Located in Northwestern Ontario, the Experimental Lakes Area is a series of 58 lakes that have been the site of environmental research for over 40 years. The lakes have served as an invaluable natural laboratory where scientists have been able to study issues such as acid rain, climate change and farm fishing. Scientists at the ELA have been responsible for discoveries that have impacted freshwater systems across the globe.
The groundbreaking research facility will close permanently in March of 2013, with much of its research set to move over to universities. From a CBC News article:
Prof. John Smol, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change at Queen’s University, called the decision “shortsighted” and said it is unrealistic to assume universities will take over the work.
“They’re being cut too,” he said.
Smol, who has used the Experimental Lakes Area for his own work into the early history of lakes, said the decision is part of a series of cuts the Conservative government has made to government-led research since it came to power. “If you stop doing research to identify the problems, then you don’t have to deal with them.”
“They’re obviously closing the site because they don’t want to be pestered by science.”
Shutting down the ELA research facility is part of a major sweep of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Canada Coast Guard.
In addition to the 13 full-time staff matters who will be affected by the cuts, nearly 50 scientists who use the Experimental Lakes Area to conduct research will lose their access as the facility.
Read the full CBC News story here (English): http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/05/17/pol-experimental-lakes-budget-cuts.html
Listen to a CBC Radio podcast on these threats to fresh water research here (French):
The loss of this vital facility will be a deep one for Canada. Not only will we lose our place on the world stage as leaders in freshwater ecology science, but we’ll lose our ability to predict how our freshwater will be affected by external factors such as pollution and fish farming — and thus, protect our own water supply.
The closure of the ELA research facility will not only impact the health of lakes and rivers, but for the health of Canadians, as our lakes are our direct source of drinking water.