The Knowledge to Act


World’s Freshwater Laboratory Launches New Project to Revolutionize How We Protect Canada’s Lakes

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WINNIPEG, April 18, 2019—To mark this Monday’s Earth Day, the world’s freshwater laboratory is launching an unprecedented two-year project to determine how new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, can revolutionize how we protect the environment.

IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA), just four hours east of Winnipeg, will be taking its 51-year dataset—one of the longest and most comprehensive in the world—on the health and history of its lakes and using artificial intelligence to reframe how we understand the health of our environment, and come up with new solutions for its protection.

IISD-ELA’s new research will explore questions such as: how can artificial intelligence make collecting data on the health of a body of freshwater, such as Lake Winnipeg, easier and more accurate? What can new technologies teach us about the impact that climate change will have on our environment over the next 50 years? Could we ever have a “smart” system that warns the public of sewage spills in Winnipeg or zebra mussels on Lake Winnipeg in real time?

“IISD-ELA is a Canadian scientific treasure, and the only place is the world you can experiment on real lakes to truly see what human activity is doing to all aspects of fresh water life,” said Geoffrey Gunn, geographer, IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

“By taking new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and applying their unique power to our data analysis and our research, we will advance understanding of how aquatic ecosystems respond to stress—everything from changing climate to pollution. This will inspire new technologies and strategies for protecting our freshwater ecosystems.”

This research is being made possible through a $500,000 funding grant from the RBC Foundation, allowing IISD Experimental Lakes Area to advance the role of new technologies and freshwater protection.

“At RBC we believe in the power of innovative technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain to address and scale solutions to some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time,” said Valerie Chort, vice president, corporate citizenship, RBC. “We’re proud to be working alongside IISD Experimental Lakes Area to develop real-world solutions that advance the role of new technologies and freshwater protection.”

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 lakes. The findings from its 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, or to arrange an interview, contact:

Sumeep Bath,

Communications Manager,

IISD Experimental Lakes Area

(204) 958 7700 ext. 740

[email protected]

About the International Institute for Sustainable Development

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an independent think tank that delivers the knowledge to act. Our mission is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. Our big-picture view allows us to address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges facing our planet today – ecological destruction, social exclusion, unfair laws and economic and social rules, a changing climate. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa and Toronto, our work impacts lives in nearly 100 countries.

For more information, please contact: [email protected] or +1 (613) 238 2296 ext. 114