Amphibian laboratories enable cutting-edge research on land and at sea

June 5, 2013

Ottawa, June 5, 2013 – For the first time ever, ocean scientists can take their labs with them from campus, out to sea or to a remote island, and back again. Two new high-tech labs built inside shipping containers like those seen stacked on freighter ships will allow researchers at Dalhousie University to seamlessly operate equipment and start experiments in the field and then transport it all back to a new purpose-built ocean centre with less disruption.

The portable labs will be outfitted with state-of-the-art instruments, which will be used to measure the exchange of gases and other chemicals within the ocean and between the ocean and atmosphere over several decades, helping researchers understand how the marine environment is changing and its role in the shifting climate. On land, the containers will be housed in a customized hall which is a key part of the Dalhousie Ocean Sciences Building (DOSB), a new laboratory complex which opens on the university’s campus today in Halifax. Doug Wallace, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ocean Science and Technology at Dalhousie University and Scientific Director of the Halifax Marine Research Institute (HMRI), is one of the researchers who will use the containers.

“The key is the combination of the custom containers with the new container hall at Dalhousie,” says Wallace. “Typically, containerized labs are left out in the cold and unused — say in a parking lot — when not out in the field. Now we will be sharing integral, routinely used parts of our home laboratory with different locations.”

The labs are part of one of 234 projects across the country receiving funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The $47 million announcement is being made today in Halifax at the opening of the DOSB.

Connected to the university’s Life Sciences Centre, the DOSB will also host other large-scale ocean projects, bringing most of the university’s ocean-related research programs and organizations under one roof. It stands to be an impressive boost for Nova Scotia’s already thriving ocean research cluster and will further solidify Dalhousie’s position as a leader in ocean studies.

According to the HMRI, the province’s ocean-related activity generates $5 billion in revenue and 60,000 jobs, or 14 percent of its employment. More than 10 percent of Atlantic Canada’s researchers study oceans and more and more companies are taking advantage of the economic opportunities created by their close proximity to the sea.

The DOSB, a LEED-certified building, will also house HMRI, along with the Ocean Tracking Network, a global marine animal tracking project, as well as an expansion of the Aquatron seawater tank research facility and the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network, a Network of Centres of Excellence that addresses risks arising from human activity and changing conditions in the marine environment.

About the Canada Foundation for Innovation: Investing in research that builds communities

The CFI gives researchers the tools they need to think big and innovate. By investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions, the CFI is helping attract and retain the world’s top talent, train the next generation of researchers, support private-sector innovation and create high-quality jobs that strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians. For more information, visit www.innovation.ca.

For more information and interview requests:

Yves Melanson
Coordinator, Media Relations
Canada Foundation for Innovation
Office: 613-996-3160
Cell phone: 613-447-1723
yves.melanson [at] innovation.ca
Charles Crosby
Senior Advisor, Media
Dalhousie University
Office: 902-494-1269
Cell: 902-222-9379
charles.crosby [at] dal.ca