Replicated ecosystems for focused and controlled biological research.

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. 



Mesocosms Test Facility Details

Above Ground Mesocosms

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. 

  • Suitable for soil/sediment or aquatic media to test treatment effects in a scaled-up and controlled system. 
  • 16 tanks (each 5,000 L) and associated infrastructure for controlling hydraulic head for variable water table simulation 
  • A range of sampling and monitoring systems are available for use at the facility, including instruments relevant to both terrestrial and aquatic-based experiments 

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. 

Below Ground Mesocosms 

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. 

  • 30 double-walled tanks (each 15,000 L)  
  • The inner tank is used as the experimental unit, while the outer tank provides secondary containment should the inner tank be compromised 
  • Each tank is equipped with an overflow tank as a safety measure to contain liquid from the mesocosm in case of excessive levels of precipitation 
  • The facility includes storage buildings with water pumps and hoses, and a range of dataloggers, water and biota sampling equipment 
  • A series of ponds is available to maintain a stock of aquatic plants for experiments 
  • Large vertical tanks are on-site for storing potable water and liquid test materials (water affected by industrial processes) 
  • An advanced analytical chemistry lab is located on-site in Vegreville 
  • The entire facility is behind security fencing but is also accessible to large trucks for delivering and removing test material 

For more information

Mesocosm Test Facilities

Hwy 16 & 75 Street
AB T9C 1N6

See Facility Location