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Program ID: Innovation Anthology #378
Program Date: 02/22/2011
Program Category: Energy, Environment, Forests, Oil Sands, Women in Science

CONRAD Part 2: Kaitlin Schott Grows Aspen From Seed

PROGRAM #378 INTERVIEW WITH KAITLIN SCHOTT

MP3: MB
Time: Minutes

Kaitlin Schott, Masters student in the department of Renewable Resources at University of Alberta, with Professor Simon Landhäusser.

 

Kaitlin Schott

 

CC:  KAITLIN, YOU GAVE A PRESENTATION THIS MORNING AT THE CONRAD SYMPOSIUM ABOUT SOME WORK THAT YOU ARE DOING ON THE PROPAGATION OF SEEDLINGS OF ASPEN.  TELL ME FIRST OF ALL, WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR PROJECT?

 

CS:  I actually, in this project, was looking at the regeneration of aspen from seed.  So seeds of aspen blowing onto a mine reclamation site and seeing the specific micro sites on which they regenerated best.

 

CC:  WHAT ARE ASPEN SEEDS LIKE?

 

CS:  Aspen seeds are very, very small.  And they’re surrounded by a big clump of fluff.  So they fly in the air and the spot on the soil where they land is actually going to determine their growth because they have very few nutrients within the seed. 

 

CC:  SO HOW DID YOU SET UP YOUR RESEARCH?

 

CS:  I was looking at transects.  And along the transects, I looked at the micro site, which is the concavity or the topography of a site as well as the substrate that a seed would land on. 

 

CC:  WHAT WOULD THE TOPOGRAPHY BE LIKE?

 

CS:  The topography could either be a hole in the soil surface, it could be a flat soil surface, it could be a small hill or it could be sloped. 

 

CC:  WHEN YOU SET OUT YOUR TRANSECTS, WHAT WERE THEY LIKE?

 

CS:  My transects were 126 meters long and I was actually taking observations at every 20 centimeters.  So, like a lot of science, there’s a lot of repetition and work. 

 

CC:  WHAT DID YOU FIND?

 

CS:  I actually found that aspen grow best from seed on concave sites that have a mixture of mineral and organic soil. 

 

CC:  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

 

CS:  So that means when we’re preparing sites for reclamation, we want to make sure we have a various soil substrate with lots of nice little coves for the aspen seeds to land in to have a good nutrient and moisture regime. 

 

CC:  HOW IS IT THAT THEY END UP IN THESE LITTLE COVES? 

 

CS:  So aspen seeds are very light, they’re transferred in the air, and they’ll often times blow onto a soil surface and then be kind of washed or eroded down into the smaller coves or pockets which are the concave micro sites. 

 

CC:  HOW COULD INDUSTRY USE THIS?  CERTAINLY THE PEOPLE FROM THE OIL SANDS INDUSTRY ARE LOOKING AT RECLAMATION AND ASPEN IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE BOREAL MIXED WOOD FOREST.  HOW WOULD THEY USE THIS?  WHAT DO YOUR RESULTS MEAN TO THEM?

 

CS:  So I’m hoping that my results will show that we need to have a variable micro topography on our reclamation sites.  We don’t want a perfectly flat parking lot for our trees to be growing on.  And we really want to be encouraging regeneration from seed because those seeds are from local sources and they’re the best adapted for the site. 

 

CC:  YOU ALSO MENTIONED SOMETHING IN YOUR PRESENTATION ABOUT THE USE OF MACHINERY.  WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE THERE?

 

CS:  We see a lot of use of big cats and other machinery on our sites.  We’re actually hoping to reduce the amount of passes that the big machines take over a lot of reclamation sites; not only for my research but also other research looking at aspen regeneration from former roots. 

 

CC:  WHY IS THAT?

 

CS:  There’s actually a lot of disturbance that occurs to the roots when we pass the big machinery over it multiple times.  And we found that we have more flat surface when we do multiple passes of machinery over the same site. 

 

So if we do fewer passes, we’ll damage the roots less and we’ll also be able to leave more of the nice micro sites that aspen like to regenerate. 

 

CC:  WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP FOR YOU IN THIS?

 

CS:  This study I will actually be looking at growing aspen seedlings in the optimal way.  I’ll be continuing that throughout this next year and field season. 

 

CC:  ASPEN ALSO REGENERATE FROM CLONES.  WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO AND WHERE DO THE SEEDS FIT INTO THE OVERALL PICTURE?

 

CS:  So aspen do regenerate from clones.  And we may have gotten kind of lazy by looking at the foresters, where if we just cut down the trees, aspen will regenerate very wonderfully from the roots that are still in the soil.  However, when we’re looking at reclamation areas where the soil has been greatly disturbed or moved or dug up from 60 meters below soil surface, we don’t have that resource anymore. 

 

So it means we need to look at other options for reincorporating aspen into the Alberta landscape.  Those options could be putting down some of those roots from another area, looking at seeds coming in and repopulating the area or planting aspen stock.

 

CC:  THANK YOU VERY MUCH KAITLIN.

 

CS:  Thank you for your time. 

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