Collaboration is a key factor in the success of a multidisciplinary project.
Studying the impact of climate change on water resourcesMonday, March 14, 2022
Annie Poulin, Richard Arseneault and François Brissette, an affable trio of Professors, are working together with the HC3 research group to study hydroclimatology and the impact of climate change on water resources. Their success is built on their undeniable connections and an extraordinary level of collaboration.
The three instructors from the Construction Engineering Department at ÉTS strongly agree that the harmony they share and their collective experience enhance the quality of their research. Richard Arseneault comments: “Annie and I were students under François in advanced studies. We have known each other for years, and we never need to walk on eggshells around each other. The communication flows easily!”
Complementarity and diversity
Annie Poulin, Professor and expert in hydrological modelling, and Director of the HC3 Laboratory, chimes in: “This type of collaboration feeds off of complementarity and diversity, which enables us to diversify our studies in contexts that don’t necessarily go together, thus enhancing our research and knowledge.” Michel Baraër, a Professor at ÉTS, also works at the Lab, which includes close to thirty graduate and post-graduate students, in addition to research associates and post-doctoral fellows.
This joint project with Bavaria remains ongoing, and the results have transcended the academic world in both countries. For example, the environment ministries in Québec and Bavaria are keenly interested in the down-to-earth results, and have been sharing ideas and strategies.
Richard Arseneault continues: “Our goal is to be able to predict these very infrequent events to help public security officials organize their response and assist the population. That is why our predictions must be accurate!”
The results of the work done by the group are extremely practical, both in Bavaria and in connection with other projects. However, public officials are not as enthusiastic about their application as one could hope, according to Richard Arseneault. “When we informed city managers that the very pricey conduits they were constructing were too small, and would burst in 25 years because there was too much water, they told us it would cost too much.”
The recent floods in British Columbia are a good example. According to François Brissette: “The drainage infrastructure was clearly inadequate, which is what created the problem.” Unfortunately, that is where the real work related to the impact of climate change lies. Annie Poulin notes: “Education is key, because it’s too easy to postpone initiatives related to climate change.”
A multidisciplinary response to a complex problem
Most universities and a large percentage of decision-makers agree that environmental challenges can only be met using a multidisciplinary approach. “Our research at HC3 involves the merging of geoscience and engineering,” François Brissette states.
He claims that this type of collaboration would have been nearly impossible twenty years ago. “The first time I encountered people involved in climate modelling, I left the meeting thinking that they don’t understand anything. And it seemed like they felt the same way about me,” he concluded, laughing.
However, it has practically become the norm today. Researchers are seeing their role and their multidisciplinary contribution added to a chain of individuals who work together to feeding the work of others. “For example, the Ministère de l’Environnement and groups like OURANOS take the results we produce and work to bring this information to decision-makers and end-users,” Annie Poulin explains.
Richard Arseneault sums it up: “We all have our own careers with our individual specialties, but the problems that must be solved require a different approach, and we need the help of others. We are only one link in the chain!”
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