Askiy Ochi Acimowin - Story of the Land Program Community Outreach

Askiy Ochi Acimowin - Story of the Land Program Community Outreach

During the first phase of the research, specialized freeze cores were collected from key lakes in the Lubicon Lake Band’s ancestral lands. Prior to beginning, the research members of the field team from Solstice Environmental Management, Carleton University, and AGAT Laboratories were privileged to take part in a tobacco ceremony led by Lubicon Lake Band field team members.

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Solstice Canada Corp and Shanghai AOJOA Ecology and Environmental Technology Co. Ltd welcome the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

Solstice Canada Corp. (Solstice) and Shanghai AOJOA Ecology and Environmental Technology Co. Ltd. (AOJOA) welcome the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines the agreement for the collaboration of the two firms. The MOU sets the stage for Solstice’s experienced environmental team to partner with, and to enhance, the eco-focused environmental technology service already offered by AOJOA. The MOU is an important milestone for Chinese-Canadian cooperation in the environmental soil remediation industry.


This partnership is the result of a process initiated by Alberta Economic Development in which representatives from the China Soil Environmental Remediation Technology Innovation Alliance (CSER) attended the Environmental Services Association of Alberta’s (ESAA’s) October 2017 RemTechConference in Banff, Alberta; one of North America’s leading environmental remediation technology conferences. Following this initial meeting in Canada, Solstice and AOJOA had the opportunity to follow up multiple times in China when Solstice participated in Cleantech Trade Missions hosted by the Government of Canada in Shanghai, December 2017 and the Government of Alberta in Hangzou, January 2018. It was this ongoing dialogue and follow-up that built trust between the two companies.


The MOU was signed March 27, 2018 in Beijing at the 19th China International Petroleum & Petrochemical Technology and Equipment Exhibition Gala Event by Ms. Michelle Cotton, President of Solstice, and Mr. Yong (Sunny) Liu, President and General Manager of AOJOA. The signing of the MOU was witnessed by Mr. Ron Hoffmann, Senior Representative for the Asia Pacific Basin, Government of Alberta. Ms. Cotton and Mr. Liu look forward to future successes and are optimistic about the prospects of further partnership growth as China’s soil remediation market continues to expand and develop.



AOJOA Introduction

















Shanghai AOJOA Ecology and Environment Technology Co. Ltd., founded in 2012, is an early practitioner in the field of environmental remediation in China. The company’s mission statement is “Better Environment, Better Life”. It specializes in project consulting, engineering construction, technical services, equipment manufacturing, and reagent R&D and production services relating to the ecological environment. AOJOA provides third-party ecological environmental remediation services to governments, enterprises, environmental companies, and other clients.


In 2017, AOJOA Environment was listed in the Shanghai high-tech enterprise directory. With advanced technologies and equipment, and with rich experience in project implementation and management, AOJOA has integrated the world’s leading environmental technologies and management concepts in site remediation, petroleum pollution control, renovation of black and malodorous rivers and lakes, sludge disposal, and solid waste recycling. Its core competence in these areas has enabled AOJOA to develop rapidly in the domestic ecological environmental market. Since 2005, the AOJOA team has participated in dozens of large-scale, iconic eco-environmental remediation projects in different provinces and cities across the country, including the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo. Through its untiring efforts, more than 250 ecological remediation projects were completed by the end of 2017 in over 25 provinces and municipalities in China.


At present, AOJOA has completely mastered and applied more than 20 mainstream technologies in the field of remediation. It has accumulated more than 200 sets of professional special equipment, three series of high-efficiency bio-agents, and hundreds of engineers and technicians, with an annual soil remediation capacity of more than 5 million cubic meters. AOJOA has established long-term, stable, strategic, and cooperative relationships with more than 200 companies, such as central enterprises, state-owned enterprises, publicly traded environmental firms, and foreign-funded enterprises.

