Mesocosm Test Facility - Aquatic - InnoTech Alberta

Mesocosms are physical models of natural systems used for experimental research.  They are uniform and replicated, but also exposed to the local environment; this allows control of experimental conditions for research while providing some level of realism in terms of diurnal and seasonal cycles, weather patterns, colonization by local biota, and other factors.

InnoTech’s Vegreville site is home to a high-end aquatic mesocosm facility containing 30 large (15,000 L) double-walled tanks capable of supporting studies throughout the year (including over the winter).  The inner tank is used as the experimental unit, while the outer tank provides secondary containment should the inner tank be compromised. Each mesocosm is equipped with an overflow tank as a safety measure to contain liquid from the mesocosm in case of excessive levels of precipitation.

The mesocosms are open-topped and embedded in the ground to provide realistic thermal conditions and to maintain a liquid layer at the bottom of the tank year-round.  The ability to maintain a liquid layer during winter is important for sustaining populations of invertebrates and other biota in the mesocosm during multi-year experiments.

In addition to the mesocosm themselves, our facility includes a series of ponds used to maintain a stock of aquatic plants on-hand for mesocosm experiments, and large vertical tanks for storing potable water and liquid test materials (e.g. water affected by industrial processes).  Other infrastructure and equipment at the facility includes storage buildings, water pumps and hoses, a range of dataloggers and other water sampling equipment, and equipment for sampling a range of aquatic biota.  An advanced analytical chemistry lab is located on-site in Vegreville, providing a convenient venue for sample analysis.  In addition, the mesocosm facility is accessible to large trucks (e.g. for delivering test material), and our entire facility is behind a security fence.