Canada may close unique environmental research facility

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Photo courtesy Fisheries and Oceans Canada

A decision by the Canadian government to end more than 40 years of unique environmental research has scientists up in arms.

The Experimental Lakes Area in southern Ontario is a place where scientists use dozens of small lakes to perform large scale, real world environmental studies.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports the Canadian federal government wants to eliminate funding for the program.

That dismays Jeff Jeremiason, environmental studies program director for Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn. He conducted his doctoral research in the Experimental Lakes Area in the 1990s.

Jeremisason said the proposal “speaks to the declining value that society places on real science.

“The number of seminal studies conducted at ELA on dozens of environmental issues is astounding,” Jeremiason wrote in an email. “Amongst scientists, it is world renowned. Its closing will hamper society’s ability to address serious environmental concerns.”

A number of University of Minnesota researchers also have done studies at the Canadian facility, said Deborah Swackhamer is co-director of the Water Resources Center at U of M.

She said shutting down the one-of-a-kind research site would be huge loss for science.

“There is not a way to do whole ecosystem scale freshwater research anywhere else in the world,” Swackhamer said. “The work done there has been instrumental in our understanding of acid rain to endocrine disruption.”

The project apparently won’t be shut down without a fight. The Free Press reports provincial officials strongly oppose the budget cuts.

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