Prof. Craig's interests include the development and application of new modelling approaches for
addressing difficult environmental/water resources problems in both groundwater and surface water
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, environmental 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 control climate change. Prof. Craig and his research group work both
to improve the science of environmental modelling and, as a nod to basic curiosity-driven research,
ambitiously push the boundaries of what is possible using analytical and semi-analytical methods.
Upscaling and Robust Modelling of Hydrologic Phenomena
Surface water models are burdened with a
difficult task: they are expected to successfully simulate the
interaction of a variety of complicated processes (infiltration,
evapotranspiration, heat transfer, etc.) at large scales in a
computationally efficient manner. To complicate issues, these processes
are extremely variable (both in time and space). Prof. Craig and his
students are investigating how to use distribution-based approaches to
successfully model a variety of phenomenon at mixed spatial and
temporal scales. His research group is also working on the development
of a robust computational framework, Raven, for assessing the impacts of modelling decisions on model output.
Series Solutions for Regional Groundwater Flow and Particle Tracking
Semi-analytical series solution approaches are an underappreciated and underinvestigated
method 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.
Prof. Craig and his students have developed transient and steady state
series solution approaches for multilayer aquifers in
multiple dimensions, as well as for mixed saturated/unsaturated flow. We
have also developed, in conjunction with partner S.S. Papadopolous & Assoc.,
series-solution based approaches for resolving particle tracks in MODFLOW-USG's irregular grids.
Analytical Solutions for Flow in Heterogeneous Aquifers
There are very few analytical solution approaches for simulating flow through porous
media with heterogeneous properties. Prof. Craig is currently looking into some novel methods
based upon Bers-Vekua theory of pseudoanalytic functions to obtain exact solutions to
heterogeneous porous media flow problems. These methods may eventually be used to benchmark
numerical simulation methods and better understand the impact of heterogenity on pollutant
Mixed Regional and Local Groundwater Flow Modelling
Groundwater flow models are used to improve our understanding of complex aquifer
systems to better inform water supply and water quality policy. While existing numerical
methods are suitable for simulating large scale systems or local systems, better approaches
are needed to integrate the two scales. Prof. Craig is currently addressing this issue via
integrating the analytic element method (AEM) which is advantageous at large scales, and the
finite element method (FEM), more appropriate for complex local-scale phenomena. He is also
working with Dr. Robert Gracie on
extension of the extended finite element method (XFEM) to mixed-scale problems of carbon
sequestration and reservoir leakage in multilayer aquifer systems.
Improved Design of Horizontal Geothermal Heat Loops
Geothermal is one of the few sustainable energy options that can survive today without government
subsidy. However, there is still room for improvement in how we design and install backyard geothermal
systems. Many existing systems are overdesigned because we just don’t have a full understanding of
heat transport in the subsurface adjacent to the ground loops. The impact of soil variability and
ground loop configuration remain elusive, despite the potential impact both can have on long-term performance.
With a combination of field and computational research, students Simon Haslam and Richard
with partner NextEnergy, Inc., attempting
to develop a better understanding of the processes which control outdoor loop effectiveness, and determine
how we can design more effective systems on smaller
Novel Analytical Contaminant Transport Solutions
Analytical solutions for
pollutant transport simulation are widely used for preliminary
remediation design and analysis, groundwater and atmospheric risk
assessment, and regulatory applications. While often useful, critical
approximations and assumptions limit their applicability for many
investigations and users are forced to rely on more complicated
numerical models, which can be cumbersome or inefficient for hypothesis
testing. Prof. Craig and his research group work towards extending
analytical transport models to
be useful in more complex situations with non-uniform flow, complex
chemical reactions, and site-specific conditions.
Prospective Research Projects for Graduate, Co-op, and URA Students
There are many project ideas to work on and so little time...
Developing robust numerical and semi-analytical solution methods for simulating:
Groundwater-surface water interaction
Groundwater flow in smoothly heterogeneous media
Complex semi-distributed surface water systems
Saturated/unsaturated flow systems
Propagation of uncertainty in flow and contaminant transport models
Development of coupled analytical / numerical solution methods:
Series solution approaches for regional scale groundwater modelling
Mixed analytic element-finite element models for groundwater flow simulation
Numerical mapping of analytical contaminant transport solutions to non-uniform flow fields
Improved screening models and evaluation methods for capture-zone delineation
Application of numerical models to difficult problems:
Sustainability and protection of groundwater-surface water resources
Understanding and quantifying regional water balances
Understanding the effects of environmental system heterogeneity
...I try to do these all at once. It hasn't worked yet.
Current Graduate Students
Erfan Abedian, Ph.D. Candidate
M.A.Sc. Structural Engineering, Sharif University of Technology
Thesis Topic: Extended finite element modelling of permafrost
Élise Devoie, Ph.D. Candidate
B.Sc. Mathematical Physics, University of Waterloo
Thesis Topic: Fieldwork and modelling in the discontinuous permafrost regions of the southern NWT
Rob Chlumsky, M.A.Sc. Student
B.Sc. Environmental Engineering (Statistics Option), University of Waterloo
Thesis Topic: Rigorous hydrological model assessment and validation in support of decision making
Sarah Grass, M.A.Sc. Student
B.Sc. Civil Engineering, University of Alberta
Thesis Topic: Modelling wetland systems in British Columbia and Alberta
Konhee Lee, M.A.Sc. Student
B.Sc. Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo
Thesis Topic: Evaluating hydrological model decisions
B.Sc. Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo
Thesis Title: "Using a model evaluation workflow to investigate the influence of parameter granularity in surface water models"
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
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.
Former Graduate Students
Ali Ameli, Ph.D.
Thesis Title: "Semi-analytical methods for simulating the groundwater-surface water interface"