Solstice Canada’s Presentation @ CLRA March 1st

- General

Come see Dee Patriquin & Jenet Dooley March 1st 3:00PM @ CLRA (Palmero Room) 

For their talk on navigating conflict: Early use of scalable mapping to gain multi-stakeholder consensus

Traditionally, resource development projects have generalized impacts to a landscape level for ease of screening, particularly for complicated, large scale projects. This introduces the risk of ignoring more localized impacts, and thus increasingly leads to challenges by stakeholders. For example, traditional land use necessarily requires site specific evaluation for potential impacts, but can be diluted in landscape level analysis used in EIA. Similarly, the Alberta Wetland Policy (2013) promotes wetland compensation and restoration within regional watersheds, which may deplete local abundance where development is intense. These problems need wholistic, landscape scale solutions that can scale up localized impacts, without losing site specific detail. Comprehensive ecological mapping and inventories can better inform land management, but have been a costly solution. Through newly developed cost-effective digital methods, we have created fine resolution ecological inventories that can inform land management at local to landscape scale. Using LiDAR, SPOT imagery and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) modeling approaches, we have accurately mapped wetlands and land cover within large landscapes to Alberta’s ‘fine-scale’ resolution standard. In recent projects, high resolution, accurate wetland mapping was central to identifying environmental sensitivities and recommending land management, at a scale suitable for various collaborators including municipalities and First Nations. Detailed mapping highlighted key ecological assets and constraints, and facilitated planning scalable from fine to landscape scale, by identifying relevant, localized effects early in the process. From our first project, the role of such inventories in facilitating consensus among multi-stakeholder groups was obvious. Our talk will highlight these and other benefits of environmental sensitivities mapping for project planning to demonstrate how newly developed technology can help mitigate stakeholder challenges as the project develops.

Presentation @ CSTWS_CSEE Conference

Come see our work in action! Dee Patriquin is presenting on our Environmental Sensitivities mapping project for the City of Edmonton at the Joint Canadian Section of the Wildlife Society & Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution conference (May 7-11) in Victoria, British Columbia.

Dee is scheduled to give her talk “How did the chick(adee) cross the road? Mapping arboreal connectivity in urban landscapes” on Wednesday at 11:30. See the entire Schedule of Presentations here: )

How did the chick(adee) cross the road? Mapping arboreal connectivity in urban landscapes

Land managers in a variety of contexts are concerned with identifying connective habitat for conservation planning. CircuitScape has recently emerged as a versatile option for mapping connective habitat at a landscape scale, to identify locations requiring conservation management (e.g., alternative pathways, pinch points). As part of an urban conservation project, we applied CircuitScape in a city landscape, using coyote and chickadee as indicators of terrestrial and arboreal movement, respectively. The chickadee model, one of the first applications for urban arboreal movement, highlighted issues not previously reported for terrestrial species, including an island effect at the neighbourhood level due to road networks. Through further application in a smaller urban landscape, supported by winter surveys, we have identified habitat features that appear to enhance arboreal connectivity in the urban context, and the resulting distribution of chickadees. Songbirds and other arboreal species are often overlooked in planning urban conservation efforts, yet provide a valued, and easily accessible wildlife viewing opportunity for urban residents. Results of this study can assist urban planners and ecologists in planning future development, and in maintaining and restoring habitat in already developed urban areas. Our work also suggests areas of future study for urban ecologists relative to fragmentation effects and urban connectivity.

Press Conference at the Solstice Building

Solstice was excited to host Minister Deron Bilous at our office when he announced a CARE grant for the Alberta Women Entrepreneurs at the Solstice building. Read Michelle’s statement about the impact Alberta Women Entrepreneurs has had on her business.

"Solstice Canada is a company of scientists and innovators that help industry, business and government address soil and water contamination. We help our clients strike the balance between doing what’s right for the environment and what’s right for their business or organization. This past year we celebrated 14 years of business in Alberta. 

I was fortunate to be a member of the AWE PeerSpark program for the past year, and I am currently a member of the PeerSpark Alumni program.  Through my involvement with AWE, Solstice Canada has received support and mentorship from AWE’s amazing network of staff, instructors, sponsors, and perhaps most importantly, the other like-minded business women that make up the PeerSpark program. 

