Stephen Abrams. Curator at our Flax Pond Marine Laboratory has released the May 2020 Newsletter with updates on the facility.
With the summer fast approaching, the interior phase of the Flax Pond Laboratory renovation is reaching its conclusion. The interior drain pipelines, both seawater and domestic water, have been completely replaced. The lab’s electrical system has been replaced and upgraded, including a brand new 200 Kilowatt generator capable of running the entire building during a power outage. There are now energy efficient lights throughout. The laboratory building has had new entrance ramps installed, and both bathrooms have been completely replaced and refurbished to make the building ADA-compliant. The seawater system in the laboratory has been replaced and upgraded in numerous ways.
The laboratory now has seven large wet lab spaces, totaling approximately 3000 square feet. Each space allows for research on multiple types of organisms to operate simultaneously. With so many individual wet labs, the laboratory is now able to accommodate local shellfish and fin fish species with very different biological requirements. Aquaculture of local organisms, and the diseases that affect them, can also be safely explored without interfering with other research projects.
To further enhance the laboratory’s research mission, the building project has added two oil burners with titanium heat exchangers, capable of heating 250 gallons per minute of 40 degree Fahrenheit seawater to 72 degrees Fahrenheit in one pass. This allows a vast increase in the number of organisms researchers can work with. With the addition of specialized filters and nine seawater distribution pumps, researchers can have their choice of pond water that is either unfiltered or highly filtered. Both types of water will be available at either ambient temperature or heated to whatever temperature a researcher requires in each lab space.
A sophisticated seawater and building monitoring system is being installed to control the flow and temperature of the seawater throughout the building. Lighting in the hatchery and algae culture rooms can be programmed to allow for different photoperiods that many experiments require. Sensors will monitor water and air pressure to each lab space and will also monitor electrical, fire and generator usage. Any problems will immediately trigger a phone and text message alert(s) to the appropriate responders.
The laboratory will also be gaining a new building access system that will limit and record who can get into the building and new wet laboratory rooms. The hatchery, algae culture rooms, and hallways have had an epoxy waterproof, chemical-resistant floor installed to comply with University and federal animal care guidelines.
SoMAS is still awaiting a decision on the permit for the seawater intake near the entrance to the pond. We believe all the pertinent questions raised by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers have been satisfactorily answered. While COVID 19 has probably slowed the project by about a month, we believe that the Flax Pond Lab will be fully operational by January/February 2021.