Premier opens new Grenfell boreal ecosystem research facility

Paul Hutchings phutchings@thewesternstar.com
Published on March 29, 2014
Premier Tom Marshall speaks at Grenfell Campus Friday. — Star photo by Paul Hutchings

Premier Tom Marshall was back home in Corner Brook to help with the official opening of the boreal ecosystem reserach facility at Grenfell Campus Friday morning.

Marshall, along with Memorial University of Newfoundland president Gary Kachanoski and vice-president Mary Bluechardt unveiled the plaque for a new 500 square-foot research facility that will support research projects in forestry, agriculture and the environmental sector. Marshall joked with the crowd of professors, staff and students that he likes coming to Corner Brook for such events because he gets to home afterward. He then praised the university campus for the new addition.

“This new facility will help attract students and train them for the forestry and agriculture sectors,” he said in his speech. “It is also a key place to continuing to build world-class research capacity within.”

Asked about his longterm plans after politics by reporters later, Marshall joked again, saying maybe he’d enroll in Grenfell to get another degree.

The $5-million facility will house five new research professors including an agronomist, soil scientist, plant/crop specialist. agriculture/forestry economist and hydrologist. Funding from the federal and provincial were utilized, with $2 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and $1 million from the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development.

Teachers in the program say they are impressed with what they see in the new addition. Soil science professor Adrian Unc said students will be able to see more high profile science being carried out on the new machinery that dwells within the classrooms and said education will now be more “hands-on.”

“It’s one thing for them to read about it (what we have here now) but it’s another thing for them to learn, to touch, to press buttons and see how data is being obtained,” he said. “The eventual goal is to have more post doctorate researchers and a larger number of Masters and PhD. students in the environmental policy graduate program.”

Unc added that more of what he called “higher callibre” students from all over can now be attracted.

“Eventually we’ll have graduate courses that we don’t currently have,” he said.

“We will have more microbiology and environmental courses at the graduate level as a result of what is happening here today, we can start offering courses as the need arises.”

Environmental scientist Dr. Raymond Thomas agreed.

“There will be nowhere else in Atlantic Canada that has this capability and maybe about five per cent worldwide,” he said. “The capacity we will have in terms of agriculture and plant science research research will be next to none.”

The new facility includes a pre-process laboratory, an extraction and standard chemical analyses laboratory, a molecular biology laboratory and a high-end analytical facility housing sensitive instruments.

Kachanoski said the new addition will help spur innovation, enhance co-ordination and collaboration and attract and train graduate students to build on that knowledge base.

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