Stephanie Wright PhD

Assistant Professor

Faculty, Civil Engineering
Phone: 613-533-6000 ext. 78310
Fax: 613-533-2128
Ellis Hall, Room: 230A

Expertise: Cryo-hydrogeology and permafrost thaw, Fractured rock hydrogeology, Climate change impacts on groundwater resources in cold regions, Field-based investigation of groundwater flow and transport, Safe and sustainable drinking water supplies
Stephanie Wright
Biography Research Publications Open Positions

I am a new faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering with a background in environmental and geological engineering. My expertise is in fractured rock hydrogeology, cryo-hydrogeology, and environmental/isotope tracers. The goal of my research is to support safe and sustainable groundwater resources in cold regions under climate change through field-based investigations combined with robust statistical and numerical analyses. My work aims to improve the ability of governments, industry, and First Nations to effectively respond to a rapidly warming climate. I am also an Associate Editor for Hydrogeology Journal and have been on the board of a non-profit organization focused on watershed conservation and outreach since 2017.

I was previously an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow at Wilfrid Laurier University (2021 – 2022) where I studied the impacts of permafrost thaw on groundwater and surface water integration at the Scotty Creek Research Station. I completed my PhD in Civil Engineering (2016 – 2021) and BASc in Geological Engineering (2012 – 2016) at Queen’s University, Canada.

The Problem

Rising temperatures from climate change are severely impacting the global cryosphere with direct implications for vital groundwater resources. In seasonally frozen environments, changing winter conditions affect sensitive groundwater resources that are recharged by winter precipitation. In the Circumpolar North, rapid warming is leading to unprecedented permafrost thaw, which is impacting freshwater quality and quantity, damaging critical infrastructure, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and negatively impacting northern livelihoods. These issues will likely intensify over the coming decades, highlighting the urgent need to understand the processes and trajectory of hydrologic change driven by climate change and permafrost thaw.

Our Research

The goal of our research is to support safe and sustainable groundwater resources in cold regions under climate change. We conduct process-based field and numerical modelling investigations to understand the impacts of climate change and permafrost thaw on groundwater resources. This work aims to improve predictions of hydrologic change under future climate scenarios and build the capacity of governments, First Nations, and industry to effectively mitigate and adapt to the consequences of a warming world. We take an integrated approach by investigating dynamically coupled systems and incorporate community concerns and Traditional Knowledge into the planning, collection, and interpretation of results. Our research spans cold regions across Canada from seasonally frozen bedrock aquifers in southern Canada, to the permafrost beneath peatlands, tundra, and fractured rock of the Canadian Arctic and sub-Arctic. Some examples of areas we research are highlighted below.  



  1. Bedrock aquifer resources under warmer winters
  2. Thaw-driven impacts to groundwater quantity and quality
  3. Groundwater-permafrost interactions in the built environment
  4. Advances in fractured rock cryo-hydrogeology


Our Field Sites

Kennedy Field Station

Nearest Community: Tamworth, Ontario
Access: Road
Thermal State: Seasonally Frozen

Ongoing Research:

  • Fractured rock hydrogeology field experiments
  • Impacts of climate change on bedrock aquifers
  • Advancing fractured rock cryo-hydrogeology

Scotty Creek Research Station

Nearest Community: Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories
Access: Float plane, Snowmobile
Thermal State: Discontinuous Permafrost

Ongoing Research:

  • Thaw-activated groundwater flow and transport processes
  • Integration of groundwater and surface water systems
  • Wildfire impacts on permafrost and groundwater activation

La Martre Watershed

Nearest Community: Whatì, Northwest Territories
Access: All Season Road
Thermal State: Discontinuous Permafrost

Ongoing Research:

  • How permafrost thaw and groundwater activation are changing water resources
  • Drinking water source protection for Whatì

Cape Bounty Arctic Watershed Observatory

Nearest Community: Resolute Bay, Nunavut
Access: Ski Plane, Float Plane
Thermal State: Continuous Permafrost

Ongoing Research:

  • Changing hydrologic connectivity from thawing permafrost
  • Preferential pathways for flow and transport

Click below for a complete update-to-date list of publications:

Select Publications

  1. Mastej, E., Wright, S.N., Braverman, M., Devoie, E., Egorov, I., Quinton, W. An evaluation of ground-freezing systems in a saturated Subarctic peatland. Submitted to Cold Regions Science and Technology November 18, 2022. CRST-D-22-00564.
  2. Wright, S.N., Thompson, L.M., Olefeldt, D., Connon, R., Carpino, O.A., Beel, C.R, Quinton, W., 2022. Thaw-induced impacts on land and water in discontinuous permafrost: A review of the Taiga Plains and Taiga Shield, Northwestern Canada. Earth-Science Reviews.
  3. Wright, S.N., Novakowski, K.S., 2022. Numerical analysis of midwinter infiltration along the soil-rock interface: A pathway for enhanced bedrock recharge. Advances in Water Resources.
  4. Wright, S.N., Novakowski, K.S., 2020. Impacts of warming winters on recharge in a seasonally frozen bedrock aquifer. Journal of Hydrology.
  5. Wright, S.N., Novakowski, K.S., 2019. Groundwater recharge, flow and stable isotope attenuation in sedimentary and crystalline fractured rocks: Spatiotemporal monitoring from multi-level wells. Journal of Hydrology.

Graduate Student 

Dr. Wright is always looking to hear from talented and driven students interested in the topics related to groundwater flow and contaminant transport in cold regions. Examples of research topics include:

  • Groundwater resource vulnerability related to climate change and permafrost thaw
  • Contaminant mobilization from waste sites in thawing permafrost
  • Impacts of permafrost thaw on groundwater and surface water connectivity
  • Mid-winter recharge in vulnerable bedrock aquifers 

All projects have varying degrees of field investigation and/or numerical modelling with the possibility for bench-scale laboratory experiments for topic three. Other topics related to cold regions groundwater resources are possible, so reach out if you have a project/topic in mind!

How to Apply: Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in Civil, Environmental, or Geological Engineering, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Physical Geography, or related fields. Previous related field experience is an asset, but is not essential. Additionally, applicants for Northern field projects should be eager and interested in engaging with Indigenous communities and conducting field work in remote locations for extended periods (e.g., several weeks) at a time.

For any of the projects above, please email a cover letter outlining your research interests, CV, and unofficial transcripts to Dr. Wright (, with the subject line “Wright Research Opportunity”.


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