Tribute to ELA – Testimonies

Why ELA is important – personal testimonies from concerned scientists and citizens

Schindler’s Reflections on ELA
David Schindler, Former ELA Head Scientist, Alberta
In a nutshell, ELA has meant many things for me personally:  A place where I could make a major contribution to the understanding of the science needed to back meaningful water policy.  A place where I could raise a family protected from the BS associated with schools where kids learn to spend a day doing an hours work, and to respond to every peer-driven fad, rather than think for themselves. A place where they could see the importance enough that two of three chose a similar career. A place where I could live in the boreal, the ecosystem on which I got hooked at the age of 5, rather than some polluted, concrete morass where I must  ignore important things because of the demands of things irrelevant to real life or progress.  A place where I did not have to toady to the BS fluff that is considered important in academia for young scientists in order to make a contribution.  A place where I could work with mavericks determined to do what was important despite the “guidance” of systems carefully designed to promote mediocrity.

But I do not see why personal experience is relevant to why ELA must not be lost.  ELA is important because, as the project has shown clearly, only it can do experiments on a spatial and time scale that allow one to address the responses of ecosystems to stressors with some confidence.  Its main importance is therefore not personal, but societal.  Without it we are forced to again rely on small, short bottle experiments and mesocosms, techniques that ELA has repeatedly shown to be inadequate.  Without ELA, it is back to the dark ages of ecological science, where we pursue tiny nuances of what ecosystems do, not the “big picture” of how biodiversity and biogeochemical sciences respond to human stressors.  It is tragic far beyond personal meaning, to Canadians and global populations.

ELA is important in many ways
Drew Bodaly, Scientist, Salt Spring Island
As a former head scientist of ELA, I have seen the power of whole lake experimentation for solving freshwater environmental problems.  ELA researchers have tackled many important environmental impacts including climate change, nutrient pollution, reservoir flooding, and acid rain.   ELA is a priceless national and international resource.  Whole ecosystem research, including the watersheds of lakes, cannot be duplicated in short-term, small scale experiments.  ELA research saves large amounts of taxpayers dollars because the research done at ELA avoids useless and expensive environmental controls, such as nitrogen control, while demonstrating the importance of essential controls to improve environmental quality.  If ELA was lost, it would difficult or impossible to get started again, so it would probably be lost forever.  I urge Ottawa to reconsider its decision to close ELA.

Salute to ELA
Gregg Brunskill, Scientist, Retired Chemical Oceanographer, Australia
I salute the Experimental Lakes Area, and its past and present scientific and support staff. ELA is well known around the world for its innovative and productive research methods and publications. This work has had a large impact on how scientists, policy makers, and the general public view one of the most precious resources we have, freshwater. Amongst people who have visited or worked at ELA, we also know it is a beautiful and peaceful place.

A Dual Perspective
Lori Tate, Scientist, Wisconsin
As a former staff member of the ELA, I would like to use this opportunity to impart a more personal message.  I first heard about the ELA as a student at the University of Waterloo.  The idea of such a place – where one could conduct ecosystem scale experiments in controlled conditions – it was like a scientific dream come true.  It INSPIRED me, and I vowed that I would visit there to see it for myself.  Ten years and two science degrees later, I found myself on the Pine Road, travelling to begin my first job at the ELA; truly a dream come true! While my family eventually made the decision to leave the ELA for a more permanent job for my husband (he was an external researcher at the ELA when we met), we will always hold the ELA dear to our hearts, both personally and professionally. I feel that it is important for the public and the Canadian government to understand that the ELA is not JUST a keystone in the intricate network of international scientific inquiry, it is also home to so many incredibly bright, passionate, dedicated professionals, all of whom, like me, sought this place out as a part of their DREAM to protect Canada’s vast and rich resources.  I urge you to think of them as you read the hundreds of letters on Save the ELA’s website from scientists the world over, a true tribute to the international importance of the ELA.

ELA touched science broadly
Darren Gillis, Scientist, U of Manitoba
Though little of my research has occurred at the Experimental Lakes Area I have seen its contribution to science and especially science training through students in our former Zoology and current Biological Sciences department.  Even more important to local science was the concentration of world class researchers that staffed the ELA and those who were drawn to it for shorter visits.  This will be a loss to Canadian research that will not be replaced.

