Biology Aquatics Facility: aquatic animal research lab offers high operating standards and trained personnel support

Tucked quietly into the basement of the Centennial Building, Lakehead’s Biology Aquatics Facility—or BAF—houses a variety of active research projects in the aquatic biological sciences. From studies on how temperature effects fish growth and metabolism to monitoring hatching success in different species to fish behaviour research, the BAF provides faculty and students access to the specialized equipment needed to carry out such controlled laboratory experiments.  

With annual operating funds from the federal Research Support Fund grant awarded to Lakehead University, the BAF provides researchers access to services from a Registered Veterinary Technician and Veterinarian —all part of the research infrastructure and support that drew one of Lakehead’s newest Canada Research Chairs to the university.

“The BAF opens up the range of research we can conduct by providing the means to dig deeper and test the theories we have after observing patterns in the field,” says Dr. Michael Rennie, Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries. “Without the BAF, I would not be doing these experiments, or I’d be challenged with trying to do these experiments in partner facilities as far away as Winnipeg.”

One of Dr. Rennie’s first grad students at Lakehead conducted all his lab-based experiments on yellow perch behaviour in the BAF this past year, benefitting greatly from the support and expertise of the part-time technician and veterinarian.

“Having the expert support to ensure all the BAF equipment is running effectively, monitoring the water quality in the tanks, and sharing in the responsibility and care for the fish is a massive benefit to my students and ultimately to the success of our investigations,” adds Dr. Rennie.

The modern facility also continues to hold its Good Animal Practice certificate from the Canadian Council on Animal Care, ensuring that aquatic animals are housed to the high standards set by the Council, as well as the Ontario Animals for Research Act. 

“Our animal care personnel play a crucial role in maintaining the high operating standards of research facilities like the BAF, often exceeding the regulatory requirements while ensuring they are in proper working condition for researchers,” adds Dr. Andrew Dean, Lakehead’s VP of Research and Innovation.

The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2015/16, Lakehead University received $1.9 million from the Research Support Fund for the indirect costs of its tri-agency funded research.