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Dr. Jean Birks

Principal Researcher

Contact Information



Development and application of isotope tracer techniques

Professional Bio

Ph.D. in Earth Sciences | University of Waterloo 

Jean Birks specializes in the development and application of isotope tracer techniques to better understand the hydrological cycle. Her most recent research has included using geochemical and isotopic tracers to investigate the impacts of oil and gas activities on surface water and groundwater, characterizing OSPW composition, toxicity, and fate and transport, and evaluating groundwater and surface water resources in the Athabasca oil sands region.   

Jean is most proud of the work she does when it is successful at integrating different disciplines. For example, pioneering approaches to identify groundwater-surface water interactions. Usually, hydrology (surface water) and hydrogeology (groundwater) are studied by different groups at InnoTech Alberta, and we have developed new methods to better understand how they interact.  Also, her work in isotope mass balance techniques that quantify groundwater-surface water interactions has been incorporated into the lake, river, and groundwater surveys across Canada (>1000 lakes) and the US. She is also impressed by how far InnoTech Alberta and her group have been able to get isotope tracing accepted by the industry as a tool to better understand their water resources with many projects in mining and in situ. 

Jean has adjunct professorship positions at the University of Waterloo and the University of Victoria. She is the former chair of the Canadian Geophysical Union Committee on Isotope Tracers. Jean is also a participant on expert panels advising on Oil Sands Groundwater Monitoring programs and is the coordinator of the Canadian Network for Isotopes in Precipitation. 

Jean is originally from Ontario, and she still finds the Rocky Mountains a novelty. She enjoys hiking and skiing in those mountains.