Canada Foundation for Innovation Projects

Supporting Innovation - CFI Infrastructure Projects at UNBC

Initiatives that are essential to research innovation at UNBC and to building capacity and cadres have benefited from CFI funding. The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) have supported 20 infrastructure projects at UNBC to date. The CFI administers these projects through various programs. The CFI contributes up to 40% of the cost of a project, with the BCKDF contributing another 40%.

The Infrastructure Operating Fund (IOF) is designed to contribute to the incremental operating and maintenance costs of infrastructure projects funded by the CFI. When submitting a CFI infrastructure proposal, institutions are required to anticipate operating costs for the first five years of operation of the infrastructure and indicate their sources of funding to meet these costs. The IOF helps institutions with some of these costs to maximize the efficient utilization of CFI-funded research infrastructure.

CFI allots each institution a certain percentage of the CFI contributions for various finalized projects as an IOF allocation. Institutions are responsible, in accordance with their IOF Institutional Allocation Plan, for deciding how to disburse the IOF funds among some or all of their CFI projects. The IOF allows institutions maximum flexibility to support projects with different needs and scope, while ensuring accountability.

The priorities set in UNBC’s IOF Institutional Allocation Plan were established in conjunction with Principal Investigators and CFI award recipients. UNBC uses 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 that is communal or shared by a number of researchers.

Facilities and Laboratories 

  • Environmental Distrubance Assessment Research (CEDAR) Lab
  • Molecular and Population Genetics Lab
  • Enhanced Forestry Laboratory (EFL)
  • (Enhanced) High Performance Computing Centre
  • Northern Soil and Groundwater Remediation Research Laboratory (NORREL)
  • Nucleic Acids Analysis, Sequencing and Processing Facility
  • Scientific Computing Facility for Modeling, Simulation and Visualization
  • Social Science Research Laboratory
Other CFI Funded Equipment
  • Adaptability of Northern Forests to Future Climate Change
  • Doppler SODAR for Air Pollution and Boundary Layer Applications
  • Effects of Aging on Arteriole Tone, Reactivity and Blood Flow Control in Skeletal Muscle
  • Northern Sedimentary Archives and Environmental Change Infrastructure
  • RNA Conformation Changes during pre-mRNA splicing

Facilities and Laboratories

Environmental Disturbance Assessment Research (CEDAR) Lab

Principal Investigator: Dr. Mark Shrimpton with Dr Ken Otter, Dr. Russell Dawson and Dr. Chow Lee and faculty and researchers from UNBC, University of Goteborg, University of Saskatchewan, Canadian Forest Products, University of Alberta, University of Copenhagen, Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Windsor, Yellow Island Aquaculture Ltd., University of Turku, United States Geological Survey, Queen’s University, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, Indiana University and Applied Ecosystem Management Ltd. 

The infrastructure consists of equipment that allows the researchers to employ behavioural, physiological and molecular techniques to determine the response of organisms to habitat disturbance.

Field equipment includes microphones and recorders to monitor avian communication, radiotelemetry and global positioning equipment to monitor animal movement patterns, data loggers to assess what environmental variables limit habitat selection or physiological performance, and a field research vehicle.

Laboratory analysis and sample preparation equipment includes microplate reader, PhosphorImager, multiImager, stratalinker, centrifuges, microscopes and ultralow temperature freezer.

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.

Nucleic Acids Analysis, Sequencing and Processing Facility

Principal Investigator: Dr. Keith Egger with Dr. Shannon Berch (UBC), Dr. Dan Durall (Okanagan University College – UBC Okanagan), Dr. Michael Gillingham, Dr. Daniel Heath (University of Windsor), Dr. Melanie Jones (Okanagan University College – UBC Okanagan), Dr. Hugues Massicotte, and Dr. John Trofymow (UVic) and other faculty and researchers at University of Alberta, Ministry of Environment, Canadian Forest Service, Ministry of Forests, University of British Columbia.

