Partnership Agreement Saves Canada’s Renowned Lake Laboratory
The Experimental Lakes Area, site of trailblazing research into the effects of acid rain and the cause of freshwater algae blooms, will not be closed, as might have happened under a 2012 budget-cutting proposal by Canada’s conservative government.
According to agreements signed April 1 with provincial and federal officials, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a public policy think tank, will be the new headmaster of the renowned outdoor laboratory where some of the most important freshwater research of the last half century took place.
IISD will take over a role the federal government played since the Experimental Lakes Area was founded in 1968 but sought to relinquish two years ago. Government ministers argued that closing the facility would save at least $US 2 million per year and allow federal water research to focus on the oil industry.
Government critics, however, saw another example of a right-wing attack on science. Since the Conservative Party came to power in 2006, entire research programs have been cut, scientists laid off, and libraries closed.
The new operating agreement at the Experimental Lakes Area gives the site fresh life. The agreement will broaden the scope of research at the ELA, a cluster of 58 lakes in western Ontario set aside for environmental inquiry. Rather than studies solely related to domestic fisheries, as was its mandate during federal control, the new ELA will be able to export its knowledge abroad.
“This agreement is very positive for freshwater research in general,” Matt McCandless, new executive director of the ELA, told Circle of Blue. “Now we can collaborate internationally. We can apply our freshwater expertise to other issues around the world – Lake Chad or Lake Victoria in Africa, for example.”