COSIA teams with University of Calgary on pioneering wetland reclamation research
Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and the University of Calgary (U of C) are celebrating a pioneering program in which Dr. Jan Ciborowski has been appointed the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)/COSIA Industrial Research Chair in Oil Sands Wetland Reclamation.
COSIA has committed $1.25 million in funding, matched by NSERC, to the five-year partnership between COSIA, NSERC and the University of Calgary. The program will develop measures to assess oil sand wetland reclamation success.
"Wetlands play a key role in the ecosystem in northern Alberta and around the world in terms of water filtration and management, and in capturing and storing large quantities of greenhouse gases," says Wes Jickling, COSIA's Chief Executive. "Oil sands companies have become leaders in wetland reclamation, and this Chair is the next big step. Not only will this research help ensure wetlands can be sustainably reclaimed in the area of Canada's oil sands, but learnings have the potential for application in a national or global context."
Dr. Ciborowski, who has been studying reclaimed and natural wetlands in the oil sands region for over 20 years says, "We've learned enough so that companies could start building full scale wetlands on disturbed land at mining sites. Now the wetlands are four or five years old they look really good, they are lush, green and full of wildlife, but there isn't a framework or a standard set of measures we can use to assess young constructed wetlands and predict their future success, which is what this effort will seek to establish."
Dr. Ciborowski's team includes specialized experts, post-doctoral scholars, undergraduate and graduate students. The work includes sampling at over 100 different wetland sites over consecutive summers to study the functionality, water quality and surrounding features of newly, and sometimes naturally, forming wetlands in the post-mining landscape. They also gauge the ecological health of various wetlands by sampling aquatic organisms, studying developing vegetation and observing bird species, amongst other things.
The Chair program was celebrated at a virtual event co-hosted by COSIA and U of C. It is one of many partnerships COSIA has with government and academia to enable environmental innovation and research in the oil sands.