Ontario environmental science centres

4905 Dufferin Street (Toronto, ON)

4905 Dufferin St.

© Environment Canada, 2008

The Environment Canada building at 4905 Dufferin Street in Toronto, Ontario has served as a focal point for meteorology and atmospheric science in Canada for more than 35 years. It currently houses staff from several areas of Environment Canada including the Science and Technology Branch, Meteorological Service Branch and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

This has been the home of a large portion of the Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate (ASTD) and its predecessors since 1971.  Currently, ASTD staff and laboratories engaged in research on air quality, climate change, meteorology and impacts and adaptation, and staff of the Science and Risk Assessment Directorate in atmospheric science assessment and integration are located here.  With more than 210 staff, ASTD has the largest staff complement in the building’s total population of approximately 800, including atmospheric physicists and chemists, meteorologists, statisticians, mathematicians, physical geographers, climatologists, science-policy experts and scientific support staff.  An important, co-located national research facility is the Andrew Thomson Laboratory for atmospheric chemistry (on the right in the picture above).

Proximity to researchers and facilities at several universities, federal and provincial laboratories and field facilities in southern Ontario has made this area a hub for atmospheric research in Canada.

Andrew Thomson Research Laboratories (Toronto, ON)

Andrew Thomson Research Laboratories

© Tom Harner, Environment Canada, 2008

The Andrew Thomson Research Laboratory is home to a variety of Environment Canada (EC) research and monitoring programs. These programs result in scientific input about EC priority issues - including smog, acid deposition, climate change, and hazardous air pollutants/persistent organic pollutants.

The facility’s work supports various Government of Canada priority programs including the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda and the Chemicals Management Plan, as well as national and international activities, such as: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Northern Contaminants Program; the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement; the United Nations Environment Programme; the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program; the Canada-Alberta Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program; and the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Atmosphere Watch Program.

There are thirteen research and monitoring laboratories at the Andrew Thomson Research Laboratory. Its unique and specific capacities include:

  • The Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CAPMoN) laboratory, which specializes in the analysis of precipitation, air, and particulate matter (PM) samples collected at regionally representative sites across Canada. This contributes to the understanding and evaluation of the impacts and risks to ecosystems from acid deposition and assists with the assessment of the effectiveness of emission reduction programs.
  • The Organics Analysis Laboratory, the Hazardous Air Pollutants Laboratory, and the Mercury Research Laboratory, specializing in the analysis of substances including persistent organic pollutants, emerging commercial chemicals of concern and mercury. The labs also provide scientific information for assessing and managing risks that these substances may pose to sensitive ecosystems in Canada and globally, such as in the Great Lakes Basin and the Arctic.
  • Organic aerosol analysis laboratories, specializing in the measurement of organic compounds in atmospheric particles with advanced analytical tools, to support various air quality field programs.
  • Laboratories to measure aerosols (including black carbon) and improve our understanding of their fate and behaviour in the atmosphere. These pollutants are important in our understanding of urban and regional air quality, but also have an impact on the global climate system.
  • A greenhouse gas (GHG) laboratory that specializes in the measurement of atmospheric concentrations of GHGs (including carbon dioxide and methane) across Canada. This contributes to understanding of greenhouse gases across Canada, including regional-scale determination of major GHG sources and sinks.

Borden Forest Research Station (Borden, ON)

Borden Forestry Research Station

© Environment Canada, 2008

The Borden Forest Research Station was established in 1984 to conduct research on biosphere-atmosphere interactions. It is located 15 km northwest of the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments at Egbert, on the grounds of Canadian Forces Base Borden. The research infrastructure at the site comprises a 42 m instrumented scaffolding tower and associated trailers and huts to house gas analyzers, data loggers, and computing equipment.

The station has been and continues to be used for forest-atmosphere exchange and pollutant deposition projects. Recognizing the important role forests may play in climate change, a long-term measurement program was initiated in 1995 to collect a continuous time series of carbon dioxide and energy fluxes, along with more than a hundred ancillary micrometeorological variables.

Learn more about the Borden Forest Research Station.

