Engaging with Science | Mar 22, 2016 | By Karla Zubrycki, Project and Communications Manager

IISD-ELA Partners with Polaris Industries Ltd.

IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) researchers will be riding in style this year. IISD-ELA has signed a partnership agreement with Polaris Industries Ltd. to provide new Polaris off-road vehicles (ORVs) and snowmobiles in 2016.

ORVs and snowmobiles are vital to IISD-ELA research, as many of the lakes are remote and not accessible by traditional road vehicles. Researchers rely on ORVs to transport them, scientific equipment and environmental samples safely to and from field sites. The current fleet of vehicles at the facility are ageing; to ensure the well-being of researchers, updating the fleet is a priority. Thanks to this agreement, IISD-ELA will have at least three new vehicles every year the partnership is in place.

2016-01-19_L224 Ken Polaris

One benefit of this agreement is that it enables IISD-ELA to divert funds to science that would otherwise have been invested in fleet renewal. Moreover, it provides the researchers with the opportunity to test out Polaris models to determine which units are most practical and efficient for carrying out environmental research. For instance, one ATV model* being tested this year was selected because it is anticipated to be a good unit for people new to off-road travel. With a low centre of gravity, electronic power steering and enhanced safety features, it is easier to handle than other units and so will be the go-to vehicle for researchers with lower comfort levels on ORVs.

Two 2016 Polaris snowmobiles were already successfully used in January for a winter lake sampling survey, bringing researchers to various lakes where they collected water samples and important data on water temperature, oxygen concentrations, ice thickness and snow depth. In spring, IISD-ELA will begin using an electric unit—the first off-road vehicle powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Mark Lyng, operations manager at IISD-ELA, says he is excited that the Polaris partnership will provide researchers the opportunity to test the latest in environmentally friendly transportation. “Increasing our operational sustainability makes sense. We are actively investigating opportunities to incorporate environmentally friendly technologies in our research activities and facility operations. We’re excited to partner with companies like Polaris Industries, who recognize the global significance of IISD-ELA’s research and endorse the principles of product environmental stewardship.”

One of the new ATVs will also be fitted with winter tracks, an option which spreads the machine’s weight out on the snow, similar to how snowshoes distribute a person’s weight. The tracks will turn the normally three-season vehicle into a four-season one that can also drive on snow.

Chris Nicholson, Polaris sales manager for Western Canada, says in addition to relishing the idea of its equipment being used on the rugged boreal terrain at IISD-ELA, the company also values the opportunity to partner with an environmental research organization. “The Experimental Lakes Area is unique to Canada. IISD-ELA’s work is helping to protect the outdoors, and that’s something that’s important to us. We’re glad to be a part of it.”

*Units being used at IISD-ELA in 2016 include an Ace 570 ATV, 2016 Ranger EV LI-ION and Sportsman Big Boss unit.