Innovative Infrastructure Projects

Support provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund

Essential to the advancement of innovative research is the acquisition of workhorse and highly advanced infrastructure. UNBC gratefully acknowledges the contributions from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) that enable researchers to advance research priorities through building capacity and training the next generation of researchers. The CFI administers these projects through various programs, and contributes up to 40% of the cost of a project, with the BCKDF contributing another 40%. The remaining 20% is provided through voluntary discounts from UNBC’s valued vendor partners and donations from other sponsors.

The Infrastructure Operating Fund (IOF) supports the incremental operating and maintenance costs of funded infrastructure projects along with the institutional Operation and Maintenance Fund. Institutions are responsible for deciding how to manage and disburse the IOF funds among their projects. UNBC uses a portion of its IOF funds to recruit and support highly skilled and specialized technicians so as to ensure the efficient and effective operation of CFI-funded research equipment. The IOF is essential to helping institutions maximize the use and longevity of CFI/BCKDF-funded research infrastructure, and allows flexibility to support projects with different needs and scope, while ensuring accountability.

Facilities and Laboratories 

Other CFI/BCKDF-Funded Equipment

Facilities and Laboratories

Wood Innovation Research Laboratory (WIRL)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Thomas Tannert

Heightened public awareness regarding carbon footprints has dramatically increased the demand for sustainable construction and has initiated resurgence in the use of wood in tall residential and non-residential buildings. This CFI/BCKDF-funded infrastructure has helped establish the Wood Innovation Research Laboratory (WIRL) at UNBC as a state-of-the-art structural testing facility for next-generation high-performance wood and wood-hybrid structural elements, joints, components, and systems.

The infrastructure includes structural testing equipment, a reconfigurable test frame, measurement equipment universal test machines and accessories, chemical analytical equipment, a workstation, and specialized software. This equipment enables conceptual, experimental, numerical, and analytical research regarding the development of novel wood-based hybrid connections, components and systems for structural applications in tall residential and non-residential buildings.

Aquatic Animal Holding Facility

Principal Investigator: Dr. Mark Shrimpton with Dr. Dezene Huber.

The objective of this research conducted within this facility is to determine the effects of natural seasonal changes in environment and habitat alterations on animal behavior and physiological performance, and how such traits may differ among populations adapted to different geographic locations. This research will provide us with an understanding of the physiological and molecular responses of aquatic animals to changes in environment, findings that are particularly important given the localized effects of many environmental disturbances and the expected pervasive effects of global climate change.

The research infrastructure within the facility includes equipment and tanks for holding aquatic animals, water quality monitoring equipment, a 4x4 truck for accessing field sites, a swim tunnel, respirometry and behavioural analysis equipment, a quantitative real-time PCR machine, and an ultra-low temperature freezer. This equipment is used to assess the mechanisms and fundamental processes that drive the impact of environmental factors on divergent life history strategies in freshwater fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Northern BC Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Research Laboratory (NBC NIRS Lab)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Luke Harris with Dr. William Tippett

The NIRS laboratory is the first non-invasive human physiology research facility in northern BC. The research infrastructure is used for non-invasive, real-time optical measurement of oxygenation and metabolism of numerous tissues including brain and muscle. These measurements are crucial to the understanding of basic physiological mechanisms, which are linked to improving human health in northern BC and across Canada, with a specific focus on cognitive, neuromuscular, and musculoskeletal injury and rehabilitation.

Specific research activities undertaken by the NIRS lab include those examining brain activity during cognitive tasks, brain areas of oxygen reperfusion during post-stroke recovery, and muscle metabolism during rehabilitative exercise. In particular, the lab focuses on elucidating the mechanisms of injury and recovery in aging individuals who have suffered brain injuries, and in orthopaedics patients who have suffered bone fractures.

Molecular and Population Genetics Lab

Principal Investigator: Dr. Brent Murray with Dr. Russ Dawson, Dr. Keith Egger, Dr. Chow Lee, Dr. Kathy Lewis, Dr. Hugues Massicotte, Dr. Ken Otter, Dr. Mark Shrimpton, and faculty and researchers from University of Otago, National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (Taiwan), Queen’s University, Trent University and the University of Guelph. 

