Peatland Restoration Workshop

May 18, 2022

CLRA is offering a peatland restoration workshop on June 23-24, 2022 in Manitoba.

Click on the link for more details:

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Canada Ukraine Foundation

May 12, 2022

We have raised $2,314 for the Canada Ukraine Foundation to date, which will provide aid and assistance in Ukraine and to Ukrainians seeking refuge in bordering countries. Paragon will be matching donations made at the link below to the end of May, up to $5,000, so please share with your friends and family and help provide humanitarian support to those in need.

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Fun Fact: about Sphagnum moss

May 12, 2022

Fun Fact: Sphagnum moss was so important for wound dressing during World War I that someone wrote a poem about it.

The Flanders poppy (Papaver rhoeas) thrived in the battlefields of the Western Front after exploding shells brought its dormant buried seeds to the surface. It has been the symbol of remembrance for war veterans in several countries ever since, but maybe we should also be wearing sphagnum pins in November.

Sphagnum moss was used for centuries to bind wounds suffered in battle. Warriors wounded in the battle of Clontarf (1014) stuffed their wounds with moss, and there are also records of its use from the Highlanders in the battle of Flodden (1513), and both the Crimean (1853 to 1856) and Franco-Prussian (1870-1871) wars. During the first world war, the collection and production of sphagnum moss dressings began on an industrial scale. Initially, collections were made by Scottish women and children (often boy scouts and girl guides), working for long hours in cold, wet bogs. By the end of the war, collections were being made throughout Ireland, England, Canada, and the US; Britain alone was producing 1,000,000 sphagnum dressings per month.

The process of collecting, drying, and preparing dressings for WWI soldiers was pioneered by Charles Walker Cathcart, a surgeon in Edinburgh. They were very effective. Dried sphagnum can absorb up to twenty-two times its own weight of liquid, including blood, pus, and lymph, before it starts to drip. It was far superior to inert cotton wool dressings, which were both expensive and increasingly difficult to source – cotton was used to manufacture gun cotton or nitrocellulose explosives.  The preferred species for wound dressings were S. papillosum and S. palustre. Because of their ability to absorb and hold liquids, sphagnum could also be used as surgical swabs and cushions that kept beds dry while wounds were being irrigated. Under field conditions, I can imagine that a dry bed was a good bed.

In addition to its absorptive power, Sphagnum also has antiseptic properties thanks to the pectic polysaccharides (sphagnan) contained in their cell walls. Recent research from Scandinavia (where sphagnum is used to pack fresh fish), suggests the antiseptic properties are driven by the ability of sphagnum cell walls to lower the pH of their environment sufficiently to inhibit the growth of bacterial colonies.

The following poem was written by Mrs AM Smith (1917), a member of the Edinburgh Ware Dressings Supply Organisation:

The doctors and the nurses

Look North with eager eyes,

And call on us to send them

The dressing that they prize

No other is its equal—

In modest bulk in goes,

Until it meets the gaping wound

Where the red life blood flows,

Then spreading, swelling in it’s might

It checks the fatal loss,

And kills the germ, and heals the hurt-

The kindly Sphagnum Moss

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Welcome to the team!

May 10, 2022

Join us in welcoming Olawale Talabi, Kristen Annand (back for more), Kiera Comeau, and Will Hockley to Paragon Soil!

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Fun Fact: Plants and stress

May 5, 2022

Fun Fact: Your distressed house plants are living out a silent horror movie.

A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University has recorded “high frequency distress sounds” emitted from tobacco and tomato plants. After stressing the plants by cutting their stems and depriving them of water (rude), the researchers recorded their responses with a microphone. In both cases they found the plants emitted ultrasonic sounds between 20 and 100 kilohertz, which they suggested conveyed their distress to other plants and organisms in the immediate vicinity.

The plants seemed to respond with different intensities of sound to different sources of stress. The team observed that tobacco plants “screamed” louder when they were deprived of water than when they had their stems cut. They believe that listening for sounds emitted by plants could help with precision agriculture and identify problems with crops.

If you’re interested in more reading, their paper can be found here:

But take it with a grain of salt… or a tablespoon because it was not published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Texturing Lab

May 2, 2022

We’re ready to get our hands dirty! Here’s a peek at Konstantin Dlusskiy leading an internal soil texturing lab to keep our staff updated for another busy summer season.

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Fun Fact: Plants in Traffic

April 28, 2022

Fun Fact: Plants hate being stuck in traffic.

It’s easy to understand the ecological damage animals suffer as a result of noise pollution, but it has been less clear how it affects plants…until now. The indirect effects are obvious. Flowering species depend on pollinators and fruit-bearing species need animals to disperse their seeds. If the noise is a problem for their animal partners, botanical counterparts will also suffer. A recent study by Dr. Ghotbi-Ravandi, a botanist at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, has shown that plants are also directly affected by noise.

A number of experiments have shown that plants can sense ultrasound waves as they are struck by them, but this isn’t quite the same as urban noise pollution. In their lab, Dr. Ghotbi-Ravandi and his team grew two species that are commonly found in urban environments: French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and scarlet sage (Salvia splendens). Once mature, the plants were divided into two groups. One was exposed to 73 decibels of traffic noise for 16 hours a day, and the other was left to grow in silence. After just 15 days all of the plants in the noisy group were suffering. Two chemical compounds (hydrogen peroxide and malondialdehyde) that are indicators of stress in plants were found at much higher levels (2 to 3 times) in the group exposed to the traffic noise. Two stress hormones (jasmonic acid and abscisic acid) which are normally produced to fend off insect attacks and deal with harsh environmental conditions, were also elevated, and a range of hormones normally associated with healthy growth and development were present at significantly reduced levels in the plants exposed to the noise.

The vibrations generated by traffic noise bothered the plants in the study enough to trigger stress responses that are not much different than if they had been exposed to drought, high salinity, or heavy metals in their soil. . I guess we’ll have to call it “road sage” now…

If you’re interested in more reading, see their paper: Z.H. Kafash, Khoramnejadian S., Ghotbi-Ravandi A.A., Dehghan S.F. 2022. Traffic noise induces oxidative stress and phytohormone imbalance in two urban plant species. Basic and Applied Ecology. Volume 60. Pages 1-12.

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Canada Ukraine Foundation

April 26, 2022

Paragon was founded by a proud Ukrainian, one of many who play a major role in Alberta’s history, present, and future. The current need for humanitarian support is immense, so please consider donating to the Canada Ukraine Foundation at the link below. Paragon will be matching donations up to $5,000. Thank you for your support.

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CSSS ASSW 2022 – Annual Meeting

April 20, 2022

The 2022 joint annual conference of Canadian Society of Soil Science (CSSS) and Alberta Soil Science Workshop (ASSW) is scheduled in Edmonton for May 23-27, 2022 with mid and post-conference field trips planned for May 26 (Edmonton) and May 28-30 (Prairies and Rockies). Konstantin Dlusskiy is leading the preparation of the tours while Scott Boorman will be presenting the reclamation program. For more information please visit the website for the conference:

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Hiring: Vegetation Ecologist

April 18, 2022

Love vegetation? We are looking for Vegetation Ecologists to join our team! If this sounds like an unbe-leaf-able fit for you, please send your resume to

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