Posted by: Jeremy Fox | May 18, 2012

Canadian Government axes funding for the Experimental Lakes Area (UPDATED)

The Canadian federal government is going to cease funding the Experimental Lakes Area. Since the late 1960s, the ELA and its 58 small lakes have been doing amazing long-term monitoring and experiments on whole lakes, including groundbreaking studies of eutrophication and acid rain. Closer to home, they have arguably the best long-term phytoplankton and zooplankton time series data in the world–very frequent sampling of many lakes, going back decades, all resolved to species level, and with consistent sampling procedures and the same taxonomists doing the identifications. I’m the lead organizer of one of the many collaborative groups to have used the ELA data.

The Feds want to transfer ownership of the facilities to a university or the provincial government, on the grounds that universities, not governments, should be doing this kind of science. As if universities and the provincial government have lots of spare money lying around to run the ELA. And as if governments don’t need the kind of science the ELA has always provided (many of their experiments have been chosen precisely for their direct policy relevance).

Most days I’m proud to call Canada home. Not today.

UPDATE: See here for a very good explanation of why this was a bad decision, which also places the decision in the context of the Canadian government’s other reductions in support for basic science (which in turn are part of the current government’s strategy of reducing all federal expenditures and revenues)


  1. Shortsighted, for sure. If the applied science agency DFO will not fund, is there any program within NSERC that’s set up to fund long term studies (a la LTERs down here)? For example, is the research up in Kluane funded as a string of grants, or under some larger, explicitly long-term program?

    • There are NSERC programs to which ELA could apply, I guess, like Strategic Network Grants. But I don’t know that any of those are really intended (or ever have) actually sustained a facility like ELA on a long-term basis.

      • There is currently work going on at ELA by a group at Trent, in collaboration with DFO looking at the effects of nanosilver on aquatic ecosystems. This is/was intended to be a whole lake manipulation. The closure obviously puts this at risk.

  2. Yet another sign of the times. Idiots.

  3. […] research programs in Canada.  The Experimental Lakes Research Station (coverage here and here)  is the latest in a string of cuts aimed at reducing the federal deficit.  Much of the decision […]


    and the following several comments….

  5. […] Canadian federal government recently announced that it will no longer fund the renowned Experimental Lakes Area. There is now an effort underway to save ELA: go here for info. Share this:FacebookTwitterLike […]

  6. […] evidence, planned to coincide with the final day of Evolution 2012. Previously I’ve noted with dismay the government’s decision to cease funding the ELA; the protest organizers note that this […]

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