Wednesday, 05 July 2017 11:49

Lethbridge Research Station opens its doors and the public’s minds with special event held in June

Written by  Demi Knight
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Bean Pilot Plant technician Todd Reid offering a demonstration on the work being done within their lab. Bean Pilot Plant technician Todd Reid offering a demonstration on the work being done within their lab. Photo by Demi Knight

The Lethbridge research station held an open house at the end of June for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to showcase to members of the public the important projects they work on daily within the community.


Guided tours, hands-on learning and educational presentations were held to help bridge the gap of knowledge to what this facility has been working on over the past years.
Sue Smienk, employee and one of the speakers for the day, says these open houses are an important and interesting learning experience for everyone involved.
“It’s so important for everyone, and not just the public, but us as workers here as well to have the opportunity see other people’s research because there’s so much going on here that people may not know about.”
During this open house, many projects were showcased, from the cereal genomics lab and invasive mussel projects to the greenhouses and bean pilot plants.
The first stop on the tour saw people piling into the cereal genomics lab where the technician, Dr. Andre le Roche who has been working in the lab for 28 years, broke down the work they do in DNA sequencing and how science has changed over the years.
“We work to isolate DNA. We look at genes and assign functions to them. Science has really changed since I finished school. Back then, if we did one sequence in three weeks it was very busy,” says Dr. le Roche. “Now with new technologies, we’re doing millions in the matter of minutes, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the technique we use to study DNA. Whether it’s plants or grains or human, DNA is still DNA.”
Since there was so much to see, provincial and federal workers of
the research station set up booths throughout the tour to give quick presentations and information to the public as they passed through.
One project that was working on new developments was that of the water quality sector. Research specialist, Brad Calder says new phases of mussel control and monitoring are a large priority for them right now.
“We’re concerned about invasive mussels since they cause obstructions in pipelines. Throughout Alberta we have 8,000 kilometres of pipelines in canals, so we’re doing a new monitoring program with Alberta Environments to find better control options for these mussels and maybe even re-location.”
Many other stalls were present to showcase their research to both members of the public and workers of the facility. These included snail toxins, farming and agriculture updates and bee research.
Another part of the facility that was toured was the greenhouses. Here, members of the public were offered a look into these houses of wonderment and the plants they harboured. Dave Pearson says these greenhouses are a vital part of the facility, and are controlled to perfection to help garner the best results.
“Scientists in these greenhouses are able to work in fine and precise manners. We’re currently converting from other artificial lights to LEDs and buffering the heat so they stay at a constant of 21-22 degrees Celsius,” he explains. “We can do that thanks to our cooling systems and cooling and evaporating shades. All the greenhouses are independently controlled and scientists can grow several crops here throughout the year.”
Another stop on the tour took participants into the bean pilot plant where the process of canning, testing and analyzing the beans eaten on a regular basis was explained and demonstrated. The canning lab, which is the only available canning lab within the country, is just another unique feature of the research facility they hoped members of the public would be interested to know about.
Participants of the tour were sure to see their fair share of fresh faces throughout the day as students filled the labs, working on research alongside seasoned professionals, meaning the tour not only boasted the number of exciting projects at bay for the facility, but also the number of student workers and young learners they had accompanying them on their road to success.
The tour then quickly moved on to take a look at the bio-beds which are newer features that work to rid water used within the facility of pesticides and harmful toxins. This is done by pouring it into large blue containers filled with organic materials that are pre-contaminated with certain bacteria which in turn draws out pesticides from the water.
Yves Plante,  Associate Director of the research facility says this is a great process to be studied into the future.
“These bacterias can remove pesticides from water and in turn produce clean drinking water. We’re hoping it can aid in the future of farming activities (where pesticides are often used) to have less of a footprint on environments.”
This day of tours, demonstrations and information offered a look into the facility that many have not yet seen.
Although the research facility is home to hundreds of labs and facilities alike that work on ground-breaking projects every day, it’s hard to condense to show the public just how many things are really being tackled within this research station. That’s why the open house was an exciting and highly-anticipated event.

Read 525 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 July 2017 13:32

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