Sharing our plans for our future mobile lab

We are thrilled to share the design plan for Tracker - our future mobile lab.

The Healthy Waters team has been busy this winter, with field work in seven watersheds, stretching from the Chemainus River watershed on Vancouver Island to the Nicola River watershed in the interior. Water samples are now being analyzed at several laboratories and preliminary findings will be ready in the spring.Our watershed partners are eagerly anticipating water quality data that shed light on those activities that degrade fish habitat quality, and point the way to stewardship and solutions.

A core feature of Healthy Waters is being able to deploy our expertise to the field. On the horizon now is an exciting new project that will do exactly this. We have acquired a cargo van and have been working with two firms – Elomatic Consulting and Pura Vida Vans – to design the interior of Tracker, our future mobile lab. Tracker will be soon available for regular onsite water quality assessments in watersheds working alongside our First Nations partners and other communities to build capacity and train watershed stewards. 

However, before we can do that, we are currently raising funds to convert Tracker into a mobile lab.

Plans for Tracker by Pura Vida Vans.
Plans for Tracker by Pura Vida Vans.

Our mobile lab, Tracker, will have three core elements

  • A driver/navigator compartment
  • A lab compartment to enable bench top analyses with portable and field-ready instrumentation 
  • A field gear and safety compartment at the rear of the vehicle

Tracker design features will include

  • A computer / communications station for data processing and upload
  • A solar array to power the lab in the field
  • Atmospheric controls for the lab environment
  • A chemical-resistant ‘clean room’ lab interior, with fume hood for select analyses
  • Safety gear for the vehicle, field sampling and lab analysis
  • A roll-out awning above the sliding side door to provide a weather-resistant staging area for lab and field activities
  • Safety lighting on the exterior to ensure visibility when the team is in the field
Plans for Tracker by Pura Vida Vans.
Plans for Tracker by Pura Vida Vans.

Tracker will be able to test for 

  • Water properties (temperature, pH, conductivity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen)
  • Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus compounds)
  • Fecal coliform enumeration and identification using eDNA
  • Select metals
  • Petroleum byproducts
  • Microplastics
  • Tracers of domestic sewage (optical brighteners) 

The lab compartment is being designed for maximum flexibility, affording us with ample opportunities to expand the list of analyses in the future. 

Our aim is to have a fully functional Tracker working in the field by the summer of 2024. While we will continue to work with high quality analytical service labs for many of the sophisticated measurements we value, Tracker will strengthen our ability to conduct onsite determinations of several categories of contaminants of concern in fish habitat. 

You can help us by contributing to Tracker, and help us bring this capacity to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and watersheds in BC.

Plans showing a mockup of the inside of our mobile lab.
Plans for Tracker by Henrik Nyberg at Elomatic.
Tracker, our mobile lab, parked next to a train.

You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.