Date: January, 2021 

This is a promo video from the University of Alberta on their Energy Systems programs; including the Future Energy Systems Research Program , the Energy Systems Signature Area , and the Land Reclamation International Graduate School

Perspectives On A Changing Energy Landscape (3 minutes)  
University of Alberta

The purpose of this series, Perspectives On The Changing Energy Landscape, is for researchers and associates from the Future Energy Systems Research Program, the Energy Systems Signature Area, and the Land Reclamation International Graduate School, to share their expertise about the ways in which energy is affecting the work of Professional Agrologists. Changes in our energy system will impact many critical issues at the forefront for agrologists as they serve our public, including food production and food safety, and bioresource health and environmental quality (remediation, soil reclamation, revegetation).

Speaker: Dr. Autumn Watkinson, Postdoctoral Teaching and Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia 

( CLICK HERE for Dr. Watkinson's biography)
Date: January 14, 2021 

The success of reclamation and restoration projects is contingent on successful revegetation, which is often limited by numerous factors. The use of native seed can be particularly challenging due to limited availability, expense, and lack of propagation methods for species of interest. This is often compounded by low germination and establishment rates compared to agronomic species. Using Artemisia cana (Silver sagebrush) as a case study, methods to improve revegetation of native species will be explored. Methods were investigated as part of my doctoral thesis as a means to improve Greater Sage Grouse habitat restoration by increasing the establishment, growth, and survival of Artemisia cana - a shrub species required in adequate quantity to support mating, nesting, brood-rearing, and winter survival of Sage Grouse. Experiments focused on three areas critical to sagebrush restoration success: sagebrush distribution and ecology, improving outplanting and seeding outcomes, and effects of land management on conventional restoration methods.

Slides for the presentation can be found HERE.

Members will require a password to open the slides or video - contact the AIA office.

Using Native Species To Revegetate Anthropogenic Disturbances (67 minutes, 1.0 CCP Hour)  
Dr. Autumn Watkinson

Speaker: Dr. Christopher Nzediegwu, Post-doctoral Fellow in Department of Renewable Resources 

( CLICK HERE for Dr. Nzediegwu's biography)
Date: February 25, 2021 

Oil sands mining generates a large amount of process water, and without proper management the process water can pose a threat to both the environment and human health because it contains life threatening contaminants such as lead. By effectively treating the oil sands process water before discharging to the environment, environmental and health impacts can be ameliorated. Adsorption is a known method to treat wastewater and the use of waste agro-based biomass as feedstocks for the production of adsorbent materials is garnering the interest of researchers. 

This presentation discusses the development, characterization, and testing of carbon-based materials such as biochar and hydrochar to treat and reclaim oil sands process-affected water or process water produced from other anthropogenic activities. How biomass type and temperature used for the biomass conversion affect the performance of the carbon-based materials will be highlighted. The presentation hopes to affirm that agrologists have a role to play in soil and water remediation.

Speaker: Dr. Aman Ullah, Associate Professor in Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science 

( CLICK HERE for Dr. Ullah's biography)
Date: March 11, 2021 

Increasing industrial and agricultural activities lead to water contamination and its proper treatment has become a global issue. Several industries such as mining, poultry, beef, fruits/vegetable processors, agricultural farms, pulp and paper mills, chemical and metal plating use and produce water with industrial effluents containing metals and other contaminants. The water demand is predicted to increase significantly over the coming decades; especially large increases are predicted for industry and energy production. One such major energy production activity is oil sands mining. Alberta has the vast oil reserve where bitumen is extracted from surface-mined oil sands ore using hot water. The process generates fluid fine tailings that are deposited into tailing ponds for dewatering. The expressed porewater, known as process-affected water (OSPW), is then recycled in the bitumen extraction process. The recovery of OSPW from tailings for recycling, and consolidation of tailings for effective reclamation are major issues. 