The infrastructure provided has allowed for the creation of a molecular core facility that is used by a large number of faculty and is a key component to the recruitment of world class researchers.

Studies utilizing the lab encompass a diverse range of exciting research including: population genetic analyses of fish, fungal and beetle species; molecular ecological analyses of microorganism and avian communities; and analyses of messenger RNAs to study the physiology of fish and to unlock mechanism’s of RNA decay. 

These studies provide valuable knowledge about fish stocks and forest pathogens and pests that are important for management, insights into the complex nature of microorganism communities and their role in forest regeneration, and crucial information about cellular processes involved in cancer. 

Future studies, by recruited faculty, will include the genetic analysis of the chemical ecology of insects and the cellular response of mammals to pollution.

Enhanced Forestry Laboratory (EFL)

Principal Investigator: Dr. D. Max Blouw with UNBC faculty and researchers from the Ecosystem Science and Management Program

The I. K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Lab (EFL) consists of four greenhouse compartments (3 @ 49 m2 and 1 @ 55 m2) with temperature control, HPS lighting control, heating / venting control and humidity sensing. Two of the compartments are equipped with automated watering / fertigation booms and one portable fogging system can be deployed in any pod. All environmental controls are monitored by a central in-house computer system. The header house contains a clean lab, a soil lab and a large instructional lab as well as a soil mixing / soil sterilizing / potting area. Attached to the header house is a large outdoor fenced compound (10 m x 25 m). A UNBC Building Controls Systems Technician is also available to modify existing systems or to install new control systems.

As a strong statement of his support for university research and the goal of academic excellence, Ike Barber contributed a very generous sum toward the UNBC Enhanced Forestry Laboratory and initiated a further substantial contribution from Slocan for the endowed Chair in Mixed Woods Ecology and Management at UNBC. Both of these generous gifts were leveraged with grant support from the CFI and BCKDF. 

(Enhanced) High Performance Computing Centre

Principal Investigator: Dr. Peter Jackson with Dr. Youmin Tang, Dr. Josef Ackerman (Guelph), Dr. Waqar Haque, Dr. Alex Hawley, Dr. Jiabing Li, Dr. Margot Mandy, Dr. Patrick Montgomery, Dr. Mark Shegelski, Dr. Roger Wheate and other faculty and researchers from UNBC.

The High Performance Computing (HPC) Lab was originally created at UNBC in 2000 with $1.4M funding from CFI, the BCKDF, Silicon Graphics Incorporated, and UNBC donors. The facility was comprised of a 28 processor SGI Origin 3400 with 14 GB of memory and a lab for researcher users to access the infrastructure. 

Since June 2005, we have commissioned our new Enhanced High Performance Computing Centre that represents an investment of over $2M by the CFI, the BCKDF, Silicon Graphics Inc., and Dell. The infrastructure has substantially increased our computational capacity. The new systems include a 64 processor SGI Altix SMP machine, a 128 processor Itanium cluster, a 6 TB file server, a visualization system (GeoWall), a Dell 4 processor Windows server and 10 Dell 2 processor workstations, as well as software and other facilities.

Northern Soil and Groundwater Remediation Research Laboratory (NORREL)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jianbing Li with Dr. Joselito Arocena, Dr. Liang Chen, Dr. Michael Rutherford and Dr. Ronald Thring. 

The Northern Soil and Groundwater Remediation Research Laboratory (NORREL) project was approved by CFI in July 2005 and by BCKDF in August 2005. After purchasing/manufacturing of the equipment and renovation of the laboratory, NORREL became operational in May 2006.

As the first comprehensive facility for soil/groundwater remediation studies in the region, NORREL will help researchers at UNBC conduct fundamental and innovative experimental and modeling studies in the field of soil and groundwater remediation. These studies will include examining contaminant transport in subsurface soils and water under various conditions, testing existing remediation protocols, conducting simulation of remediation processes, and exploring innovative remediation procedures with particular emphasis on cold climate remediation technologies.