This infrastructure provides facilities for a key array of molecular genetic analysis techniques involving DNA fragment and sequence analysis. The equipment can be used to determine the sequence of the base pairs that make up DNA, or it can be used for very precise DNA fingerprinting (microsatellite DNA analysis). Such capabilities are an integral part of most of the natural sciences, including: animal forensics, conservation biology, evolution, ecology, environmental studies, etc. These techniques are important for faculty and graduate students at UNBC and elsewhere for ongoing and proposed research. The infrastructure includes an automated DNA sequencer with three automated DNA sequencer units; computers for related data analysis, data archiving, network communication, and report and figure preparation; and a DNA thermal cycler for the amplification of DNA fragments for microsatellite analyses and for sequencing.

Scientific Computing Facility for Modeling, Simulation and Visualization

Principal Investigator: Dr. Peter Jackson with Dr. Josef Ackerman (Guelph), Dr. Michael Gillingham, Dr. Daniel Heath (University of Windsor), Dr. Peter Jackson, Dr. Margot Mandy, Dr. Roger Wheate, Dr. Todd Whitcombe and other faculty and researchers from UNBC Physics, Forestry, Biology, Geography, Chemistry and English programs. 

The Scientific Computing Facility for Modeling, Simulation and Visualization provides essential tools for research aimed at understanding the function of physical and natural systems (terrestrial, aquatic and extra-terrestrial) from molecular to global scales. Research ranges from: molecular interactions, microorganisms, soils, plants and wildlife, to forests and landscapes, and their interaction with society. The facility has two components: a high-performance computer server for computationally-intensive applications and a scientific visualization/ data analysis laboratory. 

* See also the (Enhanced) High Performance Computing Centre.

Social Science Research Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Tracy Summerville with Dr. Michel Bouchard, Dr. Dennis Procter, Dr. Farid Rahemtulla, Dr. Wendy Aasen and other faculty and researchers from UNBC, The Royal British Columbia Museum, McMaster University, Simon Fraser University, Parks Canada – Canadian Heritage, Yakutsk State University, Novosibirsk State University, and the University of Bradford. 

The Social Science Research Lab will significantly enhance our capacity to understand the unique cultures of northern communities by digitally integrating information on the land and the people through mapping, oral histories, cultural practices, and public policy. The knowledge we gain about these northern communities will help industry, government, communities and other scholars to understand how the effects of their decisions may affect the viability of northern communities.

Research supported by the infrastructure will lead to new insights and policy advances with respect to the relationships among land, culture, and the sustainability of communities.  The sustainability of northern, rural, remote, and Aboriginal communities is a key concern in Canada and globally.  The approach taken here, which includes cultural, land use, historical and social factors as well as more traditional economic determinants, is novel, highly innovative, and promises significant advances.

Other CFI-funded Equipment

Adaptability of Northern Forests to Future Climate Change

Principal Investigator: Dr. Scott Green with other UNBC faculty and researchers, BC Ministry of Forests, Environment Canada – Yukon, Yukon College, Yukon Renewable Resources, and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada

High latitude/elevation regions, where many Canadian ecosystems reside, are expected to undergo the greatest climatic fluctuations over the next century. Yet, ecosystems found in these severe environments remain among the least understood, and the responses of disparate plant species to climate change may vary among ecological niches. 

Clarifying plant and/or ecosystem responses to climatic variation in northern regions (both high latitude and high elevation) has important implications in the modeling of carbon sources and sinks, in the modification of forest management policies/practices and in the management of natural areas, all of which have potentially large implications for social, economic and environmental stability in Canada’s north. 

The infrastructure supports the development of a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional network of researchers centered in British Columbia and Yukon devoted to studying northern ecosystem responses to climate change. 

Doppler SODAR for Air Pollution and Boundary Layer Applications

Principal Investigator: Dr. Peter Jackson with Dr. Margot Mandy and Chris J.C. Reason (University of Melbourne).

Doppler SODAR systems are used to measure vertical profiles of wind, turbulence, and stability in the atmosphere at several levels in the atmospheric boundary layer below 300 to 3000m above the ground. The maximum range depends upon the power and capabilities of the specific instrument. 

