Craig Nichol Vert

Craig Nichol

B.A. Hons. Geology 1990 Cambridge University
M.Sc. Hydrogeology 1992 University of Birmingham
Ph.D. Hydrogeology 2002 University of British Columbia 


  • EESC 111 Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • EESC 121 Natural History of the Earth
  • EESC 342 Hydrogeology
  • EESC 335 Field Techniques
  • EESC 350 Exploration Geophysics
  • EESC 429 Contaminant Transport
  • EOSC 428 Field Techniques in Groundwater Hydrology
  • ENVI  551 Advanced Soil Physics
  • ENVI  551 Groundwater Contamination and Transport
  • ENVI  551 Groundwater Chemistry

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My primary interests are in unsaturated zone processes and water resources.

Unsaturated Zone:

  • Water use, nutrient management and greenhouse gas emissions in irrigated agriculture.
  • The movement of nitrate in the unsaturated zone under different irrigation regimes.
  • Oxidation and salt transport in oil sands and metal mining waste cover systems.
  • Linkages of sulfide oxidation, water content, grain size and hydrogeological parameters in mine waste and heap leach materials.
  • Pore scale and macro-scale variation of contaminant transport in the unsaturated zone under transient infiltration.
  • Gas pressure variations in response to biogeochemical reactions in the unsaturated zone: tracking oxygen, carbon dioxide and water fluxes.
  • Development of new techniques for unsaturated zone monitoring.

Water Resources:

  • Quaternary Stratigraphy and the hydrogeology of valley fill aquifer systems.
  • Surface water and groundwater interactions in rivers and alluvial fans.
  • Effects of groundwater and stream flow on stream temperature.
  • The discharge of groundwater to large valley lakes using physical methods.
  • Use of stable isotopes and hydrogeochemistry to determine regional groundwater resources in mountainous terrain.

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Supervised Students in Bold.  Other students in italics. 

McGrath, E., N. Neumann, and C. Nichol. A statistical model for managing water temperature in streams with anthropogenic influences. Accepted by:  River Research and ApplicationsNichol, C., P. Monahan, R. Fulton. J. Ping, X. Wei,. 2015 Quaternary stratigraphy and evidence for multiple glacial episodes in the north Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. Doi: 10.1139/cjes-2014-0182. 

Betrie, G.D., R. Sadiq, C. Nichol, K.A. Morin and S. Tesfamariam.  2016.   Environmental Risk Assessment of Acid Rock Drainage under Uncertainty: The Probability. Bounds and PHREEQC Approaches.  Journal of Hazardous Materials. 301: 187–196, doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2015.07.022 

Fentabil, M.M., C. Nichol, G. Neilsen, K.D. Hannam, D. Neilsen, T. Forge, and M.D. Jones. 2016.  Effect of micro-irrigation type, N-source and mulching on nitrous oxide emissions in a semi-arid climate: An assessment across two years in a Merlot grape vineyard. Agricultural Water Management. 171: 1-14; doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2016.02.021

Hannam, K.D., G. H. Neilsen, T.  Forge, D. Neilsen, I. Losso, M. Jones, C. Nichol, and M.M. Fentabil. 2016. Irrigation practices, nutrient applications and mulches affect soil nutrient dynamics in a young Merlot (Vitis vinifera L.) vineyard. Canadian Journal of Soil Science. 96: 23–36, 10.1139/cjss 

Hannam, K.D., D. Kehila, P. Millard, A.J. Midwood, D. Neilsen , G.H. Neilsen, T.A. Forge, C Nichol, M.D. Jones. 2016. Bicarbonates in irrigation water contribute to carbonate formation and CO2 production in orchard soils under drip irrigation. Geoderma 266: 120–126. Doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2015.12.015.  

Dobchuk, B., C. Nichol, G.W. Wilson, and M. Aubertin. 2013. Evaluation of a Single-Layer Desulphurized Tailings Cover. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 50(7): 777-792, 10.1139/cgj-2012-0119   

Trinchero, P., R. Beckie, X. Sanchez-Villa, C. Nichol. 2011. Assessing preferential flow through an unsaturated waste rock pile using spectral analysis. Water Resources Research, 47, W07532.

Nichol, C, D.K. Rowlett, and S.L. Barbour. 2008. A New Standpipe Lysimeter Design for the Measurement of Soil Matric Suction. Vadose Zone Journal. 7(3): 919–929.

Azam, S. G. W. Wilson, G. Herasymuik, C. Nichol and S.L. Barbour 2007. Hydrogeological behavior of an unsaturated waste rock pile - a case study at the Golden Sunlight Mine, Montana.  Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment Volume 66(3): 259-268.

Nichol, C., L. Smith and R. Beckie. 2005.  Field scale experiments of unsaturated flow and solute transport in a heterogeneous porous medium. Water Resources Research. 41(5). W05018.