Other CFI/BCKDF-Funded Equipment

Nucleic Acid Amplification, Analysis, and Quantification Systems and Supporting Infrastructure

Principal Investigator: Dr. Dezene Huber, with Dr. Brent Murray and Dr. Mark Shrimpton.

Resource extraction and industrial development in northern and central British Columbia results in novel and cumulative impacts on ecosystem function and services of aquatic systems. While the area is exploited for its resources, there is a dearth of information on its biodiversity. This research program uses environmental DNA-based methods (eDNA) alongside standard methods to explore aquatic biodiversity in areas impacted by existing or proposed development to understand the flow of nutrients and energy through food webs.

The CFI/BCKDF-funded infrastructure includes a field sampling truck, gast pumps, microcentrifuges, an Aurora nucleic acid extraction system, an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer, thermal cyclers, and a digital PCR system. This infrastructure helps support a number of integrative and collaborative studies on the functional genomics, molecular physiology and biodiversity of insects and aquatic vertebrates. These studies allow for the monitoring of changes and are used to generate information for the development of science-based best practices for maintaining ecosystem integrity.

An Infrastructure to Discover Fungi-Derived Compounds for the Potential Prevention or Treatment of Chronic Diseases

Principal Investigator: Dr. Chow Lee, with Dr. Ranjana Bird and Dr. Sarah Gray.

Fungi are a major source of traditional medicine in many cultures, and history reveals that many medically useful compounds have been isolated from fungi. The research program supported by this infrastructure aims to identify fungal species, and specific compounds in fungi, that can be used as potential nutraceuticals or medicinals for the prevention or treatment of two of the most debilitating and economically costly diseases in Canada and around the world: cancer and diabetes.

This CFI/BCKDF-funded infrastructure includes microscopes, a speed extractor system, rotary evaporator system, purification systems, a cell sorter, freeze dryer system, fridge and freezers, as well as cell culture equipment infrastructure. This infrastructure has allowed UNBC to build the capacity to investigate BC fungi for potential nutraceutical and/or medicinal purposes in the prevention or treatment of cancer and/or diabetes.

Portable LiDAR System for Earth System Science

Principal Investigator: Dr. Brian Menounos with Dr. John Clague, Simon Fraser University and Marten Geertsema, Government of British Columbia.

This research supported by this infrastructure seek to quantify the effects of climate change on earth-surface processes in mountains and at high latitudes. This information is required to minimize the impacts of climate change on Canadian society due to increasing pressures on our water supply for human consumption, agriculture, and industry. This will allow Canada to develop solutions that will lead the world in adapting to the major environmental shifts that are now underway.

The CFI/BCKDF-funded equipment consists of a Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) system. This system allows the researchers to obtain high resolution digital terrain data of the Earth’s surface, including repeated surveys of changes in freshwater stored in seasonal snowpack and glaciers to estimate changes in water availability in the environment, and repeat acquisition of terrain data to detect small changes in the Earth’s surface through time.

Landscape Ecology of Large Watersheds: linking hydrometric, geomorphic and biologic processes to evaluate material fluxes and their aquatic impacts

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ellen Petticrew, with Dr. Stephen Dery, UNBC and Dr. Philip Owens.

This infrastructure supports novel research on the linkages between atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic systems within the watershed draining into the Quesnel River. Human activities in this area, such as forestry, mining, agriculture, ranching, and rural development, provide abundant opportunities to evaluate historic and disturbance regimes on land and water systems. The research supported by this infrastructure focuses on the impacts of climate change and land use, as geomorphic drivers of material within the watershed, including precipitation, snowmelt, river flows, erosion, and sediment fluxes.

The CFI/BCKDF-funded infrastructure includes analytical equipment such as a laser particle size/shape analyzer, a flow through fluorometer, a desktop centrifuge, a suite of soil and sediment preparation, a desktop microscope, and an automated pressurized organic extractor. The equipment is housed at the Quesnel River Research Centre (QRRC), a remote field station operated by UNBC located just downstream of the mouth of Quesnel Lake, in Likely, British Columbia. 