During a brief visit to ELA, I was impressed by the industry, commitment, sense of community displayed by everyone there.  Days in the field and evenings discussing research were typical – it was a life of science that fostered creative interactions and innovative, internationally relevant research.

There is much that can be accomplished through models and literature – but without new, fundamental research like that provided by the ELA these wells will ultimately run dry.  The ELA will be missed – by some of us now, and by many more in the years to come.

The ELA is an Irreplaceable Freshwater Facility
Annika Putt, Student, British Columbia
The Experimental Lakes Area is an irreplaceable freshwater research facility that produces high quality and timely freshwater research. The employees at the ELA are passionate about the environment and cooperate with each other to ensure that their research is of the highest quality. They seek to understand some of today’s most pressing freshwater ecology issues to inform policy makers and managers on a national and international level. As our environment continues to change and freshwater resources are put under further stress, the ELA will only become a more important research tool. Researchers at the ELA are some of the most respected in their field, and countless world-class scientists have spent part of their careers at the research station. The loss of the Experimental Lakes Area would be devastating to the freshwater research community, as evidenced by the outpouring of support from scientists around the world. As a member of the next generation of freshwater scientists, the ELA has been instrumental in developing my passion for the environment and high caliber research. I urge the Government of Canada to reconsider the decision to close this irreplaceable facility.

What is more important than freshwater?
Concerned Citizen, Ontario
We need freshwater to live.  As such, we need to protect our freshwater, and make sure that we maintain this resource for our children.  Canada is blessed with the world’s best freshwater research facility: the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).  The ELA has a rich history of high-impact science that has made huge changes to our country’s policy, and as a result, made real strides in protecting our water.  ELA is the reason we know what we do about how to keep our lakes healthy, our fisheries strong, and our water clean.  As Canadians, ELA is something that we should be proud of and support, rather than shut down.  The threat of ELA closing is immensely sad, discouraging for our future health of the environment, and totally unnecessary.  It is awful that our federal government makes rash decisions such as this without consulting anyone.  Decisions like these hurt Canada, hurt our future, and hurt our environment.

I am honoured to have conducted graduate work at the ELA.  I am from a small town in Northwestern Ontario.  Without the opportunities provided by ELA, I would not have been able to conduct graduate work, and later find a science career, close to home.  ELA is important for the small towns in Northwestern Ontario, and it is something the local people are very proud of.  In these small towns, there is a great level of anger and dismay at the threat of ELA’s closure.

The doctor or the fortune teller?
Concerned Citizen, Ontario
When you feel a dull pain in the chest, you go see your doctor,then you heed his or her advice. You don’t protest, saying: Balance my diet? Exercise? Well my fortune-teller says I can do as I please, so don’t bother me with your “facts”!To build this 58-bead necklace of knowledge took years.

The Experimental Lakes Area, nurtured by students, teachers, citizens, embodies the strong human desire to learn. Scientists toiled endlessly to collect data, to accept errors, pursuing the course regardless of the difficulties. They strove to understand the natural processes and the impact of humans activities on our freshwaters and their myriad of lifes.

Building the Experimental Lakes Area required time, effort, investments. It has grown into a treasured book that must stay open for everyone to consult.

Afeter all, would you close the medicine faculties of Canada  simply because you prefer the singsong voice of your fortune-teller… or your fortune makers?

Canada needs a vibrant ELA 
Michael Turner, Former ELA researcher, British Columbia
Fresh water is essential for life and is arguably Canada’s and the planet’s most precious resource. Fortunately the Experimental Lakes Area’s (ELA) scientific studies help Canadians protect the health of their aquatic ecosystems.

Our reality is that humans leave footprints and impact our environment. ELA provides Canadians with the knowledge to minimize these environmental footprints. ELA helps us understand how ecosystems can be protected from our activities, or recover if they have succumbed. ELA’s federal government researchers are a dedicated team who serve all Canadians by satisfying our need for such knowledge.

ELA was born as a result of a unique confluence of circumstances. It is a once-in-history creation that cannot be recreated if destroyed. But if Canadians allocated the equivalent of one NHL team’s salary for just one year, or reallocated the resources to purchase just one F35 jet, they could fund the ELA in perpetuity. Forever! Is this too much to pay for a state-of-the-art weapon in defense of both Canada’s environmental riches and its economic prosperity?

