Picture of  Irena  Creed

Irena Creed PhD Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability

Research Area(s)

  • Ecosystem Science
  • Ecosystem Services
  • Global Change

Academic Credentials


Research Profile

“The places where water comes together with other water. Those places stand out in my mind like holy places.” 
― Raymond Carver, Where Water Comes Together with Other Water: Poems

Irena Creed is an ecosystem scientist. She works closely with her diverse and active research groups to develop conceptual models, and to develop the scientific and practical tools needed to challenge these models and to determine the consequences of human modification on Earth.

Irena's research group, together with collaborators from government, industry and an international network of scientists, study the impacts of global change (climate change, atmospheric pollution, and land use/land cover change) on ecosystem structure, function and services. She works at multiple scales, investigating how hydrology influences ecological and physiological processes in terrestrial (forest, agriculture) and aquatic ecosystems (streams, wetlands, lakes, rivers). She uses contemporary techniques, including satellite- and ground-based measurements, field and laboratory experimental manipulations, and statistical and mathematical models to develop a predictive understanding of global change effects on ecosystem hydrological and biogeochemical processes and their ecological endpoints. Her group focuses research on two major watershed ecosystems: the Saskatchewan River basin that drains into Lake Winnipeg and eventually to the Arctic Ocean; and the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River basin that serves as the major hydrologic corridor to move water to the Atlantic Ocean. She also works closely with government and industry partners to translate scientific findings into policy and management relevant tools.

Irena is a biology professor who served as a Canada Research Chair in Watershed Sciences for the past 10 years at Western University in London, Ont. She joined SENS September 1, 2017 to lead the school for a five-year term. She has researched environmental issues across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, including studying the future of the Laurentian Great Lakes and the Saskatchewan River Basin, which has previously brought her to the U of S. 

Her interdisciplinary training has enabled her to take fresh perspectives and to make fundamental contributions to the field of ecosystem sciences. She has an international reputation for creatively combining theory and practice to improve our understanding of the links between hydrological and biogeochemical processes and their ecological consequences in freshwaters, particularly for communities-at-risk. She has taken leadership roles on Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grants, and has been invited by provincial and federal governments to provide evidence to support policy decisions on ecosystem services. She is also actively engaged in international research and training in the United States, Europe and Africa.

Research Themes

Hydrological Characterization of Landscapes
When a drop of water hits the ground, it weaves through the land and ends up in the surface waters of wetlands, lakes and rivers or deep below the surface in groundwater. Understanding the patterns of where water is, was or will be allows us to explain or predict the ecosystem processes that are intrinsically linked to water.  We have developed novel approaches to map wet areas in landscapes where traditional methods are insufficient. These mapping techniques allow us to characterize the hydrology of landscapes at broad and fine scales over time and are being used by governments and NGOs to implement in hydrological and biodiversity monitoring to help inform development and conservation policies.

Hydrological Regulation of Nutrient Export and Greenhouse Gases from Watersheds
As water moves through watersheds, it picks up and carries nutrients and contaminants with it, transporting them great distances with effects on different ecosystems along the way. We have developed an internationally recognized indicator approach to predict nutrient export from headwater catchments by incorporating topographically derived indices to explain the differential export of carbon and nitrogen from headwater catchments and regional watersheds.

Moist soils can also create or hinder conditions for the chemical reactions that produce or sequester greenhouse gases. We contribute to a world-wide effort to map carbon and nitrogen pools and understand the processes that control greenhouse gas exchange. We created a topographic template for estimating soil carbon and nitrogen pools at regional scales.

Ecosystem Services
Watersheds provide essential ecosystem services, like flood control and water purification. We are conducting research that assesses the functions of ecosystems and quantifies their value in order to inform development and conservation decisions.

Ecosystem Health
The health of ecosystems and human beings are intrinsically tied together, especially in developing countries where individual livelihoods are reliant on the productivity of natural and agricultural ecosystems. We are interested in conducting research that measures the interactive effects of economic, social and economic determinants of health, including feedback of human activities within the ecosystem on the sustainability of ecosystem services. These are complex systems, and we are working with experts from many disciplines (including the natural, applied, health and social sciences) to conduct trans-disciplinary research that will characterize and propose solutions to enact change in ecosystems in crisis.

