Long story short, when a seed is planted, it grows into a plant.
“Thinking back, it was fairly straightforward. I took a year off between college and university to work, and then I transferred my credits into UAlberta in 2016,” says James.
“I think it’s better to go through a program like Lakeland first and then transfer to the university because you don't learn the field skills as much at university as you do in college. Once you start diving into theory at university, you can see how it all connects from college.”
He researches the use of willow and poplar as short rotation woody crops for biomass and bioenergy, and for phytoremediation of sewage, wastewater and soil. James says it’s exciting to see how treating sewage with willow solves a waste problem with a bioenergy cash crop that can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He also assists with forest reclamation and restoration research. His research involves working with partners in mining, oil and gas, forestry, reclamation, and provincial and municipal government sectors.
It’s taking a thoughtful approach to challenges and staying positive that keeps James inspired in his environmental sciences work.
“There's a lot of environmental problems that we often put so much focus on that we forget there are some solutions to them, and they don't necessarily have to be high tech. My inspiration is wanting to contribute to society by creating feasible options that benefit the collective."
At Lakeland, James executed a recycling program in dorms and participated in designing and implementing an environmental report card. The outstanding student also earned a 3.99 grade-point average, stood as the class representative for the CARE program and a member of the Students’ Association. He was the recipient of the Andy Klar Memorial Award (Excellence in Botany), Kasian Architecture General Award (Contribution to Community), Louise McKinney Post-Secondary Scholarship (Academics), Resident of the Year Award and Green Living Award.
You can read our story about James when he won his second consecutive North American Range Plant Identification Test in 2018. He scored 95.1 per cent and competed against 144 university students from Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Photos: (1-2) Ryan James conducts fieldwork earlier this year. He's installing soil water sampling devices to assess how well poplars break down landfill leachate. Photos courtesy of Martin Blank (Natural Resources Canada/Canadian Forest Service/Canadian Wood Fibre Centre)