Experimental Lakes Area biologists ramp up research

A full crew is back at the remote site east of Kenora conducting experiments, after two years of being on hold.
Researchers bring back a catch of trout from Lake 626 in the Experimental Lakes Area of northwestern Ontario. They are looking at how climate change is affecting the fish. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Researchers in the Experimental Lakes Area have wasted no time starting experiments at the remote site near Kenora.

The ELA, which was transferred from the federal government after it decided to stop funding the project, is now being run by the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Biologist Lee Hrenchuk said most of the research was put on hold for two years, until the future of the Experimental Lakes was decided.

"It's nice to have a full crew out here again. We had a sort of a minimal crew out here last year, but I think just getting the full strength of the crew back up and running and also the possibility of doing whole ecosystem experiments."

Hrenchuk is studying the effects of climate change on fish within the ELA.
Biologist Lee Hrenchuk takes a moment from fish surgery and sampling at Lake 626 in the Experimental Lakes Area east of Kenora. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"We're putting these tracking devices into the stomachs of the lake trout, and we have receivers around the lakes that can see where they are, how deep they are, and just get an idea of where they're hanging out,” she said.

"Lake trout are a really popular sport fish. They're a really popular food fish. So, as we see warming happening in Canada and other northern parts of the world, we want to know how these cold water species are going to be impacted."
Scott Higgins, a biologist and researcher with the Experimental Lakes Area, stands next to some solar-powered laptops at a remote research location site in northwestern Ontario. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Another ELA biologist, Scott Higgins, said the two year break stopped a lot of the work.

"We've been essentially in a holding pattern, just doing very low level monitoring,” he said.

“Basically, what it meant was we haven't started any new experiments in the past two years."

The Experiemental Lakes area east of Kenora includes 58 lakes in all.

Higgins said scientists can't wait to get their multi-year projects — including a 46-year study on the effects of phosphorus in lakes — fully up and running.

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