Research Users & Phytotron Staff 

Studies currently underway in the Phytotron include the molecular biology of cytoplasmic male sterility in Brassica and Raphanus, cold acclimation and frost resistance in Alfalfa, the role of plant transposons in gene diversification (Arabidopsis), the estimation of the rate of mildly deleterious mutation and the contribution of ultraviolet-B radiation on deleterious mutation rates in Amsinckia, developmental genetics in Drosophila and the evolutionary response to high levels of carbon dioxide in Chlamydomonas.  Over the past decade, numerous climate change studies have also been undertaken in the Phytotron. Using the central control computers and CO2 control systems, Phytotron researchers and staff have developed innovative programs which simulate diurnal and seasonal climate changes experienced in real ecosystems, man-made plant scapes or predicted futuristic climates. These so called "multi-day programs" have been used to grow seedlings of spruce and jackpine through 2-3 complete seasons in growth chambers (including sub-zero winter cold treatments), to study the re-vegetation of Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest species in the greenhouse, and to evaluate the suitability of diverse temperate forest species used within Montreal's Biodome.






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Phytotron Staff



The Phytotron is administered through the Biology department and operated jointly by a management team consisting of Phytotron staff, Scientific director (Dr. Dan Schoen) and Departmental Administrative Officer (Maria Colonna). The day to day operation of the facility is carried out by a team of four individuals: Mark Romer, Claire Cooney, Frank Scopelleti and Glenn Orr. Together, they work to maintain the facility in top working order, coordinate the use of different components, advise users on optimal growing conditions and effective use of the equipment, monitor and control pest populations within the facility.

Phytotron staff perform routine maintenance procedures on all Phytotron equipment between experiments and at regular intervals over the year. Preventative maintenance protocols include thorough cleaning of growing areas and mechanical zones, verification of heating, cooling and associated control systems, application of test programs to verify system limits and isolate potential problems. Repairs of defective equipment are carried out by staff or hired service professionals. 

Although plant care is the responsibility of the individual users, pest monitoring and control remains a daily challenge for Phytotron staff. All plants are monitored on a weekly basis and an Integrated Pest Management strategy has been implemented to handle pest and pathogen problems that arise within the facility. Over the past 20 years, the thrust of the Phytotron pest control strategy has gradually shifted from a total reliance on chemical solutions to more effective and increasingly available biological control agents. The biological program currently in place relies heavily on principles of sanitation and plant/person management to minimize introduction and spread of pests within the facility. [more info]

Phytotron staff have also been actively involved in several external projects related to controlled environment research and agriculture. These have included the design of new Phytotron facilities worldwide, the training of Phytotron support staff from other facilities, and the development, testing and application of new control technologies and methodologies.[more info] 

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Copyright January 2003  [McGill University Phytotron]. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy of the Biology Dept. Image Centre, (photographers Guy L'Heureux & Carole Smith)

and McGill's Web Communications Group (photographer Marci Denesiuk)