The support and mentorship provided by the PeerSpark program encouraged Solstice Canada to move beyond our borders and explore the United States, and most recently China as a part of the Alberta Trade Mission this past November.

We have already received a positive response from the U.S. marketplace for our environmental sensitivity mapping expertise, which is one of Solstice’s unique products and points of differentiation. We are actively building new relationships and networks in China, offering our expertise in clean technologies. We are excited to head back to Beijing with Minister Bilous’ team later this month to pursue additional opportunities at the China International Petroleum Exhibition.

My warmest congratulations to AWE on receiving the CARE grant, and for continuing to support women’s progress in business and industry in Alberta. "

Listen to the whole press conference for new support for Alberta’s Women Entrepreneurs

Michelle Cotton & Solstice Canada were also featured on CTV on a segment about female entrepreneurs! 

Watch Michelle Cotton & Solstice Canada Featured on CTV

Learn more about Alberta’s Women Entrepreneurs!

Come Celebrate Wildlife and Winter

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Celebrate World Snow Day at Alberta’s newest Biosphere, designated on March 16, 2016 by UNESCO. The Beaver Hills BioBlitz is presented in partnership with the Beaver Hills Initiative, the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society, Alberta Parks, Nature Kids - Nature Alberta, Solstice Canada, and Friends of Elk Island National Park.

Activities include

  • S’mores and hot chocolate

  • Start a spark with flint and steel

  • Meet amphibians

  • Lean about Beaver Hills and Canada 150

  • Check out wildlife displays including gear, furs and skulls

  • Tracking wildlife

Special presentations by biologists

  • Wildlife Habitat, Dave Stepnisky

  • Wildlife Cameras, Dragmoir Vujnovic

  • Beavers, Dr. Glynnis Hood

  • Explore Winter, Brian Eaton and Ian Brussels

  • Meet an Owl, Gord Court

  • Wildlife Aches and Pains, Margo Pybus

Regular trail pass and equipment rental fees are in effect. Event activities are free.

Activity schedule located here.

Faster Forests Project

The landscape of northeastern Alberta is a perpetual hot topic. Dotted with wellsites, split by pipelines, criss-crossed with seismic lines, and reshaped by forest fires, not to mention the controversial oil sands. As contentious as it is, this area of Alberta is also a perpetual learning ground and a hotbed of research. A multitude of stakeholders and land uses generate cumulative impacts, but also generate valuable opportunities for collaboration and research opportunities. Solstice recently participated in just such a collaborative research project, managed by Circle T Consulting, Inc, in the area south of Fort McMurray. Member companies of the Canada Oil Sands Innovation Alliance in the region participate in an oil sands exploration (OSE) wellsite reclamation program called Faster Forests, which provides guidance on wellsite construction and also tree and shrub planting practices intended to accelerate forest recovery. For more information, check out the links below. This summer Solstice collected vegetation and soil data from a number of both planted and unplanted OSE wellsites in order to quantitatively assess the success of the Faster Forests program. The intent is to identify if and under what conditions tree and shrub planting is most valuable, in order to ensure the program is as cost effective and efficient as possible. The data collected was much like a detailed site assessment, but designed with the intention of assessing and improving the reclamation program as part of COSIA’s commitment to continuous improvements in environmental performance. In an area where forestry and oil and gas can overlap, the construction and reclamation practices of one company can directly impact the bottom line of another company. Historically, the impacts of various OSE wellsite construction and reclamation practices have been studied in the region which has highlighted the value of ice pads and proper woody debris handling practices (for more information, see the link below). The results of this research also highlighted the value of training and supervision by an environmental professional during construction and reclamation activities. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so to speak, particularly in areas of competing land uses. Solstice has the experience and skills to supervise and train construction and reclamation activities, and a commitment to collaboration to ensure the efficient and successful completion of projects with competing land uses. 

COSIA Faster Forests:

ConocoPhillips Faster Forests:

Removing the Wellsite Footprint:

Modelling the influence of well pads on toluene biogenesis in peatlands.

