The biochemical lab was originally built by the U.S. Army to use at Superfund sites. At NC State, it was used as a fish ecology lab.
"It was really an amazing system," Schweitzer said. "I think if you were to build a trailer like this, it would cost well over $1 million."
Schweitzer and Horner recently discussed the laboratory while it was parked near the Museum of the Rockies for renovations. Helping with the work were Ben Novak, one of Horner's graduate students, and Liz Johnson and Tim Cleland, both Schweitzer's students.
Almost half of the semi-truck contains a clean laboratory that will require users to don lab coats, lab shoes, gloves and hairnets before entering, Schweitzer said. The rest of the truck contains microscopes, work stations and a computer. Next year, it may also contain a scanning electron microscope and mass spectrometer with analytical capabilities. The entire truck has electricity, air conditioning and heating. It has room underneath for wastewater, diesel fuel and gear.
"It's fun. It's cool. It's the first of its kind," Schweitzer said. "It always makes me happy to come back to Montana, and this new lab is a huge bonus."
Horner said he and Schweitzer wanted to establish a research center, but didn't have enough money so decided to create the mobile lab. The lab will be parked in Eastern Montana during the summer and used by Schweitzer, Horner, their graduate students and visiting colleagues. The rest of the year, it will be parked and used at the Museum of the Rockies.
Along with the lab comes a new way of excavation, Horner said. This summer, instead of painstakingly removing sediment and rock from fossils, then stabilizing the fossils with plaster, the paleontologists will use cranes to remove
|Contact: Evelyn Boswell|
Montana State University