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New Cold Water Research Lab

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Figure 1.  The seawater chilling plant consists of two 100-ton chilling units that continually cool and recirculate glycol through a 5,000-gallon reservoir.  From the reservoir the glycol is pumped to exchangers throughout the facility in order to chill seawater.

This summer, the Center’s Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program will begin utilizing a newly renovated Cold Water Research Laboratory specifically designed to accommodate studies on arctic species. This new capability will support expanding efforts in studying basic growth and physiology of ecologically important species such as Arctic cod, Boreogadus saida, and snow crab, Chionoecetes opilio,as well as the effects of climate change upon fish and crab populations.

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  Figure 2.  Ten titanium heat exchangers are located throughout the facility, allowing specific seawater temperatures to be maintained throughout the 18,000 square feet of wet-lab space.

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  Figure 3.  The current iteration of the Cold Water Research Lab incorporates 32 tanks for studying the effects of water temperature on fish and crab growth.  Water can be chilled down to 0°C, to study Arctic species.  The lab was designed with flexibility in mind, to allow for various sized tanks and precise control of ambient illumination and photo periods.

The Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program, based at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, has been at the forefront of research focusing on the ecology, growth, physiology and by-catch of commercially important Alaskan species for 30 years.  The program is supported by four critical attributes, unique to the Newport facility. 

  • The first is a high quality, sand filtered seawater system, operated collaboratively with the NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Oregon State University.  Although the campus is on an estuary, the temperature and salinity of the water pumped through the labs is surprisingly constant, typically in the range of 9°– 12°C and 280/00 – 330/00, respectively.  This is attributable to an 800,000-gallon pump storage facility, which allows cool high salinity water coming into the bay on the height of the flood tide to be stored and then filtered and distributed to the labs throughout the remainder of the tidal cycle

  • Second, a centralized 200-ton chilling plant (Fig. 1) pumps -6°C glycol to exchangers (Fig. 2) throughout the facility and allows flow-through seawater to be chilled to as low as 2°C in the various labs. 

  • Third, a 2,300 square foot quarantine wet-lab allows for species from anywhere in the North Pacific and Arctic to be studied under conditions that prevent possible transmission of species or pathogens to the local ecosystem. 

Finally, with over 18,000 square feet of combined wet lab space, the program is able to develop and continually redesign laboratories for specialized studies.

The new Cold Water Research Laboratory takes advantage of each of these attributes to provide a dedicated facility were the growth and ecology of arctic species can be studied.   In its present configuration (Fig. 3), the lab hosts 32 rectangular tanks (64 x 46 x 30cm) allowing for highly replicated studies on juvenile fish and crustacean growth.  In addition, while 2°C is about as low as water can be chilled in other laboratories, a secondary chilling system in this laboratory is capable of chilling water down to 0°C or lower.  Also, the program has received NOAA facility funds to initiate a new quarantine system which will utilize UV treatment of effluent water, reducing the hazards and costs associated with the use of chlorine. 

The first experiments to be conducted this summer will examine the interactive effects of temperature and food availability on Arctic cod growth, condition, and lipid storage.  These experiments will provide model parameterization to forecast future effects of warming and food web change in the Arctic (NPRB project #1228).  Following the experiment, juveniles will be transferred to larger temperature-controlled tanks to investigate age-structure in the program’s  Arctic cod broodstock (Fig. 4).  Temperature effects on egg and larval Arctic cod will be examined in FY14 and FY15.  A second study in FY13 will examine interactive effects of dietary lipid, ration size and temperature upon rates of growth and body condition of juvenile Tanner crab (Fig. 5).  This experiment is related to the Center’s Habitat and Ecological Processes Research program-funded field studies which have demonstrated differing growth rates of newly settled Tanner crabs, C. bairdi,  in various embayments around Kodiak.  The goal is to develop a ‘nursery quality’ index relative to age-0 Tanner crabs that can be applied throughout the species range. These experiments will also serve to develop techniques that will be incorporated in future snow crab research.

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Figure 4 (left).  Arctic cod were captured in the Chukchi Sea last summer and returned to Newport to establish a broodstock.  Amazingly, these fish started spawning when they were not yet a year old! Figure 5 (right). Juvenile Tanner crab are collected from Kodiak waters and utilized in growth and habitat preference studies.

This laboratory represents a unique resource at the Center which will be available for collaborative projects involving other AFSC, state, and academic partners.

By Clifford Ryer




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