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Environment lab looks to dynamic future

After three decades, you might expect a science lab should be entering stable maturity.

After all, scientists are a conservative bunch.

But that’s not how they see it at the National Climate Laboratory (NCL), New Zealand’s controlled environment laboratory.

Researchers there believe change is good—when you can control it, and that is exactly what a controlled environment facility is all about.

“We want to expand the horizons of what is possible in environment research”, said workshop organiser Dr Paul Austin.

HortResearch is therefore celebrating NCL’s 30th anniversary by hosting a Dynamic Climatic Impacts workshop, looking at how biological systems respond to changing environments.

The workshop will be held in Palmerston North on Thursday 29 June, in conjunction with The Noah Paradigm conference, a national science convention focused on managing the impacts of climatic variability on primary production.

“NCL has a made unique contribution to knowledge of how climate affects production systems,” said Dr Austin.

Workshop topics range from how frost tolerance changes in trees to how athletes acclimatise to high temperatures.

It will explore how best to use precisely controlled environmental fluctuation to study impacts from a dynamic perspective.

This approach exploits the control capabilities of NCL, and technology such as infra-red video and image analysis for automated measurement.

“Controlled environment work is often done under constant conditions. However, the only thing constant about nature is that it is always varying. Applying results from constant conditions to a fluctuating world can then be tricky.” said Dr Austin.

Dr Austin anticipates the approach will improve the power and cost- effectiveness of research projects, as well as making results more applicable.

He is looking towards more accurate prediction systems for horticulture, and maybe new management methods stemming from this research.

The workshop will conclude with a celebratory luncheon, attended by researchers from around New Zealand and overseas.

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