Nichol, C, L. Smith, and R. Beckie.  2003.  Time domain reflectometry measurements of water content in coarse waste rock, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 40:137-148. 

Nichol, C., L. Smith, and R. Beckie. 2003.  Long-term measurement of matric suction using thermal conductivity sensors, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 40:587-597.

Nichol, C., R. Beckie, and L. Smith. 2002.  Evaluation of uncoated and coated TDR probes for high electrical conductivity systems, Soil Science Society of America Journal, 66:1454-1465.


View list of publications

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Active Research

Water conservation practices for production of woody perennial horticultural crops: beneficial management practices for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions

People: Dr. Mesfin Fentabil, Dr. Craig Nichol, Dr. Melanie Jones (Lead PI), Dr. Louise Nelson (UBCO); Dr. Denise Nielsen, Dr. Tom Forge, (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Dr. Peter Millard (Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand), Dr. Andy Midwood (Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland), Dr. Kirsten Hannam (Natural Resources Canada), Dr. Tanja Voegel, (UBC) 

Funding: Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program administered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Dr. Melanie Jones (lead).

Partners: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Landcare Research, New Zealand; Hutton Institute, Scotland.

Summary: The overall objective is to determine how water- and nutrient-conserving management practices affect greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in woody perennial fruit production systems through experiments conducted in the Okanagan Valley, B.C.. The research has examined: (i) fluxes of CO2, N2O, H2O and CH4; (ii) the proportion of emitted CO2 from ‘old carbon’, recently-fixed carbon stocks, and from irrigation water; (iii) root biomass and turnover; and (iv) microbes responsible for generation of N2O.

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Groundwater discharge to Okanagan Lake from the Kelowna area aquifers

People: Nicole Pyett (M.Sc.), Dr. Craig Nichol

Funding: Okanagan Basin Water Board Water Conservation and Quality Improvement Grants Program. Ministry of Environment. NSERC Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship (with Summit Environmental Consultants), UBC Okanagan Work Study Program. 

Partners: Okanagan Basin Water Board. City of Kelowna.

Summary: Physical measurements of groundwater flow were used to obtain a measured estimate of groundwater discharge to Okanagan Lake for comparison to regional modeling estimates.


Mitigating nitrate contamination of vulnerable aquifers by agricultural production

People: Shawn Kuchta (M.Sc.), Nathalie Armstrong (M.Sc.), Dr. Denise Nielsen, Dr. Tom Forge, Dr. Bernie Zebarth (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Funding: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada SAGES Program. Dr. B. Zebarth (lead)

Partners: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, BC Ministry of Agriculture, BC Ministry of Environment, Environment Canada, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, University Waterloo, and others.

Project 1 (Kuchta): The objective of this study is to quantify the effects of alternative nitrogen, water and alley management strategies on N and water loss from the root zone of perennial red raspberries. This fulfills a gap in knowledge linking surface management strategies in raspberry production to potential nitrate loading to the Abbotsford Aquifer.

Project 2 (Armstrong): The fate of fertilizer nitrogen applied to a raspberry crop will be traced through the plant, soil and soil water leachate phases following input of fertilizer labeled with 15N The N will be followed over a two-year period under different fertilizer and irrigation management strategies.

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Completed Research Projects

North Okanagan Groundwater Characterization and Assessment

People: Dr. Jianhua Ping (Post-Doctoral Researcher), Dr. Adam Wei.

Funding: Agricultural Water Supply Expansion Program (2005-2010) Partners: Ministry of Environment (lead), Township of Spallumcheen, City of Armstrong, Geological Survey of Canada, SFU and more.

Summary: Groundwater modeling and geochemical characterization of the North Okanagan aquifer system.

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Water Sustainability under Climate Change and Increasing Demand: a One Water Approach at a Watershed Scale

People: Principle Investigators - Dr. Adam Wei (lead), Dr. Craig Nichol, Dr. John Janmaat, Dr. Alan Woodbury (University of Manitoba)

Funding: NSERC Strategic Grant Program (2008-2011)

Partners: Ministry of Environment, Township of Spallumcheen, City of Armstrong, Dr. Dirk Kirste (SFU).

Summary: Surface water and groundwater interaction in the Deep Creek watershed, and the hydrogeochemical characterization of the North Okanagan Aquifers.

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Surface water groundwater interactions and the presence of Salmonids in Fortune Creek

People: Elinor McGrath (M.Sc.), Dr. Adam Wei Funding: Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Fraser River Watershed Program (2007-2010)

Partners: Township of Spallumcheen, City of Armstrong, Pacific Salmon Foundation (major funding source), Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Summary: Fish habitat, groundwater - surface water interaction and stratigraphy of the Fortune Creek watershed.