The appearance of toluene in organic soils, which is not consistent with an anthropogenic source, has recently garnered attention within the oil and gas industry. Previous research has shown toluene is a biogenic intermediary product of microbial fermentation in strongly anaerobic and cold conditions similar to the conditions in northern Alberta peatlands. This suggests there is a separate, perhaps biogenic, source of toluene that is not reflected in current soil and groundwater guidelines.

Higher concentrations of toluene are often found beneath the clay pad of abandoned wellsites built on peatlands and commonly peak at the interface between pad and peat materials with concentrations up to 30 parts per million. In a recent project, we suspected that elevated toluene was due to an interruption in gas diffusion from the clay pad, and higher microbial activity related to availability of an anaerobic electron acceptor (sulphate) in clay pads. These observations suggested the clay pad was producing an indirect effect which was increasing toluene levels under well pads.

Elevated toluene levels are of concern because toluene is toxic to receptors in all trophic levels of fresh water aquatic ecosystems in parts per BILLION. However, the relevancy of current species-specific benchmarks for use in peatland ecosystems are unclear. Reference species used in ecotoxicity studies, e.g. water fleas, leopard frogs, and rainbow trout, are uncharacteristic of these ecosystems. Further investigation of this indirect impact is required to develop best management practices.

The consistency of the on-site/background toluene pattern at our field site has provided a unique opportunity to gain understanding of this emerging issue. Statistical analysis of lab results may be able to identify a background toluene guideline, which can be used as a benchmark for reclamation.

Multi-response permutation procedure (MRPP) analysis showed similarities in toluene levels between two wellsite groups. This suggests toluene biogenesis is fairly consistent and a background-based toluene guideline for bog ecosystems could be applied regionally.

Preliminary analysis supports our hypothesis and shows a separation of on-site and background samples in bog ecosystems. Sulphate and toluene levels under well pads were generally higher than background levels. Statistical modeling indicates that on-site toluene levels are higher the background levels, with a confidence level of 80%. We believe this confidence level, coupled with the toxicity of toluene and the elevated toluene levels, supports the indirect impact caused by clay pads and represents a credible risk to the environment.

Unfortunately, preliminary analyses of our existing data was insufficient to determine if there was a significant difference between on-site and background levels in fen eco-sites. This suggests further data is required to reduce the error in this analysis.

Our client has agreed to share soil chemistry data from Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) within a broadened study area in northwestern Alberta for inclusion in further analysis. We are hopeful the increase in data will allow us to better understand the spatial distribution of biogenic toluene in fen ecosystems and increase our confidence levels for predictions for bog ecosystems. This could produce sufficient support for model predictions that could be used as background-based toluene guidelines for bogs and fens.

A background-based guideline could be used as a benchmark for comparison to occurrences of biogenic toluene. This will create a standard to determine if intrusive remediation is required and will reduce remediation-related disturbance in this sensitive ecosystem. Further, this would reduce the management costs to industry members, regulators, and land owners.

Solstice Canada Corp. has received funding from the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) via the Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund (AUPRF) to perform a meta-analyses using ESA data. Technical advice and support is being provided by various partners including Dee Patriquin (Adjunct Professor) and Anne McIntosh (Assistant Professor), of the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus.

Mapping out the future of conservation – big time!

Signing of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) sparked global interest in identifying environmentally significant areas, areas that might support biodiversity at the local, regional and larger scales. Canada was among the first signatories to the Convention, and immediately launched programs at the federal level, and through provincial counterparts to identify and protect sites with high biodiversity, seeking to meet the ‘12% mark’ – conservation of 12% of the national (or provincial) landbase. Conservation of biodiversity is no less a concern today, and due to public interest and a realization that protected areas alone will not accomplish conservation goals, identification of environmentally sensitive areas has become central to resource management, and increasingly so at the local to regional scale. Municipalities, regional planners and resource development companies are completing inventories of their environmental assets, and the threats to those assets, to inform conservation policies in land use planning, development approvals processes and long-term operating strategies. In part, those efforts have been made possible by technological improvements that make mapping of environmental sensitivities affordable, detailed and most importantly, accurate. Where will those improvements lead us next?

