Catching Up With Our 2022 Earth Award Winner: Lauren!

Lauren stands holding a plant that takes salt out of soil, to remediate soils after winter salting. She wears sunglasses and a safety vest and smiles. The title on the right reads, "Catching up with Lauren".Spring is here and you know what that means? We’ve started our search for the 2023 Earth Award grant winner! But first, let’s catch up with our previous winner from 2022, Lauren!

Lauren's Research

As a quick refresher, Lauren is a Queen’s University Graduate student who won last year's Earth Award after she wowed us with her incredible research project - a project in collaboration with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to remediate saline soils in the urban metropolitan area. She used a method called phytoremediation employing halophytes, a species of salt-tolerant plants. What this means is Lauren is researching a way to clean up the damage from salt pollution on roadsides after winter. Current methods of remediation of road salt are costly, labour-intensive, and cause severe negative impacts on the environment due to toxic by-products, accelerated soil erosion, and damage to the soil’s structure. Her goal in this research project is to work towards a more sustainable remediation process using salt-tolerant plants and in turn, hopes to find a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to salt roads in our icy winters. Read more about Lauren’s research here!

Updates from Lauren

A collage showing Prairie Cordgrass stalks on the left, and a field of Switchgrass on the right.

We recently reached out to Lauren to hear about the process of her research, as well as how the Earth Award grant aided her journey in this project. Lauren’s research project is continuing and the first season of growing the plants was a success! Amidst some hot weather, the plants were able to thrive and take up lots of chloride. The grant allowed her to perform more plant and soil sampling at the end of the growing season than her lab group had originally budgeted for. Lauren tells us that this was very beneficial to the research, as small sample sizes can be quite limiting and impact the reliability of the results. 

A before-and-after collage of a field before planting Switchgrass and Prairie Cordgrass and after a season's growth.

Lauren is currently analyzing the results to determine phytoremediation timelines for the species of plant she used. She will be continuing her studies over the upcoming summer and is looking forward to what the season will bring! 

We are so excited to hear there are new sustainable ways of remediating road salt, and that Lauren is on her way to success with her team’s amazing research project! We look forward to hearing more when her studies are completed at Queen’s University. 

A collage showing Lauren kneeling in an image on the left, in front of rows of small plants that are getting ready to be put in the field. On the right, Lauren uses a shovel to dig a hold in the ground for the plants.

With that being said, we are also excited to begin our search for our 2023 Earth Award winner! We cannot wait to begin reading about all of our amazing applicants' projects and learn more about each one. 

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