From the humble beginnings of researchers working out of dilapidated trailers, using plywood and tarps to keep the rain off, to the emergence of a modest but highly sophisticated research facility; the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) has transformed our knowledge of freshwater ecosystems, and produced an impressive body of research; the depth and completeness of which cannot be found elsewhere in the world. Since its creation in 1968 the ELA has faced funding cuts 3 times, previous to the government's most recent cut in the now infamous omnibus bill C-38. The ELAs research has contributed substantially to our understanding of managing algal blooms, acid rain, climate change, mercury pollution, greenhouse gas fluxes from hydroelectric reservoirs, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
With recent cuts and restrictions being put on research facilities and environmental programs, Dr. Schindler argued that Canada is losing its ability to access its own environmental health, and by association its future. Schindler explained that Freshwater lakes across Canada are all facing new challenges at the hand of climate change. Warming lake temperatures are predicted to intensify the eutrophication problems being faced by lakes across the country. This combined with increasing acidification levels of freshwater bodies leading to the reproduction rates of smaller but essential members of the aquatic food chain to bottom out, has led to a grim prognosis for Canadian lakes, especially without monitoring mechanisms in place.
Unless the ELA is able to find alternative funding for its research, it will find itself sleeping with the fishies by this time next year. With it will go years of invaluable research and our ability to monitor the health of what is arguably our most valuable natural resource.
We often think of scientists as dispassionate individuals that function on the merits of logic only (Vulcan culture as it were). But our society is enriched by the passion of those who want to make a better planet. Can't scientists be activists too, especially when it comes to such an important issue as the environmental health of our lakes?
~kira - campus sustainability coordinator
photo credit - jonathan rausseo