They are ground-based remote sensing instruments that emit and then record pulses of sound which are backscattered from turbulent structures in the atmosphere, and are the atmospheric equivalent to the more commonly known SONAR systems used in water. 

The recorded backscatter is used to infer vertical profiles of wind and turbulence. The signal frequently shift (Doppler shift) and its relative strength are processed in various ways to produce far more information than previously available through conventional measurement methods such as instrumented towers, tethersondes, radiosondes, etc. Traditional methods of obtaining vertical profiles, such as tethersondes or radiosondes (weather balloons) can only give discontinuous information – much more expensive to obtain and operate and give different types of information. Doppler SODARs are capable of continuous unattended operation, making them ideal for studies of wind flow in the atmospheric boundary layer where continuous vertical data are otherwise difficult or prohibitively expensive to obtain. 

The REMTECH PA2 Doppler SODAR system allows full control of antenna beams: two electronically steered beams are titled 30 degrees from vertical and turned 90 degrees from each other to provide the horizontal component of wind velocity. A third beam is pointed vertically, providing the vertical component of wind velocity. System software controls the sequence and rate of operation of each beam.

Effects of Aging on Arteriole Tone, Reactivity and Blood Flow Control in Skeletal Muscle

Principal Investigator: Dr. Geoffrey Payne with Dr. Joselito Arocena, Dr. Chow Lee, Dr. Brent Murray, Dr. Guy Plourde, Dr. Kerry Reimer, Dr. Mark Shrimpton, and Dr. Todd Whitcombe.

To date, there is little information on decreased blood flow in an aging microcirculation. Critical assessment of vascular function and structure in an aging microcirculation will provide valuable insight on how aging influences the microcirculation to meet the metabolic demands of skeletal muscle and the signaling pathways that regulate blood flow control. 

The research lab will consist of an in-vivo research station for evaluating real-time changes in blood flow in intact living locomotor muscle tissue, an in-vitro research station for isolation and evaluation of single micro vessels, a molecular biology / morphology research station for molecular analyses, and the microsurgery station for surgical preparation of muscle tissue, plus support research infrastructure. The research infrastructure will form a foundation for research into the mechanisms and dynamics of muscle microcirculation in relation to aging and age-associated diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and Alzheimer's. 

Northern Sedimentary Archives and Environmental Change Infrastructure

Principal Investigator: Dr. Brian Menounos with Dr. Paul Sandborn, and other faculty and researchers from UNBC, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, BC Forest Service, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 

The project exploits natural sedimentary archives to better understand how environments in central interior and northern BC and the Yukon have responded to natural disturbances and environmental change over a range of time scales. A suite of paleo-environmental indicators will be developed to detail natural disturbance over the past 5 million years employing low resolution records (soils and sedimentary exposures) and those with event to annual time scale resolution cover the past 1000 years (annually-laminated lake sediment records). 

The requested infrastructure complements and strengthens existing equipment at UNBC and provides facilities accessible to both local and regional collaborators. The researchers plan to make UNBC a center of excellence in paleo-environmental research within 5-10 years, with facilities specifically supporting the study of the micro-stratigraphy and provenance of natural sedimentary archives.

RNA Conformation Changes during pre-mRNA splicing

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen Rader with Dr. Hanh Huynh, Dr. Hsing Kuo Kuo, and Dr. Chow Lee.

The synthesis of molecules within organisms, from the information encoded in DNA, is often a complex multi-step process. Explaining these steps requires the application of innovative thinking and modern technology. The first step in protein synthesis is transcription of the appropriate gene into a complementary RNA molecule composed of ribonucleic acid units. This molecule includes RNA sequences that are later removed to generate functional messenger RNA, a process known as splicing.

Dr. Stephen Rader’s research uses state-of-the-art technology to incorporate fluorescently-labeled molecules into pre-messenger RNA. These molecules are useful in understanding RNA synthesis, as the sequence of biochemical reactions can be traced by following the fluorescent label. This research may lead to new insights into the mechanism of pre-messenger RNA splicing. Understanding this process is highly relevant as troubles with pre-messenger RNA splicing have been linked to a number of human diseases.