Theoretical models predict that increasing environmental variation increases the probability of extinction, decreases the probability of establishment, and influences the distribution of times to extinction or establishment. We conducted an experiment with 281 independent populations of Daphnia magna under controlled laboratory conditions to test these predictions. Consistent with the theory, the fraction of populations going extinct increased and the fraction of populations establishing self-sustaining populations decreased under higher levels of environmental variation compared with controls. Time to extinction decreased under higher levels of environmental variation, but we found no effect on time to establishment. These results are consistent with theoretical predictions from models of extinction. They therefore support the use of stochastic population models to predict the fates of introductions of non-indigenous species or native endangered species based on historic fluctuations and/or expected future conditions.