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.
Here’s What the Laurentian and the African Great Lakes Have in Common
In this short video, we want to introduce you to the African Great Lakes, and explain why they matter to so many people—and why they may be more familiar than you think.
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.
Is It Raining Plastic?
We need more research to understand the effects of microplastics on our fresh water—and find solutions. That's where our team of experts come in.
Our work in the news
Why we should be concerned about antidepressants in our environment - Toronto Star
"We need to know more. Governments, scientists and the pharmaceutical industry must work together to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the effects on the environment of these drugs on which we have become so understandably dependent over the last year."
Experimental Lakes Area to partner with African researchers in 2022 - CBC
"A new program in northwestern Ontario could bring up to a dozen young, female scientists, who usually conduct their research on the other side of the globe, to the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA)."
‘Guerrilla ecologist’ David Schindler was a powerful defender of lakes and streams - Globe and Mail
"In 1973, Dr. Schindler and his team took a shower-curtain-like membrane and stretched it across a narrowing in Lake 226, which was shaped like an hourglass."
Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora gets $180K in federal funds for planned climate centre - CBC
"The Experimental Lakes Area east of Kenora, Ont., has received $180,000 in federal funding to help in the construction of the Centre for Climate and Lake Learning."
Food Web Biologist
Field Sampling Technician, IISD-ELA
Deputy Director, IISD-ELA
Research Chemist, IISD-ELA
Scientific Data Officer
Fisheries Research Biologist, IISD-ELA
Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Senior Biologist, IISD-ELA
Senior Director, Fresh Water & Executive Director, IISD-ELA
Head Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Senior Research Scientist, IISD-ELA
Research Fellow, IISD-ELA
Director, Water Management
Biologist - Field Coordinator, IISD-ELA
Biologist – Ecotoxicology, IISD-ELA
How visual data is propelling a new wave of climate tech
Until recently, there was no visceral sense that the largest challenge we face is fixing the planet. Responding to environmental problems was for too long viewed by big companies as a marketing strategy to target consumers who were more environmentally conscious than others. Today, the tides are, literally, changing, and sustainability is now mission critical for businesses as new wisdom has emerged that illustrates how being 'green' is a catalyst for innovation and market opportunity.
'Unscientific': Morrison government wanted IPCC to say Great Barrier Reef 'not yet in crisis'
The Australian government pushed to soften the wording of a major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's leading climate science authority, to say the Great Barrier Reef is not yet in crisis.
Surface Water Monitoring for the Mining Sector: Frameworks for governments
This document reviews water monitoring frameworks for mine water management by governments.
Research from IISD-ELA shows lake trout don't age same way humans do
We all know that when we age, our joints start to creak, our mind slows and we no longer possess the same athletic abilities of our youth. But for lake trout? It's a different story. A recent paper published by the Royal Society based on research done at the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario revealed that some fish do not age in the same way humans do.
Austin’s Lady Bird Lake will bloom with new floating wetlands this spring
Designing a garden is a very personal matter. The Trail Foundation, protector and curator of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake in Austin, wants to be sure to get it right when it plants its next garden. So it's asking for locals' help.
'Old fish did great': Study finds some lake trout get older without aging
Research in a set of unique Canadian lakes is backing up a strange consequence of evolutionary theory often predicted but never before shown.
Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi) of Forest Restoration in the Brantas River Basin, Indonesia
In this report, we present a SAVi assessment that quantifies the ecosystem services and economic impacts of the planned reforestation and water retention wells in the Brantas River basin in Indonesia.
Not just another fish tale: is there a difference between ageing and getting old?
Some creatures don’t age in the same way that humans do, implying that getting old does not necessarily lead to declining health. This is according to a new study focused on fish ageing led by an international team of biologists—the findings of which have just been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
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