Soil scientist joins Research & Innovation team

Christine George, soil scientist at NC's Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre.

It’s been said there are more living organisms in a single handful of soil than there are people on earth.

What’s more, these microbes, like bacteria, fungal cells, arthropods, nematodes and algae, are part of an ecosystem that’s essential for life on earth.

It is this living world – not visible to the naked eye – that has continued to fascinate soil scientist Christine George for her entire career.

This passion has driven her to focus on the microscopic life within compost; soil and media in both the environmental and agricultural industries.

“Now, more than ever, growers are aware of the biology within the soil, and often aim to improve the health of their soil and crops through improving the microbiology.”

George is a partial load professor teaching Plant Science 2 in Niagara College’s School of Environment and Horticulture program. She’s also the newest member to the Research & Innovation team as a part time research lead for the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC).

In her role, George will lead and support the success of applied research projects for the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), an NC-led initiative that brings together three research institutions: AETIC, the University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF), and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (VRIC) with greenhouse growers and technology providers.

“Our research projects will focus on validating novel products and/or technology through testing within greenhouses,” explains George, adding her current project involves testing the viability of a novel growing media amendment in hydrangea.

After receiving her Master’s degree in Soil Science (2013) from the University of Guelph, George worked as a senior laboratory technician and manager for Soil Foodweb Canada and then R&D lab manager for Alpha Agri Products Inc.

“When this new opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to become a part of the research team. I hope to strengthen the link between research and academia.”

Most recently, George has spent the last three years as a private soil health consultant in southern Ontario, dividing her time between contract work with research or grant-driven projects, and soil sampling and analysis, with clients ranging from golf courses to field vegetable growers.

In addition to these projects, she’s also called upon to assess roots for colonization of mycorrhizal fungi – a group of fungus that can improve plant health through infecting the plants’ roots, proving much-needed nutrients and protection from pests, explains George.

Since joining NC as an educator in 2019, George says she has always been curious to learn more about the Research & Innovation division and how it relates to the real-world application of research.

“I have always enjoyed spending time in the greenhouse at the College, and knew several faculty members run course-based research within the space,” she adds. “When this new opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to become a part of the research team. I hope to strengthen the link between research and academia.”

At her Waterloo home, which she shares with her husband, two teenagers, a dog and cat, she and her family are outdoors as much as possible. If she’s not hiking, or working in her garden, you can most likely find her reading – or baking cookies.

“I’m working my way through a 100 cookie recipe book that was gifted to me … I’m about a dozen recipes in so far.”