February 4, 2019 - Did you know that an area Southeast of Kenora is home to a natural laboratory comprised of 58 small lakes that are set aside for scientific research?
The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) uses lakes that have not been affected by human impact for research. The organization’s staff and scientists examine how all aspects of an ecosystem respond to different factors, allowing for findings from these experiments to be more accurate than those conducted inside a lab.
At the IISD, the researchers focus on six main areas, which are climate change, containments, eutrophication, ecosystem recovery, ecosystem assessment methodologies and water management, all to assist in the building of a more sustainable Canada.
The IISD collaborates with many different partners, such as outside researchers and universities in order to provide independent evidence-based materials to promote and build capacity for freshwater science and policy action. The IISD performs different research in the 58 lakes, takes their findings, and provides recommendations to different parties including government entities and private organizations. This Northern Ontario natural lab has influenced policy decisions of governments and industries across Canada.
One of IISD’s latest projects aims to understand how climate change affects carbon landing to boreal lakes. In order to obtain proper findings, data loggers and sensors for dissolved organic carbon have been installed in two of the inflow and outflow streams of “Lake 239”.
Field workers and researchers stay and live at the IISD’s field station for weeks at a time, allowing them to commute back and forth to the lakes quickly. Field workers access the lakes by way of ATVs, and there are motorboats and boat launches/landings at all active research lakes. The field station consists of laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment, a dining hall, dormitories, laundry area and more. The station can host up to 60 people at any given time. The newest building at the field station is the IISD-ELA fish lab, where the fish research team (consisting of two biologists and their assistants) are able to work comfortably. IISD allows the public to experience their Experimental Lakes Area firsthand by offering group tours. They even offer overnight stays to high-school and university students from May to October.
IISD’s most recent initiative is the launch of their artist-in-residence program. The goal of the program is to give artists the chance to show that there is more than just vacant lakes in the area and to highlight the beauty of the site. Applications will open in May of 2019 and selected artists will stay at the site for at least a weeks’ time.
You can find all of the 58 small lakes in their interactive map.
Jenna Marsh is the Communications & Events Officer at Northern Policy Institute.
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