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Aquatic Life Research Facility

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Entrance to the main experiment room | Photo: EOALRSD Graphic Arts, Environment CanadaLocated at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW) in Burlington, Ontario, the Aquatic Life Research Facility is a $4.6M state-of-the-art laboratory designed for studying fish and aquatic life health in the contexts of toxicant and stressor exposure.  Built as a joint project between Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, it provides space for scientists, graduate students, and university partners.  Completed in summer 2009, the new facility replaces one originally built in the 1970s.


Features of the Laboratory

The self contained facility consists of a series of rooms for conducting studies of aquatic life, including:

  • Banks of fish holding tanks | Photo: EOALRSD Graphic Arts, Environment CanadaA fish holding room for hatchery- and laboratory-raised fish with four banks of three holding tanks on water recirculation systems
  • An experiment room capable of supporting 260 50-L aquaria where large numbers of fish can be exposed to toxicants and stressors at several levels, and can be tested in replicate
  • A separate wild-fish room where fish caught in the wild can be tested for food chain and stressor experiments while preventing pathogens from spreading to laboratory-raised experimental fish
  • A room of environmental chambers for testing stressor effects on turtles, amphibians, invertebrates and other forms of aquatic life
  • A dissection room and a chemistry room where tissue samples can be harvested and prepared for testing post exposure, but separated from the live fish rooms to prevent pathogens from contaminating running experiments

These new laboratory facilities provide several dramatic improvements from the original laboratory:

Experiment racks | Photo: EOALRSD Graphic Arts, Environment CanadaEnhanced research capacity:  With segregation between wild fish and laboratory fish, scientists at CCIW will be able to run studies concurrently without risking cross-contamination. New environmental chambers add the capacity to study turtles, amphibians and other forms of aquatic life, and the new holding tanks and experiment room provide space for three to five times more fish than can currently be accommodated,  allowing a number of researchers to run experiments concurrently.

Improved research security:  The laboratory was designed with great attention given to proper care of animals. It has several features intended to ensure that safety of research animals is maintained, including security controlled entrances and exits.  It has a main corridor with large bay windows where tours can be conducted without interfering with experiments or researchers.

Reduced waste and energy consumption:  The new facility features water recirculation systems that conserve 80% of the water, filtering out harmful waste compounds before passing it back into the tank, and allowing for a reduction in the energy needed to maintain a constant temperature. These cost savings will result in the new facility paying for itself in less than 10 years.

Research Programs

Chemistry laboratory | Photo: EOALRSD Graphic Arts, Environment CanadaWith the enhanced capacity and capabilities of the Aquatic Life Research Facility, researchers at CCIW have a greater opportunity to conduct cutting-edge science in support of Environment Canada’s Science Plan, as well as to attract young scientists, graduate students, external collaborators and university partnerships.  Several projects are already being scheduled for the new facility, including:
  • Potential toxicology of oil sands tailings water, sediments and effluents
  • Toxicology of priority Chemicals Management Plan chemicals to fish, turtles and amphibians
  • Effects of altered food chains on reproduction in lake trout

For more information, please contact:

Douglas Laing, Facility Manager
Aquatic Life Research Facility
Environment Canada,
Canada Centre for Inland Waters
867 Lakeshore Rd.
Burlington, ON, L7R 4A6

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