulch on nutrient loading in Prairie lakes. She hails from Hopewell-Hanover, Jamaica and has been with SENS since 2016.

Michelle was recently featured in an International Researchers profile video.

What is your research?

My research focuses on both water quality and sediment nutrient dynamics in freshwater systems (lakes). I study a chain of economically significant, naturally eutrophic, and shallow polymictic prairie lakes along the Qu’Appelle River in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. This river basin is fed by nutrients from both treated effluent of the City of Regina Wastewater Treatment Plant (recently upgraded) and an agriculturally-dominated landscape. My research seeks to better understand the biogeochemical processes that govern the recovery of these nutrient-impacted freshwater ecosystems. I accomplish this by using different research methods to assess water quality and sediment nutrient flux rates.

Most significant achievement?

My most significant achievement was being selected to receive one of two Organization of American States (OAS) Graduate Scholarships from Washington D.C., USA, for my home country of Jamaica, to complete graduate studies in North America. I was able to represent Jamaica, make my parents, husband, and family proud, while pursuing impactful research in sustainable development. This achievement is significant to me because the research and knowledge gained will help guide water policy and water managers in both Canada and my home country of Jamaica.

Favourite music?

I don’t think I have a favorite because I appreciate a wide variety of genres, and I listen to these genres based on my mood. This variety includes Jamaican reggae, culture and dancehall, gospel, instrumental, alternative rock, pop, and R & B music.

Influences?

Firstly, my number one influence is my Christian faith, and ultimate reliance on God during good times and challenges. Secondly, both my parents (mother, Rosemarie and my late father, Leroy Egbert Wauchope) who have instilled in me from a young age my love of water and the environment, hard work and offering a close-knit family support system (siblings and extended family). Thirdly my husband, Deago, who motivates me when I procrastinate, and is a constant support and best friend; and my many mentors and past professors in my life who have set great examples as outstanding researchers, businessmen and go-getters. Finally, my current supervisor, Dr. Helen Baulch, and other professors within SENS and the Global Institute for Water Security who have and continually push me to perform at my highest level. I aspire to be as impactful (publications) and supportive as they have been.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

My research data will help to understand the implications of internal nutrient loading in North American Prairie lakes, lakes’ nutrient budgets, and lake response to reduced external loads from agricultural and urban wastewater impacts. The general research findings and knowledge gained will further prepare me for a career path in environmental consulting. Through this consulting, I hope to make the connection between innovative water research, and how my research data translates into policy. Additionally, I plan to identify the role of implementation of water policies and management through working on projects and policy evaluations which will help my home country- Jamaica- into its Vision 2030 goals in relation to the environmental and policy decisions as drastic measures need to be put in place to ensure sustainable development and conservation of Jamaica’s natural resources for present and future generations.

How do you define sustainability?

My understanding and definition of sustainability has evolved in the past couple of years as a result of my ongoing education and life experiences. Sustainability is an ongoing process of ensuring needs of  both future and present communities are met through effectively using, connecting, protecting and conserving natural resources and our land; continual economic growth, reducing poverty and improving social development through commitment, research, and interdependent relationship building with community, government and private stakeholders to tackle complex socio-economic and environmental issues.

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