Human activity—from pollutants to climate change—is threatening the health of our planet's precious freshwater resources.
That's where we come in.
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.
Natural Infrastructure for Water Solutions (NIWS)
Put simply, it’s about looking after nature, so nature can look after us.
IISD at the UN 2023 Water Conference
We are excited to speak at the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York City—the first of its kind in almost 50 years.
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.
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."
Field Sampling Technician II, IISD-ELA
Deputy Director, IISD-ELA
Lead II, Bioremediation
Research Chemist, IISD-ELA
Scientific Data Officer
Fisheries Research Biologist II, IISD-ELA
Senior Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Senior Biologist, IISD-ELA
Interim VP Operations and Business Transformation
Head Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Senior Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Senior Policy Advisor
Research Fellow, IISD-ELA
Director, Water Management
Biologist - Field Coordinator, IISD-ELA
Biologist II - Ecotoxicology, IISD-ELA
What Is the UAE Framework for Global Climate Resilience, and How Can Countries Move It Forward?
With the introduction of the new framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), COP 28 marked a milestone for adaptation. We unpack key outputs and set out how countries can move forward by strengthening their national monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) systems.
India's stance at WTO balances fisheries subsidies for artisanal fishers and sectoral growth
India is likely to advocate for securing the interests of its artisanal fishers while facilitating the growth of the fishing sector at the World Trade Organisation's 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi later this month. At the MC13, scheduled from February 26 to February 29, world leaders will negotiate on regulating fisheries subsidies that contribute to excessive fishing effort and capacity.
National State of the Environment Report: Uzbekistan
The National State of the Environment Report (NSoER) is a comprehensive document that provides a snapshot of current environmental trends in Uzbekistan's socio-economic development for citizens, experts, and policy-makers in the country of Uzbekistan.
Essential Monitor's Guide for Prairie Water Retention
This guidance document aims to make water retention monitoring a more accessible practice from a technical standpoint by demystifying some of the considerations required to get started.
Northwest Ontario Side Story: IISD Experimental Lakes Area Annual Report 2022-2023
This year's annual report is a celebration of all things creative at the world's freshwater laboratory, from the science to music, photography and theatre.
'Car without wheels': Adaptation playbook lacks finance target
Governments at the COP 28 climate talks in Dubai have agreed on a playbook for adapting to climate change in areas like health, protecting nature and food and water security. But while wealthy countries celebrated the agreement, developing and particularly African countries denounced the absence of a target to provide financial and other forms of support.
A Strategic Vision for Enhancing Naturalized Water Retention in Manitoba
Enhancing water retention infrastructure in Manitoba can provide numerous benefits, especially if it is naturalized and is located, designed, and maintained strategically.
More investment in natural infrastructure could lead to 25% more jobs and 16% growth in GDP for Prairies: New report
Natural infrastructure contributes over CAD 4 billion annually to the economy of Canada's Prairies, as well as tens of thousands of jobs. There's still room for growth: more investment can build greater resilience to droughts, floods, fires, and other severe weather impacts—many of which afflicted the region this summer—as well as increase jobs and GDP.
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Sustainable Development Goals
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