Scientist's passion seeds healthy habitats

Jay Woosaree, PAg

Jay’s research focuses on the revegetation, reclamation and restoration of disturbed habitats, native seed collection, rare plant propagation studies, agronomy of native species, and production of ecological varieties and reintroduction of plants into disturbed landscapes for various end land uses.

Parting from his friends heading home from school, the young boy walks down to the river He looks for wild pineapples, tomatoes. Sometimes he hikes the mountains of Mauritius to find edible wild plants. He brings the seeds home. He's always collecting seeds. "Oh," he says, eyeing a prize plant in a neighbour's yard. "I've always wanted to grow that in my yard." And he will. He likes to help things grow.

Today, far from the island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, a full range of Alberta's ecosystems grows in Jay Woosaree's Edmonton front and back yards. Grassland, mountain, fen, boreal forest and wetland all thrive.

“I’ve always loved plants,” says the Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures reclamation and revegetation scientist. “I’ve always had a connection, a feeling for plants. Back then, I didn’t realize it would become my career.”

In June 1993, Jay was recognized for patenting the first native grass variety in Alberta – possibly the first native grass patent in the country. Since then, he’s patented 22 varieties.

While he’s cultivated close relationships with plants, the relationships Jay values most are those he’s built with clients. The strength of these relationships allows him to make a difference in reclamation practices, developing native plants to lessen the impacts of industrial activity.

Jay’s work goes beyond meeting regulatory requirements. Native plants have important ecological value. Jay led the Wetland Boreal Revegetation Project, reintroducing traditional plants of cultural importance to Alberta’s First Nations.

Varieties are developed based on client and industry need. First, Jay identifies the problem. Railways causing fires – that’s a problem. Jay’s idea: could a plant species help prevent the fire from spreading? Understanding the breeding system and characteristics of a particular plant, Jay figures out how to get the plant to do what is needed.

His strong relationships win him support of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, FP Innovations, CN Rail and the Municipality of Chisholm. The outcome is the development of fire resistant grasses.

Most, if not all native plant varieties used in reclamation in Alberta come from Jay’s work at AITF. These varieties are used on roadsides, in landscape improvement, on city grounds, and in reclaiming and rehabilitating grasslands and natural areas.

Jay and his team have contributed to the twinning of the Lake Louise to British Columbia border; the TMX Kinder Morgan Pipeline; the 2009 Keystone pipeline; and more. The native plants team has received much recognition. Awards include the Canadian Reclamation Award; the Alberta Chamber of Resources major reclamation award and an Emerald Award.

Jay is one of the passionate people at AITF whose efforts are having a growing impact, on Alberta and on the world.

More about Tech Futures' work in this area.



Native plants and reclamation

Alberta’s native plants are an integral part of reclamation and ecological restoration in Alberta. Birds, animals and insects in Alberta’s ecosystem rely upon them. Reclamation and revegetation scientist Jay Woosaree, and reclamation technicians Marshall McKenzie, Tania McDonald and Elise Martin develop native plants as suitable sources of material for the reclamation industry.

Tech Futures is a pioneer of land reclamation research and technology. Its researchers have made significant long-term contributions to land reclamation science in Canada and the United States with a track record that dates back to the early 1970s.

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Jay Woosaree PAg
Revegetation Ecologist