History and Achievements
Aerobiology Research Laboratories has been an innovative provider of accurate scientific aeroallergen data throughout Canada since 1994. Prior to incorporation in 1993 the company's founder, Lee Coates had conducted aeroallergen research for several years at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, Ontario, Canada. Aerobiology Research Laboratories has developed highly innovative programs for providing accurate aeroallergen data and pollen forecasts. Our programs are unique to the field of aerobiology and have evolved over the past 15 years to ensure the highest standard of aeroallergen reporting.
The founders of Aerobiology Research Laboratories were also involved in the formation of the Pan-American Aerobiology Association in the late 1980s. Agriculture Canada assisted in the formation of this organization for the benefit of the field of aerobiology. The PAAA is a national organization that offers very successful conferences and is also affiliated with the International Aerobiology Association. The IAA is an organization tasked with keeping people in the field of aerobiology all over the world in touch with each other based on common interests, activities, and goals. Aerobiology Research Laboratories has been actively involved in research and presentation at the American Association of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the Pan-American Aerobiology Association, as well as other conferences relating to air quality.
We work closely with universities and government agencies to provide information on aeroallergens for studies relating to their effects on health. Pharmaceutical companies also use our data products and services to support their clinical trials and market studies. We are broadening the information available to the public by providing reports to web sites and mobile services that give a historical image of aeroallergens on the current day.
Our data is also being used to produce scientific research papers relating asthma, allergies and hospital admissions to the concentration of allergens found in the air. Our expertise and data has contributed to a number of informative papers have been published in medical journals (see references).
Our policy on staff qualifications and training is one of many properties that differentiates our company from others in the same field. Our methodology is standardized, and we have management systems in place to ensure the quality of our results.
- We only employ University Graduates with degrees in Biology, Statistics and Computers. In addition, all laboratory staff are required to complete our in-house training course, which takes several months to accomplish, before they are qualified to analyze samples. This training, combined with standardized methods of counting and reporting, allows us to ensure the quality of our data. We also consult with field professionals to ensure our products and services fulfill the highest expectations of quality.
- We do not sub-contract or use volunteers to perform our sample analysis and pollen/spore identification. We feel that the only way to ensure quality and consistency in sample analysis is through extensive training and continuous monitoring of a standardized methodology, which is only possible with a centralized operation.
- We are committed to efficiency in our operations, and use computer assistance whenever possible. This allows us to produce reliable and consistent data products for a reasonable price, and enables our research activities.
- We do not generate reports of aeroallergen information for locations where we do not have a station. All of our reports and forecasts must be backed up with near real time counts. The kind of general reporting provided by organizations that do not obtain adequate supporting data is misleading, inaccurate, and of little benefit to the public. As we are providing information relating to people's health, we feel it is important that it should be accurate and substantiated.
- We specialize in rotation impaction sampling technology. This technology is best at sampling a wide range of particle sizes evenly, and operates independent of wind speed and direction.
- For quality assurance we use only our own sampling equipment for our monitoring projects. We have found great variance in the quality of other products on the market, and in response to the demanding nature of long-term allergen monitoring, we manufacture robust rotation impaction samplers and accessories to ensure consistent and reliable operation in the field.
Currently in Canada, Aerobiology Research Laboratories operates 30 monitoring stations that gather pollen and spore samples daily within a twenty-four hour collecting period. The innovative aeroallergen rotation impaction samplers, redesigned by Aerobiology Research, are strategically placed throughout Canada in highly populated areas and regions with differing biological diversity. This allows us to provide aeroallergen levels and forecasts that are appropriate for areas affecting the majority of the general populous. The samples are collected by associates who change the collecting rods from the rotation impaction samplers every morning and ship them within a few hours of retrieval for analysis at Aerobiology Research Laboratories.
Samples are analyzed by laboratory staff qualified in pollen and spore identification using optical microscopes and a standardized, computer-aided counting methodology. The counts, or total number of particles per cubic meter of air sampled for each identified particle type, are stored in an ever-growing data warehouse. This database allows us to query and summarize current and historical allergen levels in a flexible and efficient manner, supporting our research and forecasting operations as well as the data needs of our clients.
Predictions are made for 27 sites with the help of computer models that incorporate variables such as weather data with current and historical allergen levels. Our forecasting models are developed using several statistical and machine learning methods, ranging from linear regressions and time-series analysis, to data mining methods, to neural networks and experimental hybrid techniques. The results of predictions are constantly evaluated by comparison against actual measurements, in a never-ending cycle to improve forecasting performance.
We are also involved in research to increase our knowledge and understanding of the relationships between allergen levels and the environment, and in the improvement of reports for public education. Fungal spores are notably a major source of airborne allergens, and we are actively advocating for the distribution of this information.