Completed Thesis

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Lab Space

The hydrogeology research group lab space (Sci 336) is located in the Science Building on UBC's Okanagan campus.  The lab contains equipment for: soil seiving and analysis; custom tempe cells for soil water characteristic curve measurements; two 8-chamber automated greenhouse gas chamber systems manufactured by the UBC Biometeorology Group; a Bruker 456 gas chromatograph with TCD, ECD and FID detectors for greenhouse gas measurements; Campell Scientific CR1000 dataloggers and other datalogging equipment; various soil water sensors; tensiometers; two Decagon handheld soil moisture meters;  a Sable Systems Oxzilla II differential oxgyen analyser; Grundfos Redi-Flo II pump and controller; groundwater sampling equipment; and a variety of other equipment.

Current Lab Members

  • Tom Zochowski (coop student)
  • Dan Lang (p/t technician)
  • Scott Fazackerly (p/t technician)
  • Jeff van Santen (Work Study)

Past Members

Post Docs

  • Jianhua Ping (Post-Doc): Groundwater modeling in the North Okanagan aquifer (2007-2010)
  • Marina Moldovskaya: Greenhouse gas emissions from Woody Perennials (2012-2013)

 Graduate Students

  • Mesfin Fentabil (Ph.D): Greenhouse gas fluxes
  • Nicole Pyett (M.Sc.): Groundwater discharge to Okanagan Lake
  • Nathalie Armstrong (M.Sc.): Nitrogen cycling in raspberries
  • Shawn Kuchta
  • Elinor McGrath

Undergraduate Honours Students

Ryan, J. 2011. Europium in the Footwall of East Cleaver: Targeting Copper Mineralization in Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide Deposits. B.Sc. Thesis.  Earth and Environmental Sciences and Physical Geography, Okanagan Campus, University of British Columbia.

 White, J. 2012. Determination of The Thermal Conductivity of Lakebed and Streambed Materials Using a Thermal Probe. B.Sc. Thesis.  Earth and Environmental Sciences and Physical Geography, Okanagan Campus, University of British Columbia.

 Baptie, C. 2012. Comparing Methods for Measuring Groundwater Flux. B.Sc. Thesis.  Earth and Environmental Sciences and Physical Geography, Okanagan Campus, University of British Columbia.

 Snow, S. 2013. The effectiveness of passive capillary wick samplers in determining nitrogen and water loss from the root zone of perennial red raspberry. B.Sc. Thesis.  Earth and Environmental Sciences and Physical Geography, Okanagan Campus, University of British Columbia.

 Harrington, J. 2013. Hydrogeochemistry of the Kelowna Aquifer System. B.Sc. Thesis.  Earth and Environmental Sciences and Physical Geography, Okanagan Campus, University of British Columbia.


Tanya Seebacher (2006); Uli Zacharias (2007); Gordon Guest (2007-2009), Bernie Phillion (2007);Kevin Larson (2008); Adam Collins (2009); Scott Fazackerley (2009-2014); Valerie Ward (2013-2014);Dr. Natasha Neumann (2013-2014); Dan Lang (2014)

Coop Students:

Chris Perra (2012), Mirage Leung (2012), Russel Kirchner (2012-2013), Brittany Derrick (2013-2014), Tom Zochowski (2014-2015)

 Work Study and Summer RA Students

Brenna Barlow, Amber Brown, Stephanie Kneisel, Zoe Masters, Tristan Hamblin, Jordan White, Craig Baptie, Andrew Campbell, Natasha Neumann, Maryssa Soroke, Maryssa Soroke, Chris Perra, Maziyar Jalaal, Jordan Wu, Stephen Kimanzi, Jeff Kerkovius, Graham Knibbs, Bob Cao, Robert Roskoden (DAAD Rise Scholar), Danielle Homer, Leo Kerrigan, Jeff van Santen, Caroline Hedge

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  • Registered Professional Geoscientist in British Columbia
  • Hydrogeologists without Borders
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Okanagan Basin Water Board groundwater advisory committee
  • Founder and Faculty sponsor of Varsity Outdoor Club Okanagan

Last reviewed shim9/13/2018 1:52:12 PM


2014 Canadian Society for Civil Engineering Thomas Keefer Medal

The Keefer Medal,established in 1942, is presented annually for the
best civil engineering paper in hydrotechnical, transportation or environmental engineering. (CSCE).

Dobchuk, B., C. Nichol, G.W. Wilson, and M. Aubertin. 2013. Evaluation of a Single-LayerDesulphurizedTailings Cover.

Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 50(7): 777-792, 10.1139/cgj-2012-0119 

UBC News Story


Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
University of British Columbia Okanagan
SCI 306 - 1177 Research Road 
Kelowna, B.C. V1V 1V7

Tel: 250.807.8087

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