Towards Breaking the CRD-BP-RNA Interaction as a Novel Approach for the Treatment of Cancers

Principal Investigator: Dr. Chow Lee

Cancer is a leading cause of premature death in Canada. There is an urgent need for innovative approaches and the development of new drugs to treat and improve the quality of life of cancer patients. This CFI/BCKDF-funded infrastructure has allowed UNBC researchers to develop innovative methods and potentially discover new anti-cancer drugs that act through a novel and specific molecular pathway to inhibit tumor progression, namely by breaking a specific RNA-protein interaction conducive to the development of tumours.

The infrastructure, which consists of a fluorescence multiplate reader and a circular dichroism H, and has allowed the development of research and technology in the search for new anti-cancer drugs. The equipment is located in the Northern Health Sciences Centre (NHSC) at UNBC, which houses state-of-the art biomedical research facilities.

Equipment and Infrastructure Support for UNBC's Canada Research Chair in Rural and Small Town Studies

Principal Investigator: Dr. Greg Halseth

This infrastructure supports the research program of Dr. Greg Halseth, Canada Research Chair in Rural and Small Town Studies. Dr. Halseth’s research program focuses upon the accelerating change that has been a defining attribute of rural and small town places around the world as they struggle to find success in the new rural economy. 

The CFI/BCKDF-funded research infrastructure consists of three components: field work (research vehicle and equipment for data collection), research laboratory (computer workstations, audio transcription equipment, external hard drives, and printing equipment), and knowledge mobilization (portable projection equipment).

Canada Research Chair in Northern Hydrometeorology

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen Déry

This infrastructure was provided to support the Canada Research Chair program of Dr. Stephen Déry, and now supports his NSERC/Rio Tinto Industrial Research Chair in Climate Change and Water Security. Dr. Déry’s research focuses on climate variability and climate change, with an emphasis on how the water cycle (hydrometeorology) in northern Canada will be affected by rising air temperatures and changing precipitation patterns.

The CFI/BCKDF-funded infrastructure includes meteorological, data storage, and computing equipment. These items are required for the collection, storage, retrieval, and analysis of hydrometeorological data from the Quesnel River basin including research examining the hydroclimate of the Quesnel River watershed, projections of climate change in BC’s interior wetbelt, and the detection of an amplification of climate change with elevation in western Canada.

Infrastructure to Increase Capacity for Field Studies in Avian Ecology

Principal Investigator: Dr. Russell Dawson

This infrastructure was provided to support the research program of Dr. Russell Dawson. As a former Canada Research Chair in Avian Ecology, Dr. Dawson’s fundamental research objective was to enhance understanding of the mechanisms and dynamics of the various factors that determine reproductive success of birds.

The infrastructure provided by CFI/BCKDF included a mid-sized truck, two portable field capable spectrometers, weather-resistant laptop computers, a portable weather station, and an ultra-low-temperature freezer. This equipment has helped to facilitate research in field study areas that are large distances from UNBC, and added considerable capacity to the two self-contained field research stations that were already in use.

Infrastructure to Enhance Research in Forest Entomology and Chemical Ecology

Principal Investigator: Dr. Dezene Huber

This infrastructure was provided to support the research of former Canada Research Chair, Dr. Dezene Huber. The research supported by the infrastructure explores the expression and function of genes involved in host chemical detoxification and in cold tolerance in several economically and ecologically important bark beetle species. This information helps researchers to better understand the potential of these species to outbreak as pests in varying climate conditions and to provide information on which chemicals are important for defense against these insects to tree breeders working to improve such characteristics of forest trees.

The CFI/BCKDF-funded infrastructure includes both field safety equipment such as emergency satellite messengers, a truck radio, and a GPS unit and laboratory equipment including PCR thermocyclers, a spectrophotometer, a pipet controller, and a quantitative real-time PCR system.