Canadians have an obligation to the world and to future generations to protect and nourish the ELA. Acknowledge that obligation by demanding of our parliamentarians that they act to preserve the ELA. Canada needs ELA. Independent of one’s political affiliation, Canadians need to alert their politicians that ELA’s scientific inquiries are critical to wise governance. Now ELA needs Canadians. Canada must reverse its decision to close or transfer ELA out of its government.

My favourite things about ELA
Anonymous, Manitoba
Walks on the ridge trail
Each lake has its own personality
Knowing my work helps make a difference, eventhough my employer doesn’t appreciate it
ELA brings out my creativity
Canoe trips
I get to work with some amazing people, and have made life long friends
ELA has real snow, white and sparkly, free from salt and sand
I get to contribute to world class research
I can drink clean water right out of the lakes
ELA helped me figure out who I really am
Marnie’s delicious food
I continually learn something new about lakes
I see Limnology in action everyday
I get to pass on my knowledge about lakes to students and the public
I am amazed at how dynamic the ice on the lakes is
Sitting on the ridge looking out over the lakes and thinking

There is nothing ‘remote’ about ELA
Michelle Holigroski, Scientist, Manitoba
The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is so much more than just a ‘remote field station’.  It is the only place in the world where scientists can perform experiments on whole lakes.  It has one of the longest, most complete and unique sets of information on water quality in the world.  Canada trains and retains its brightest and the next generation of environmental scientists there.  It is truly an honour to have worked there on research that studies and finds ways to mitigate human impacts on the environment.  Having seen first-hand the worthwhile research that is conducted there, I sincerely worry for the future of our environment, younger generations, and our country in general at the thought of ELA’s closure.  Many national and international award-winning scientists, including David Schindler, David Suzuki and Robert Hecky, have spoken up against this decision to close ELA.  It is a vital resource to Canadians because it provides essential scientific knowledge on an ecosystem-scale for the development of national and international policies that ensure the health of freshwaters and their associated fisheries.  Simply put – if you care about clean lakes and healthy ecosystems, you should care about the ELA.  It should truly be considered a national treasure, as the ELA is ‘remote’ in location only.  The scientific research conducted there is as relevant and valuable as it was when it first opened in 1968.  I strongly encourage the government to reverse this decision to close the ELA before it’s too late.

ELA – More than just a World-class Scientific Research Field Station
Paul Fafard, Student
ELA is a facility that allows for the immersion of oneself in world-class science.  ELA is home to some of the most supportive and friendly people in the scientific community.  My experience at ELA has been one of growth in a multitude of ways.  I’ve become much more of a critical thinker, allowing me to look at problems and concepts to new depths.  I’ve learned confidence with peers, now able to stand up in front of a crowd and feel comfortable and confident in my ability.  I’ve gained immeasurable insight into how the scientific process works, from the very first thought to the closing acknowledgements at the end of the project presentation.  The diversity of work experience to be gained at ELA is second to none, where each crew is more than willing to accept assistance and teach you exactly how they do what they do.   Through daily conversations with the students and scientists at ELA, one can’t help but be educated in all that is aquatic science; in the form of past, present, and future projects carried out at ELA. The amount of top-quality produced by the ELA staff is many times more than could be produced anywhere else in the world. ELA stands for clean freshwater for the future, for excellence in freshwater research, and for incredible educational opportunities.  ELA is a one of a kind research facility, and is truly irreplaceable.

Clean Water for all
Edda Irvin, Western Australia
I started out at ELA as a chemical technician in 1973 and 1974. ELA changed my life by enhancing my appreciation for the environment, for clean air, water and unpolluted aquatic creatures. There are many parts of the world where clean water is a luxury. Unless there are scientists in the field working to keep our waterways clean, Canadians will no longer take for granted this clean available water. Over the years, as I have travelled the world in the education field, I was able and very proud to tell the rest of the world about the environmental accomplishments of Canada’s ELA. Having the whole lakes to analysis made the ELA studies unique to the world of science. Being able to test in the natural environment makes these test results feasible and not a guessing game. Asking questions, being creative, opened minded and independent in solving problems are what happens at ELA. This also inquiry based education. The skills I learnt at ELA had been incorporated into my investigation process in the education field of science and mathematics from grades 1 to 12. The Human Race needs this resourceful way of thinking.

