Humber and Toronto Region Conservation Authority collaborate to highlight the effect of various factors on native plants

by Alanna Fairey


Humber and Toronto Region Conservation Authority collaborate to highlight the effect of various factors on native plants

Faculty members Gino Teolis and Lynn Short, and student research assistant Ben Doerksen have collaborated on a project that highlights the effect of fertilizer, salt and cover crop on the establishment of native plants.


The aim of the project is to test different roadside seed mixes and the effects of different saline and fertilizer solutions on these mixes. Afterwards, the goal is to come up with a mix that’s going to have some salt and saline resistance, while also being pollinator-friendly.


“What we’re doing, I think, is definitely a hot-button topic in the industry, especially for municipalities. So coming across anybody else in my industry, whenever I bring up the fact that we’re working on something like this, they have a lot of questions, they have their own two cents,” said Doerksen, a student Landscape Technician program at Humber. “So, it really is an exciting point of engagement with a lot of different facets of the industry.”


Teolis, who works for Humber’s School of Applied Technology, shared that there is also an outdoor experiment component to the project. “That’s to look at the effect of cover crops in suppressing weeds before establishing butterfly meadows, also using native plants,” he shared.


Both Short and Teolis thought that the project was a great outlet for students to gain experience in the field and for their newly acquired skills to be transferrable to their future careers.


“I always think that it’s really important for students to see beyond the classroom, and to see that there are applications in the real world for the knowledge that they’re gaining,” Short said.


“It’s great working with students, because you see how enthusiastic they are, they really put a lot of time and effort into it, and it’s been a terrific experience,” Teolis added.


As a student, Doerksen echoed Short and Teolis’s sentiments with his own experience. Through working with the project, Doerksen gained a better knowledge and understanding of the conservation industry.


“I’ve certainly gained a better knowledge and understanding of plant materials, down from species identification to sort of biochemical features and physiological features of some of these plants,” Doerksen said. “Just understanding all those things in greater detail is only more and more exciting and beneficial to me, in my industry.”


Teolis and Short shared that the team did apply for a project next year, which would further elaborate on their current project.


“We do have an outdoor venue planned for next summer, so we want to take the greenhouse experiment and move it outside,” Short said.


“It’s exciting to think that we could facilitate and cultivate healthier ecosystems tomorrow. There’s optimism, which is great,” said Doerksen.


Research team:

Faculty: Gino Teolis, Lynn Short
Student: Ben Doerksen
Partner: Toronto Region Conservation Authority