Canada Centre for Inland Waters (Burlington, ON)

Canada Centre for Inland Waters

© Environment Canada, 2008

Established in 1967, the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW) located in Burlington, Ontario, accommodates over 600 staff from Environment Canada (EC), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

CCIW Aquatic Contaminant and Water Hydrology and Ecology scientific staff conduct field and laboratory activities aimed at better understanding and predicting the effects of contaminants and other substances on aquatic ecosystems. The sources, fate and impacts of nutrient and other contaminant loading from agricultural, land use change and municipal wastewater are studied in sediments, groundwater and surface waters.

Analytical methods for measuring compounds of emerging concern are developed and their properties studied to inform strategies for rehabilitation and conservation of lakes and other inland waters. Scientific staff at the Centre’s state-of-the-art Aquatic Life Research Facility develop and apply novel methods for assessing toxicity of compounds and mixtures to organisms and ecological communities. Remote sensing techniques enable assessments of water clarity and the presence of algal blooms while microbial source tracking and genomic tools provide information on microbial water quality. 

The Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Surveillance Division reports on fresh water quality and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay Watershed basins. Through systematic measurements of physical, chemical and biological conditions, temporal changes and emerging issues can be tracked and the results of remedial measures and regulatory decisions reported. 

EC’s National Laboratory for Environmental Testing delivers a broad range of specialized and ISO 17025 accredited chemical analysis with a specialization in trace metals and ultra-trace organics. Accredited as a proficiency testing and reference material provider, Quality Management services are delivered in direct support to EC programs. Supported by an ISO 17025 certified instrumentation laboratory, Technical Support personnel conduct national field sampling on land and water. 

CCIW research and monitoring activities support EC’s obligations under the Canada Water Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and Fisheries Act through participation in government science programs including the Great Lakes Action Plan, the Chemicals Management Plan, the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda, the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program, the Northern Contaminants Program and the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring.

Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments (Egbert, ON)

Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments

© Environment Canada, 2008

The Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments (CARE) is a regionally representative site located in Egbert, Ontario. It provides the infrastructure for long-term atmospheric observation programs and intensive campaigns with national and international partners. CARE is the home of laboratories supporting Environment Canada (EC) programs, such as the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda and the Chemicals Management Plan. The site also serves as a platform for measurements of acid deposition, air quality, tropospheric ozone, greenhouse gases, and aerosols.

Highlights of the Centre include:

  • The Clean Air Building at CARE houses a large number of instruments used for air quality observations. The development and testing of new instruments is done here before they are used at field sites across Canada.
  • The Centre’s analytical laboratory facilities enable EC scientists to study the long-range transport of persistent organic pollutants. These studies enable us to understand the global nature of atmospheric pollutants, for example, how chemicals used in other countries are having an impact on the Canadian Arctic.
Atmospheric research test instruments

© Environment Canada, 2008

  • There is a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) facility at CARE that allows EC to develop and use instrumentation that vertically profiles the atmosphere by identifying particles, ozone, water vapour and temperatures.
  • CARE is a World Meteorological Organization Global Atmosphere Watch regional station for greenhouse gases and aerosols. Due to its location near Toronto, researchers can study the impact of urban populated regions and regional transport influences for all atmospheric issues.
  • EC carries out several climate measurement programs at CARE in support of research into land surface and atmospheric processes that influence climate system behaviour in Canada.
  • Research and testing of meteorological measurement systems is also carried out at CARE.

King City Weather Radar Station (King City, ON)

King City Radar Station

© Environment Canada, 2008

The King City weather radar station was formed in 1984. It is located north of Toronto along the Oak Ridges Moraine. It is a 16.45-ha site housing Environment Canada weather radar research scientists and staff.

The C-band Doppler radar, a central feature of the site, was modernized in 2004 to include dual polarization technology. It is used to provide data for weather forecasting, climate prediction research and satellite applications. Dual polarization technology provides weather forecasters with new information so they can more accurately identify, track, assess, and warn the public of high impact weather.

At this site, Environment Canada staff provide national leadership on radar meteorology research applications using weather radar for detection and short-term forecasting of high-impact weather events, quantitative precipitation estimation, and satellite validation.


