Low-cost fluctuating-temperature chamber for experimental ecology

Greenspan, Sasha E., Morris, Wayne, Warburton, Russell, Edwards, Lexie, Duffy, Richard, Pike, David, Schwarzkopf, Lin, and Alford, Ross A. (2016) Low-cost fluctuating-temperature chamber for experimental ecology. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 7. pp. 1567-1574.

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Commercially available fluctuating-temperature chambers are large and costly. This poses a challenge to experimental ecologists endeavouring to recreate natural temperature cycles in the laboratory because the large number of commercial chambers required for replicated study designs is prohibitively expensive to purchase, requires a large amount of space and consumes a great deal of energy.

We developed and validated a design for economical, programmable fluctuating-temperature chambers based on a relatively small (23 L) commercially manufactured constant temperature chamber ($140US) modified with a customized, user-friendly microcontroller ($15US).

Over a 1-week trial, these chambers reliably reproduced a real-world fluctuating (13·1–35·5 °C) body temperature regime of an individual frog, with a near-perfect 1 : 1 fit between target and actual temperatures (y = 1·0036x + 0·1366, R2 = 0·9977, 95% confidence interval for slope = 1·0026, 1·0046). Over 30-day trials, they also reliably produced a simpler daily fluctuating-temperature scheme (sine wave fluctuating between 10 and 25 °C each 24 h) and a range of constant temperature regimes.

The design is inexpensive and simple to assemble in large numbers, enabling genuine replication of even highly complex, many treatment study designs. For example, it is possible to simultaneously examine in replicate chambers the responses of organisms to constant regimes, regimes that fluctuate following the means experienced by populations and regimes that exactly mimic fluctuations measured over any length of time for particular individuals that differ in behaviour or microhabitat use. These chambers thus vastly expand the pool of resources available for manipulative experiments in thermal biology and ecology.

Item ID: 48006
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2041-210X
Keywords: applied ecology; disese ecology; incubator; microbial ecology; replication; thermal biology
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 2 of the following PhD thesis: Greenspan, Sasha Eden (2017) Thermal thresholds in the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: James Cook University (JCU), Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: JCU International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, ARC Discovery Grant DP130101635
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2017 00:14
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310303 Ecological physiology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 100%
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