A 21st Century Lab for 21st Century Science
The U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC), headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been a leading Great Lakes fisheries research organization for over fifty years. During a critical era, the GLSC has provided the science for restoring, enhancing, managing, and protecting living resources and their habitats in the Great Lakes.
The GLSC’s aquatic research lab in Ann Arbor was key to many science milestones in the second half of the 20th Century. However, by the late 1990s, the lab had been used beyond repair. To ensure GLSC scientists continue to provide critical scientific information to state, provincial, and tribal environmental managers in the 21st Century, the GSLC has built a new aquatic lab in Ann Arbor.
The new lab holds 30,000 gallons of water and covers 6,000 square feet. There are 128 tanks, ranging in size from 10 gallons to 1000 gallons, which allow scientists to hold all but the largest size Great Lakes fish. The lab also offers 64 vertical Heath trays for incubating salmonid eggs, and 72 McDonald jars for incubating eggs of other species. Water temperature, oxygen, pH, and flow can be controlled in all of the tanks, with water turnover (complete replacement) times as fast as one hour.
“It’s a 21st century aquatic research laboratory that functions on completely reused water,” explained GLSC Director, Russell Strach. “The lab will be used primarily by GLSC scientists, GLSC partners, and nonprofit organizations.”
A key feature of the new lab is the versatility offered by distinctly separated life support systems. “We can do numerous replicates of the same condition or a variety of different conditions all in one space,” said Melissa Kostich, GLSC biological technician.
Another new feature of the aquatic lab is a fish respirometer (or swim tunnel). “With the respirometer, we’re able to measure the rate at which oxygen is consumed by fish, which will allow for very accurate fish bioenergetics models,” described Chuck Madenjian, GLSC research fishery biologist. “I see a lot of opportunities with the new lab. New questions that can only be answered with new facilities.”
The lab includes a computerized control system that allows for remote monitoring of facilities and tank conditions, like temperature or water level. The system will also notify GLSC staff if problems arise.
“We have more space; we have more water. We have our own disinfecting system that allows us to handle species that we couldn’t before. The limitation is your own imagination,” highlighted Kostich.
“There are a lot of aquatic laboratories at various universities and government organizations, but I do not know of one that has these kinds of capabilities,” said Strach. “This truly is cutting edge, and I think we will see a lot of wonderful science come out of the new aquatic lab.”