Over the 2008-13 period we have implemented changes to provide the research infrastructure that underpins sustainable land and water use in the presence of climate change and a range of conflicting demands. Specific examples of investment in the last 5 years include:
National Plant Phenomics Centre
The NPPC is a BBSRC-supported national Infrastructure that provides a step change in the way plant biology is implemented. The application of high throughput automated phenotyping allows whole populations of plants, such as breeding populations, mapping experiments, natural diversity collections and mutant collections, to be analysed in parallel and under multiple defined environments. Automated imaging chambers record from infra-red to ultra-violet light to provide information on the physiology of plants, such as organ temperature, water content and photosynthetic activity, as well as their shape and size. This large-scale facility has 880 carriages (for up to 3400 plants) and five imaging chambers working simultaneously. A key NPPC activity is the identification of useful alleles [gene variants], or more likely combinations of alleles, that produce desirable physical traits (phenotypes). Tracking these and other genetic markers of known DNA allows molecular breeding techniques to be applied to a wider range of traits, and for this reason the NPPC is located next door to the Translational Genomics Lab where plants are genotyped using the latest technology.
The Translational Genomics facility provides next-generation DNA sequencing and high-throughput genotyping in addition to dedicated high quality molecular biology laboratories for both existing BEAA staff and visiting academics.
We have established a bioinformatics hub allowing us to implement a hub-and-spoke model for informatics’ challenges centred around integrating, data mining, and exploring massive data sets from a wide variety of biological systems and modeling interactions between these systems. Staff both spend time within a dedicated bioinformatics hub to benefit from interchange of ideas and techniques and also embedded within the relevant “wet chemistry” laboratories to ensure a close linkage with on-going laboratory- and field-based experimentation.
We have installed a new 50-point rotary parlour and additional cubicle housing at the Trawsgoed Farm to support a milk herd of 500 cows. The unit incorporates electronic identification of cows linked to a computer database, facilitating automatic milk yield recording at every milking, pedometers to assist in heat detection, and automated gait analysis to facilitate research into pasture-based dairying.
Wolfson Carbon Capture Laboratory
A purpose built facility providing space for a dozen scientists to improve scientific understanding of carbon capture and sequestration and provide estimates of national and global peat carbon sequestration potential.
To promote engagement with the public and other stakeholders we have developed exhibition spaces, a café, meeting rooms and seminar facilities to allow us to interact with large and small groups.
All our laboratories have been refurbished to a high standard and staff now enjoy access to a formidable range of state-of-the-art equipment.
This recent investment adds to our key existing research facilities including:
RV Prince Madog
A 35 m multi-purpose research vessel very well equipped with both wet and dry laboratories and an array of other oceanographic equipment, including a CTD profiler, ship-mounted 300 kHz Acoustic Doppler Current Profiling system, hydroacoustic positioning reference system and scientific echosounder. Its research capacity was strengthened in 2011 with a £310k Reson 7125 dual frequency (200 kHz and 400 kHz) SeaBat Multi-beam system for seafloor mapping. The Prince Madog can sail for 10 days between ports, and has berths for 9 scientists and a crew of 8, making it ideal for shelf sea marine research.
Over 250 units enable production of novel plant genetic stock in pollen-proof environments.
26 compartments offering control of temperature and day length.
A fully commissioned (2008) small animal Biological Service Unit (BSU) that includes rodent housing facilities, invertebrate aquaculture rooms and a laboratory to perform Home Office regulated protocols.
An extensive set of gut-simulating fermenters, access to surgically modified animals and an extensive collection of pure cultures of bacteria, protozoa and archaea.
State-of-the-art high resolution mass spectrometry techniques (FT-MS, GC-tof-MS, LC-MS) combined with a validated tool box for data mining to provide a centralized advanced data analysis service for BEAA and BBSRC researchers.
Controlled environments unit
Offering control of day length, temperature and humidity.
4 modern units and over 1,000 ha of land with a wide range of topographic and climatic conditions. These provide suitable facilities for field trials including a wide range of grass, arable and biorenewable crops, silvopasture and forest. Modern livestock facilities for dairy, beef, sheep and pigs include intake monitoring and methane emissions.
Biochar, anaerobic digester and pelletiser facilities
These recently commissioned facilities provide the Biorenewables and Environmental Change team with large-scale test beds for the evaluation of a wide range of sustainable energy and soil carbon sources.
- BioComposites Centre – a closely integrated set of facilities optimised for plant-based biorefining, bioproducts, analysis and testing that is unique in the UK. Most notable are: lab and pilot-scale equipment for supercritical CO2 extraction; Andritz Sprout-Bauer 12” pressurized refiner; 50-litre chemistry processing unit with a 20-litre rotary evaporator and chromatographic purification; 400 MHz & 500 MHz NMR spectroscopic facilities; quadruple mass spectrometers and FTIR spectrophotometers, X-ray diffraction and surface analysis; ICP-AES and graphite furnace flame AA spectroscopy; half-fringe photoelastometer with image processing to determine stress distributions, single fibre rheology and dynamic vapour sorption analyser.