Picture of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Colin Whitfield

Colin Whitfield PhD Assistant Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability

Member, Global Institute of Water Security

National Hydrology Research Centre

Research Area(s)

  • Catchment hydrochemistry
  • Ecosystem biogeochemistry
  • Climate change
  • Acidification
  • Mineral weathering
  • Biogenic greenhouse gas emissions
  • Biogeochemical modelling
  • Response to stressors

Academic Credentials

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Watershed Ecosystems, Trent University
  • Master of Science in Watershed Ecosystems, Trent University
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science (Co-operative Education), Simon Fraser University

Research Profile


Colin Whitfield is currently investigating different aquatic systems in the prairies. In Wascana Creek we are assessing the potential for nitrogen management, in the form of an upgrade of a wastewater treatment plant, to mitigate nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. In southern Manitoba, we are assessing whether we can better manage small agricultural reservoirs to minimize emissions of biogenic greenhouse gases.  We are also investigating patterns and drivers of dissolved organic carbon in Buffalo Pound, a major drinking water source reservoir in Saskatchewan. In recent years, Colin has also lead projects focusing on the dynamic biogeochemical responses of upland forests and lakes in boreal and taiga regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan to stressors including atmospheric pollution, climate change and landscape disturbance. Colin is also co-leading Prairie Water, a Global Water Futures funded research program that will enhance the resilience of prairie communities through sustainable water management. 

Current Research

  • Better BMPs - Budgeting and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions associated with keeping water on the land in agricultural reservoirs.
  • Assessment of feasibility of pNP method for surface area characterization of coarse-textured soils.
  • Modelling dissolved organic matter as a tool to understand recent degradation of source water quality, and management solutions.

News and Media

Selected Publications

Murray, C.A., Whitfield, C.J., and Watmough, S.A.  2017.  Uncertainty-based terrestrial critical loads of nutrient nitrogen for northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Boreal Environment Research, 22: 231–244.  http://www.borenv.net/BER/pdfs/ber22/ber22-231-244.pdf

Whitfield, C.J., Mowat, A.C., Scott, K.A., and Watmough, S.A.  2016.  A modified approach for assessing the aquatic critical load of acid deposition in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.  Atmospheric Environment, 146: 300-310. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.05.025

Whitfield, C.J. and Watmough, S.A.  2015.  Acid deposition in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region: a policy perspective. Environmental Monititoring and Assessment, 187: 771.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-015-4979-3

Ireson, A.M., Barr, A.G., Johnstone, J.F., Mamet, S.D., van der Kamp, G., Whitfield, C.J., Michel, N.L., North, R.L., Westbrook, C.J., DeBeer, C., Chun, K.P., Nazemi, A., and Sagin, J.  2015.  The changing water cycle: the Boreal Plains ecozone of Western Canada. WIREs Water, 2(5): 505-521. https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1098

Whitfield, C.J., Baulch, H.M., Chun, K.P., and Westbrook.C.J.  2015.  Beaver-mediated methane emission: the effects of population growth in Eurasia and the Americas.  Ambio, 44: 7-15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-014-0575-y

Watmough, S.A., Whitfield, C.J., and Fenn, M.E.  2014.  The importance of atmospheric base cation deposition for preventing soil acidification in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of Canada. Science of the Total Environment, 493: 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.05.110

Aherne, J., Burton, A., Scott, H., Whitfield, C.J., and Wolniewicz, M.  2013.  Influence of Transboundary Air Pollution on Acid-sensitive Ecosystems: Assessing the Influence of Transboundary Air Pollution on Acid-sensitive Lakes and Soils: Survey of Upland Acidic Systems (SUAS). Climate Change Research Programme Report 2007-CCRP-4.4.4b, Irish Environmental Protection Agency, Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Ireland. pp. 68.  https://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/climatechange/CCRP_31_web.pdf

Whitfield, C.J. and Reid, C.  2013.  Predicting surface area of coarse-textured soils: implications for weathering rates.  Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 93: 621–630. https://doi.org/10.1139/CJSS2012-009

Whitfield, C.J. and S.A. Watmough.  2012.  A regional approach for mineral soil weathering estimation and critical load assessment in boreal Saskatchewan, Canada.  Science of the Total Environment, 437: 165–172. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.08.046

Breached beaver dam.

Courses Taught

  • ENVS 201 - Foundations of Sustainability
  • ENVS 803 - Research in Environment and Sustainability 
  • ENVS 898 - Global Biogeochemical Cycles