LabRATS Receive First National Green Award
| LabRATS (from left) Katie Maynard, Allen Doyle, and Jeff Kirby examine a hood and vent in a Biology II lab at UCSB.
By George Foulsham
For Allen Doyle and the rest of the LabRATS, a profile that ran in the prestigious journal Science last year was the greatest tribute to their hard work in making the campus’s laboratories more environmentally conscious and efficient. Until now.
UCSB’s Laboratory Research and Technical Staff (LabRATS) has received the Organization Award at the first-ever Go Beyond Awards, which were presented by the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories and R&D Magazine at the Labs21 2008 Annual Conference in San Jose.
The awards honor individuals, organizations, projects, and laboratory manufacturers that "go beyond" the status quo to minimize the environmental impacts of laboratory and other high-technology facilities and laboratory equipment.
Doyle, manager of the soil ecology lab, along with staff members Katie Maynard, the campus’s sustainability coordinator, and Jeff Kirby, development engineer in the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, have devoted thousands of hours to the LabRATS program since its inception in 2005. For all of them, it’s been a labor of love. Because each has other full-time responsibilities on campus, much of the time they have devoted to LabRATS has been as volunteers.
"This award shows that we can get an amazing amount of things done, just working informally at the grassroots level," Kirby said.
LabRATS got off to a modest start, with a couple of piecemeal sustainability programs that Doyle and Kirby realized could be pulled together to focus on the environmental impacts of laboratories. Maynard, who graduated from UCSB in 2005, joined them and soon they were adding interns — some of them paid thanks to grants — and undergraduate volunteers. Shortly thereafter, the informal group had evolved into what is now known as LabRATS.
"The unique thing about our program is that we’re comprehensive and behavioral-based," Maynard said. "There’s no other program in the country that is both."
Some key LabRATS projects include:
• A Web site resembling Craigslist that serves as a one-stop shopping destination where UCSB researchers can get donated surplus chemicals for their experiments.
• Mercury thermometer exchange
• Bulb-free lighting
• Fume hood management
• Laboratory assessments
"We are a voluntary program," Doyle said. "We initially try to bring a resource or a piece of equipment that will actually improve their research. So we’re not just taking up their time — we’re actually providing something that will make it go better."