After many years of having a logistically awkward situation with respect to my lab space, I finally convinced the new department chair that a more conveniently located lab that has been used to store junk for more than a decade would be well used by my research group. It is not a large lab, and it would not be desirable for most other research groups, but I have some low-tech activities that are perfectly suited for this smallish space.
This lab is now officially assigned to my research group, and in our few weeks of occupancy, we have already made good use of the space. Certain research activities are now much easier to accomplish efficiently, and it is easier to involve undergrads in research projects.
My other lab space is in a rather remote location and has its own set of keys that can only be acquired by filling out permission forms obtained from a difficult-to-find person who lurks in a basement office at random times. The new space is in the main department building, not far from my office, and can be accessed using a master key that all faculty, postdocs, and grad students have.
A colleague recently told me that a postdoc in another research group has been using my new lab and some of my equipment. This postdoc has not asked permission and in fact I have never even met him. I have not yet encountered him in the lab, but he always cleans up perfectly and he doesn't use any of the lab consumable supplies.
If he asked my permission to use the lab, I would readily grant it. So why does it bother me that he is using the lab without my permission? Am I more territorial than I had realized?
With my primary lab space, I limit access to those who have had the required safety training, who know how to use the materials and facilities, and whose key-permission forms I have signed. I am not aware of anyone who has used those lab facilities without my permission.
It's important to know who is using the lab for the simple reason that I am responsible for the people and the facilities. I once banned a Ph.D. student (not mine) from ever stepping foot in my lab again because he had repeatedly violated lab safety rules and because he was such a slob that he was causing problems for others who were also doing work in the lab.
Owing to that incident and a few other more minor ones, I know that I need to be generally aware of what is going on in the lab, and who is doing what.
And I feel territorial. I do not feel territorial with every molecule of my being, but the sentiment is lurking in there somewhere.
Furthermore, I do not believe that this postdoc would use, without permission, labs supervised by most (any?) of my colleagues. For some reason, however, he feels he can use my lab space without so much as having introduced himself to me.
Yes, I will talk to him, and no, I will not go nuclear on him and ban him from my 'territory' because he offended me by not asking permission first. If situations like this continue to arise, however, I am changing the locks.
8 months ago