Graduate Student Research Position Available

We are seeking a highly motivated student at the graduate level (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) to join our lab group as we begin research into the production of hemp seed in Northern BC using a zero-waste model.

Background

Few hemp crops are grown in British Columbia (BC) and currently there are none being grown for seed purposes in northern BC. Since the recent creation of the BC Hemp Corporation in 2018, manufacturers of fibre and oil products are now looking to the hemp industry to fill gaps in fibre supply caused by timber shortages in BC and to meet sustainability goals as industries shift away from the use of fossil fuels. BC Hemp Corp is hoping to increase yields of hemp in BC in the coming years, and to transform underutilized land currently allocated for hay production or grazing into productive crop land (BC Hemp Corp 2020). To meet these hemp supply needs, research is required on how hemp will perform on marginal lands in the intricate terrain of British Columbia.

Plant residues remaining after seed harvest (silage) may be used for compost, animal feed or bedding, or fibre production, should a sales and manufacturing pipeline exist in the area of cultivation. In the case of northern British Columbia, there are no current opportunities to manufacture fibre. Therefore, in order to gain a net environmental and economic benefit from residues, and to better use available land, northern BC hempseed farms may benefit from the use of silage as animal feed or bedding, compost, or both. Fibre facilities may yet be developed.

Degradability of plant material in a composting process is highly dependent on the lignification of the plant material. Fungi were used to break down lignin fibres of wheat silage into digestible sugars for feedstock in a study by Singh et al. (2014). The study found that the basidiomycete, Stropharia rugosoannulata, was able to convert and remove up to 57% of the lignin present in the plant silage. This form of natural composting could be applied to hemp silage to remove the fibrous lignin from stalks to promote the release of the high levels of nitrogen that are bound within the vegetative shoots of hemp plants. Recycling this nitrogen source passively on site will prevent the need for additional fertilizers, making the crop more environmentally friendly and economically feasible to produce. Furthermore, Stropharia rugosoannulata, or wine cap mushrooms, are an edible cultivatable food crop (Gong et al 2018), which could themselves be sold increasing the profitability of the land used.

 

Specific Objectives

  • Involve local farmers and communities in trial production of two varieties of hemp that may withstand northern climates and produce seeds with nutritional value

  • Determine an economically feasible and beneficial process to utilize the whole plant on northern BC farms, given production and manufacturing constraints in northern BC

  • Identify growth potential, total seed production, and nutritional content of seeds of hemp on different microsites, some of which are currently considered marginal for agricultural use.

  • Determine if hemp silage from specific grain varieties is suitable for use as animal bedding

  • To determine if merchantable mushrooms can significantly aid in decomposition of hemp silage, thus reducing costs of production and enhancing environmental benefits

About UNBC

Commitment of faculty to academic and research excellence drives student success and ensures that UNBC provides a high-quality and transformative learning experience. The values: experience learning, exploration, and discovery; inclusiveness and diversity; and community and integrity are evident in the holistic and personal approach of faculty and staff to the learning, growth, and success of each UNBC student. Our environment and the values of those who teach, research, and work here create a community that attracts learners who not only gain knowledge, but who gain the confidence to become leaders.

Located in Prince George, BC, and within the spectacular landscape of northern British Columbia, UNBC is one of Canada’s best small universities. We have a passion for teaching, discovery, people, the environment, and the North.

www.unbc.ca

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Study and stipend details

Graduate student degrees (Ph.D. and M.Sc.) will be run within the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute at UNBC. More information about the NRESI and its graduate programs can be found at https://www.unbc.ca/nres-graduate-program

Graduate students without external funding will be provided with stipends related to current NSERC graduate-level stipends. Direct funding will be provided for an average of six months each year, and students will usually be required to work as teaching assistants or find external funding beyond that. There are generally sufficient teaching assistant opportunities available in our department to ensure full yearly stipends. In addition, UNBC and the Province of British Columbia offer a variety of graduate scholarships to eligible students, and all Ph.D. students receive an automatic 100% tuition rebate for up to four years. Visit https://www.unbc.ca/financial-aid/graduate-awards-overview for more details. Students who arrive with or bring in external funding will have their external stipends topped-up via available internal research funds.

 

Requirements

The successful candidate must have an appropriate prior degree from a recognized university for admittance. Top candidates will be able to demonstrate thorough and fundamental knowledge of plant morphology and physiology, and have a keen understanding of agricultural and ecological systems. Applicants should have prior field and lab research experience, as well as strong statistical/analytical capabilities. Applicants must be independent thinkers and must also demonstrate a solid grasp of the English language.  

We encourage Indigenous people, visible minorities, diversely-abled people, women, and people from the LGBTQ2S+ communities to apply.

Initial application process

Candidates should send the following application package to Dr. Lisa Wood at lisa.wood@unbc.ca:

  • a cover letter explaining background, skills, and interest in the project.

  • a CV listing items such as education, publications, science communication, professional presentations, and service work. Please include details about external scholarship funding that has been received or applied for.

  • contact details for two or three research scientists (academic, government, NGO, industrial/consulting, or otherwise) who would be willing to provide a reference.

Successful preliminary applicants will be invited to formally apply to UNBC.

Thank you for your interest!

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