In the 5th instalment of our Seed Champion interviews, we delve into Béatrice Capolla's journey. She's a passionate advocate for ecological restoration and a vital member of Viridis Terra's mining restoration team. Béatrice's career, rooted in biology and ecology, has blossomed into innovative restoration strategies that thrive in challenging environments. Her work embodies a commitment to a greener future through sustainability and innovation, ensuring a resilient seed source for restoration projects.
Béatrice Capolla began her post-secondary studies at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, where she completed the DEC-Techniques program in bioecology. During this program, she discovered an interest in research as well as in the decontamination of soil heavy metals. She then continued her studies at the University of Quebec in Rimouski by completing a bachelor's degree in biology with a concentration in ecology. During the summer between her two years of undergraduate studies, Béatrice had the opportunity to participate in a research project taking place at a mining site in northern Quebec. This experience allowed her to understand the importance of the mining industry, but also to see that it can have a significant impact on the environment. Therefore, following a master's degree in biology on forest regeneration at Laval University, Béatrice joined the mining restoration and bioremediation department of Viridis Terra. Being passionate about ecology, the environment, and research, she was brought to work within this team with the aim of contributing to a greener world for future generations.
Wilder Climate Solutions (WCS): Throughout your career at Viridis Terra, you've been actively involved in mining restoration projects. Can you describe one of your most memorable restoration expeditions, highlighting the specific challenges faced and the strategies employed to restore the environment?
Béatrice Capolla (BC): What I love most about my job is being able to work on almost sterile sites, sometimes in harsh climate conditions, and still be able to establish vegetation that will outlive me! We regularly work in the James Bay region, where climatic conditions are always unpredictable: there can be a heat wave in June, but July will be colder than usual; it might not rain for a month, and then pour down the next. All these factors add challenges to our work, and we need to be innovative to make something grow there. We always need to adapt our restoration strategies, keep up to date with the latest innovations in the restoration field, and, most importantly, develop new technologies ourselves!
We also need to be patient, as the growing season is short. For example, mature trees (mostly jack pines and black spruces) have a mean diameter at breast height (DBH) of only 10-15 cm after 90 years of growth. We therefore cannot expect to establish a forest in a few years!
WCS: Many successful restoration projects rely on the availability of native plant species. Could you elaborate on Viridis Terra's approach to utilizing and maintaining stock seed banks for restoration purposes? What strategies or best practices have you implemented to ensure a diverse and resilient seed source for your projects?
BC: Generally, our bigger projects are planned well in advance, which allows us to anticipate our seed needs. By knowing the local communities and their preferences in terms of plant species, as well as the site soil and climatic conditions, we can also predict which species could be a good fit in a given project and if we need more seeds than what is currently- available in our bank. If we anticipate that we need more seeds for our future projects, or if it is a good seeding year, we reach out to contacts from different regions to find out about the abundance of cones/catkins in the trees. We then discuss the possibility of going to harvest them ourselves or for their technicians to harvest seeds for us. It is important for us to have multiple seed sources, even for the same species, as some seed lots can have a lower germination rate than others, especially if they need a specific treatment. Also, we need to have diverse seed sources, as each will result in different genetics: seeds coming from a given region may not be genetically adapted for a project taking place in a different region but could be a good fit for another. After the cone/catkin collection, a local seed center processes, treats, and stores the seed for us.
WCS: Could you tell us a bit more about the roadmap you have in mind for Viridis Terra's mining restoration projects? What are your hopes and goals for the future of mining site restoration and broader sustainability within the mining industry?
BC: As our team and services are increasing in size and scope, we are currently developing new markets across Canada, mostly in Ontario and British Columbia. In addition to restoration, we now also offer a variety of new services, such as ecological, biodiversity, and agronomic evaluations for all industries, not only mining! We hope to make polluting industries a thing of the past by helping them be sustainable, environmentally friendly and carbon neutral in the coming years.
WCS: Finally, as you begin to explore Squiirrel’s Beta version, what features are you most excited to use in your work? How will Squiirrel be integrated into the seed sourcing, stocking, and planting processes in Viridis Terra’s restoration projects?
BC: We are looking forward to connecting with knew potential suppliers and actors in the seed industry through Squiirrel! We will integrate Squiirrel in all facets of seed management to simplify to process. I look forward to having a simplified version of our seed database directly in Squiirrel, that I will use when visiting to-be-restored sites to see what seed species we have in hand that could be a good fit for the project.