Victoria Trglavcnik

Influence of oceanic processes on groundwater flow and contaminant transport on Sable Island, Nova Scotia

Many coastal aquifers worldwide have high levels of contamination and can pose significant risk to adjacent drinking water supplies or nearshore ecosystems; thus, there is a need to understand the fate and transport of contaminants in these environments. Groundwater flows in coastal aquifers are extremely complex because the aquifer is exposed to dynamic ocean fluctuations such as tides and waves; however, the impact of these dynamic forces on subsurface constituents is not well understood. Under the supervision of Dr. Clare Robinson and Dr. Denis O’Carroll, Victoria’s research will combine field observations and numerical modelling to evaluate the transport of groundwater contaminants on Sable Island, a narrow permeable barrier island located 175km southeast of Nova Scotia, Canada. The objective of this research is to quantify the influence of ocean and environmental factors (e.g., tides, waves, storms, rainfall) on the island’s groundwater dynamics and to identify the risk to the island’s drinking water supply and ecosystem due to observed plumes of groundwater contaminants (e.g. PHC, PAH, metals).

Personal Background

Victoria graduated from Western University with a Bachelors of Engineering Science specializing in Civil Engineering and International Development. Through this program, she participated in a three month summer-placement in Madagascar to observe development projects abroad. As part of a team of students, she completed a field research project to investigate the feasibility of supplying a rural village with electricity from a hydro-powered dam. Prior to receiving her undergraduate degree, she also completed a twelve month professional placement as an Environmental Intern at the Imperial Oil Refinery in Nanticoke, Ontario. Upon returning to Western, Victoria worked on her undergraduate thesis with Dr. Clare Robinson and through data analysis and numerical modelling investigated the effect of lake water levels on groundwater discharge to the Great Lakes. This ultimately led her to decide to join RESTORE and she began pursuing her Masters degree in September 2014.


  • AUCC BDC Scholarship for academic achievement – graduate studies award (2014), and undergraduate studies award (2009)
  • Western Dean’s Honour list – 2011 and 2013