NAIT names research chair in peatland restoration
Dr. Bin Xu has joined NAIT as the institute’s first NSERC Research Chair in Peatland Restoration. Based out of the NAIT Boreal Research Institute in Peace River, Xu leads research focused on the restoration of peatland ecosystems, particularly unconventional in situ oil well sites within sensitive wetlands.
“Peatland ecosystems are vital for the water, wildlife and carbon health of Alberta’s boreal forest,” said Hugh Seaton, director of the NAIT Boreal Research Institute. “Increasing oil activity is having an impact on these sensitive peatlands. The new Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair in Peatland Restoration works with industry to identify cost-effective ways to restore these ecosystems. NAIT is fortunate to have someone as talented as Dr. Xu leading this research.”
In situ is the process of drilling for bitumen that is too deep to be mined at surface level. While in situ wellpads have a smaller environmental footprint than surface mining, in situ still requires access roads, pipelines and utility corridors, all of which contribute to forest fragmentation.
“I’m very excited to be carrying out this important applied research at NAIT,” said Xu. “We are collaborating closely with industry, which means all of the research will have practical applications. While our field trials are located in the Peace River oil sands, our findings will be applicable to in situ restoration across Alberta.”
The research chair position is funded through a five-year renewable grant provided by NSERC. This position compliments the NAIT Boreal Research Institute’s existing NSERC-supported forest reclamation research of conventional well sites.
Xu, a peatland ecologist, has a PhD in Plant Biology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He received his B.Sc. in Environmental Sciences from Wuhan University, China and his M.Sc. in Biology from Villanova University, Pennsylvania. Xu has been involved in various restoration/reclamation projects of disturbed peatlands due to oil and gas mining and peat harvesting in Alberta and in eastern Canada.
NAIT is one of Canada’s leading polytechnics, with almost 80,000 registrations worldwide in key areas including science, technology and the environment, business, health and trades. Known for real-world education and student success, NAIT also engages with business and industry in applied research and innovation and provides corporate training around the world. NAIT enrolled its first students - 29 communication electrician apprentices - in 1962 and this academic year celebrates its 50th anniversary.
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