IISD Experimental Lakes Area (International Institute for Sustainable Development)

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.

To learn more about IISD’s projects and initiatives, visit their website, Twitter or Instagram pages.  

Write for us


Jenna Marsh is the Communications & Events Officer at Northern Policy Institute. 

The content of Northern Policy Institute’s blog is for general information and use. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Northern Policy Institute, its Board of Directors or its supporters. The authors take full responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of their respective blog posts. Northern Policy Institute will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information, nor will Northern Policy Institute be liable for any detriment caused from the display or use of this information.  Any links to other websites do not imply endorsement, nor is Northern Policy Institute responsible for the content of the linked websites.

Northern Policy Institute welcomes your feedback and comments. Please keep comments to under 500 words. Any submission that uses profane, derogatory, hateful, or threatening language will not be posted. Please keep your comments on topic and relevant to the subject matter presented in the blog. If you are presenting a rebuttal or counter-argument, please provide your evidence and sources. Northern Policy Institute reserves the right to deny any comments or feedback submitted to www.northernpolicy.ca that do not adhere to these guidelines.  

0 Reader Comments

All fields are required.