Dr. Beth Parker

Photo of Beth Parker

Director, G360 Institute for Groundwater Research, PhD, BCEEM, LEL
Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph
Associate Director, The University Consortium

Dr. Beth Parker is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in contaminant hydrogeology and has made exceptional contributions to the understanding and remediation of contaminated groundwater. Her research has profoundly changed the scientific understanding of how contaminants travel through bedrock to pollute freshwater resources. Specifically, she has advanced an original way to interpret groundwater contamination in fractured geologic media—the Discrete Fracture Network (DFN) approach—and established its validity by inventing and applying a suite of novel and powerful methods to acquire field data to create and validate conceptual models.

Dr. Parker is heavily involved with advancing knowledge and technologies most relevant to real problems at contaminated sites in Canada, the United States, and several other countries, and these are rapidly influencing professional practice. Her research has led to a fundamental change in the approach taken to understand and describe the processes governing the migration and fate of contaminants in fractured bedrock. Her unique contributions centre on the incorporation of molecular diffusion into the framework for assessing the behaviour of many types of contaminants in groundwater. The emphasis is on interactions between contaminant advection due to groundwater flow and molecular diffusion, including the effects of forward diffusion on plume attenuation and back diffusion on source and plume persistence and as an impediment to remediation. The DFN approach is based on acquiring high-resolution data from fractured porous media that incorporates techniques from geology, hydrogeology, geophysics, and environmental chemistry to provide robust datasets for modelling groundwater flow and contaminant plume evolution in fractured sedimentary bedrock.

Millions of industrial sites have chemical contamination in sedimentary bedrock that poses risks to community drinking water supplies. Parker’s novel investigative techniques and scientifically rigorous approach to understanding discrete fracture network matrix systems are used around the globe by professional geoscientists and engineers. Her discoveries and methodological innovations in fractured rock contamination hydrology make it possible for municipalities and corporations to accurately assess contamination risks to groundwater, inform their remediation decisions, and safeguard community and ecosystem health. The need for better understanding of fractured rock has become globally important for cities, municipalities, brownfields development, agriculture, manufacturing, oil and gas development, mining, nuclear plant decommissioning, geothermal energy, and beyond. The broad practical usefulness of her work is reflected in her research being funded by diverse sources beyond NSERC. Overall, she is the principal investigator of research funding from more than a dozen government and industry sources totaling more than $6.5 million annually. She draws substantial research funds from around the world (e.g., USA, Sweden, China, and Brazil) and is sought after as an international collaborator.

Dr. Parker is in the top echelon of academics advancing the field of fractured-media hydrogeology. As of August 26, 2020, she has published over 140 refereed journal papers and holds three patents. Most concern ‘fractured rock hydrogeology’ with relevance to contaminant transport and fate. According to Google Scholar, her publications have 4540 total citations, her overall H index is 37, and her ‘i10’ index is 97. Since 2015, she has been in the top tier of authors in the groundwater contamination domain with 2576 total citations, an H index of 28, and an ‘i10’ index of 79. She is the most-cited Canadian under the age of 65 for papers in this field, and a frequently invited speaker for presentations about her research. As a supervisor and co-supervisor, Dr. Parker has graduated 44 Master’s and 8 doctoral students.

Dr. Parker is the Director of the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research (g360group.org) at the University of Guelph. She founded this Institute in 2007, since which time it has grown to one of the largest university-based groundwater groups in Canada with a team of ~50 people including research associates, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and technicians. She is also co-Director of the longest standing industry-funded independent research program in Canada, the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Research (theuniversityconsortium.org). She has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, the most recent of which include the 2021 Tage Erlander Visiting Professorship with the Swedish Research Council & Lund University and 2020 Board Certification through Eminence as an Environmental Engineering Member with the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES). In 2019, Dr. Parker was distinguished as an American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fellow in the Hydrology Section and, in 2018, received the M. King Hubbert Award from the National Groundwater Association (NGWA) for “major science or engineering contribution to the groundwater industry through research, technical papers, teaching, and practical applications”.

https://www.uoguelph.ca/engineering/people/beth-parker

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