New lab signals a new era at college

It's still almost empty but if you know what you're looking at, the Yukon Research Centre's new lab is something special. "This has been a dream a long time coming," said Dave Mossop.

It’s still almost empty but if you know what you’re looking at, the Yukon Research Centre’s new lab is something special.

“This has been a dream a long time coming,” said Dave Mossop, an ornithologist and professor emeritus with Yukon College.

Mossop, who has been researching Yukon biodiversity for years, is happy to see the lab built.

Traditionally people Outside have conducted most of the research done in the Yukon, he said.

“My vision has long been to get our undergraduate students involved in research projects,” he said. ” There’s nothing like getting to know things firsthand.

“Very few people spend time looking down a ground squirrel hole.”

Though it only opened yesterday, Mossop’s hopes are already being realized.

His student, Katrina Wohlfarth, is already using the lab for research.

Wohlfarth is studying the eating habits of boreal owls, about which very little is known.

Her work involves collecting owl castings – owl puke – picking through the bones and fur to identify the small mammals they’re eating.

“It’s exciting to have the space to do this kind of work,” said Wohlfarth. “Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be doing it.”

She plans to publish a paper on the subject, which she hopes will give her credit towards a master’s in biology.

Wohlfarth, who grew up in Haines Junction, is a typical Yukon College student, said Mossop.

She started her undergrad at the college, moved south to the University of BC to get her biology degree. Now she’s back taking a few classes at the college.

With this new facility, she might not have to leave to do her master’s.

“It opens up the opportunity to do the majority of my research here in the Yukon,” said Wohlfarth.

In the recent territorial election, the Yukon Party floated the idea of turning Yukon College into a full-fledged university.

Though that’s a long way off, this new lab gets the college one step closer, said Clint Sawicki, director of research services for the Yukon Research Centre.

The facility took two years to build and cost $2.7 million.

It was paid for by the federal stimulus money from the Economic Action Plan and the Arctic Research Infrastructure Fund.

Now that they have the lab, they must fill it with equipment.

Right now, the only thing in the lab – other then Wohlfarth picking through owl puke – is a $37,000 fume hood, a glassed-in workspace to process samples.

Equipment will cost about $700,000, said Sawicki.

Just what kind of equipment the lab will get depends on what projects get approval, he said.

They have several grant applications pending for research into things like climate change, mining life cycles and north-specific parasites.

Having facilities like this opens up a lot of doors, said Sawicki.

“It makes us eligible for grants from a lot of the national funding agencies,” he said.

The lab is a class 2 biohazard facility that can accommodate up to four research projects.

There is a clean room to prevent contamination and the facility includes lots of secure storage that can keep samples frozen, cold or at room temperature.

Upstairs there’s boardroom for presentations and conferences.

In addition, there is a large empty room on the first floor that, it’s hoped, will eventually be turn into a natural history museum.

The facility is a work in progress.

“We’ve got proposals in the hopper for more space,” said Sawicki. “We all believe that this will grow.

“We’re building these pieces to actually become a university.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (yfned.ca)
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read