Nature and Technology: The ARC 2022 conference showcases environmental restoration techniques

BIBLE HILL, NS — Allen Beck and Christian Francis were the first group to present on day two of this year’s Atlantic Reclamation Conference (ARC) at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus.

They spoke primarily of their research on reef balls, artificial reefs made entirely of concrete. They hope their use in Pictou Landing First Nation could remove waste material, restore the salt marshes, and boost biodiversity in Sitmu’k.

The Clean Foundation has partnered with Pictou Landing First Nation to deploy the reef balls as early as fall 2020. Beck, a biologist who works for the organization, spoke about the project’s success and its difficulties.

“The results were promising,” said Beck. “We still have a lot of questions, particularly about the longevity of these reef balls and where conditions may not be favorable for them.”

“Ice is a big concern for us,” he added. “Ice can literally pick up and move these reef balls, or it could potentially crush them.”

Despite the problems they faced, Beck’s presentation touched on a theme that was present throughout the conference – the use of technology to restore the environment.

ARC is hosted by the Atlantic Chapter of the Canada Land Reclamation Association (CLRA) every one to two years. On November 8-10, guests from across Atlantic Canada stopped at Bible Hill to learn more about how their industry partners have used their proprietary technologies to support their environmental restoration efforts. Beck’s presentation was one of 20 that spanned three days.

Some guest speakers, such as Samantha Lewis from CB Wetlands and Environmental Specialists (CBWES), spoke about technologies for remotely piloted aircraft systems. Her presentation focused on her work with drones to collect data on restoration projects.

Another speaker, Daniel Khan, talked about how even the most accessible tools like spreadsheets and Google Earth could be used to develop a matrix that would allow them to analyze which mines in Nova Scotia most need ecological attention .

Founded in 1975, the Canada Land Reclamation Association works with like-minded individuals and businesses to bring relief to the environment from ecological hardship. The President of the Atlantic Chapter, Abby van der Jagt, explained the focus of the organization.

“One of the main roles is education, by sharing information about reclamation at multiple levels, from government to academics to industry professionals,” van der Jagt said.

“It’s a way to bring these groups of people together to advance the reclamation industry with the most modern techniques and practices.”

Board Member Bob Pett chats with speakers from Triton Environmental Consultants, one of several companies attending ARC 2022.  - Brendyn Creamer
Board Member Bob Pett chats with speakers from Triton Environmental Consultants, one of several companies attending ARC 2022. – Brendyn Creamer

The use of technology in remediation efforts is not just a topic at the conference – it is about the history and future of environmental remediation.

Van der Jagt explained that the process of restoration used to involve “transporting and disposing of” unwanted materials. It then evolved into binding materials but still left them in place. Only in recent years have environmentally harmful materials been completely removed during the restoration.

Board member Frank Potter said the advances they have made in developing new technology are thanks to universities.

“The types of problems we now see in the environmental field are varied. Universities help so much in developing new approaches, how to get in there and clean up.”

Van der Jagt said efforts had been made in recent years to book the conference at universities rather than hotels. This was partly to improve student involvement in the organization while reducing costs. University members were also given the opportunity to get involved.

Their decision to hold the conference at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus was influenced by its proximity to the Onslow tidal wetland restoration project. On the last day of the conference, guests took a field trip there to see restorative measures at work.

Van der Jagt expects the next conference in two years. Until then, she wants to focus on recruiting. There are currently several vacant Atlantic Chapter board seats to be filled.

She mentioned that CLRA’s Atlantic Chapter is the smallest in the country. Despite this, Potter finds that the greatest strength of their chapter is its diversity.

“The strength of our board is that we have young people and Abby as our president,” Potter said. “We have people in the middle of their careers, people at the end of their careers … that makes our board quite successful.”


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