Research Overview

Prof. Craig's interests include the development and application of new modelling approaches for addressing difficult environmental/water resources problems in both surface water and groundwater systems. He and his research group are invested in making these tools and techniques accessible and useful to consultants, educators, and regulators.

When used correctly, hydrological models can inform policy makers, increase our understanding of complex systems, and help predict the effects of man's efforts to clean up pollution, use our available water resources, and adapt to climate change. Prof. Craig and his research group work both to improve the science of hydrologic modelling and, as a nod to basic curiosity-driven research, ambitiously push the boundaries of what is possible using analytical and semi-analytical methods. We also have a lot of fun.

Research Areas

Robust modelling and upscaling of hydrologic phenomena

Surface water models are expected to successfully simulate the interaction of a variety of complicated processes at large scales in a computationally efficient manner. Prof. Craig and his students are investigating how to use distribution-based approaches to successfully model a variety of phenomena at mixed spatial scales and developing approaches for decreasing model structural uncertainty.

His research group also leads development of the flexible hydrologic modelling framework, Raven, which can be used to examine the impacts of modelling decisions on model output.

Discontinuous permafrost hydrology

Regions underlain by discontinuous permafrost, such as those found in the Taiga plains of Northern Canada, are some of the most climate-change sensitive landscapes on earth. Working closesy with hydrologist Bill Quinton of Wilfrid Laurier University, Prof. Craig's research group aims to understand the long-term trajectory of hydrologic landscape change in these areas through a combination of modelling and fieldwork. We also aim to improve the capabilities of numerical models to simulate the complex hydrology of permafrost regions at regional scales, and to better understand the hydrologic cycle on these landscapes.

Novel semi-analytical techniques for simulating saturated and unsaturated groundwater flow

Semi-analytical series solution and analytic element approaches are underappreciated and underinvestigated mathematical methods for simulating a wide range of phenomena in fluid flow, soil, and solid mechanics. The methods can handle complex system geometry without internal discretization, improve with decreasing aspect ratio of the model domain, and provide solutions with near-spectral accuracy. They can also be used for novel applications such as particle tracking on unstructured grids.

Research Team

Prof. Craig works closely with the Waterloo hydrologic modelling research group, which includes Dr. Bryan Tolson, Dr. Juliane Mai, and Dr. John Quilty. He also regularly collaborates with the research team of Dr. William Quinton at the Cold Regions Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Shaghayegh Akbarpour, Ph.D. Candidate
M.Sc., Water Resource Engineering, University of Tehran
Thesis Topic: Simulating land cover change in the Northwest Territories
Rezgar Arabzadeh, Ph.D. Candidate (co-supervised with B. Tolson)

MASc., Water Resources Engineering, University of Tehran
Research Area: Model structural uncertainty
Frezer Awol Ph.D., Post-doctoral Associate (co-supervised with B. Tolson)

Ph.D., Civil Engineering, McMaster University
Research Area: Large-scale lake and river routing decisions
Hannah Burdett, Ph.D. Candidate
MA Spatial Analysis Ryerson University; B.Sc. Environmental Science, University of Windsor
Research Topic: Hydrologic upscaling using machine learning
Rob Chlumsky, Ph.D. Candidate (co-supervised with B. Tolson)
MASc. Civil Engineering (Water), University of Waterloo; B.Sc. Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo
Research Topic: Hydrologic model structural optimization
Simon Lin, MASc. Candidate (co-supervised with N. Basu)
BASc Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo
Research Topic: Simulating Forest Hydrology
Mark Ranjram, Ph.D. Candidate
M.Eng., Civil Engineering, McGill University
Thesis Title: "Upscaling of Lateral Groundwater Flow Processes in Watershed Models"
Leland Scantlebury, MASc. Candidate
B.Sc. Environmental Engineering, Portland State University
Thesis Topic: Coupled groundwater and surface water model development
Mahkameh Taheri, Ph.D. Candidate
M.Sc., Water Resource Engineering, University of Tehran
Thesis Topic: Upscaling fill-and-spill hydrologic processes

Team Photos


The annual Christmas secret santa, Waterloo, 2019. Left to Right: Élise Devoie, Mahkameh Taheri, Hongren Shen, Dandan Shen, Mark Ranjram, James Craig, Leland Scantlebury, Bryan Tolson, Ming Han, Erfan Amiri, Shaghayegh Akbarpour.

The annual research group BBQ, Waterloo, Summer 2017. Left to Right: Élise Devoie, Sarah Grass, Rob Chlumsky, Mark Ranjram, James Craig, Mahyar Shafii, Konhee Lee, Erfan Amiri, Juliane Mai.

Me posing with a three-dimensional groundwater analog model at the Illinois Water Survey HQ, June 2012. Each node of the 'computational' grid was soldered together by hand, yet even back in 1964 they managed to use multigrid methods, variable pumping rates, and flexible far-field conditions. It just took a bit longer. This is is just about one of the only tangible historical artifacts in the field of groundwater modelling.

At our geoexchange monitoring site during system installation. Guelph, Nov 2010.
Left to Right: Richard Simms, James Craig, Dave Broderecht (from NextEnergy), Simon Haslam

Computational hydrology researchers pretending to be field savvy. Yukon, Nov 2008.
Left to Right: Lucy Liu, Angela MacLean, Andy Snowdon, Frank Seglenieks, James Craig;
Bottom: Carol Soulis, Kaitlyn McIntyre, Bryan Tolson

Research Group Alumni