The answer to this question requires a bit of historical context. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, techniques for mapping environmental sensitivities at landscape scale were limited –inventories were based on regional or provincial level inventories of ‘known’ sites, consultation to identify sites deemed worthy of protection, and mapping from aerial photography, labour and time-intensive approaches. The lack of detailed mapping across these landscapes also contributed to conflict and debate over the biological value of sites – particularly when sites held extractable resources or development potential. Even today, provinces like Alberta lack a comprehensive inventory of key environmental features at the accuracy and detail needed for land use and resource management planning. Yet the digital age, and the almost compulsive acquisition of data it has allowed, has positioned us to begin to address this gap, a change with great potential influence on conservation planning in the 21st century.

In many jurisdictions, government and non-government organizations have developed databases to store species occurrence records, water quality and other environmental parameters. Government agencies are increasingly converting or producing inventory data in digital formats, and making those data publically available to assist organizations in environmental planning efforts (e.g., flood risk mapping, updated hydrology). Advances in remote sensing technologies and analysis have now made it possible to add to those datasets, and mapping of vegetation communities using automated approaches is a rapidly developing area. The ability to map and type upland and wetland communities through remote sensing data will be a game changer, allowing more frequent inventory of forest and water resources, and ultimately, better short-term and long-range planning of development.

Various organizations have begun to capitalize on these advances, to compile comprehensive inventories of environmental assets, threats to those assets and other development constraints that can inform municipal to regional level planning. Solstice Canada’s work with the Beaver Hills Initiative is an example of such work. In that project, we compiled available information on rare species, groundwater recharge/discharge zones, soils and vegetation inventories for a 1600 km2 area, then enhanced the resolution of mapping by completing more detailed inventories of wetlands and upland vegetation, hydrology, and agricultural soil capability using remote sensing analysis. The resulting data could be used to illustrate sensitivities – surface and ground water contamination risk, core wildlife habitat areas, rare species locations – at a level of detail useful to land use planners, and easily communicated to residents. We have used a similar approach to map out potential beaver-human conflict sites associated with resource development across a 150,527 km2 study area in northeastern British Columbia, to aid in managing conflicts and promote alternative management strategies. Such projects would have been impossible only a decade ago. The impact on resource management and regional level planning as these techniques, and associated digital databases develop will be dramatic.

Land use policy is never without conflict, but clear communication of the risks and tradeoffs of development is invaluable to this process. Public buy-in on land use policy is increasingly important and particularly when dealing with lands with perceived environmental value. Provision of science-based, accurate and detailed information can convey the risks associated with land management options, and help demonstrate the future impact of those options – particularly important in the face of climate change. No wonder that landscape scale inventories of environmental sensitivities are increasingly demanded by regulators and the public. Solstice Canada is actively refining techniques to enhance inventory cost and accuracy, through our wetlands and vegetation mapping R&D initiative, data sharing services and GIS based sensitivity analyses. We’re always interested in hearing of the work, and successes of others working in this field – please get in touch to share your ideas and inventory mapping stories!

Solstice’s Aerial Perspective On Drones

Drones are a hot topic on social media and news stories, with an endless stream of breathtaking videos taken from places we never thought possible before. Drones are an amazing tool for photography and video, but drones have many more applications. Unmanned Air Vehicles (commonly referred to as drones or UAVs) are also taking us into the future of data collection. These high tech flying robots allow us to collect data from a wide array of sensors at unbelievable precision, speed, safety, and cost savings compared to conventional methods like manned aircraft and satellite.

UAVs have as much endless potential to solve industry challenges as they do options for moving freely around the sky. Sensor hardware for UAVshas become lighter and more durable without loss of accuracy. Processing large volumes of sensor data has become efficient and cost effective allowing quick turnaround for clients. Today low cost UAVs are able to collect weeks worth of data at industry standard accuracies in a single flight. UAVs can provide mapping, 3D modelling, volume calculations, and environmental analysis (plant health etc.).


With every new disruptive technology comes regulatory issues. When cars were first hitting the streets there were huge fears of the potential dangers of these new metal machines could cause. Once we started to mitigate the risks and implement a framework for vehicles to safely operate, they became common place and replaced horse drawn carriages allowing us to take advantage of their huge benefit in saving time on travel and carrying large loads of goods great distances.