To address the treatment and disposal of millions of cubic meters of industrial wastewater, several water treatment approaches such as adsorption, biological treatment, advanced oxidation, membrane processes, and wetland remediation have been developed over the years. Adsorption is considered an effective processing method for the removal of both heavy metals and other major organic contaminants. The flexibility, high removing ability and recyclability of the adsorbent materials makes adsorption a widely applied method for water treatment. The most common adsorbents which have been used to treat waste waters include activated carbon, natural inorganic/organic materials, and synthetic polymers. Some of these adsorbents have been effective in adsorption of some selected contaminants such as metals to certain levels under specific pH conditions but poor removal rates were observed for multiple contaminants. Therefore, it is essential to identify low-cost, highly effective and environmentally safe materials and methods to remove contaminants from waste waters. This presentation will discuss development of renewable biomaterials for simultaneous removal of different contaminants from waste waters. 

Speaker: Stephanie Ibsen, PhD Candidate in Department of Renewable Resources 

( CLICK HERE for Ms. Ibsen's biography)
Date: April 8, 2021 

Reclamation success or failure is based on regulatory criteria. Current reclamation criteria for disturbed lands mainly focus on soil physical and chemical properties and vegetation cover. Global recognition of the need for conservation and restoration of ecosystems that are sustainable and high in biodiversity has focused reclamation success of some disturbances on a more complex and integrated system that will support diverse organisms at various trophic levels. Current common biophysical indicators of reclamation success may not provide a detailed picture of recovery after disturbance for these more complex ecosystems. 

Soil invertebrates affect numerous soil properties and influence availability of resources for plants and microorganisms. The diversity and composition of soil invertebrates are directly linked to ecosystem health, biodiversity, function and stability. While rarely considered in reclamation, they may be an effective indicator of reclamation success.

The management of disturbed and reclaimed areas in Alberta requires ongoing and cohesive effort by all the stakeholders involved. Ensuring reclaimed ecosystems are sustainable and resilient in Alberta will be an ongoing challenge as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. It also becomes especially critical in areas where large areas of land are being disturbed and in turn reclaimed. Effective management of reclamation projects is a current and future challenge not only in Alberta but also Canada. 

This research project is part of a program to identify the most effective biophysical indicators of ecosystem biodiversity, resiliency, and ultimately reclamation success. This research will enhance the understanding of relationships between soil physical and chemical properties, vegetation and soil invertebrates and the temporal and spatial dynamics of soil invertebrates in reclaimed ecosystems. This knowledge will help determine whether soil invertebrates should be considered a reclamation success indicator and could potentially lead to more effective reclamation methods, healthier ecosystems, and dollars saved for industry. 

Speaker: Dr. Michael Serpe, Professor in Department of Chemistry

( CLICK HERE for Dr. Serpe's biography)
Date: May 13, 2021 

Research in the Serpe Group involves the development of novel nanomaterial-based approaches to solve environmental problems. In one case, the group is utilizing poly (N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAm)-based hydrogel particles (microgels) to fabricate visually colored materials which could be used for water monitoring. 

These materials, referred to as etalons, are constructed by depositing a monolithic pNIPAm-based microgel layer between two thin planar mirrors. Light is able to enter the microgel-based cavity, and resonate, which leads to constructive/destructive interference and hence visual color. Changes in color can be related to temperature, but also used to detect various species in water, e.g., ions and heavy metals, which will be highlighted in this presentation.

Speaker: Dr. Tariq Siddique, Professor in Department of Renewable Resources   

( CLICK HERE for Dr. Siddique's biography)
Date: June 10, 2021 

Enormous volumes of generated fluid fine tailings (FFT) deposited in oil sands tailings ponds (OSTP) increase the footprint of OSTP and related environmental consequences. OSTP harbor diverse microbial communities that drive many biogeochemical processes in OSTP that mitigate toxicity of organic constituents through biodegradation, accelerate consolidation and dewatering of FFT and cause greenhouse gas emissions from OSTP. These microbial processes also affect FFT reclamation under end-pit-lake and induce acid rock drainage when FFT is exposed to atmosphere for deposition. Understanding biogeochemical processes help design better strategies for utilizing tailings products for wetland and upland reclamation scenarios.