The Biotron is a multidisciplinary, experimental climate change research centre at The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. The research focus is the elucidation of the impacts of climate change and extreme environments on soils, plants, insects and micro-organisms. The Biotron officially opened in September 2008 and has attracted wide international interest, already housing successful collaborative research projects and training programs.
Biotron facilities include separately contained research modules for earth sciences, microbiology, plants (including transgenics), algae and cyanobacteria, and insects. Within these modules are laboratories and equipment providing custom-designed controlled environments and analytical tools.
A major innovation of the Biotron is the capacity to assess the impact of climate change on multitrophic interactions. On the rooftop, six large, sealed, glass Biomes allow the simulation of complex ecosystems under strictly controlled environmental conditions. The Biomes provide a realistic location to test concepts developed on the lab bench or in growth chambers. They can also provide the kinds of sealed environments required for certain types of engineering and biochemical experiments.
The earth sciences module features a custom-designed, 6 metre high, controlled environment for soil monoliths. This allows researchers to house intact 10,000kg soil columns transported from the field into the facility, and undertake research in a contained environment at temperatures ranging from approximately -40ºC to +40ºC.
Thus, the Biotron enables the integration of experimental climate change and environmental research from the molecular scale to the mini-ecosystem scale. Many instruments, growth chambers, and imaging devices are networked to a secure, remotely-accessible central server enabling global access. Highly trained and experienced Biotron technicians are available to assist non-local users.
In addition to its central role in climate change research, the Biotron houses three consolidated suites containing the latest technologies for imaging and data analysis, analytical chemistry/geochemistry and flow cytometry. These suites are linked to other facilities at Western to provide comprehensive services to clients.
The Biotron is keen to explore links with other international facilities and centres, including those working in the bioeconomy developing bioplastics, medicinal compounds, and biofuels.