The following section outlines the current mandate of our facility, and presents a summary of major rights and responsibilities of its user community. This set of principles, rights & responsibilities dates from discussions held within the steering committee that created the Phytotron and were agreed to by the original users and the department. These principles, rights and responsibilities were reaffirmed by Phytotron users at the annual meeting held on October 18th, 1999.
The McGill University Phytotron is to function as the principle plant growth & controlled environment facility on the main campus of McGill University providing equitable and economical use for all interested users. The principal user community is derived from within the Biology department, and to a lesser degree, from other McGill departments, external university departments, government agencies and private industries. The primary criterion for acceptance into the facility is the submission of a scientifically sound project proposal that does not violate university or government guidelines for the safe and ethical conduct of research.
The Phytotron is founded on a series of basic principles, which are shared by most large controlled environment facilities. The users of the facility have a number of rights within the operating structure and, by extension, responsibilities as well.
Wide range of environments
The Phytotron is designed to provide a wide range of precisely controlled environments under one roof. The composition of environments is designed to accommodate a wide range of users and scientific disciplines.
The Phytotron is a shared resource, providing fair and equitable use by numerous researchers.
Wide range of internal & external users
The Phytotron is designed to attract and foster inter-disciplinary research and collaborations.
Well defined Management Plan
The Phytotron has in place a well defined management plan which clearly identifies the responsibilities of all parties involved with the facility (users, staff & administrators).
Integrated control & data acquisition systems
The Phytotron’s zones and experimental units are linked together by a dedicated network of host computers equipped with sophisticated control and monitoring systems.
Managed by a staff of specialists
The Phytotron is managed by a staff of specialists knowledgeable in controlled environment technology and plant culture.
Preventative Maintenance Program
The Phytotron has in place a well established preventative maintenance plan to maintain the facility and its equipment at a high operating standard.
Cost recovery budget
The Phytotron operates on a cost recovery budget with fees charged for the rental of equipment and the provision of services.
The Phytotron is considered a service center of the Biology department. Staff report to the Chair through the administrative officer. The Phytotron Staff consist of one full time managerial position, one senior-level technical position and one half lower-level technical position. In addition, a scientific director is appointed by the Chair. A Phytotron committee consisting of the manager, administrative officer and scientific director is responsible for dealing with routine issues pertaining to the facility. The committee members convene an Annual meeting (or when special conditions warrant) with the internal user group to discuss issues of relevance.
A well defined and equitable procedure is in place to process requests for use of the Phytotron. The primary criterion for acceptance is the submission of a sound scientific proposal that does not violate university or government guidelines for the safe and ethical conduct of research.
Abstracts & Publications
The facility was constructed and outfitted using a very large grant from NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. This agency represents the primary source for new operational and equipment funding. The scientific progress of the facility is periodically reported to the agency and supports the requests for new funding to users of the facility.
The ongoing operational cost of the Phytotron is divided between the Biology department (staff salaries), University (major mechanical systems maintenance) and User fees (equipment & facility maintenance, operations & pest control). A differential fee structure is in place for external versus departmental users to reflect the staff salary subsidies provided by the Biology department.
Grants & Funding Initiatives
Improvements and upgrades to the facility are possible through several avenues. The acquisition of new equipment is possible through NSERC and selected other agencies. The improvement of the facility may be partially supported by user fees (smaller projects), but larger scale improvements require University support (structural, mechanical) or granting initiatives (equipment).
The Phytotron offers a wide range of equipment to its users. All Phytotron users have the right to use equipment both primary (controlled environment chambers) and ancillary (hoods, shakers, autoclave).
Phytotron Staff Services
The Phytotron staff offer users a variety of support services.
Casual help Services
The Phytotron can act on behalf of its users to hire and train casual helpers for watering and other required plant care.
The Phytotron staff have, as their main responsibility, the task of caring for the entire facility and its equipment. This is most effectively undertaken through the application of a sound preventative maintenance program based on well defined protocols.
The Phytotron staff is responsible for caring for the facility and its contents during emergency situations (power & water shutdowns, unusual weather phenomena). All possible resources will be mobilized and used to maintain the integrity of the equipment and to permit the survival of organisms and satisfactory progression of experiments.
The use of dangerous products within the facility must be carefully managed to prevent risk to personnel or other users, damage to equipment and to avoid disruption of neighboring experiments. The use of products that would potentially have residual effects, thus impacting subsequent users of the equipment, is not permitted.
The modification of equipment at any level is expressly forbidden without prior consultation and supervision of the Phytotron staff. This would include the incorporation of specialized structures or devices, modification of existing structural components or use of defacing agents (tape, wire, adhesives and corrosive liquids).
Care of Experimental Organisms
The care of experimental organisms and materials within the facility is the responsibility of the research user. This includes the proper watering, fertilizing and pruning of plants; handling, containment and feeding of insects, fish and animals; growth, handling and containment of bacterial, viral or fungal organisms. The Phytotron staff is available for consultation in the areas of plant culture and organismal care, particularly in areas related to controlled environment studies. Users have the responsibility of adhering to existing protocols for safe laboratory and scientific practices including cleanup and disposal of experimental materials.
Pest & Pathogen Management & Control
The management of pest and pathogens within the facility is the joint responsibility of the user and Phytotron staff. The primary tactic in this endeavor is the successful prevention of pest and pathogen migration and establishment.
The Phytotron staff is responsible for caring for the facility and its experimental contents during emergency situations (power & water shutdowns, unusual weather phenomena). All possible resources will be mobilized to permit the survival of organisms and satisfactory progression of experiments. All efforts will be made to keep organisms alive, and provide the necessary cultural requirements (watering, feeding and fertilizing).
Training & Supervision
The Phytotron is operated within a framework of rules and guidelines designed to preserve and protect the equipment and assure the safety and scientific success of all users. The Phytotron staff are responsible for monitoring the use of the facility and for training and consulting with staff members on related issues.
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