New vision for Ontario's Experimental Lakes Area unveiled

Scientists have picked 13 new research priorities for Ontario's Experimental Lakes Area, including studying algal blooms, oil spills and what happens when nanoparticles found in popular antimicrobial fabrics enter watersheds.

Centre will also study environmental impact of metal particles found in anti-microbial fabrics

Researchers bring back a catch of trout from Lake 626 in the Experimental Lakes Area of northwestern Ontario to be studied. They will be looking at how climate change is affecting the fish. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Scientists have picked 13 new research priorities for Ontario's internationally renowned Experimental Lakes Area research facility, focusing particularly on environmental issues now affecting that province.

The federal government turned control of the experimental lakes area over to the Ontario government and the International Institute for Sustainable Development on April 1 after threatening to shut down the outdoor laboratories in 2013.

Institute members met last week at the University of Waterloo to choose 13 future research projects. Future research will look to solve the problem of algal blooms, better prepare for oil spills and understand how chromium from the Ring of Fire development in northern Ontario will cycle through the environment.

Scientists to study anti-microbial clothing

Scientists will also start a new experiment examining metal particles in anti-microbial fabrics like socks and dishtowels, said University of Waterloo biologist Rebecca Rooney, who sits on the science advisory committee for the Experimental Lakes Area.

"One of the major reasons for that is little silver nanoparticles embedded into the fibres. Those nanoparticles can wash out when you do your laundry and ultimately they end up collecting in our lakes," she said.

Rooney says while scientists understand how the silver nanoparticles kill microbes in consumer fabrics, they don't yet know what effect they have in lakes and ecosystems.

"This is important research on an emerging contaminant that's just underway now."

The 58 experimental lakes and their watersheds are a unique outdoor laboratory located in Kenora, Ont.  They were originally run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada until the government threatened to shut down the experimental lakes due to budget cutbacks in 2012.

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