Boreal Centre receives $1.75 million grant

Dr. Jean-Marie Sobze talks about the research being done in the 3 bay green house at the Boreal Research Centre during an open house in May.

Susan Thompson
Express Staff

NAIT has received a $3 million grant for boreal reclamation, oil sands tailings and wireless technology from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

$1.75 million of that grant is going towards the Centre for Boreal Research in Peace River.

In a public statement, Peace River said the town had been pleased to support NAIT in their application for the grant.

“We wrote a letter of support and members of senior staff and council were interviewed by NSERC in support of the application,” the statement said.

NAIT stated in their own public release that the grant will be used to create a service centre to put its plant and seed technology research into practice, working with reforestation companies, the oil and gas and forestry industries to reclaim disturbed sites using native plants.

Director of business development for the Centre for Boreal Research Kevin Kemball says in the release that the new funding will improve how researchers help industry and, ultimately, enhance biodi- versity in northern Alberta.

“This gives us the room to develop those pieces like the training, programs to bring down the cost of handling and storing seeds so industry can better use them,” Kemball says.

In Alberta, up to 80 million trees a year are grown for the forestry industry, but a commercial need for other plants and shrubs in reforestation did not exist until oil and gas reclamation began requiring not only trees but also shrubs and even soil to also be restored.

That created a need for identifying, gathering, cleaning and growing other kinds of seedlings that is only going to grow.

According to the release, the centre has already started working with Indigenous communities in northern Alberta and British Columbia to identify, collect, clean, store and grow native plant species in the centre’s nurseries.

“It’s all about building capacity in the north to do this work,” Kemball says.

“A lot of the cultural value for Indigenous communities is in these other species,” he adds. “Biodiversity is another big driver for this work.”

At an open house in May covered by the Express, scientists at the centre demonstrated how they are using innovations such as nanoparticles to get wild seeds to germinate and willows to remove water from tailings ponds, among other research.

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