Research Interests and Future Goals
Growing up in Woodstock, Ontario, Kathleen Johnson became particularly interested in groundwater because of the community’s heavy reliance on it in their everyday lives. Groundwater research is a relatively new field, only having gained interest from the scientific community in the past 40 years. People are now recognizing that groundwater must be protected like other sources and researchers are interested in developing better, more sustainable approaches to groundwater management to ensure it is preserved. As part of the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research team, Kathleen worked to understand how water flows through the unique fractured bedrock aquifer that ends up in people’s taps and industrial food processing plants in Guelph. This information helped her and her team better understand how the aquifer is affected by contamination, and this can influence policy and decision making to improve water quality in the future. Her specific research topic was inspired by an inquiry following the E. coli outbreak tragedy in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000 which resulted in more than 2,000 cases of gastroenteritis and 6 deaths. While the main contamination source was linked to a cattle farm, the severity of the outbreak was due to policy shortcomings for dealing with this type of public health concern. Kathleen recognized the need for more research on this topic to avoid future shutdowns and adopt a more proactive approach to dealing with contamination. On a career level, her main goal is to influence industry decision making and community outreach to shape water policy, especially for rural water well owners and Indigenous communities.
Why Arrell Food Institute
Kathleen recognized the Arrell Food Institute for providing her with exceptional learning experiences and opportunities which allowed her to pursue her passion for improving water and food systems. After graduating with a MSc in Engineering, Kathleen took a position with an environmental consulting company as a Civil Engineer-in-Training where she will pursue her career goals of shaping water policy.