Thompson Rivers University

TRU researchers apply expertise to solve industry challenges

February 14, 2017

Dr. Tom Pypker, assistant professor in Natural Resource Sciences

Three TRU researchers have recently received Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Engage Grants, allowing them to collaborate with industry, applying their expertise to address a widespread concern.

  • Kingsley Donkor, Professor, Chemistry: “Determination and Characterization of Xanthates in Mining Waters by Capillary Electrophoresis.”

Dr. Donkor has partnered with New Gold’s New Afton mine to develop a chemical technique poised to increase efficiencies and develop a more sustainable mining industry. The project focuses on the mine’s processing operations. Donkor will use capillary electrophoresis to separate and measure the purity of xanthates used during flotation — the process used to separate the mineral (gold) from the ore. Currently, chemical purity varies from supplier to supplier, which opens the operation up to inefficiencies. The project will also help determine the amount of residual chemical that remains in the tailings pond waste, which would allow mine operators better understanding of their mine waste, and result in more efficient water reclamation.

  • David Hill, Associate Professor, Geography: “Comparison of the accuracy of LIDAR and UAV-based photogrammetry for generating digital surface models to quantify standing timber volume in a section of a BC forest.”

Dr. Hill is partnering with Lizzie Bay Logging Ltd., a logging and road building company in Pemberton, BC, to investigate the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) equipped with high resolution cameras to map sections of the forest as an alternative method of surveying. Hill anticipates using the data in coordination with advanced mapping software to generate 2D orthomosaic and 3D surface models, which can replace more costly light detection and ranging (LIDAR) surveys. Lizzie Bay recently acquired data on a section of forest to support their forest management practice. The data collected by Hill will be compared against the LIDAR data to assess accuracy and usefulness for forest stand volume estimation. The results of this analysis may provide a more affordable method of assessing timber value and scheduling timber harvesting. The development of this tool for use in the dense, mountainous regions of BC will have impact across the forestry sector.

  • Tom Pypker, Assistant Professor, Natural Resource Science: “The use of unmanned aerial drones for snow pack depth quantification and avalanche safety.”

In a partnership with Sun Peaks Resort, Dr. Pypker aims to develop a new tool for monitoring snow packs over large tracts of land at high elevation ski resorts. Through the use of commercially available UAVs and software, Pypker expects to develop a method of quantifying snow pack depth remotely in regions of complex terrain. This tool will allow ski resorts to accurately report on snow depths and mitigate avalanche threats, thereby creating efficiencies within the resort operations while at the same time creating the safest possible ski experience for customers.

The Research Support Fund provides a portion of the costs associated with managing the research funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, such as salaries for staff who provide administration support, training costs for workplace health and safety and maintenance of libraries.

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