Asarc graduates and their theses

Simon Horton, PhD

Simon Horton, PhD (Avalanche Forecasting) Civil Engineering 2015

For his PhD in Civil Engineering Simon studied the formation and evolution of surface hoar and melt-freeze crusts. He used weather forecast models, snowcover models, and remote sensing to predict these layers in mountainous terrain, and field studies to verify these predictions. Simon has a BSc in Engineering Physics from Queen's University and a Diploma in Meteorology from UBC. He enjoys skiing, paddling, climbing, baking, and picking stringed instruments.

Dissertation: Modelling Hazardous Surface Hoar Layers in the Mountain Snowpack Over Space and Time

Michael Conlan, PhD

Mike Conlan, PhD Civil Engineering, 2015

Mike focused on improved forecasting techniques for persistent deep slab avalanches during his research. He went to dozens of deep slab avalanches across western Canada to examine the snowpack, terrain, and preceding weather at avalanche start zones. He also conducted cold laboratory experiments to simulate problematic snowpack scenarios.  Critical parameters for avalanche formation were identified and thresholds were determined. They were implemented into a decision support tool to predict the likelihood of observing persistent deep slab avalanches on any given day (available here). The tool is used by some avalanche forecasters in western Canada. He was a recipient of an NSERC Canadian Graduate Scholarship for his studies.

Mike completed his undergraduate degree at Queen's University in Geological Engineering. He continued his studies at the University of British Columbia where he received his Master of Applied Science in Geological Engineering and subsequently worked as an engineering consultant. Since completing his PhD, he has been working as a consultant on a variety of engineering projects.  Mike is an avid backcountry skier, canoeist, and landscape and sports photographer.

PhD dissertation: Forecasting deep slab avalanches

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

1_Shane Bio Pic.jpg
Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

For his MSc in Civil Engineering Shane will be analyzing the Recreational Ski Observation (RSO) data accumulated by ASARC since the 2007/08 winter. This datasetis composed of observations that can be made relatively quickly in the field without digging a profile. Shane will use these observations to find correlations between the local avalanche danger specific to the area of travel and the region bulletin.

 Shane has a BSc in mechanical engineering from the University of Calgary as well as a primary care paramedic certification in BC. Since graduation Shane has worked as a project engineer as well as a ski patroller and wildfire fighter. He enjoys skiing, mountain biking, rugby and most other outdoor sports.

MSc thesis: Relating field observations and snowpack tests to snow avalanche danger

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Scott Thumlert, PhD Civil Engineering (Avalanche Mechanics), 2014

For his PhD in Civil Engineering, Scott measured snowmobile and skier induced dynamic stress within the snowpack. Through this work he published values for dynamic stress and to quantify the relative difference in triggering stress between skiers and snowmobiles. Capacitive and resistive sensors will be employed for measurements.

Scott received his mechanical engineering degree from the University of Victoria. He used these skills to design componetry  for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, design and construct climbing cams and to design air-deployable ice drift beacons for use in polar regions. When not hitting the books, Scott enjoys relaxing activities such as stitching granite cracks in the Bugaboos and exploring icefields in BC's Coast Range.

As of late 2014, Scott is a post-doctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University and helicopter ski guide at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing.

PhD dissertation: Stress Measurements of Localized Dynamic Loading in the Mountain Snow Cover

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Mike Smith, PhD, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Mechanics), 2014

For his PhD in Civil Engineering, Mike examined the evolution in strength and structure of buried melt-freeze crusts. His research was split between observational analyses and modeling, using the Swiss SNOWPACK model. He developed a better understanding of metamorphism around and within buried crusts.

Prior to coming to Calgary, Mike received his MSc in Atmospheric Science from Colorado State University where he spent two years up to his eyeballs in simulated desert dust while working with the RAMS weather model. Prior to becoming a professional student, Mike could be found saving bunnies and deer from wildfires in the Alberta boreal. When not at the bottom of a 3 m snow pit, Mike and his banjo can be found chasing wind and fish around the Yukon.

PhD dissertation: Tracking Thermal and Structural Properties of Melt-Freeze Crusts in the Seasonal Snowpack

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Alexandra Sinickas, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Engineering), 2013

For her MSc in Civil Engineering, Alexandra collected field data to validate and improve extreme avalanche runout estimation methods. Alexandra validated a statistical method for determining return periods at different points in the runout zone. She explored systematic errors associated with using geographic information systems to identify slope angles traditionally identified in the field. Alexandra hopes these results reduce uncertainty surrounding extreme avalanche runout and return estimation for hazard mapping and engineering applications.

