drone shot of two lakes
Press release

New Research Into Plastics and Antidepressants, New Protocols at IISD Experimental Lakes Area This Summer

WINNIPEG, MB—IISD Experimental Lakes Area, the world’s freshwater laboratory in northwestern Ontario, is carefully and safely opening its doors to new research and a slightly larger research team this summer, after a significantly pared down 2020 research season.

April 27, 2021

There will be two new research projects kicking off this year—both of which had been planned but ultimately postponed last year under the strict limitations imposed due to the COVID-19 virus.

The first project will explore what happens to all elements of a lake—from its zooplankton to its fish—when microplastics are introduced. Plastics are used in all aspects of contemporary life, but little is known about what happens when they break down and reach our precious water supplies.

The second project will discover what happens when one of the most prescribed drugs in Canada—venlafaxine, a common antidepressant—is flushed out from humans and reaches our lakes. How does it affect how fish swim and interact? Does it have an impact on fish populations?

“Thanks to careful planning and a dedicated team, we are thrilled to be able to start new research this year after a challenging, yet successful, 2020,” said Matthew McCandless, executive director, IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

“Last year, we worked hard to keep one of the world’s longest environmental datasets running; this year we are starting critical new research into the impacts of plastics and antidepressants on our freshwater supplies. We are also maintaining existing projects exploring how best to clean up oil spills and how we can treat harmful algal blooms.”

“As always, safety will be our first priority, with only a select group of researchers physically working at the site—more than were allowed at the site last year,” said Pauline Gerrard, deputy director, IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

“Of course, those researchers will be required to self-isolate for two weeks before and after they are at the facility and will follow strict protocols whilst working there.”

IISD Experimental Lakes Area is the world’s freshwater laboratory. A series of 58 lakes and their watersheds in northwestern Ontario, Canada, IISD-ELA is the only place in the world where scientists can research on and manipulate real lakes to build a more accurate and complete picture of what human activity is doing to freshwater systems. The findings from over 50 years of ground-breaking research have rewritten environmental policy around the world—from mitigating algal blooms to reducing how much mercury gets into our waterways—and aim to keep fresh water clean around the world for generations to come.


For more information, and to speak to a researcher, contact:

Sumeep Bath, Editorial and Communications Manager, IISD Experimental Lakes Area,

sbath@iisd.ca or +1 (204) 599 2595

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.