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St. Andrews Biological Station – Celebrating 100 Years of Ocean Research

Over one hundred years ago, university professors from all corners of the country came to the quaint village of St. Andrews, 100 km east of Saint John, New Brunswick over the summer months to pursue their field research work. At that time, Canada’s first marine biological station was a floating barge. Ideally located in a channel where the sea water is of good quality for research and where there is a diverse marine habitat, St. Andrews is in proximity to commercial fisheries for herring, groundfish and invertebrate species and close to the US border. Permanent installations of the St. Andrews Biological Station were established in 1908 with the main laboratory and a residence building, which still stands today. It boasts the only aquaduc system in the northeast capable of pumping 2 gallons of sea water per minute. The need for more laboratories coupled with the effects of corrosive sea water and air which have worn these facilities have convinced the government to undertake the construction of a brand new facility. The community of international quality researchers are now impatiently awaiting the beginning of the construction of their new laboratories.

St. Andrews Biological Station is also a model of modern government science partnership with the neighbouring Huntsman Marine Science Centre which is run by a consortium of universities and houses the public aquarium. Researchers conveniently share facilities and resources. Research work focusses on stock assessment, aquaculture (especially salmon), environmental science (impacts of human on aquaculture) and oceanography (plankton). Salmon aquaculture saw its beginnings at the Station which has flourished into a multi-million dollar industry. This lab takes an integrated approach to science, balancing the social economic with conservation. St. Andrews is a series of labs specializing in different areas of research work. One lab studies the multiptrophs aqua, growing different species in the same containers.

Institute members, mostly biologists and research scientists, employed at St. Andrews shared some of their growing concerns with President Michèle Demers. Here, like many other federal research facilities, budget allocations have dwindled for the past 15 years making it increasingly difficult to continue some important research work. These members worry about the future of science in government. Government science is a long term commitment and the outcome of no or dramatically reduced government science could be catastrophic. Of utmost frustration is the Department’s lack of public promotion on the important scientific work which is accomplished here and which impacts on the quality of food and water.

Recruitment is a critical issue as its takes months before positions are filled creating a void in the transfer of knowledge. The employers appears more interested in hiring professionals in mid-career rather than investing in existing resources. Here, like many other regions, the centralized decisions often do not apply to regional realities. President Demers was particularly concerned with the issues relating to classification, which she will raise with senior managers in Ottawa.

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Robert Stephenson, the Director of the St. Andrews Biological Station explains that these state-of-the-art sea water sand filters are the envy of researchers worldwide.

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Visiting the library is a unique experience as it houses the world’s largest collection of northwest Atlantic material. These walls protect years of cumulative knowledge and well-preserved samples.

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Al Phillips, Atlantic Regional Representative, takes a closer look at some of the odd-looking specimens contained in the rows and rows of jars.


Publish Date: 03-OCT-2007 09:55 AM