Prior to coming to the UNiversity of Calgary, Alexandra received her Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne in 2006. She has since worked as a consulting engineer in Australia and Canada, and is working towards her professional registration. Alexandra discovered her interest in avalanche and snow science whilst ski patrolling in Canada and New Zealand. As seems to be the trend with most others in this field, Alexandra skis, hikes, cycles and climbs whenever she can get her hands on a good mountain range.

MSc thesis: Field-based statistical modelling of snow avalanche runout

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Ryan Buhler, MSc (Civil Engineering), 2013

Starting in September 2010, Ryan studied the formation of melt-freeze crust over terrain and changes in these crusts, e.g. near-crust faceting, after burial.

MSc thesis: Melt-freeze crust formation and evolution in the Columbia Mountains

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Dave Tracz, MSc (Civil Engineering, Snow Avalanches), 2012

For his MSc in Civil Engineering, Dave studied weather and snowpack data related to forecasting for deep slab avalanches. The study concentrated on the three main mountain ranges of southwestern Canada, i.e. the Coast, Columbia and Rocky Mountains..After graduating from high school, Dave went straight to the school of life in Fernie B.C. where he studied such things as Australian accent interpretation, how to live off $5 dollars a day and at the same time gained a healthy appreciation of the dangers associated with living and playing in a mountain environment. He later attended Lakehead University in Thunder Bay Ontario, graduating with a BSc. in Civil Engineering, and then worked for a municipal consulting engineering firm in Calgary, AB.

MSc thesis: Deep snow slab avalanches

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Thomas Exner PhD (Geophysics, Geoscience) 2012

For his PhD in Geoscience, Thomas investigated the effect of daytime warming on stability of dry snow slabs. A major part of this work isnvolved measuring the stress distribution below a skier and its warming related changes, which can have an important influence on skier triggering of avalanches.

Thomas received a MSc in Meteorology from the University of Innsbruck in Austria. When he came to Canada in 2004 he initially worked as a Mountain Guide in the Rockies and gained practical experience doing avalanche control work at a ski hill. When time allows he is still out in the mountains: guiding or playing, as well as teaching avalanche and weather courses.

He completed his PhD in April 2012.

PhD dissertation: Field studies of snowpack stress and deformation due to surface loads and temperature effects

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Katherine Johnston, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2011

For her MSc in civil engineering, Katherine collected field data to verify and improve extreme runout estimation for avalanche hazard mapping.  Through this work she developed better models for estimating 100 year avalanche runouts for specific regions in the Columbia and Rocky Mountains. Katherine was the 2010 recipient of the Alliance Pipeline Naomi Heffler Scholarship and she was also awarded an Alberta Graduate Student Scholarship in 2011.

Since obtaining her BASc in Geological Engineering from the University of British Columbia in 2003, Katherine has been working as a consulting engineer in western Canada. She is registered as a Professional Engineer in BC and the Yukon. When not hard at work or school, Katherine is hard at play skiing, hiking and biking in the mountains of BC, Yukon and Southeast Alaska.

MSc thesis: Estimating extreme snow avalanche runout for the Columbia mountains and Fernie area of British Columbia, Canada

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Cora Shea, PhD (Geoscience, Geophysics), 2011

Cora completed a PhD in Geophysics at the University of Calgary. While a PhD sudent, she received the University of Calgary Dean's Entrance Scholarship, yearly Faculty of Graduate Studies support, and was the winner of the 2009-10 Award of Academic Excellence from the Department of Geoscience. Prior to coming to Calgary. she studied at Harvey Mudd College and received her MSc in Computer Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).


As a Research Associate, Cora studied thermal processes in the snowpack. This led to developments including the use of thermal infrared photography.  It has also led to the development of the GIS-based adaptation of a near-surface warming model called GSWarm.

Cora is also the developer behind Arfi, the Google-maps-based avalanche forecasting resource program. 

PhD dissertation: Four Applied Methods for Spatial Visualization in Snow Avalanche Forecasting

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Cameron Ross, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2010

For his MSc in Civil Engineering, Cameron studied fracture propagation in persistent weak snowpack layers through the comparison of two emerging snowpack tests: the Propagation Saw Test (PST) and Extended Column Test (ECT).  He was the 2007 recipient of the Alliance Pipeline Naomi Heffler Scholarship.

Expanding on the work of Dave Gauthier in developing the PST, Cameron gathered observations on numerous persistent weak layers ranging from 30 cm deep to 2.5 m deep in the snowpack to validate the PST as a practical and informative field test for avalanche practitioners.  In addition, side by side observations with the ECT were gathered to compare results and establish advantages, limitations, and the conditions under which one excels over the other.