Congratulations to ELA and all the busy bees who have cleaned up lakes, implemented changes in industries and help humans become aware of the need to help the aquatic life and keep our waters clean for all. There is so much more to do to be our waterways watch dog.

The ELA makes me proud to be be Canadian 
Anonymous, Scientist, Manitoba
The establishment and research of the Experimental Lakes make me proud to be Canadian.  The establishment and research of the Experimental Lakes make me proud to be Canadian.  I’m proud to be part of a nation that has contributed so much to the global environment as the findings from the Experimental Lakes have.  I had the great fortune of visiting the research facilities when I was in high school and it was one of the single best educational opportunities I have ever experienced.  To learn about the amazing discoveries and initiatives that have come out of this world-class research area still sends chills down my spine.  They discovered the effects of carbon in the water; they brought back populations of fish in lakes that were endangerment from over-fished; they determined the cause and effects of acid rain; their list of accomplishments is long and far-reaching.  The research that goes on at the Experimental Lakes is applied all throughout Canada the world.  It’s a tremendous return on investment for Canada, and the world, and is something that should be further supported and promoted – not shut down.  Their work inspired in me an evidence-based philosophy in all that I do – from my work to my personal life.  Please put my tax dollars towards continuing the Experimental Lakes.

Holy Grail
Anonymous, Student, Manitoba
My history began with the ELA at age 11 when my family took a 2 week canoe trip through the area.  It was the first big trip we took together as a family, and I remember being impressed by the clear, blue water, the big cliffs and sandy beaches, and the seemingly neverending lakes around us.  I returned to ELA years later as a summer student, working there for several summer and fall seasons.  As a Biology student, a job at the ELA was kind of like the Holy Grail, and I was asked many times by students in my program how I had gotten the job and what it was like working at ELA.  I cannot stress enough how much working at the ELA enhanced my knowledge of, experience with, and confidence in conducting scientific research from start to finish.  ELA is unparalleled globally in its ability to determine the real impacts of human disturbances on natural freshwater ecosystems, and working at ELA made me aware that I was contributing to the study and protection of freshwater resources everywhere.  I am grateful for the experience ELA has given me, and believe strongly that losing the ELA would be devastating for freshwater in Canada and across the world.

Saving Canada’s Lakes
Kevin Lamoureux, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North, Manitoba
The ELA is a world renowned research centre that we cannot allow the government to shut down. The future of our beloved lakes such as Lake Winnipeg, and the ecosystems that they maintain, are dependent on the research that is produced from this facility. By closing down the ELA, the government is saying “no” to evidence, and “no” to water stewarship. We must stand together for the health and conservation of Canada’s waters–for our waters. I support the Experimental Lakes Area.

Ayles’ Reflections on ELA
Burton Ayles, RDG C&A Fisheries & Oceans 1993-1995
On June 12, 2012 I and three other former senior regional directors of the Department of Fisheries and wrote to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.  We told them: “We are deeply disturbed by your government’s proposed changes to diminish protection of Canada’s freshwater ecosystems and to cut habitat research programs like the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) field station in Northwestern Ontario.” 

We also said: “We believe that you have been ill advised either by political staff with little understanding of federal constitutional responsibilities and with little appreciation of the importance of clean water and viable aquatic ecosystems to the well-being of all Canadians or by federal bureaucrats with a bias towards the management of marine fisheries.”

The governments of Ontario and Manitoba have urged the federal government to continue to support the ELA.  Industry, private foundations and universities have been supporting the ELA with funds for years.  The scientific community around the world and the general public in Canada have been expressing their support on an ongoing basis.  It is time to present this government with a specific plan and timetable for a new party to continue the operations and research at ELA. It is time to directly challenge Minister Ashfield and Prime Minister Harper to demonstrate that this is not just empty rhetoric and they are prepared to help ELA to continue.  To continue as a very special research site that can continue to produce some very special research results.

Altemeyer’s Reflections on ELA
Rob Altemeyer, MLA-Wolseley, NDP, Manitoba
With the ELA, we have a world-renowned scientific research station that has already played a key role in saving entire eco-systems. We have a tragically large number of other eco-systems that desperately need solutions that only enhanced scientific research and understanding can provide. We have a federal government that treats science, scientists, and ecosystems like roadkill. One of these things is not like the others