UAVs are no different. Despite the huge potential of growth and revolution of many industries, UAVs are limited right now by the regulatory framework and misconstrued fears that UAVs will be used for evil instead of good. For every negative use for drones there are hundreds of revolutionary uses for UAVs. While Canada is a world leader in UAV legislation, we still have a long way to go before UAVs full potential can be harnessed. Currently the biggest hurdle in Canada is to obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) which enables commercial UAV businesses to operate legally if they adhere to strict rules. Almost every SFOC across the country is different but some of the common rules are maintaining visual line of site, operating 100ft away from roads, structures, and people, and operating under 300ft and a safe distance from aerodromes.

This is a great start compared to the regulations in other countries like the USA which requires a full pilots licence and lengthy application process to operate UAVs commercially. What will set Canada apart from the rest of the world and take UAV’s to the next level of efficiency for surveying, inspections, and data collection is the ability to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Transport Canada has been working with the industry to develop a framework from BVLOS operations and are expected to announce new regulations in 2017. Until then we must work within the regulations to take advantage of this revolutionary data collection tool.

Solstice’s Innovative approach

Solstice is exploring these possibilities with UAVs utilizing our existing strengths in remote sensing and GIS to save our clients time and money. With over 40 years combine experience in GIS & remote sensing we understand how to manage large amounts of data and turn raw data into actionable results and products for our clients. Whether that be from an unmanned or manned aircraft or satellite, we know data is data no matter the source. From innovative wetland mapping to superior data collection and 3D site re-creation for phase I site assessments & spill response, Solstice is on the forefront of what is possible with UAVs! Analysing and interpreting multispectral, thermal, LIDAR, and visual data collected from UAVs, manned aircraft and satellites into actionable data available to our clients via our custom web mapping portal. Allowing people from all levels of technical backgrounds to view the layers from any phone, tablet, or laptop.

Do you want to know more about our cost saving and innovate wetland mapping products, webportal or 3D Site reconstruction? Contact us now to see how Solstice expertise and experience can save you time and money on your next project.

Check back soon to see more in depth case studies of Solstice’s use of UAVs and remote sensing in the environmental industry.

Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve

Solstice Canada Corp. is pleased to announce the successful designation of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve, in the Beaver Hills area east of Edmonton, Alberta’s second biosphere reserve and Canada’s 17th. This international designation from UNESCO recognizes the efforts of the Beaver Hills Initiative (BHI), a voluntary collaboration of federal, provincial and municipal governments, ENGOs, research and academic institutions, industry and the public in promoting sustainable development within the Beaver Hills. The designation allows the BHBR to share and learn from 564 other biosphere reserves in 109 countries, gaining from other’s experiences in protecting biodiversity and cultural heritage through sustainable development approaches.

Solstice Canada has been a proud supporter of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve, serving as the lead consultant on preparation of the nomination document, and on the Land Management Framework, a central component of the BHI’s approach to sustainable development. Volunteers from Solstice Canada have helped in various citizen science, research and outreach activities within the Beaver Hills, contributing our passion for this amazing landscape to initiatives designed to involve members of the entire community in the future biosphere reserve. We look forward to continuing to contribute to the new Biosphere Reserve, and future efforts to sustain this ecologically and culturally significant area.

Checkout the official press release here

Find BHI on Facebook and Twitter

News Articles

Toluene in Peatlands: Emerging Problems in the Oil and Gas Industry of Alberta

There are many challenges environmental consultants encounter during an investigation and one of them is being able to correctly identify contamination.  Hydrocarbons are common contaminants on oil and gas sites, but can also be found in soil as a result of natural processes.

One such hydrocarbon is toluene, and evaluators must use a combination of scientific knowledge and professional judgement to distinguish between real impacts and natural occurrences. Toluene is a constituent of crude oil and is a product of biogenesis, or natural production, particularly in peatlands which have high organic matter contents.

