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Researcher Highlight: Kathryn Smith

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Researcher Highlight: Kathryn Smith

After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering with the Cooperative Program at Dalhousie University in 2019, PhD student Kathryn Smith began her graduate studies working with Dr. Craig Lake. This work eventually led to an opportunity to conduct research as part of the Coastal Hydrology lab team supervised by Dr. Barret Kurylyk. 

Kathryn’s PhD research focuses on investigating estuarine warming and cold-water habitat loss due to climate change in coastal rivers within Nova Scotia and PEI. Over the past three years, Kathryn has been mapping estuarine water temperature patterns using drones, temperature loggers, and fibre-optic distributed temperature sensing. The next stage of the research is to analyze these datasets through numerical modelling to develop specific solution strategies. 

“The ultimate goal I hope to achieve with my research is to develop thermal and ecosystem management plans to watershed groups, government officials, and research partners,” Kathryn says. 

“I've learned that it is often the case that people from different expertise and backgrounds hardly communicate their findings to each other - bridging this gap could very well be the key to answering some of their burning questions,” she adds. 

As a researcher, Kathryn says sometimes it’s challenging to balance her extensive fieldwork with other aspects of her graduate studies. Between Nova Scotia and PEI, Kathryn has conducted research in up to seven sites so far. However, she says that working with local watershed groups is also the best part of her work because as a researcher, “you get to see how passionate each group is about the protection of the river and how much they value any insight you're able to provide.” 

Upon completing her PhD, Kathryn says she’d like to continue working in the industry maybe as part of a close-knit team in a small consulting firm. But she emphasizes she’s open to all the possibilities her career has to offer. “I'm leaving the larger career plans up in the air for now. I have inklings of where I want to end up, but ultimately it will be where it best fits in with my life.” 

When thinking about her current work in the lab, Kathryn says she’s grateful to be able to work in something she’s passionate about.

“I've been very thankful to be part of the Coastal Hydrology Lab; to work with my lab mates and with Dr. Barret Kurylyk. It's opened numerous doors for me that wouldn't have been there years ago, and I often think to myself, ‘how cool is it that I get to do this?’. Hopefully that momentum continues into my future.” 

Learn more about Kathryn’s work and the Coastal Hydrology Lab here.

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