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Problem-solver keeps facility flowing

Alicia Mehlenbacher solves problems. She’s the manager of the $4.6 million Aquatic Life Research Facility (ALRF) in Burlington, Ontario, and part of the Aquatic Contaminants Research Division team.

Alicia ensures water quality and chemistry are appropriate for a number of fish species, turtles and freshwater mussels; therefore, she keeps the animals healthy and ready for scientific research.

Digital, mechanical and biological systems help her monitor and verify that everything in the ALRF is flowing as it should. Like most wet labs, the ALRF has a control system that sends Alicia alarm signals if something goes awry (and it can happen at 2 a.m.).

Alicia doesn’t just rely on systems. She walks through the facility every day; she is part of the Animal Care Committee; she trains each approved researcher on lab safety procedures; she’s on the Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Not only does Alicia care for the animals in the facility, she also ensures the safety of the humans as well.  

So when problems arise, she solves them.

“Our water comes from the municipality, and we use carbon tanks to filter out the chlorinated water,” said Alicia. “Levels of chlorine were too high in the system when the ALRF was first opened. Before we could even bring fish in, this issue needed to be addressed, because the fish need zero levels of chlorine.”

Her research on the issue found that the dechlorination system contained the incorrect form of activated carbon. Now that the system has been converted over to the correct form, there have been no issues of chlorine in the water.

“I have a background in biology, but most days I think I could’ve used a degree in engineering, too,” said Alicia. “I couldn’t have gotten this facility to where it is today without the help of several resources both in the building and from colleagues from other wet labs across the country.”

 Alicia Mehlenbacher solves problems at the Aquatic Life Research Facility.

Alicia Mehlenbacher solves problems at the Aquatic Life Research Facility.

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