On February 25, Solstice Canada Corp. presented at the 2016 Canadian Land Reclamation Association Conference on the biogenesis of toluene underneath well pads on peatlands. In a recent series of Phase II environmental site assessments, Solstice discovered isolated appearances of toluene limited to the peat layers of a soil profile at several well sites. The high levels of toluene observed were not due to contamination typically observed at wellsites, it was isolated from other site contaminants, was not located in areas of potential concern, and did not appear to be a by-product of the breakdown of other common contamination. For these reasons toluene contamination at the sites seemed unlikely.

Haleigh Mines, a University of Alberta Augustana campus Environmental Science student, helped Solstice conduct a literature review on the presence of toluene in northern Alberta peatlands. Her review revealed that microbes in soil with low oxygen concentrations are responsible for the biodegradation of organic matter which produces toluene, and that this mechanism is especially prevalent in cold weather climates like here in Alberta[1]. Well pads are generally constructed and packed using clay backfill material and potentially creates a barrier preventing oxygen from diffusing into the peat. Solstice’s findings showed that toluene levels were considerably higher at the wellsites than in background locations and it appeared that toluene was accumulating beneath the pad in these anaerobic conditions. This is a previously undocumented effect that may have implications for remediation and reclamation planning.

The differentiation of natural toluene from contamination is an emerging issue in the oil and gas industry.  This is important because toluene is toxic to fish, freshwater invertebrates[2], and amphibians[3] at very low concentrations (in the parts per billion ranges) and is largely un-researched in peatlands leaving many questions to be answered. Solstice’s work was based on preliminary results mainly from data collected at bog ecositesand information for other ecosites remains unavailable. What would the implications be if the pads were in a fen? Is there any room for improvement in sampling design or analytical technique? What about the potential to develop a background-based guideline? What other apparent contaminants could arise from biogenesis in peatlands? How do contaminants specifically affect peatland receptors?

Alberta’s Tier 1 Guidelines[4] for peat are based on coarse mineral soil and is not representative of peatlands. Solstice speculated that under certain circumstances toluene accumulation under clay pads may be appropriately addressed during reclamation and may not require remediation, but each region is unique. Solstice Canada Corp. is currently conducting a meta-analysis by pooling data from other environmental assessments in the northern Alberta peatlands that had come across similar instances with elevated toluene under a well pad. More research is required to further establish the guidelines and a better understanding of several issues would be a key addition for the development of guidelines specific to peatlands.

[1]Jüttner, F. and J.J. Henatsch. 1986. Anoxic hypolimnion is a significant source of biogenic toluene. Nature, 323, 797-798. doi: 10.1038/323797a0

[2] Di Marzio W and Saenz ME. 2006. QSARS for aromatic hydrocarbons at several trophic levels. Environ Toxicol 21(2):118-24

[3] Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. 1999.  Canadian water quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life: Toluene. In: Canadian environmental quality guidelines, 1999, Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Winnipeg.

[4] Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2014). Alberta Tier 1 soil and groundwater remediation guidelines. Edmonton, AB: Land and Forestry Policy Branch, Policy Division.

The Way Forward: Envisioning Treaty Rights in Modern Resource Management

- General

Join us on Feb 19-21 at UoA’s Augustana Campus to envision treaty rights in modern resource management!

Application of treaty rights to the management of natural resources is a highly topical issue, one that emphasizes the need for a more inclusive, collaborative approach and consideration of the perspective, knowledge and participation of First Nations. In Alberta, a collaborative management approach and a treaty implementation policy are still unrealized. This conference will bring together decision-makers, researchers, and practitioners to explore what the treaties promised First Nations about resource access, what more inclusive management might include and potential means to adopt such a model.

The Way Forward: Envisioning Treaty Rights in Modern Resource Management will examine the need and opportunity to incorporate treaty rights into Alberta’s natural resource management approach, featuring perspectives from First Nations leaders, leading researchers, lawyers and government regulators.

