Just as our fresh water flows across borders, our work stretches across nation and sectors.
IISD can influence how we manage fresh water like no other think tank on earth, because we create scientific understanding of fresh water at our very own freshwater science facility, which then informs the policy recommendations developed by our team of policy analysts.
In other words, we truly bridge science and policy.
First the science.
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 experiment 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 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.
Then comes the policy.
We then take those scientific findings, and develop policy and programming solutions for governments, civil society, and industry that protect and enhance the natural environment, keep our fresh water clean, while also improving socioeconomic well-being.
We conduct economic analyses and hydrologic assessments so that governments best understand all the options before making final decisions. And we support the management of watersheds across national boundaries, bringing all the relevant sectors and stakeholders to the table.
IISD Experimental Lakes Area
We are the world’s freshwater laboratory—the only place in the world where scientists can manipulate real lakes to understand what human activity does to fresh water.
What are the African Great Lakes?
Whatever you know about Africa’s Great Lakes, sit back and allow us to explain all—in under 3 lil' animated minutes…
Speaking Each Other’s Language
When it comes to communicating the research findings of the world's freshwater laboratory, we need to speak to communities in their own languages. Literally.
Let’s Talk About Natural Infrastructure…
Allow us to take you on a whirlwind tour of Pelly’s Lake in southern Manitoba, Canada, where the marvels of natural infrastructure are already being felt.
How to Protect Fresh Water from Oil Spills
This episode looks at what freshwater scientists are trying to accomplish by spilling oil into a remote lake and the unusual solution they've found to help clean up future oil spills.
Is It Raining Plastic?
We need more research to understand the effects of microplastics on our fresh water—and find solutions. That's where our team of experts come in.
Our work in the news
Freshwater fish can recover from mercury pollution in just a few years - New Scientist
"Yet little is known from observations about how fast mercury levels decline once the pollution stops. To find out, the team ran a study in the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario, Canada, a remote set of lakes set aside for science."
Experimental lake shows fish populations can recover quickly from mercury contamination - Science Magazine
"Now, a 15-year study of an experimental lake shows reducing mercury pollution that entered the ecosystem caused concentrations of the toxin in fish populations to drop substantially within only a few years. "
Animals and their DNA move through the environment in different ways - Massive Science
"Environmental DNA (or eDNA) is all the rage in ecology. Animals create and shake off DNA every day, leaving tracks as to where they’ve been. The DNA that has been shed into the environment can be sampled and tested later."
Here's what some Canadian researchers did during their summer of science - CBC Quirks and Quarks
"This summer Haley Moskal spent her summer studying those same lakes, to gather data on what is emerging as an environmental success story."
Food Web Biologist
Field Sampling Technician II, IISD-ELA
Deputy Director, IISD-ELA
Research Chemist, IISD-ELA
Scientific Data Officer
Fisheries Research Biologist II, IISD-ELA
Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Senior Biologist, IISD-ELA
Senior Director, Fresh Water & Executive Director, IISD-ELA
Head Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Senior Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Research Fellow, IISD-ELA
Director, Water Management
Biologist - Field Coordinator, IISD-ELA
Biologist II - Ecotoxicology, IISD-ELA
A Draft World Trade Organization Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies: What's on the table?
World Trade Organization (WTO) members hope to conclude a deal to curb harmful fisheries subsidies in June. This update provides an overview of the draft agreement and highlights how it attempts to find balance among various priorities and considerations.
Undergraduate student aids in study on environmental impact of pipelines
When asked about his interest in participating in an upcoming project in northwestern Ontario’s The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), Dr. Caleb Hasler not only leapt at the opportunity, but saw it as a chance to include an undergraduate student in important research into the environmental impacts of pipeline projects.
Rickford reflects on Ontario re-investing in Experimental Lakes Area
The IISD-Experimental Lakes Area just west of Kenora is relishing following a $9.5 million provincial investment made last week. The funds will go towards supporting much-needed vital research and having secure and stable funding to help the ELA become more financially self-sufficient.
A Value on the Priceless: Ecological goods and services generated in the Seal River Watershed
This report assesses the economic value of ecosystem benefits provided by the Seal River Watershed located in northern Manitoba, Canada.
Ontario Invests in Experimental Lakes
"The Experimental Lakes Area is the world’s most important freshwater research facility," said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. "The area is a living laboratory for critical research and scientific study that sustains healthy ecosystems for future generations. Our government is proud to invest in facilities such as these so that we can expand understanding of the critical changes in ecology over time, and continue our work building Ontario."
A Warming Arctic is a Warning for the World
To protect the Arctic, stronger and broader local, national, and international measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be implemented.
New study on mercury contamination in fish
Fisheries and Oceans Canada research scientist Paul Blanchfield and his team used one of the lakes at northwestern Ontario’s International Institute for Sustainable Development-Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) to conduct the study.
Statement from IISD on Canada’s Commitment to Fresh Water in Budget 2022
"IISD is incredibly thankful to the federal government for committing to this meaningful investment that will support and grow the operations of IISD-ELA—truly the world’s freshwater laboratory," said Richard Florizone, President and CEO of IISD.
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