National Wildlife Research Centre (Ottawa, ON)

National Wildlife Research Centre

© Environment Canada, 2008

The National Wildlife Research Centre is the focal point for Environment Canada’s knowledge and expertise for impacts of toxic substances on wild plants and animals, international migratory bird research and population surveys, and the health of wild species as indicative of environmental quality. The Centre also conducts landscape ecology research focused on studying natural and human-induced impacts on wildlife communities and ecosystems over time and space.

Highlights of this Centre include:

  • National Wildlife Specimen Bank, which represents a unique collection, dating from the late 1960s, of over 120,000 wildlife specimens from around Canada. These are used for retrospective temporal and spatial analyses of contaminants and their effects, including ecosystem (community) changes. This Bank is critical to Canada’s wildlife conservation and ecosystem management.
  • Greenhouse and growth chamber facilities for state-of-the-art chemical testing and plant testing guidelines development.
  • Scientist retrieving samples from specimen bank

    © Environment Canada, 2008

  • Accredited service and research laboratories for nanotoxicology, environmental chemistry and toxicology research, and State of the Environment monitoring--for the development of toxicogenomics markers and methods to allow rapid pertinent toxicity assessment.
  • National seabird, shorebird, and songbird research and monitoring operations.
  • A geomatics lab that specializes in the application of earth observation data combined with geospatial analysis to assess ecosystem services and wildlife habitat. 
  • Integrated population and habitat modelling approaches to identify critical habitat for species at risk.

National Lab for Nowcasting and Remote Sensing Meteorology (Toronto, ON)

The National Laboratory for Nowcasting and Remote Sensing Meteorology was formed in 2004. The lab’s mission is to provide improved scientific understanding and prediction of high-impact weather, primarily focussing on application of remote sensing observing instruments and short-term weather forecasting techniques for predicting weather phenomena. The lab is co-located with the Environment Canada Storm Prediction Centre in Toronto. Outputs include applied research to address forecasting issues identified in the Department and facilitation of technology transfer of science results into the operational weather forecasting program.

S&T Laboratories, 335 River Road (Ottawa, ON)

S&T Laboratories, 335 River Road

© Environment Canada, 2008

The 335 River Road laboratories are home to a number of research, monitoring and operational support programs. Environment Canada (EC) scientists undertake an assortment of work, providing valuable input in support of various EC mandates and priorities. Studies involve air quality, water and wildlife research.  The labs work in support of EC priorities, such as the Chemicals Management Plan, the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999, and EC’s Environmental Emergencies Program.

The following unique facilities and expertise found at the Centre include:

  • One of the world’s leading oil spill research laboratories, specializing in oil forensic analysis and the only scientific authority in Canada with expertise in oil spill treating agent research and evaluation. These laboratories section also undertake chemical spill research and development; provide scientific and operational field support teams for response to environmental emergencies; hazmat capability; leadership of the Canadian Safety and Security Program’s Chemical Community of Practice, and related security-focused science activities; as well as remote sensing expertise.
  • Testing facilities for vehicle, engine and equipment emissions. The capability ranges from small lawn mower engines to class 8 trucks at standard and cold temperatures; it is one of only two facilities of its kind in North America. The lab also has the capacity to characterize the emissions from mobile sources operating in the field-including ocean-going vessels, aircraft, locomotives and off-road construction equipment. Research activities are undertaken to enhance scientific capacity to inform decision-making and regulations regarding the impacts and effects of vehicles and engines using renewable fuels, different control technologies and propulsion systems under representative Canadian conditions.
  • A contaminant Level 2 Biosafety laboratory for soil toxicity research, involving risk group 2 pathogens.
  • It is the EC headquarters for the research and monitoring responsibilities for the federal/provincial/territorial air quality monitoring network at urban and rural sites. This is made possible by the use of technologies for continuously measuring criteria air pollutants: ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and fine and coarse particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10, respectively).  The laboratories are accredited to the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 international standard for laboratory quality assurance to determine trace contaminants: polycyclic aromatic compounds, heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and cadmium, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to smog formation.

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