News and Media

Awards and Grants

  • Tier II Canada Research Chair in Watershed Sciences (July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2017)
  • Tier II Canada Research Chair in Watershed Sciences (July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2012)
  • Distinguished Research Professorship in Faculty of Science (2013-2014). The Distinguished Research Professorship is awarded on merit, based on implementation of a large collaborative grant, to pursue high-risk, unique research avenues that are time sensitive and have a strong potential for a significant break-through, and to capitalize on new and significant partnerships with industry.
  • Western Green Award (2013) recognizes contributions in creating and leading the Great Lakes Futures Project (GLFP) as part of the Transborder Research University Network for Water Stewardship (TRUN).
  • Postdoctoral Supervisor of the Year Award in School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (2013). This award recognizing Postdoctoral Supervisors who have demonstrated exemplary support for postdoctoral scholars at Western by going above and beyond supervisory expectations. These mentors have given their time and put forth extra effort to ensure a successful experience for postdoctoral scholars.
  • Western Humanitarian Award (2011) to recognize faculty, staff and students who are engaged in a range of efforts directed towards improving the quality of life for individuals and groups around the world. Drs. Trick, Bend, Creed and Darnell were selected to receive the award for their team’s leadership role as humanitarians through their project on Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada.
  • Canada Institute of Forestry’s Canadian Forest Management Group Achievement Award (2009) for the Sustainable Forest Management Network, for which Irena Creed served on the management team as Research Area Leader for Water and Wetlands

Selected Publications

Ameli, A. and Creed, I.F.  2017.  Quantifying hydrologic connectivity of wetlands to surface water systems. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 21: 1791–1808.  https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-1791-2017

Ameli, A.A., Erlandsson, M., Beven, K., Creed, I.F., McDonnell, J., and Bishop, K.  2017.  Primary weathering rates, transit times and C-Q relationships: A theoretical analysis combining particle tracking and a simple dissolution rate law. Water Resources Research, 53: 942-960.  https://doi.org/10.1002/2016WR019448

Ellison, D., Morris, C.E., Locatelli, B., Sheil, D., Cohen, J., Murdiyarso, D., Gutierrez, V., van Noordwijk, M., Creed, I.F., Pokorny, J., Gaveau, D., Spracklen, D., Bargués Tobella, A., Ilstedt, U., Teuling, R., Gebreyohannis Gebrehiwot, S., Sands, D.C., Muys, B., Verbist, B., Springgay, E., Sugandi, Y., and Sullivan, C.A.  2017.  Trees, forest, and water: cool new insights for a hot world. Global Environmental Change, 43: 51-61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.01.002

Potvin, C., Divya, S., Creed, I.F. Aitken, S., Anctil, F., Bennett, E., Berkes, F., Bernstein, S., Bleau, N., Bourque, A., Brown, B., Burch, S., Byrne, J., Cunsolo, A., Dale, A., de Lange, D., Dyck, B., Entz, M., Etcheverry, J., Faucher, R., Fenech, A., Fraser, L., Henriques, I., Heyland, A., Hoffmann, M., Hoberg, G., Holden, M., Huang, G., Jacob, A.L., Jodoin, S., Kemper, A., Lucotte, M., Maranger, R., Margolis, L., Mauro, A., McDonnell, J., Meadowcroft, J., Messier, C., Mkandawire, M., Morency, C., Mousseau, N., Oakes, K., Otto, S., Palmater, P., Palmer, T.S., Paquin, D., Perl, A., Potvin, A., Ramos, H., Raudsepp-Hearne, C., Richards, N., Robinson, J., Sheppard, S., Simard, S., Sinclair, B.J., Slawinski, N., Stoddart, M., Villard, M.-A., Villeneuve, C., and Wright, T.  2017.  Stimulating a Canadian Narrative for Climate. FACETS, 2: 131-149. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2016-0029

Stackpoole, S.M., Stets, E.G., Clow, D.W., Burns, D.A., Aiken, G.R., Aulenbach, B.T., Creed, I.F., Hirsch, R.M., Laudon, H., Pellerin, B.A., and Striegl, R.G.  2017.  Spatial and temporal patterns of dissolved organic matter quantity and quality in the Mississippi River Basin, 1997-2013. Hydrological Processes, 31(4): 902-915.  https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.11072

Ameli, A.A., Amvrosiadi, N., Grabs, T., Laudon, H., Creed, I.F., McDonnell, J.J., and Bishop, K.  2016.  Hillslope permeability architecture controls on subsurface transit time distribution and flow paths. Journal of Hydrology, 543: 17-30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.04.071

Enanga, E.M., Creed, I.F.Fairweather, T., and Casson, N.J.  2016.  Snow-covered soils produce N2O that is lost from forested catchments. Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences, 121: 2356-2368. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016JG003411

Lecki N*, Creed IF. 2016. Forest soil CO2 efflux models improved by incorporating topographic controls on carbon content and sorption capacity of soils.  Biogeochemistry, 129(3): 307-323.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-016-0233-5

Creed, I.F., Cormier, R., Laurent, K.L.Accatino, F.Igras, J.Henley, P., Friedman, K.B., Johnson, L.B., Crossman, J., Dillon, P.J., and Trick, C.G.  2016.  Formal integration of science and management systems needed to achieve a thriving and prosperous Great Lakes. Bioscience 66(5): 408-418. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biw030

Harms, T.K., Edmonds, J.W., Genet, H., Creed, I.F.Aldred, D.A., Balser, A., and Jones, J.B.  2016.  Catchment influence on nitrate and dissolved organic matter in Alaskan streams across a latitudinal gradient.  Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences, 121: 350-369.  https://doi.org/10.1002/2015JG003201