Happy Anniversary, GPRC NBDC-TAC!

Happy Anniversary, GPRC NBDC-TAC!

On this day in 2012, the GPRC National Bee Diagnostic Centre – Technology Access Centre (NBDC-TAC) opened for business. To celebrate, we wanted to share a few things you may not have known about the NBDC-TAC; who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re heading in the future.

The NBDC-TAC core staff. Left to right: Christy Curran, Patricia Wolf Veiga, Emily Ryan, Dr. Carlos Castillo, Jamie Lee Martin.


NBDC-TAC has been called “a CSI crime lab for bees” – when bees die, they get sent to NBDC for tiny bee autopsies. The scientists at NBDC-TAC perform diagnostic tests to determine which diseases, parasites, and pests may have been responsible for the bee’s demise. They can then report back to the beekeeper or apiculturist and give them information about the overall state of the hive’s health.

This service is essential to beekeepers and apiculturists. It allows them to keep tabs on the ever changing health of their hives. Knowing which pests and pathogens are harming the hives gives apiculturists the tools they need to take management measures. With bee health worldwide on a decline, it’s up to organizations like NBDC-TAC to offer as much information and expertise as possible to help bee populations survive and thrive.

NBDC-TAC: Front view, summer 2016.

A Look Back

Although only five years old, NBDC-TAC has already become widely known as “the benchmark for bee diagnostics.” The Centre has formed international partnerships in France, New Zealand, Peru, and the United States, while offering services to beekeepers and apiculturists from across the country. NBDC-TAC is one of only 30 Technology Access Centres in Canada, with funding provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Dr. Lou Gallagher, Senior Adviser from New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), referred to NBDC-TAC as “the gold standard” for bee diagnostics when she visited our facilities this August. Quite the honour for such a young, small-time research lab in small town Alberta!

Of course, NBDC-TAC couldn’t have done it alone. They’ve relied on partners like Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Beaverlodge Research Farm, funding organizations like NSERC, and the provincial and federal governments to achieve their successes. As they enter their sixth year of operation, NBDC-TAC looks forward to continuing to grow and strengthen these partnerships.

Dr. Carlos Castillo, Manager and Applied Scientist at NBDC-TAC, working in the laboratory.

The Next Five Years

NBDC-TAC’s 5th anniversary comes at an exciting time for the Centre. Their lab space is expanding, and will soon be shared with AAFC’s National Apiculture Research Program to allow for better collaboration between the two entities. The expansion project, which commenced in the spring of 2017 and is expected to be complete next May, will roughly triple the current lab space. Dr. Carlos Castillo, Manager and Applied Scientist at GPRC NBDC-TAC, said that with additional staff resources and new equipment, the lab will be able to triple its capacity from 20,000 diagnostics per year to 60,000.

The NBDC-TAC expansion is underway and will be complete in the summer of 2018.

Tripling in space and capacity so quickly may seem like quite the challenge, but our little bee lab in Beaverlodge is no stranger to taking on challenges. Happy anniversary, NBDC-TAC – we can’t wait to see what you will accomplish next!

Welcome, Nabil!

Welcome, Nabil!

We are happy to welcome Nabil Marouf as our new Research Project Coordinator at GPRC’s NBDC-TAC! Nabil is a scientist who has worked in Grande Prairie for near five years in various roles from public health projects manager and analytical support to psycho-social aid and training’s on resilience techniques against stress, a skill he put to use helping Fort McMurray residents and professionals in the aftermath of the 2016 wildfire.

Like most scientists, Nabil has nurtured a lifelong passion for learning and sharing. It was his eagerness for new experiences that first brought him to NBDC-TAC. “I’m a scientific adventurer who likes to learn and to be inspired. There’s nothing more inspiring than the noble task of saving the bees, at least to try to help.”

Part of Nabil’s mandate while he is here is to work on completing the National Survey of Bee Health, an NBDC-TAC four-year project that began in 2014. “It’s a challenge, another exciting one” said Nabil. The National Survey aims to establish a bee health database for Canadian beekeepers by collecting and analyzing bee samples from across the country. The project is the first of its kind in Canada, and will help bring Canada up to the same standards as other top-ranking beekeeping nations of the world.

Nabil is aware of the importance of his role to the success of its mission. To Nabil, bee health is more than just a science experiment: it is the future. “If we don’t care about the bees, we don’t care about the environment we’re living in. About what we are eating, what we are giving to our kids and the next generations. The bee is a good indicator of the health status of our environment. It’s definitively the future of the world!”

As Nabil tackles the newest challenge in his life, he is excited to do it alongside the outstanding team at GPRC’s NBDC-TAC – almost as excited as we are to have him here.

Welcome, Nabil!

How One GPRC Scientist is Travelling the World and Saving the Bees

How One GPRC Scientist is Travelling the World and Saving the Bees

Many residents of the Peace Region are surprised to learn that one of the most important hubs for bee research and innovation in Canada happens to be in their own backyard. GPRC’s National Bee Diagnostic Centre (NBDC), a Technology Access Centre located in Beaverlodge, performs diagnostic services for beekeepers across the country. The centre is so well-known that it’s not uncommon for the scientists at NBDC-TAC to receive requests to share their expertise with others.

GPRC NBDC-TAC Laboratory in Beaverlodge, AB.


That’s what happened in May when NBDC Manager and Applied Scientist Dr. Carlos Castillo received a request from Peru asking him to lend his expertise to another diagnostic and research facility. Hosted by Peru’s National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA) Dr. Castillo spent two weeks in the Peruvian capital city of Lima, with occasional trips to the High Jungle where he was able to assist with field research. “It was really valuable to see another reality, and to understand how they keep bees in other countries,” said Castillo.

Castillo offered advice about diagnostic processes and protocols, including equipment purchase, maintenance and sampling practices. He hopes that his advice will prove valuable to the folks at INIA, especially as bee diagnostic services are becoming more and more crucial.


GPRC NBDC-TAC Manager and Applied Scientist Dr. Carlos Castillo.



Bee health is suffering in Canada and in many other countries around the world with bee populations declining in recent years. This decline is due to a combination of factors, including habitat destruction, climate change, pathogens and pesticides. Farmers rely on bee pollination for many of their fruit- and nut-based crops to survive, meaning that a decline in bee health can have disastrous consequences for food production. Diagnostic services like the ones Carlos provides at NBDC-TAC can help beekeepers manage the health of their hives and encourage bee populations to flourish.

Saving the bees via international cooperation is all in a day’s work for Dr. Castillo and his team at NBDC-TAC. “My message to beekeepers is that we are here to help them,” said Castillo. “We are always open to listen to them and to try to work with them. We are here for them.”

To learn more about the NBDC-TAC, visit our website.



Come meet us in person! We’ll be at this year’s Beekeepers’ Field Day at the AAFC Research Farm in Beaverlodge on June 23, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This event is open to the public and free to attend. We hope you can join us! Event details.


Bee sample at GPRC NBDC-TAC.