VIU researchers measure methane at Alberni Valley Landfill

Trevor Michalchuk and Lily Eggert, wearing high visibility vests, while standing in front of the Mass Specmobile.

Trevor Michalchuk and Lily Eggert outside of VIUs state-of-the-art Mass Specmobile designed to measure air quality and greenhouse gases. Dr. Nick Davey Photo

August 17, 2022 - 12:00pm

Student researchers gain valuable hands-on experiences while helping to fight climate change.

Methane is more potent than carbon dioxide and reducing or eliminating emissions is a critical step to help fight climate change. 

Researchers at Vancouver Island University (VIU) are working with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District to monitor the Alberni Valley Landfill to find methane hot spots. This information will help the regional district pinpoint where the methane is coming from and make decisions on how to mitigate it.

Erik Krogh, Director of VIU’s Applied Environmental Research Laboratories (AERL) and a Chemistry Professor, said carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas discussed when it comes to climate change; however, methane is the second-largest contributor to global warming.

“Every kilogram of methane in the atmosphere is equivalent to 80 kilograms of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period,” said Krogh. “It also has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere, so mitigating methane releases helps mitigate warming more quickly.”

Headshot of

Trevor Michalchuk

Trevor Michalchuk, who eventually wants to work in environmental consulting, oversaw data collection, ground sampling and mentoring undergrads on the project. The team used VIU’s state-of-the-art mobile mass spectrometry lab to survey the landfill and install air quality sensors. Michalchuk is completing a Master of Science in Chemistry through the University of Victoria and is conducting his research through the AERL. He is also a VIU alum and graduated with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biology and Chemistry.

“At the AERL we can branch out and do applied research, get out of the lab, take our sensors out to make measurements when and where they are needed,” said Michalchuk.

“We’re working with community partners to provide valuable data about how air quality varies over time and space. It allows everyone to have a better understanding of what is going on in the environment and can be used to improve operations, models and public policy.”

Michalchuk said he also gained valuable networking opportunities during meetings with project coordinators, community planners and different landfill operators. 

VIU student Lily Eggert conducted methane surveys at the landfill.

Headshot of .

Lily Eggert

“The van is like something out of Ghostbusters, there are so many instruments in there,” said Eggert, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Biology. “It’s been a unique experience to get hands-on training with the instruments and all the data processing that happens after. I wasn’t expecting as much freedom or the ability to work on community-based projects that go beyond the lab. It’s been a great opportunity to do interesting research and see how I can apply that to real-world problems.”

The research project to monitor greenhouse gases at the Alberni Valley Landfill began in 2020 and was co-funded by district landfill operations and the VIU Regional Initiatives Fund. The initial project ran until March 2022 and is now expanding to examine broader air quality issues in the community. The researchers provide reports and updates to the landfill operators, the regional district and Alberni Air Quality Council.


Media Contact:

Rachel Stern, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.618.0373 l E: | T: @VIUNews


Tags: AERL | Chemistry | Climate Change | Research

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