Lab to study effects of pollution, temperature on fish in controlled setting – Times Transcript repo

Lab to study effects of pollution, temperature on fish in controlled setting - Times Transcript repo

By Eric Lewis – Times & Transcript Staff | Read original article on

A Mount Allison University project just got a big boost courtesy of the New Brunswick Innovation Fund.

The fund announced yesterday a $150,000 donation toward the building of a new aquatic laboratory at the university.

Awarded under the foundation’s innovation capacity development initiative, the new wet lab, now under construction, will allow researchers to determine how fish and invertebrates cope and survive under conditions of climate change and when exposed to pollutants.

“This new facility will hopefully increase our capacity to do experiments on stress tolerance and also extend it to more marine studies so we can look at the freshwater and marine environment and more tightly control our environmental variables, like temperature and pH and that type of thing so that we can increase the species of fish and invertebrates that we study, increase the number of parameters that we can change and manipulate and probably extend it to do more contaminant work as well,” says biologist and professor Dr. Suzanne Currie.

She has been at the school for nearly a decade, doing research mostly on freshwater fish in the old lab to try to understand their mechanisms of stress tolerance to contaminants, high temperatures and low oxygen.

“Environmental changes in water cause fish physiological stress, which, like us, can lead to disease,” she says, “plus, fish that are under stress don’t grow as well.”

The new tanks and control systems in the new facility will allow Currie and other researchers to precisely change the temperature, salinity and oxygenation of the water. The previous facility, built in 1982, did not allow for the reliable and consistent changing of the composition of the water, and depended on the flow of the university’s general water services system to operate. With this new controlled system, Currie says her work could lead to new best practices for both wild and cultured fish stocks.

“Often studies that are done in labs are done kind of under standard conditions of temperature and oxygen, and then you kind of add the pollutants to the water and you look at the effects on the fish,” Currie explains. “What we’re trying to do is actually mimic what’s happening in the wild, where temperatures change all the time, seasonally and daily. Oxygen levels change, you’ve got ocean acidification, increases in CO2. What we’re trying to do is take these changes and couple those with exposure to contaminants to see what the effects are on wildlife, on fish, and then what the animals are doing to deal with that.”

The old aquatic lab was just demolished and the new lab will be complete by late-spring or summer.

The project’s total cost is about $900,000, and it’s being funded by NBIF, Mount Allison, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and from the Harold Crabtree Foundation.

The new lab will be named Crabtree Aqualab.

“Most of the fish we buy at the supermarket comes from a farm, many of them right here in New Brunswick,” says Calvin Milbury, president and CEO of NBIF. “As we find new and better ways to increase the output of the province’s aquaculture, the outcome of Dr. Currie’s research will be beneficial for many companies, not to mention new discoveries that could impact the future of the industry.”

Another aspect of Currie’s research focuses on the effect rising water temperatures have on fish susceptibility to the environmental pollutants released into the world’s rivers and oceans.

“Finding out at what water temperature fish are the least stressed and affected by contaminants is key for developing new best practices for industry,” says Currie. “For example, industries that release effluent into the water system can be encouraged to do so at times of year when water temperature is optimal.”

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is an independent corporation that supports the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in New Brunswick. The foundation’s mandate is to strengthen the innovation capacity of New Brunswick by making investments in applied research and in new, growth-oriented businesses.

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