Cameron previously obtained his BSc. in Civil Engineering from Queen's University at Kingston, and has since worked as a consulting geotechnical engineer on projects in Alberta, BC, Nunavut and Quebec. In 2018, he returned to school to pursue a PhD in permafrost geotechnics from the Royal Military College of Canada. (updated October 2021)

MSc thesis: Testing fracture propagation propensity for slab avalanche forecasting

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

James Floyer, PhD (Geoscience), 2008

For his PhD thesis, James studied several matters associated with a digital penetrometer, an instrument that measures the penetration resistance of snow with depth to help characterise the stratigraphy of the snowpack. He developed a layer tracing algorithm for tracing weak layers across a transect or a grid of penetrometer profiles, as well as a framework for extending this method to the case of weak layer detection. He built a model to predict the fracture character of a weak layer identified in the penetrometer signal. He was able to show that penetration resistance is largely independent of velocity within velocity ranges appropriate for manually pushing a penetrometer into the snow, thereby validating the use of a variable-rate penetrometer for making measurements of snowpack hardness. He also characterised certain aspects of spatial variability over a number of features associated with alpine terrain. James held a Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship for 2004-05 and 2005-06. Currently, he is a contractor working for the Canadian Avalanche Centre in Revelstoke, British Columbia.

PhD dissertation: Layer detection and snowpack stratigraphy characterization from digital penetrometer signals

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Donna Delparte, PhD (Geography), 2007

For her PhD thesis in Geography, Donna researched the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for avalanche terrain modeling and mapping. Donna developed a statistical runout model for the Columbia Mountains based on integrating expert knowledge into GIS. Further work involved developing an algorithm to evaluate and map avalanche terrain for backcountry users. Donna's research was supported by an anonymous donor grant and through professional development funding from Selkirk College. She presented her research findings in Vienna at the European Geosciences Union 2007. Donna currently works for the Province of BC in Vancouver as a GIS manager specific to natural resource use.

PhD thesis: Avalanche terrain modeling in Glacier National Park, Canada

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Dave Gauthier, PhD (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2007

For his PhD thesis, Dave developed a snowpack test that identified propagation propensity. It is known as as the propagation saw test (PST) and is used by researchers, avalanche practitioners and some recreationists. Dave conducted three winters of field work, primarily at Rogers Pass, BC.


He currently works as a geohazard engineer and geoscientist based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Dave is also an adjunct professor at Queens University.

PhD dissertation: A practical field test for fracture propagation and arrest in weak snowpack layers in relation to slab avalanche release

Updated October 2021.

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Laura Bakermans, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2006

For her MSc thesis, Laura researched variation in the magnitude of near-surface daytime warming.  Thermocouple arrays were placed on the top and at different locations on the side slopes of a knoll to measure temperatures within the top 30 cm of the snowpack.  A semi-empirical warming model was developed from the field dataset.  The model, which predicts the magnitude of near-surface daytime warming, requires only readily available input parameters like slope, aspect, expected cloud cover and number of days since snowfall.  Laura received her BASc in Civil Engineering from the University of British Columbia and obtained standing as a Professional Engineer in British Columbia before returning to school to study snow.  She was awarded the Naomi Heffler Memorial Scholarship presented by Alliance Pipeline for 2004-05 and 2005-06.  She is currently working as an engineer in Smithers, BC.

MSc thesis: Near-surface snow temperature changes over terrain

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Alec van Herwijnen, PhD (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2005

For his PhD thesis, Alec observed fractures in weak snowpack layers with a portable digital high speed camera. Displacement measurements of markers in the snow showed that slope normal displacement (i.e. collapse of the weak layer) was characteristic for these fractures and he was able to measure propagation speed. He also helped developed a fracture characterization scheme for snowpack stability tests, which is now widely used by avalanche professionals in Canada. In January 2007 Alec moved to Davos in Switzerland to continue studying avalanche initiation. The aim of his current project is to monitor slope instability by instrumenting a snow slope that is known to avalanche frequently with an array of acoustic sensors. This should allow to identify precursor events and the type of failure (from local damage to global slope failure)

PhD dissertation: Fractures in weak snowpack layers in relation to slab avalanche release

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Antonia Zeidler, PhD (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2004

For her PhD in Civil Engineering, Antonia developed a computer-assisted regional forecasting model that uses snowpack properties and stability indices as well as weather and previous avalanche activity to forecast human-triggered avalanches. Her "nearest neighbour" model compares current conditions in the Columbia Mountains to daily conditions in a multi-winter database. Avalanches that occurred during similar conditions in the past are displayed to help forecasters anticipate avalanches in the current day. She has presented her research at the 2002 International Snow Science Workshop in Penticton, BC, the 2002 International Glaciological Society Symposium on Snow Avalanches in Davos, Switzerland, and at the spring meetings of the Canadian Avalanche Association.

Antonia received a two-year scholarship from Gottlieb Daimler- und Karl Benz-Stiftung for her graduate research.

