Ecotron Hasselt University: An ecotron is a large-scale research infrastructure that allows to expose large ecosystem samples (“mesocosms”) to highly controlled climate conditions, and monitor their response at a high frequency. The large size of the mesocosm (usually the equivalent of a pot weighing several tons) and the high number of climate parameters controlled allows for a good blend of control capacity and realism. Only a few ecotron facilities exist in the world, because they are extremely complex to design. With such tool, one can estimate how climate change will affect ecosystems at the meter scale. Scaling up to the landscape, however, requires complementary field experiments and modelling, while understanding the impact on separate species or specific mechanisms can be achieved with laboratory or growth chamber experiments. The UHasselt Ecotron is linked with a nearby Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) ecosystem tower, which provides real-time data on local weather and soil conditions, with a frequency of at least 30 minutes. However currently many chambers are following the climate model outputs (collaboration with VUB). The design of this infrastructure benefited from exchanges through the AnaEE (Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems)/ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure) project. Some of the infrastructure’s features were inspired by the ecotron platform of the CNRS Montpellier Ecotron. The system enables long- and short -term simulations to study ecosystem functioning and ecosystem dynamics in natural and agricultural ecosystems. This infrastructure is situated at the Field Research Centre within the perifery of the main gate of the National Park Hoge Kempen, Connecterra, on the Terhills location.
Field Research Centre (FRC): The main objectives of the Field Research Centre are threefold:
- Enable international research to benefit from and increase the knowledge of “biodiversity”, whether directly biology-related, geography, environmental law, geology, landscape ecology and development, environmental management, ...
- Enable and facilitate the exchange of expertise and experience regarding biodiversity, nature conservation and management.
- Provide and offer modules for student excursions and training for higher education in several disciplines.
The ENVIRONAGE (ENVIRonmental influence ON AGEing in early life) birth cohort, established in 2012, recruited so far 1.500 newborns with accompanying biobank, questionnaire data and cognitive and cardiovascular phenotypes at 4 years of age. The cohort serves as the base of several investigations in the coming years.
More information: https://www.uhasselt.be/ENVIRONAGE-birth-cohort-study-design
Bio2clean, CMK’s spin-off for phytoremediation is dedicated to large-scale field applications. This spin-off had been preceded by several multidisciplinary research studies that combined field studies and assessed at the same time the legal and economic possibilities (such as the Snowman project ‘Rejuvenate’ and the MIP project ‘EOSAN’).
More information: https://www.bio2clean.be/en
A recently published patent (EP15159158.3) offers the possibility to improve and advance validation, valorisation and exploitation strategies of newly developed toxicity assays.
The Carbon Black test is a novel method to measure black carbon particles in a label-free way in urine, developed and validated at Hasselt University.
CMK has a well-equipped (molecular) microbiology lab, a greenhouse, and highly sophisticated growth chambers. The labs are equipped with molecular (quantitative PCR and sequencing devices, flow cytometry, gel electrophoresis), biochemical (spectrophotometry/fluorimetry, chemiluminescence, ), analytical facilities (HPLC, ICP-MS, ICP-OES, XRF, …), dosimetric (biological dosimetry, EMR spectrometry and film dosimetry), (fluorescence) microscopy and nuclear measurements facilities (radon and low background HPGe). The groups own cultures labs - to grow microorganisms, plants, fungi, invertebrates and recently also human cell cultures.
Moreover, there is a well-equipped pyrolysis lab (batch lab scale to continuous semi-professional conventional pyrolysis reactors and batch microwave pyrolysis reactor (in collaboration with TANC-UHasselt)).
There is a nuclear measurements lab for low background gamma spectrometry and radon measurements, leaching experiments and the preparation and production of AAMs (in collaboration with KU Leuven). In collaboration with TANC and KU Leuven several dedicated chemical and physical characterisation techniques are available.