Partner Series: Education and Outreach Partner – Lakeland College

Getting to Know Dr. Nicole Nadorozny, Instructor and Practicum Coordinator - Lakeland College

Written by Michelle A. Gordy

This month’s blog is the last in our Partner Series, highlighting various non-government environmental organizations and educational partners in the Vermilion watershed. This month, we are highlighting Dr. Nicole Nadorozny, Instructor and Practicum Coordinator at Lakeland College in Vermilion. Dr. Nadorozny is also a Director on the Board of the Vermilion River Watershed Alliance, representing Lakeland College. In addition to being a Director, she is also involved in our Education Committee and is excited by the potential opportunities for further collaboration in research and education outreach, and for students at Lakeland getting involved in their watershed.

To start at the beginning, Nicole grew up in Northern Ontario. As one may expect, with lakes everywhere, Nicole was drawn to them and always loved the water. This love, as you will soon see, flourished into a lifelong career, driven by a passion to better understand and protect water sources and their surrounding watersheds.

Dr. Nicole Nadorozny hiking at Mt. St. Piran, Alberta
A favourite past time: being out on the water.

Nicole went to Carleton University and did an undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences, specializing in Environmental Geochemistry. During this time, she took a geology field course in Cobal, Ontario, and was intrigued by the impacts of mine tailings on the local water systems. Because of her growing expertise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), she also worked on several GIS projects for Ph.D. students in the Landscape Ecology Lab. These projects used damselflies, snakes and small rodents to understand how a landscape can influence the persistence of species. It not only matters what kind of habitat is there, but also where that habitat is located relative to other habitats and how accessible are the habitats to individual species. Being a very visual person, these types of studies held great appeal to her and became a key component to her subsequent graduate studies.

Later, Nicole went to Acadia University in Nova Scotia and completed a Conservation Biology Master’s degree in just 15 months! During this time, Nicole worked on amphibian ecology, comparing forested and non-forested landscape effects on amphibian populations. Even here, the water element was strong. Most species of amphibians require aquatic habitats for breeding, summer foraging and overwintering, and Nicole wanted to understand how well amphibians moved through landscapes to find these habitats. She even spent weeks tracking green frogs in the middle of the night to better understand their movement patterns.

Dr. Nadorozny tagging frogs during her field studies at Acadia

She then moved across the country to complete her Ph.D. at the University of Calgary, where she really started to look at things from a watershed perspective. Her research focused on linking land cover and land use to surface water quality in the headwaters of the South Saskatchewan River Basin; completing a comparative analysis of the Bow, Oldman and Red Deer River Basins. The study included cumulative assessments in rivers - exploring spatial and temporal trends from headwaters to river mouth, to identify aquatic indicators that best demonstrate land-water linkages. In other words, asking the question “What are we doing on the land that is impacting the water in our rivers and can we identify when and where these impacts are observed?”

Immediately after graduating from her Ph.D., Dr. Nadorozny started a job as lead scientist on a river health assessment tool, a collaboration between the Saskatchewan Research Council, the University of Saskatchewan,  the Ministry of Environment of Saskatchewan, and the Canadian Water Network. She worked for over 5 years on developing a River Health Assessment Tool, a statistical tool to look at changes of river water quality going downstream to identify hot spots and hot moments of poor water quality issues and compare them to the surrounding landscape to see what improvements could be made.

Her passion for water research, science, and water quality issues then led her to seek a position at Lakeland College, where she would have the opportunity to lead and share this passion with students. She was successful and gained a position as a Practicum Coordinator in the School of Environmental Sciences at Lakeland College in Vermilion. Her role has led to the development of an annual conference on environmental management, teaching applied degree and diploma students, and her connection with the VRWA.

Dr. Nadorozny addressing the crowd at the Annual Research Conference
Annual Research Conference at Lakeland College, Vermilion River, AB

“I think Watershed Alliances and WPACs [Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils] are the way of the future. And for me, being a water person, I really want to strengthen what that looks like for Lakeland and Environmental Sciences.”

She now teaches Aquatic Habitat Protection, Habitat Conservation, GIS, and Hydrogeology courses for the Environmental Sciences students. Dr. Nadorozny states, “I think Watershed Alliances and WPACs [Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils] are the way of the future. And for me, being a water person, I really want to strengthen what that looks like for Lakeland and Environmental Sciences.” Her passion is around helping decision makers across the watershed make decisions that are based on ecological and watershed boundaries, in line with nature, as opposed to political boundaries that are made-up with no relation to the land they encompass.

Practicum students at Lakeland College have broad opportunities to work and learn, for instance, award-winning students in the Bachelors of Applied Science in Environmental Management (BASEM) program, this year, studied Water Quality Monitoring of a nearby gas plant and Using Saturated Rock Fills for removal of Selenium and Nitrates in water affected by mining operations. The great thing about the opportunities Lakeland College provides is that students get to use what they learn in school toward real-world applications of the science in creating change. Additionally, industry really recognizes the skill sets of Lakeland students. But, it isn’t just the students that are stellar, Dr. Nadorozny states, “I think there are really gifted and talented instructors [at Lakeland College], and they’re very passionate about what they do, and the students get an amazing array of skillsets. From Botany with Robin to Hydrology with Kris...the hands-on learning is out of this world, and there are lots of field trips…the students get many opportunities to practice and refine their skills which help them to be job ready after graduation.”

The passion that Dr. Nadorozny exudes is infectious. It is clear that she found a good fit at Lakeland and is leading the charge for Environmental Science students and their expanding role to conduct valuable research within the Vermilion watershed. There is a lot of interest in pursuing a Water Quality Monitoring Program for the Vermilion River in the future, both from a VRWA and Lakeland College perspective. We, at the VRWA, are supporting and encouraging the development of such a program, to work together with students to monitor the health of our watershed and understand better ways in which we can have a positive effect on the river. Dr. Nadorozny has been an incredible partner to the VRWA and continues to work to provide opportunities for students to recognize and value the role of watershed alliances and learn what stakeholders are involved and how the stakeholder engagement process works.

Dr. Nadorozny sharing the success stories of students at the Annual Research Conference at Lakeland College

So, what does she do in her spare time? She reconnects with nature, with the watershed, with the mountains, glaciers, and water that provide so much value to our daily lives. You can find her running up a mountain, hiking, and exploring the Canadian Rockies.

Dr. Nadorozny hiking at Wassootch Ridge, Alberta in 2021

Thank you Nicole for your hard work and efforts as a leader, a teacher, and a representative for watershed health.

Michelle Gordy, Ph.D.
Michelle Gordy, Ph.D.Watershed Planning Coordinator
North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance