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Aquactic Research Lab Upgrades

by 5m Editor
11 January 2010, at 12:00am

CANADA - While fluctuating ocean temperatures, pollution and contamination each pose threats to marine life, many fish can survive in these conditions. But as those factors combine and increase so does the risk of disease or death.

This has led Mount Allison University biology professor Suzanne Currie to wonder what the lethal combinations are? And when the marine life can adapt what are the potential effects?

According to New Brunswick Business Journal, the Sackville university's almost 30-year-old aquatic lab wasn't equipped to answer any of these questions so Ms Currie convinced the institution to build a new one.

Now under construction, the Crabtree Aqualab - named after the future facility's biggest funding provider the Harold Crabtree Foundation, a fund for education, health and social services - is expected to be complete this summer or late spring.

"The old facility was great but it was limited in how much I could control variables," Ms Currie said. "I wanted a facility that would allow me to extend my work in the marine ecosystem and accurately recreate real world conditions."

The facility, which is projected to cost between $800,000 and $900,000, will allow Ms Currie to control temperatures, and oxygen and PH levels so she can study how changing conditions affect aquatic life.

"Environmental changes in water cause fish physiological stress, which, like us, can lead to disease," Ms Currie said. "Fish that are under stress don't grow as well."

This is important to study because of the effects it could have on other life in the food chain, Ms Currie said. It will also affect the aquaculture industry, which the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance has projected to be worth $2.8 billion nationally by 2015.

These issues, along with other benefits the facility will bring to New Brunswick, caught the attention of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, a not-for-profit independent corporation funded by the provincial government.

Last week the business startup and research and development investment firm announced it is contributing $150,000 to the project, which apart from the Crabtree Foundation money also received funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure.

"By helping to fund this new facility, we're hoping Ms Currie will be able to collaborate with researchers and industry across Canada and internationally," said the foundation's chief executive Calvin Milbury. "That could lead to enhancements and innovations for researchers and industry."

The foundation's contribution is also supporting an environmental sciences cluster at Mount Allison, Mr Milbury said.

"We have some very talented researchers in New Brunswick," he said. "By enabling them to carry out their research, by helping them to access the latest equipment we're furthering their ability to have an impact on this global research agenda."

The new facility should also inch up the universities profile, Ms Currie said.

"It increases our training capacity for students," she said. "It will help us in attracting students and visiting scientists and maybe even attracting new faculty."

Ms Currie said the new facility should last decades.

"You'd like to think for the next 20 to 25 years," she said, adding unpredictable technological and scientific advancements in that time frame could change the lifespan of the facility.

5m Editor