It was announced in the November issue of R&D Magazine that UCSB’s Laboratory Research and Technical Staff, also known as the LabRATS, were honored this past September in San Jose at the first “Go Beyond Awards”, which recognize minimal environmental impact. The “Organization Award” was presented to the LabRATS at the Labs21 2008 Annual Conference, which is hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and R&D Magazine.
UCSB’s Allen Doyle, manager of the soil ecology lab, Jeff Kirby, development engineer in the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and Katie Maynard, sustainability coordinator, have all dedicated thousands of volunteer hours since LabRATS was developed in 2005. The program is made up of these three researchers, as well as undergrads, graduate students, and interns.
LabRATS is committed to reducing the environmental impact of UCSB’s laboratories. They provide a location where researchers on campus can acquire free chemicals for their experiments; they’ve made available alcohol thermometers, which can be used as a replacement for the problematic but traditional mercury thermometers in use; they strongly encourage daylight as opposed to electricity, and are available to deactivate or remove fluorescent tubes upon request; and they examine the fume hoods, and suggest ways to make them more efficient and even save money.
There are about 700 laboratories at the university, 30 of which LabRATS have already observed. “We initially try to bring a resource or a piece of equipment that will actually improve their research,” explained Doyle in a press release. “So we’re not just taking up their time – we’re actually providing something that will make it go better.” The exchanging of thermometers has also been a success. “We had a goal of exchanging 300 mercury thermometers in a year,” said Maynard in the release. “We actually had 801 thermometers handed in to the program.”
The researchers are optimistic that this award will expand their publicity and help spread environmental awareness.