Large-scale construction is not the only way that University Facilities strives to improve Clemson’s campus. Smaller projects are just as important and impactful, with one such case being lighting renovations for the Aquatic Animal Research Laboratory in the Poole Agricultural Center building.

At the beginning of last semester, University Facilities was notified research in the Aquatics Lab was being disrupted by inconsistent lighting. The Aquatic Animal Research Laboratory supports research projects across several colleges and also provides support for undergraduate teaching labs.

A researcher works under the new lighting system in the Aquatics lab.

A researcher works under the new lighting system in the Aquatics lab.

The research is driven by breeding and raising different lines of zebrafish and other small aquarium fish. These small fish are used in several lines of research including environmental toxicology, genetic and developmental studies, and human disease models, according to John Smink, a wildlife biologist who is the lab manager.

Zebrafish require a defined and uninterrupted light cycle to breed, which became an issue with the existing lighting system in the facility.

When occasional power outages occurred, the lights would go out and the light timers would also stop, interrupting the defined light cycle. The existing lights did not have a backup power supply, so the fish would experience brief periods of darkness in the middle of the day. These light cycle interruptions negatively impacted fish behavior and reproduction. Smink contacted Facilities for help.

The Facilities team solved the problem by installing a new lighting system, called Audacy. Now the lights turn on and off according to each individual researcher’s needs.

Each of the facilities’ 12 research labs can have a different lighting schedule, all controlled by a central laptop computer. The Audacy lighting program also allows for varying levels of brightness and a gradual increase or decrease in brightness when the lights turn on and off to simulate sunrise and sunset.

With backup power provided by temporary UPS and longer-term diesel generator, even if the power goes out, the lights will stay on. With the new Audacy lighting system and backup power, the fish are happy, and research can continue without any worry of the lights interfering with fish reproduction or behavioral changes.