Scouts pump water from the Eramosa River.
Scouts pump water from the Eramosa River. Photos courtesy Scouts Canada

A new U of G field lab is now running at the Barber Scout Camp near the Eramosa River, just a short drive from campus.

Led by engineering professor Beth Parker, a team of grad students and groundwater professionals will study groundwater and surface water interaction in the fractured sedimentary bedrock that lines the Eramosa River and outcrops along the flood plain.

The team is part of G360, or the Centre for Applied Groundwater Research (“G” refers to groundwater, the Grand River and the Guelph aquifer, while “360” refers to the hydrologic cycle and the centre’s location at 360 College Ave.). Under this field-based program started by Parker, students from the Schools of Engineering and Environmental Sciences study groundwater science while learning important field skills.

Guelph is Ontario’s largest community supplied by bedrock groundwater.

“Groundwater and surface water are linked, and their interaction is key to understanding ecosystem health and water quantity and quality issues that might vary seasonally or over decades, or due to man-made influences, such as pumping and dams,” says Parker, who holds a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Industrial Research Chair.

The researchers set up the field lab with Scouts Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Grand River Conservation Authority.

PhD student Celia Kennedy is one of the students working on the site.

“Since the G360 research group studies groundwater in discrete fracture networks, this site facilitates such studies in both aquatic and terrestrial bedrock environments,” Kennedy says.

Parker adds that research on the site “allows us to apply innovative research methods currently being developed for ecologically sensitive areas in the community we live and work in. We appreciate the co-operation from Scouts Canada in granting access to their property.”

The camp is used by Scout and Girl Guide groups from across southern Ontario.

For the camp’s recent 60th anniversary, the G360 group ran a workshop to teach youngsters about aspects of surface water and groundwater, which included, among other things, a scavenger hunt and extracting rock core. The event ended with a “taste” of science, as the youths drilled and extracted “core” from a geological model cake of the camp.

Scouts enjoy core samples from a geological cake.
Scouts enjoy “core” samples from a geological model cake.

“Outreach workshops allow students and staff to engage youth in discovering what we do to understand water resources,” Kennedy says. “We tailor the workshops to be educational, age-appropriate and fun for everyone.”

The team hopes technologies developed at the Scout camp will improve groundwater investigation in bedrock environments across Ontario and worldwide.

Jonathan Munn is another PhD student working on the site. His thesis is on diagonal drilling.

“Data collected at the Scout camp study will increase our knowledge of the local groundwater flow systems, geology, water quality and groundwater contributions to base flow in the Eramosa River,” he says.

“The Scout camp is unique because the river has an exposed flat fractured bedrock stream bed and an exposed bedrock flood plain. With the data we collect here, we hope to characterize groundwater flow in this challenging environment and extrapolate findings that can be applied to other areas with fractured bedrock aquifers.”

Parker leads researchers in Canada, the United States and Switzerland in examining groundwater flow and contamination. Their work is funded partly by a five-year, $5-million grant from the Ontario Research Fund. The G360 fractured rock field facility on the U of G campus is becoming one of the most advanced facilities for studying bedrock aquifers in North America.

Scouts wade through the Eramosa River.