Alumnus reaps benefit of environmental sciences learning pathway

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December 16, 2020
Long story short, when a seed is planted, it grows into a plant.
Ryan James
For Ryan James, earning his first environmental sciences diploma from Lakeland College in 2014 was a kernel that he cultivated into a bachelor of science in environmental and conservation sciences degree from the University of Alberta (UAlberta) in 2019.
James fed his desire to make a difference in the world by taking advantage of Lakeland’s double diploma option. In three short years, he graduated from Lakeland and earned two diplomas, first majoring in conservation and restoration ecology (CARE) and his second in environmental conservation and reclamation (2014). With his diploma credits, he enrolled at UAlberta.
“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.”
James adds that another advantage to starting your degree pathway in college is the ease of finding work. James works for the Government of Canada at Natural Resources Canada as a silviculture afforestation program technologist.
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.
Previously, he worked as a seasonal rangeland agrology technician for the Alberta Conservation Association, a student fire and vegetation management technician for Parks Canada, and lead bryophyte technician for UAlberta’s Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance forestry research project.
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)
What Students Say
With the Student-Managed Farm you learn to be accountable for what you’re doing and the choices you make. You get an understanding of what it’s like to be out in industry or on a farm making decisions that count.

– Anthony Biglieni

Agribusiness Class of 2006

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College has been a integral partner in growing our own through the school of business. As an alumnus of the college, I have first-hand learning experience in the school of business. The professors welcome Servus Credit Union to facilitate classes in the Business Ethics course each year.

– Sandi Unruh

Senior Human Resources Consultant

What Faculty & Staff Say
Vertex has had great experience bringing on students from Lakeland College. We have found the Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management) program to provide students with good academic knowledge of the environmental industry and the criteria that governs the land reclamation

– Sean Fuller B.Sc., P.Ag.

Vice President, Environmental Services, Vertex.

What Alumni Say
There is no way I would be where I am today without Lakeland College. It inspired me to be a better person and to get a job in something I love doing. I am so thankful I had such a great experience at Lakeland and I hope future students do as well.

– Danielle Gaboury

Business studies, Class of 2016.

What Students Say
I recommend the UT program to people all the time. The smaller setting Lakeland offers, is very conducive to learning. It's less intimidating than the larger universities and allows for more class interactions and discussions

– Kelly Mykytuk

2nd year UT student, 2017-18

What Alumni Say
Choosing to attend Lakeland College was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life so far. The welcoming and friendly Lakeland environment encourages a place of excellence, and fosters the ability to be successful not only in school, but in life.

– Mariah Van’t Hof

University Transfer, Class of 2015

What Alumni Say
I have loved my experience at Lakeland. The teachers are personable, and quick to share about their own experiences. They encouraged me to run with my own ideas and see what would happen; they got excited about my designs, which gave me the confidence to do my best and be more creative.

– Payton Ramstead

Class of 2016, Interior Design student.

What Alumni Say
At Lakeland College you are guaranteed to have time out of the classroom where you can put everything you learned together and actually see that what you’re learning is relevant.

– Alisa Brace

Animal Health Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The friendships I made, the experiences we were provided with, and the welcoming atmosphere of the Vermilion Campus made my time at Lakeland extremely valuable and memorable

– Grayden Kay

Animal Science & Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College was a learning environment unlike any other school. It allows students to learn beyond the classroom, and staff and faculty genuinely want to see students succeed. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable asking questions and where everyone has a place and fits in.

– Carson Reid

Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The instructors were the highlight of my time at Lakeland. It made a huge impact on my college experience to have instructors who challenged, encouraged, and believed in me.

– Jessica Cadrain

Child & Youth Care, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
At the beginning of my first year, I was really stressed out as I felt I had no artistic ability. But with the instruction and time put in by the interior design faculty, I was able to develop my artistic abilities. Now I am fully confident in and exceeding well in the artistic side of this career!

– Naomi Mason

Interior Design Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I just feel like you get the best education at Lakeland, especially from the time that the instructors can actually spend with you. I like the class sizes too – everything’s been great about my Lakeland experience.

– Dean Coulson

Heavy Equipment Technician, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I do give Lakeland College credit for reigniting my interest and even preparing me for Miss Rodeo Canada. Lakeland helped me to grow enough to have the confidence to think I could take on that role and become that person. I think that I have and I am really grateful for that

– Ali Mullin

Agribusiness, class of 2014, former Miss Rodeo Canada.

What Alumni Say
I feel the professors at Lakeland actually prepared me for the profession. It’s impossible to be just a number here when there are 12 students in all of your classes. When the school advertised small class sizes, they actually meant it.

– Stephen Mark Visser

Real Estate Appraisal and Assessment, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I was involved in the president’s gala in April where I was an emcee for the evening, it was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun doing it and would recommend it to everyone.”

– Lucas Tetreault

HOPE Power Engineering, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
I would recommend Lakeland College for the simple fact that it's for everybody. As a mature student who went back to school much later than his 18th year, I was immediately accepted, and not ostracized in the least

– Donald James Shaw

Accounting Major, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
All the hands-on learning was great and very helpful once placed into the industry. Having clients leave with a smile after each service assured me that I was in the right field of work. I would recommend Lakeland to anyone.

– Courtnee Coolidge

Esthetician, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The professors care so much about their students at Lakeland and are able to know each and every one of them by name, so much so that they are able to nominate a ton of students for awards.

– Stephanie Wakefeild

University Transfer, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
They really put you in the lead at Lakeland. Lakeland cares about its students, empowers them, and gives them opportunities to achieve their goals. I don’t see Lakeland as a stepping stone or a first step – I see it as a bridge and an integral part of my education.

– Alyssa Wells

University Transfer, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
I wanted to get experience in the field of assessment as it would give me exposure to what it’s like day to day. It was an invaluable experience as I find it hard to imagine what it would be like working in a particular field or area until I’m doing the work.

– Sheldon Farrell

Real estate appraisal and assessment, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
In the campus spa, they give you time to work with each client so nothing is rushed and you’re able to concentrate on providing the best service you can to your client.

– Daphney Couturier

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
It’s going to be a lot easier to start our first jobs having this experience and having been able to build our confidence in the campus spa. I love that we get to have this opportunity.

– Darby Watchel

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Employers Say
Lakeland is a great place to find employees. The college provides real world training that equips soon-to-be employees with knowledge and people skills that are highly sought after in the agriculture industry these days.

– Dustin Dinwoodie

Key Account Manager – Western Canada Arysta LifeScience

What Alumni Say
The hands-on field trips, quality of education i received, professors who are invested in your success, and all the friends I made. I exceeded my academic expectations and I also had a lot of fun. If i had to do it all over gain, i would choose Lakeland!

– Nicole (Audet) Pysh

Class of 2006, Environmental Protection & Class of 2008, Applied Environmental Degree