NAIT expands applied research capacity in forest reclamation
NAIT’s Boreal Research Institute in Peace River has expanded with the opening of a state-of-the-art research greenhouse, laboratory and office complex. The new facility allows NAIT to conduct essential applied research in forest land reclamation.
“The applied research undertaken at the institute is focused on the environmental needs of restoring boreal forests and how critically important this is for Alberta,” said NAIT President and CEO Dr. Glenn Feltham. “As a responsive polytechnic, NAIT understands the value of working at the speed of industry to develop sustainable solutions.”
The Boreal Research Institute tests methods for reclaiming well sites in Alberta’s boreal forests and returning industrial land back to a forest condition. The new 9,000-square-foot facility, which includes a three-bay greenhouse, laboratory and offices, enables NAIT to lead research in restoring well sites, resource roads, pipelines and sensitive peatland ecosystems.
The total cost of the project is $4.4 million, including facilities and research equipment. Approximately half the funding came from NAIT. Additional support was provided by the Government of Canada, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) ($800,000) and Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education ($800,000). Key industry partners include Shell Canada Limited and Penn West.
“The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of research and innovation to Canada’s economy and long-term sustainability,” said the Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology). “Our investment in this world-class greenhouse and laboratory will provide cutting-edge and cost-effective environmental technologies for reforesting abandoned Alberta well sites.”
“From seed harvesting and germination to establishing healthy saplings in the field, there are still several research questions to be addressed around how to most efficiently reclaim industrially disturbed lands to natural forest conditions,” said CFI President and CEO Dr. Gilles Patry. “That’s why we’re excited to help NAIT’s Boreal Research Institute, already a leader in this field, expand their capacity for research to overcome these challenges on what is a critical area for Canada.”
“NAIT’s Boreal Research Institute is a tremendous example of applied research that is having a direct impact on Alberta,” said Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education. “This kind of research builds on Alberta’s strengths while helping our environment and industry in a way that will benefit both. This collaboration demonstrates the important role our Campus Alberta system has in bringing together industry and research and development opportunities.”
The NAIT Boreal Research Institute was established in 1995 in partnership with the forest industry. While maintaining its forestry partners, the institute has diversified to become a leader in the reclamation of oil and gas sites.
“Shell has supported the important research work done by the NAIT Boreal Research Institute for a number of years through funding and providing test plots on our Peace River leases for research initiatives,” said Bob Blachford, Shell Canada’s Peace River operations manager. “We congratulate NAIT on the opening of this new facility. It will help to build local capacity and further knowledge on reclamation best practices by conducting the research in an environment that will mimic as closely as possible the growing conditions in the boreal forests of northwestern Alberta.”
“Penn West is committed to environmental sustainability in areas where we work, live and play,” said Keith Luft, Penn West’s general counsel and senior vice president, corporate services. “Partnering with organizations such as NAIT is an important part of our Community Matters Program. We look for opportunities to leverage complementary strengths and work toward the objectives common among Penn West, our partners and our communities. The Boreal Research program provides this type of opportunity.”
The NAIT Boreal Research Institute has a staff of eight researchers and is located in Peace River, 500 kms northwest of Edmonton and adjacent to the Peace River oil sands. Other industry supporters include Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd., Peace River Pulp Division and Manning Diversified Forest Products Ltd.
“There is currently a lack of knowledge and supply of native plants for large scale reclamation in northwest Alberta,” said Hugh Seaton, director of NAIT’s Boreal Research Institute. “Without native plants, Alberta’s reclamation industry is constrained in its ability to meet reclamation criteria. With this new facility, NAIT has the space and equipment needed to work with industry to develop seed collection and seedling production systems for select native species.”
*** Note to editors: High-resolution photos to accompany this story are available here or by visiting flickr.com/nait. Click here to view a video about the work going on at the NAIT Boreal Research Institute.
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 in 1962.
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