The Biotron & Benefits of Freezing Bugs

From Western News: Professor Brent Sinclair was among the first researcher to work in this world-class lab. “We freeze bugs. That’s what we do,” he says. “We are interested in all manner of the way temperature affects the biology of insects and how that flows on to effect ecosystems and so forth.”

The Biotron’s containment capabilities allow researchers like Sinclair to examine invasive insects – like the forest-razing emerald ash borer – without the concerns about possible threats to the environment. The temperature control also enables insects to be exposed to temperatures from 45 to -73 degrees Celsius, and the modules allow for controlled humidity and light conditions.

“There are some unique capabilities,” he says of the Biotron. “We’ve started to do experiments that we were otherwise able to do just in a regular chamber in the lab.” He offers the example of taking an entire log encased in emerald ash borer and cooling it down to conduct other experiments.

“That allowed us to show that when there were warm periods in the middle of winter, the emerald ash borer survive cold less well. The key thing is that is not reversible,” he says. “If you get a really warm period of winter and that is followed by more (cold) winter, there is this irreversible loss of cold tolerance.”

These findings may provide insight to managers of invasive species into how the insect would be affected in an area like Calgary, which is influenced by warm, wet Chinook winds.

“The moral of the story: You have to worry about these guys everywhere because it turns out they are pretty cold tolerant,” Sinclair says. “... But there are these subtleties that we haven’t worked through in the model yet that might mean they are some places where we might expect they won’t do as well.” 

Visit this link to learn more about The Biotron...

Our mission is to enhance and promote the care and benefit of trees for present and future generations in Ontario through education, research and awareness.