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The Applied Geochemistry group (AGg) in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada) employs a wide variety of physical, chemical, isotopic, microbial and modeling techniques to study aspects of the water cycle and to trace the fate of anthropogenic and natural carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur in surface and subsurface environments. The research program is subdivided into three major themes:

1) Environmental research;
2) Research at the interface between energy and the environment; and
3) Energy-related research.
In 2017, we plan to admit two or three (2-3) new graduate students at the MSc and PhD level. The admission process is competitive and only highly qualified, independent, and dedicated students can be admitted into the program. Potential research areas include, but are not limited to the following:


The overall objective is to fill major knowledge gaps in the understanding of nutrient and contaminant cycling in aquatic ecosystems by developing and applying innovative tracer approaches. The research program relies on a combination of novel isotope fingerprinting tools and more established chemical and isotopic approaches to identify the sources and the biogeochemical fate of macronutrients and contaminants. These approaches are combined with water age-dating methods and leading-edge microbiological and metagenomic techniques. This novel combination of tracer approaches will gain new insights into the sources and transit times of nutrients and contaminants transported in watersheds and a reliable identification of the processes involved in nutrient and contaminant transformations and biodegradation. Potential graduate student projects include the following:

  • To assess the level of groundwater contamination with nutrients such as nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate and other contaminants (trace metals, fluoride, methane, ethane, etc.) to determine the extent to which Alberta groundwater is currently impacted by nutrients and contaminants.
  • To assess the reliability of multi-isotope approaches in tracing the sources of nutrients such as nitrate, ammonium, boron and phosphate from municipal wastewater and agricultural sources such as fertilizers and manure at unique experimental sites.
  • To utilize the isotopic compositions of nitrite and N2O to gain new insights about the extent to which nitrification, denitrification, anammox and DNRA control the fate of anthropogenic *To use isotopic fingerprinting techniques for determining nutrient sources combined with surface water and groundwater age-dating techniques to quantify the timelines involved in contamination of aquatic systems with macro-nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate.
  • To investigate to what extent redox processes control nutrient removal in aquifers e.g. via denitrification.
  • To harness the power of novel metagenomic techniques in combination with geochemical and isotopic approaches to gain new insights into nutrient biodegradation processes controlling the fate of anthropogenic nitrogen in watersheds with specific focus on anaerobic methane oxidation coupled with denitrification.
  • To apply a multi-isotope approach combining N, phosphate-O and B isotopes for tracing the fate of nutrients in watersheds with markedly different land use in the Oldman, Bow, and Elbow River basins in Alberta and in aquifers of Alberta and beyond.

Interface between Energy and the Environment

The overall goal of this research theme at the interface between Energy and the Environment is to assess the impact of emissions from the oil and gas industry on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems using geochemical and isotopic techniques. Potential graduate student projects include the following:

  • Development of scientifically credible baseline groundwater studies in areas of shale gas development;
  • Tracing the transport and fate of methane released into shallow aquifers;
  • Using geochemical and isotopic approaches to assess fugitive gas migration into groundwater, the soil zone, and the atmosphere in the vicinity of active and abandoned energy wells;
  • Assessing the sources of methane and ethane in the intermediate zone and in shallow aquifers combining geochemical, isotopic, and metagenomic approaches.


The overall goal of this research theme is to facilitate a less water- and carbon-intensive production of fossil fuel-based energy resources. Potential graduate student projects include the following:

  • Advancing scientific insights about the processes occurring in shale gas plays during hydraulic fracturing using geochemical and isotopic techniques;
  • Developing approaches for minimizing mineral precipitation during steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and associated steam production in the oil sands region of north-eastern Alberta;
  • Tracing of CO2 during geological CO2 sequestration and enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

We also encourage graduate students to propose their own projects, and will evaluate how such project could be integrated into the research program of the Applied Geochemistry group at the University of Calgary.

Links and Requirements

Applicants should have a GPA higher than 3.3 and should have taken several Geoscience courses during their undergraduate/graduate degree program. Financial assistantships of a minimum of $20,000 per annum are available via mixed sources (e.g. teaching assistantships, scholarships, project funds etc.) and are awarded on a competitive basis via application to the Department of Geoscience graduate program. Further information on admission criteria and procedures is outlined at:

or apply at:

or can be obtained from Cathy Hubbell (phone 403 220 3254; fax 403 284 0074; e-mail: The application deadline is January 15, 2017.

More detailed information on our current research programs can be viewed at Should you have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Bernhard Mayer at

The University of Calgary

UofC is committed to excellence in teaching and advancing knowledge through research. We have over 30,000 students in more than 80 academic departments and major program areas. UofC is one of Canada’s ten most research intensive institutions with more than $250 million in annual external research funding and more than 30 endowed chairs. The 123-hectare campus is situated in a park-like setting in the NW quadrant of the city. It is easily accessible by public transit. There is a city transit train station on campus and many transit bus routes pass through campus. We have 18 academic buildings, and a wide variety of facilities and services for staff, students, and the public. The library collection is one of the largest in Canada, and includes approximately five million books and microform units, plus a wide variety of electronic and other resources. UofC has the finest combined athletic facilities in Canada including a covered speed-skating oval (a benefit of the 1988 Winter Olympics), two hockey rinks, tennis courts, a triple gymnasium, the city’s largest racquet center, an Olympic-size swimming pool, weight rooms, indoor jogging tracks and an indoor climbing facility. The URL for the UofC Portal is


This city has a population of more than 1,000,000 and is located in the Rocky Mountain foothills at the junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Extensive riverbank trails connect pristine parks that wind throughout the city. A variety of athletic, cultural and recreational facilities combine traditions of the Old West with modern urban sophistication. It is the home of the world famous Calgary Stampede and was the 1988 Winter Olympics host city. Calgary is a cosmopolitan city with a culturally and ethnically diverse population. It boasts the world-class Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Glenbow Museum, and Centre for the Performing Arts, as well as champion professional sports teams. Calgary has something for everyone. It is a friendly, clean and remarkably safe city. Calgary is truly a great place to live.

The Surroundings

Calgary is set amidst some of the most interesting, exciting, and spectacularly beautiful surroundings in the world. Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Banff, Yoho, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes National Parks, and Dinosaur, Kananaskis and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks are all within easy driving distance of Calgary. These surroundings offer unique opportunities to explore the natural and cultural history of Western Canada. World-famous examples include the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the Burgess Shale made famous in the Stephen J. Gould book “Wonderful Life”. Within 200 km of Calgary, you will find everything ranging from remarkable bird-watching locales, just one example of which is the Golden Eagle Flyway, to world-class whitewater (kayaking, canoeing, and rafting), skiing (backcountry, alpine, and Nordic), snowboarding, hiking, scrambling, climbing, and mountain biking. The Campus Outdoor Center offers excellent rental equipment and introductory courses for most of these activities and more. You can begin your exploration of what awaits you via these web pages: