Clark Ecoscience & Sustainability Ltd.

Michael Clark was working in the oil industry in northern Alberta as a truck driver when he first heard about changes in the region’s flora and fauna. People he spoke with wondered where the caribou had gone. Concerned, he decided that he wanted to learn more about climate change and biodiversity loss, issues seldom discussed when he was growing up in Saskatchewan.

Ten years later, armed with a Master of Sciences degree in Plant Biology and a Bachelor of Environmental Biology from the University of Alberta, Clark opened an ecosystem restoration company in Edmonton.

“Science grads were going into the oil industry then to improve reclamation,” he says. “But I wanted to do what I could to help plants and people in urban ecosystems. We have to do the best we can and that’s for the kids who will want those plants in the future.”

Science Horizons intern, Daniel Adams, in a garden.

Since it opened in 2010, Clark Ecoscience & Sustainability Ltd. (CES) has hired five science graduates through the ECO Canada internship program funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Science Horizons Youth Internship Program. The interns have contributed to the company’s slow but steady growth.

“Having interns has allowed our company to focus more on each project and grow across the clients we already have,” says Clark. In some cases, the business expansion would not have been possible without the interns’ contributions, he says. This includes work done on business plans, the collection of native plant materials used to grow seedlings, and extensive research into soil composition.

Daniel Adams, who studied restoration ecology at Alberta’s Lakeland College and has a degree in Environmental and Conservation Sciences at the University of Alberta, is interning as a field technician at CES. In conjunction with the University of Alberta, he researches how different levels of charcoal added to soil can affect native and invasive plant biodiversity. The researchers also wish to determine if charcoal additives, known as “biochar”, could absorb pollutants in street water runoff.

Services provided by CES include conservation, restoration and rebuilding ecosystems for governmental, industrial, non-profit and residential clients. The company completes soil assessments, installs water filtration systems and conducts botanical research to maximize ecosystem restoration. It also collects and grows native species in fields and a nursery.

The company grows about 200 types of plants and sells more than 50,000 plants a year.

Native plants, such as grasses, sedges and other herbaceous species, are much harder to grow than agricultural mainstays such as wheat or lettuce, says Clark.

Adams has been asked to stay on with the company. He enjoys his work and finds he is continually learning more about plant species that he studied in university and those that are new to him. He says “I enjoy being able to work in an environment of like-minded people who want to be more sustainable and make the world a better place.”

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