Recent announcements from both the federal and provincial governments suggest change in the way governments address treaty obligations, and relationships with Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. The Way Forward: Envisioning Treaty Rights in Modern Resource Management conference promises to be a great opportunity join First Nations leaders, leading researchers, lawyers and government regulators in a discussion about incorporation of treaty rights into Alberta’s natural resource management approach.  To join us for presentations and discussion with these leading researchers and practitioners, please take advantage of the early-bird registration, ending 31 January 2016.  For more information or to register, please see the attached reminder notice, or check the following websites:

When: February 19-21                   Where: University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, Camrose, AB

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Dr. William Littlechild, Treaty 6 First Nation, Opening Welcome

  • Charles Weasel Head, Blood Tribe, First Nations perspectives on treaty implementation

  • Robert Janes, LLP, JFK Law Corp., Historic treaties in the modern world

  • Clayton Leonard, LLP, MLT Law, The status quo and implications of not having a treaty implementation plan

  • Dr. Patricia McCormack, University of Alberta, Faculty of Native Studies, Emeritus, What do the Alberta treaties say about First Nations access to natural resources?

  • Dan Stuckless, Fort McKay Band Administration, The difficulty in maintaining the honour of the Crown in a discriminatory system

  • Matthew Whitehead, Woodland Cree, Building Indigenous knowledge into Alberta’s natural resource management approach

  • Kim Shade, Alberta Aboriginal Relations (GOA), Title TBA

  • Dr. Daniel Sims, University of Alberta, Augustana, Assistant Professor, We are all treaty people: Lessons from non-treatied lands

  • Doreen Somers, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan consultation process

  • Bill Snow, Stoney (Wesley) Band Administration, The South Saskatchewan regional planning process

  • Susan Cardinal, Stoney (Wesley) Band Administration, Aboriginal consultation in Alberta’s Land Use Framework

  • Karin Buss, Henning Byrne Law, The Crown’s duty to consult First Nations: Is it protecting treaty rights?

  • Dee Patriquin & Melanie Daniels, Solstice Canada/TSAG, Define meaningful. How can the consultation system protect treaty rights?

  • Allan Ehrlich, Mackenzie Valley Review Panel, Implementation of modern treaties:  How well does it work?

  • Jeff Langlois, JFK Law, Trouble in Yukon’s Pelly River Watershed


For more information about the event and speakers: Click here.  To register: Click here

For more information, please contact Dr. Glynnis Hood ( or Dr. Dee Patriquin (

SHARE THIS Some interesting information on the new Peatland Reclamation Criteria!

The Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) Resource Access & Ecological Issues Forum was held on November 23rd, 2015 in Calgary Alberta.  Some interesting data was reported during the Forum related to the Alberta Governments newly released:  Reclamation Criteria for Wellsites and Associated Facilities for Peatlands  (

Researchers at the NAIT Boreal Research Institute used a restored wellsite in the Peace River region to assess the new Peatland Reclamation Criteria.  The wellsite was originally padded over a deep organic soil during construction activities.  During the reclamation activities performed by NAIT the peatland was restored using 4 different treatments involving complete pad removal and partial pad removal.  Following the pad treatment peat donor material was harvested from adjacent lands and transferred for the re-vegetation of the wellsite.  A technical note on donor material harvesting and transfer was created by NAIT in 2012:

Three years post-donor transfer (2015) the wellsite was assessed for reclamation success using the new Peatland Reclamation Criteria (link above).  The wellsite reclamation was a success and passed the new Criteria! 

In their assessment of the new Reclamation Criteria, the NAIT Boreal Research Institute discussed some of the challenges working with the new Criteria and offered suggestions for improvement and clarity going forward.  A couple key suggestions were:

  •          Improve the chemistry assessment component of the reclamation criteria for EC/pH & provide some clarity and guidance on the methodology. 

  •          1 m2 quadrants for the bryophyte canopy cover, and 10 m2 grid for the vascular plant plots may be functionally too large.

Additionally, one of the upcoming challenges with successfully implementing the new Peatland Reclamation Criteria will be the assessors knowledge of bryophyte identification.  Solstice is very pleased to have several experienced Byrophyte and Carex specialists on staff to support our clients peatland reclamation efforts.

For details on the research objectives conducted by the NAIT Boreal Research Institute on the new Peatland Reclamation Criteria: