Rising to the challenges in Hydrology

Piotr Kuras standing by river

Piotr Kuraś (BSc’04, MASc’06) has seen water resource studies increasingly focus on climate change adaptation over the years. The UBC Forestry grad, who started as a research scientist, is now a consultant and principal with Northwest Hydraulic Consultants (NHC) where he provides his clients with the latest information on various water resource disciplines. Since starting with the company, Piotr has witnessed how expected climate change impacts are addressed in his field.

“Ten years ago, it was recommended that flood estimates be increased by 10% to address the impacts of climate change,” says Piotr. Now, they refine large-scale global climate models to a local level. This provides for long-term planning in water supply, infrastructure design and floodplain area development and safety in a specific area.

“We’re interested in models that aren’t available yet,” says Piotr. “So, we’re going ahead of what’s available provincially.” 

Piotr’s project teams use the most recent global climate models to apply the latest science and results on expected climate change.

To address the impacts of climate change, Piotr says foresters and scientists would benefit from having more long-term and consistent monitoring stations across BC. The stations allow them to access historical climate and water flow data, which they can then use to run climate scenarios and models.

Recently, Piotr worked on a water system planning project for Metro Vancouver where NHC developed hydrologic models of the Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam watersheds. Different climate scenarios for the region up to the year 2100 were taken into consideration in the review of locations for additional water supply dams for the region.

Engagement with stakeholders, such as First Nations, local government and residents, is crucial when working on water stewardship projects, says Piotr. “It’s essential to include a variety of viewpoints in the process to help us understand their perspectives and values when designing projects and determining how their outcomes can be most useful.”

“Modelling is often informed by different interests,” says Piotr. “This feedback can alert us to concerns that might not have otherwise been raised.”

Tips for new graduates

For people interested in following in Piotr’s footsteps, he recommends professional registration after graduation. Piotr was able to register as an engineer and thinks he got the chance to work with NHC because the company was looking for someone who had engineering and forestry backgrounds.

New graduates should also take advantage of networking opportunities, such as staying in touch with leading academics in their field or presenting research at conferences, for example.

“You can fire your resume around, but the people part of it is how you connect,” says Piotr.

About the Author

Elif Kayali is an international student from Turkey who is double majoring in economics and political science. Elif is currently working for UBC Forestry’s Development and Alumni Engagement team as a Work Learn student where she gets to use her passion for journalism and writing to meet and write about the wonderful members of the forestry profession. In her free time, Elif loves to write for UBC’s student newspaper, The Ubyssey.

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