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New research facility studies fish stress caused by climate change

January 14, 2022  By Hatchery International Staff

Paul Craig looks at fishes in a tank at the new WATER facility at University of Waterloo. Photo: University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo in southern Ontario is opening a new research facility to research aquatic stressors that could impact the future of aquaculture.

The new Waterloo Aquatic Threats in Environmental Research (WATER) facility aims to simulate and research threats to prepare the aquaculture industry to prevent current and future problems.

“Many environmental changes are impacting both wild and aquaculture fish,” said Paul Craig, a professor in the Department of Biology and one of the lead researchers in the new WATER facility. “Our new multimillion-dollar facility will allow researchers to bridge the gap between lab and fieldwork by studying the impact of climate-related stressors in a controlled environment.”

The WATER facility was a two-year $5.2 million-project and is now one of the largest aquatic test facilities in Ontario. It has the capability of studying aquatic organisms from Canadian cold water fish to tropical fish and amphibians. The facility is also equipped to trace multi-generational effects of different environmental stresses.

A new pathogen challenge area will allow researchers to study the impact of disease agents and contaminants of concern on aquaculture, expose populations to controlled climate-related stressors (like water temperature and oxygen saturation levels), and measure effects of human-centric pollution, such as wastewater in ecosystems.

“With the opening of the WATER facility, we are looking to expand our research areas and expertise, and invite researchers across Canada in areas water research and aquatic conservation to collaborate with us to carry out new and innovative research,” Craig said.

According to the university’s press release, the WATER facility aims to reduce water usage by 90 per cent compared to the groundwater flow-through system that was previously used in aquatic research at Waterloo.

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