Our lab is located in the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience building at the University of Lethbridge. In 2019, we will moving into the new Destination Place Science and Academic Building, the largest infrastructure investment in the history of our university. There, we will still have dedicated dry lab space as well as shared wet lab space and animal holding facilities.
Within our dry lab area, we have a Zeiss Axioplan epifluorescent microscope with a motorized stage and the latest StereoInvestigator software for counting cells, measuring cell sizes and calculating brain region volumes.
Next to the microscope, is our Olympus VS-120 high-resolution slide scanner. The slide scanner enables us to create virtual slides of any of our sectioned brains using brightfield, darkfield or fluorescence and it can accommodate a range of slide sizes. We have used it to scan many brains in our collection from hummingbirds to turkey vultures.
With oil immersion 40x and 100x objectives, we also use the slide scanner to create virtual, 3D slides of our Golgi stained tissue. From these images, we can analyze neuron morphology on our Neurolucida 360 workstation.
Tissue processing and dissections occurs in our wet lab space where we have a dedicated dissection microscope and two freezing stage microtomes. In addition, we have access to cryostats, a vibratome and an ultramicrotome, all of which have been used by our lab to section brains and nerve samples for autoradiography, Golgi staining and transmission electron microscopy. Shared access confocal microscopes and a transmission electron microscope are also available just down the hall, as is our resident microscopy technician Maurice Needham.
To support our fieldwork, we have Song Meters and several trail cameras for remote monitoring of grouse behaviour and a workstation with Avisoft SASLab Pro for bioacoustic analyses. Getting to and from field sites is enabled by our field vehicle, a twin-cab 4x4 pick-up truck (affectionately referred to as 'Berta). The truck is also used to haul our new lab trailer, which houses a benchtop -80°C freezer, fumehood, dissection microscope and all of our perfusion gear and mammal traps. Together, this allows us to travel across western Canada and process and prepare tissue samples in the field effectively. Within Alberta, this has included areas immediately around Lethbridge, Castle Mountain in the southeastern Rockies, and Buck Lake in the central foothills. Further afield, we used our truck and trailer to assist in collecting Franklin's ground squirrels at Delta Beach, Manitoba and Columbian ground squirrels on the outskirts of Fernie, British Columbia.