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  • Writer's pictureKaun Lab

How do I build an environment chamber?

Updated: Mar 8

Let’s say you are starting your lab, or perhaps you are the only person in your lab that wants to conduct fly behavior experiments. You know that you need to be able to control temperature, humidity and lighting but how do you find the perfect space to do this? 


First, you need to consider where in the lab you should run your behavior experiments. Ideally this is somewhere with a controlled environment (ie somewhere that you can control temperature, humidity and lighting). Maybe it’s a small room somewhere in the department where you have independent control over the temperature. In my experience, in most institutes this isn’t going to be a possibility. A feasible alternative is to build an environment chamber (aka behavior box) where you can perform your experiments.  


You’ll need enough bench space to place your environment chamber. Typically this doesn’t have to be too large, but you want to find a quiet corner with very little vibration. You should most definitely NOT perform behavior next to:

  1. A freezer or incubator (most of these vibrate and change the ambient temperature of the space around them)

  2. A shaker

  3. A door that slams often

  4. A labmate changing stocks


If you are working with odors or volatiles, you need to set up your experiment somewhere with a lot of air turnover and circulation so it’s a healthy working environment for you, and somewhere with a vacuum or suction vent so you can control the rate of flow of odors/volatiles you are presenting to the flies. 


Second, you need to build your chamber. You’ll need some tools for this and here are tools that Reza Azanchi, our lab manager, recommends to always have in the lab:


As mentioned before, we build our environment chambers from corrugated plastic and 80/20. For memory experiments we use larger environments where we need to be in the chamber itself to train or test our flies manually. Because space can be limited, we have slide-out plastic fabric (like ‘vegan leather’) roof and curtains so we can slide it back and open the curtains when the chambers aren’t in use to save space. Here are some larger behavior boxes:


We also build smaller environment chambers that sit on the benchtop with enough space to have the tracking computer next to the chamber. These boxes are typically just big enough to fit the tracking apparatus, behavior arenas we are using, a ceramic plate for heating and computer fans to circulate the air. We typically don’t place humidifiers in these chambers because we are streaming humidified air into the behavior arenas themselves (ie (where the flies are placed for behavior). Here are some smaller behavior boxes:


Here is a list of places to get things for building the behavior boxes (ie environments in which we perform behavior experiments):


I won’t go into the detailed instructions for building the chamber here, but Reza Azanchi says that you can feel free to email him with questions or to set up a zoom call so he can walk you through it <reza_azanchi@brown.edu>.


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