The University of Waterloo is hosting the first workshop to chart the future of research at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).

The freshwater research facility was reopened in April 2014 by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) following transfer agreements with the federal, Ontario and Manitoba governments, and is now known as IISD-ELA

The two-day program of lectures and discussions will bring together scientists from 10 Ontario universities, Environment Canada, and IISD-ELA to redefine the facility’s research focus for the future. The workshop is led by Professor Sherry Schiff of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Professor Rebecca Rooney of the Department of Biology, both members of Waterloo’s Water Institute.

Professor David Schindler, founding director of the ELA from 1968 to 1989, will kick off the workshop with a Public Lecture Wednesday evening, June 18th at 7:00 p.m.

The IISD-ELA and its scientific partners want to expand from its in-lake focus to include whole watersheds and ecosystems in order to study the fate and cycling of a new generation of contaminants such as pesticides like neonicotinoids, and antibacterial products containing nanosilver particles as well as flame retardants.

“The freshwater research that has come out of the Experimental Lakes Area has informed policy around the world,” says Matthew McCandless, executive director of IISD-ELA. “It’s because of the facility that countries are limiting their phosphorus inputs into waterways to control algal blooms.”

In addition to proving the link between phosphorus loading and algal blooms, research from the ELA has been responsible for our understanding of the cause and impacts of acid rain, the transport of mercury from smokestacks up the food chain to our dinner plate, and the improved design of dam reservoirs to reduce emissions of methyl mercury and greenhouse gases.

“The ELA didn’t die. We saved it,” Rooney said. “Now it’s time to chart its future. This workshop will help us identify the big science questions we should be asking and how Universities can work with ELA scientists to start answering them.”

In 1968, the Canadian government set aside 58 small lakes and their watersheds in a bold move to create the ELA, one of the world’s foremost freshwater research stations where scientists can conduct whole-lake experiments on unprecedented scales. The federal government announced it was closing the facility in 2012 due to budget constraints despite international protests from scientists.

The workshop takes place at the University of Waterloo campus this Thursday, June 19th and Friday, June 20th and is co-sponsored by the Water Institute, the University of Waterloo and IISD-ELA.


About the University of Waterloo

In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Waterloo, as home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program, embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit

About the International Institute for Sustainable Development

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) contributes to sustainable development by advancing policy recommendations on international trade and investment, economic policy, climate change and energy, water, and management of natural and social capital, as well as the enabling role of communication technologies in these areas. We report on international negotiations and disseminate knowledge gained through collaborative projects, resulting in more rigorous research, capacity building in developing countries, better networks spanning the North and the South, and better global connections among researchers, practitioners, citizens and policy-makers.


Media Contact

Nick Manning
University of Waterloo

Joel Trenaman
International Institute for Sustainable Development

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