It is a hopeful future for scientists and their experiments as the uncertainties of Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is to become a thing of the past in the next few weeks to come.
ELA is finally expected to be turned over to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Winnipeg-based research organization, with the final resolution expected by the end of the month.
“We are quite enthusiastic about proceeding with the work,” expressed Chris Metcalfe, a Trent University professor and director of the Institute for Watershed Science.
With Metcalfe as the principal investigator, he will be working alongside fellow Trent members, including Maggie Xenopoulos, Holger Hintelmann, and Paul Frost, to conduct an experiment on the effects of nanosilver at the whole ecosystem level as part of a project called the Lake Ecosystem Nanosilver (LENS) project at the ELA site.
They were initially scheduled to start the research over the past summer, but lost a year because of the uncertainties surrounding ELA.
While waiting for the fate of the site to be decided, the team had been monitoring the lake in order to get some ideas as to the lake’s normal kinds of conditions. They are confident that they will be able to pick it up next summer.
According to Metcalfe, they have already submitted a proposal to the IISD, which would allow them to conduct their experiment. He is hopeful that quickly after the IISD takes over the site, they will get back to them with the approval to conduct the research.
“I would like to see the process of handover to the ISSD happen this month if possible,” he said, and added, “Our experience is that federal government doesn’t really move quickly unless there is some impetus from the public.”
However, compared to where they were last April with the word buzz that the ELA will be closed, Metcalfe said that they are in a much better place now.
He is glad they have made that kind of progress, with finalizing the change of ownership and management of the site being the last step.
Being taken over by a different organization will not have any effect with regards to the types of experiments taking place, but the fact that a non-governmental organization is taking over as opposed to a governmental one will produce some changes, Metcalfe reported, and added, “I amnot expecting huge changes, but you never know, they might have a different approach.”
Government, university, and even international researchers will continue to develop projects and use the facility. However, Metcalfe shared that he is unsure whether the cost structure of room and board will change or not.
He further reiterated that the ELA is in good shape now.
They came out from the brink of disaster, got their organization replaced, put funding in place, and won the provincial government’s support to keep the ELA open and move into the future.
Frost, the David Schindler Professor of Aquatic Science at Trent, said that since the facility is in the process of transfer from the federal government to the IISD, negotiation is involved.
However, they are not privy to how the transfer process happens, and only receive second-hand information.
Frost reported that there are currently multiple things going on at Trent because of the potential closure of the ELA. The team has been actively trying to figure out how the potential closure will affect their project and the way they continue to science, so as to minimize the negative effects it would have on their project and students.
On the other hand, there has been a funding announcement and preliminary agreements for the transfer, Frost said.
“So long as the province follows through on its promises and transfer proceeds without any undue delay, then the ELA should exit in the form it existed before, and, in some ways, it might be better,” he added.
The ELA has a unique history in terms of research because it is able to do work that directly affect policies.
It has been especially successful in affecting environmental policies. Metcalfe explained that doing experiments with the ELA, which involves the manipulation of the entire lake, is much more persuasive than lab work.
Currently, four Trent University faculty members, six graduates, and two post-doctoral fellows are involved with the research at the ELA.
The ELA site is expected to have some final resolution announced by the end of this month.