Why is ELA important?

If you care about safe drinking water, clean lakes, and healthy fish, then ELA is important to you!

Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is a unique, irreplaceable program for research on water quality and fisheries─ it is the only place in the world where we can perform experiments on whole lakes. Located in northwestern Ontario, the ELA consists of 58 small lakes and their watersheds that have been set aside for research. Since 1968, this facility has been a natural outdoor laboratory to study the physical, chemical, and biological processes in actual lake ecosystems.

ELA is important to you because:

1. ELA addresses issues that are critical for Canadians from coast to coast.

All Canadians value clean water for drinking and fish that are safe to eat. We need research at ELA so that we can continue to find solutions to the problems that affect our lakes.

2. Research at ELA makes a ”big bang for every research buck.”

Even with a modest operating budget, ELA and its dedicated team of scientists have placed Canada at the very forefront of freshwater science world-wide. Plus, grants from external agencies, industries, and university partners greatly offset the cost of research and ensure maximum cost efficiency.

3. Research at ELA makes crucial contributions to environmental policy and law in Canada and around the world.

It addresses real-world problems and solutions with the goal of providing advice to policy-makers and industry on issues such as:

  • Strategies for combating harmful algal blooms
  • Regulation of air pollution to reduce acid rain
  • Designing reservoirs to minimize greenhouse gases
  • Effectiveness of proposed measures to lower mercury contamination in fish
  • Environmental impacts of aquaculture and escaped genetically-modified fish
  • Impacts of hormones present in sewage effluent on fish health
  • Evidence that flame retardants degrade into banned toxic chemicals
  • Toxicity of antimicrobial nanoparticles ─ commonly used in clothing ─ to aquatic life

Legislation and action on these issues have saved taxpayers and industry billions of dollars and improved the health of our environment.

4. ELA is the only place in the world where scientists can easily carry out ”whole lake experiments” – studies that take place in actual lakes with the insects, plants, and fish naturally found there.

Research at the ELA has shown time and again that smaller scale “bottle” experiments do not provide reliable information for managing lakes. Experiments at ELA are the best way to understand how human activities affect water quality, fish populations, and ecosystem health.

5. ELA has one of the longest, most complete and unique sets of information on water quality in the world.

The remote location of ELA allows researchers to study everything from how forest fires to climate change affect lakes. These data sets are crucial for understanding long-term changes in lakes.

6. ELA is a valuable part of how Canada trains and retains its brightest and the next generation of environment scientists.

ELA provides outstanding training for undergraduate and graduate students: for over 44 years, hundreds of students have worked alongside established researchers at ELA. Many of these students have gone on to influential positions in academia, government, and industry in Canada and abroad.

The Government of Canada announced on May 17, 2012 that the ELA will be closed next year. Closing ELA threatens the health of our fresh waters and fisheries, now and for years to come, here and all around the world. Make your voice heard and help save ELA!

Please sign the public petition to save ELA available here. Visit us on and for the latest updates and breaking news.

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