Renewable resources graduate student recognized with prestigious scholarship

PhD student Prem Pokharel is a 2021 recipient of the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship.

For Prem Pokharel, studying soil science is about more than just agriculture. It’s also about sustainability, combating climate change, and creating greener practice for agriculture.

A graduate student in the University of Alberta’s Department of Renewable Resources, Pokharel is a 2021 recipient of the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship. Before beginning his PhD studies, Pokharel completed a master’s degree in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences (ALES).

“This is my journey from a rural village in Nepal where I was born to the University of Alberta, where I am standing among the best scholars in the world,” said Pokharel of his experience in ALES.

Join us in congratulating Pokharel on receiving this prestigious award, and learn more about his work.

Tell us about receiving a Killam Scholarship. What does this mean for you?

Receiving a Killam Scholarship means a lot for me. This is a highly prestigious scholarship that every PhD scholar aspires to win. The Killam scholarship is a recognition of my work in novel and applied research. My contribution in serving society and the nation through the research in agricultural science has been well recognized.

It is also a tremendous support for continuation of my PhD project, without which I would have to discontinue. Multi-year data acquisition is important in assessing the benefits of management practices in agriculture. The funding support from the Killam scholarship has provided me an opportunity to extend my field research further and allows me to capture inter-annual variations in greenhouse gas emissions and soil fertility caused by crop rotation.

Last but not least, a Killam scholarship will also be supportive in job search after completing my PhD as it reveals my competency in agriculture and soil science research. Receiving this scholarship is also an encouragement to continue working hard to excel in my career.

What is the focus of your research?

My PhD research deals with climate change mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enhancing soil carbon sequestration. This research aligns in support of achieving national short- and long-term goals of Canada in reducing GHG emissions through best management practices in agriculture. Currently, agriculture contributes about 8 percent of total national GHG emissions. Transforming wastes into biochar in an agricultural context as one of the best management practices has been well established as a potential strategy in mitigating GHG emissions and enhancing soil carbon sequestration across the globe. My research focuses on the microbial control on carbon and nitrogen mineralization in rhizosphere soil (the soil in close vicinity of roots) after biochar amendment and exploring the ways for manipulating rhizosphere processes to increase nutrient use efficiency and crop production.

What makes the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences the ideal place to do this work?

ALES is a unique and ideal place for this kind of work. Since my research focuses on Canadian prairie agriculture, I wanted to join one of the universities in the prairie region for my PhD research. Our faculty members are world-leading scientists with a wealth of knowledge and experience in soil and agricultural science. Working under their guidance and supervision certainly increases the likelihood of success in this kind of research. ALES also has historical long-term field research stations across Alberta that provide an ideal place for carrying out my research related to agriculture and soil science. Well-equipped laboratories for physico-chemical and biological studies of soil and spacious greenhouse facilities for testing crop growth are other attractions of the faculty for the scholars working in agriculture and soil science