PhD dissertation: Forecasting skier-triggered avalanches in the Columbia Mountains of Canada

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Cam Campbell, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2004

For his M.Sc. thesis, Cam studied the spatial variability of stability and fractures in avalanche start zones. Arrays of rutschblock and prototype fracture resistance tests were analyzed with respect to snowpack variables and terrain features. Cam also helped to develop a modified compression test that measures fracture propagation propensity. Cam received his B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia and has worked for avalanche forecast and control programs with ski resorts and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation. He was awarded the Naomi Heffler Memorial Scholarship presented by Alliance Pipelines for 2003-04.

MSc thesis: Spatial variability of slab stability and fracture properties in avalanche start zones

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Kyle Stewart, MSc (Geology and Geophysics), 2002

For his thesis, Kyle studied the spatial variability of stability in avalanche starting zones in the Columbia Mountains. Using a drop-hammer test similar to the compression test, Kyle collected 39 arrays of 40 to 126 tests, each in a starting zone in a single day. He was able to identify areas of high and low stability in many starting zones. Many starting zones with low mean stability test scores also had low variabilty, indicating a high probability of skier-triggering. During his studies, Kyle received scholarships from Alberta Heritage and the Department of Geology and Geophysics. He is currently studying towards an education degree at the University of Calgary.

MSc thesis: Spatial variability of slab stability within avalanche start zones

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Alan Jones, PEng, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2002

For his thesis, Alan surveyed extreme runout distances for short avalanche paths across Canada since existing runout models developed for taller slopes usually underestimate the runout distances when applied to short slopes. Alan developed two models for estimating extreme runout distances from short slopes, which have potential applications for planning developments, mining and forestry. During his studies, Alan received scholarships from the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta, and from the Department of Civil Engineering. After graduating, Alan worked for two winters for B.C. Ministry of Transportation on the avalanche forecasting and control program at Bear Pass in Northern British Columbia. He is currently working as a geotechnical and avalanche consultant and, in the winter, as co-ordinator of Public Avalanche Warning for the Canadian Avalanche Association in Revelstoke.

MSc thesis: Avalanche runout prediction for short slopes

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Thomas Chalmers, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2001

For his thesis, Tom developed formulas relating the strength and strength change rate of buried surface hoar layers to easily measured snowpack properties. These formulas were used in a regional avalanche forecasting model for the Columbia Mountains. During his graduate studies, Tom received a PGS-A Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. He currently works at Rogers Pass as an Avalanche Technician for Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, as a correspondent for, and as a Product Tester and Backcountry and Avalanche Consultant for Burton Snowboards.

MSc thesis: Forecasting shear strength and skier-triggered avalanches for buried surface hoar layers

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Crane Johnson, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2001

For his thesis, Crane studied remote triggering of dry slab avalanches and their cousins, "whumpfs". This lead him to develop a theory for fracture propagation on low-angle terrain in which weak layers collapse and fracture speed is controlled by a bending wave in the slab. Crane used geophones to make the first measurement of fracture speed in a buried weak layer. During his studies, he received the Canadian Natural Resources Limited Graduate Scholarship and Graduate Faculty Council Scholarship. Crane currently works as a Hydraulic Engineer for the US Army Corp of Engineers in Anchorage and is a Professional Engineer in the State of Alaska. While not employed in the avalanche industry, he is still involved in the avalanche world serving as a Director for the non-profit group Friends of the Chugach Avalanche Information Center.

MSc thesis: Remotely triggered slab avalanches

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Greg Johnson, MSc (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 2000

For his thesis, Greg related snowpack properties, especially load, to the strength of buried layers of faceted crystals in the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia Mountains of western Canada. Based on microphotography in the cold lab, he tracked an increase over time in the diameter of bonds between faceted crystals. During his studies he received a scholarship from the Department of Civil Engineering. Since finishing his thesis, Greg has worked as an avalanche forecaster for the US Forest Service, a rescue specialist with the US National Park Service, an avalanche consultant, and a heli-ski guide. Currently, he works for the Canadian Avalanche Centre in Revelstoke, BC as an avalanche forecaster.

MSc thesis: Observations of faceted crystals in alpine snowpacks

Shane Haladuick, MSc, Civil Engineering (Avalanche Forecasting), 2014

Bruce Jamieson, PhD (Civil Engineering, Avalanche Mechanics), 1995

Bruce studied in situ snow strength for his MSc and avalanche forecasting of persistent snow slabs for his PhD. From 1998 to 2015, he supervised the 24 ASARC graduate students listed above.

MSc thesis: In situ tensile strength of snow in relation to slab avalanches

PhD dissertation: Avalanche prediction for persistent snow slabs