Mesocosms are simplified physical models of natural ecosystems used for experimental research. They represent a balance between the control of laboratory investigations because they are uniform and replicated, experimental treatments can be imposed.
They also promote the realism of field studies because they are exposed to daily and seasonal cycles, weather patterns, colonization by local biota.
The above-ground mesocosm facility houses 16 mesocosms on a secondary containment pad. This facility enables secure testing of chemical constituents and materials that are reputed to have harmful effects on the environment.
The development and construction of the above-ground mesocosm facility was a joint-partnership initiative between InnoTech Alberta and the University of Alberta, with funding provided through the Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative. The goal was to develop a venue that researchers from academic, government, industry and consulting agencies could use to conduct novel research and development projects to address some of Alberta’s most pressing environmental challenges.
InnoTech’s below-ground aquatic mesocosm facility includes 30 open-topped mesocosms embedded in the ground, which ensures realistic thermal conditions and provides mechanical support for the tanks. The ability of these mesocosms to overwinter while maintaining a liquid layer in the bottom portion of the tank is important for sustaining populations of animals and plants in the mesocosm. This is the only facility of its type in the world (for regions with sub-zero temperatures) that can support research over the winter months allowing for complex, multi-year projects.