Scientists at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) are celebrating a significant anniversary this year as the scientific laboratory turns 50 years old.

The facility which launched in 1968 started due to a large algae bloom in the great lakes which prompted a series of studies that "looked into the relationship between nutrients — which are chemicals that we use in agriculture — and algae," deputy director of the ELA, Pauline Gerrard told CBC's Superior Morning Radio show host Lisa Laco on Wednesday.

"As a result of that study, legislation and regulations around phosphorus and soaps started here in Canada...and now there's regulations around phosphorus and soaps all over the world." 

She said the ELA has also been studying how mercury moves around the environment and the impact it has on the consumption of fish.

"We want to understand why this is a problem and if there's anything we could do about it," Gerrard explained, "so we've looked at how mercury emissions from factories and coal-powered power plants...moves through the ecosystem and ends up in the fish that we eat."

Thanks to that study, Gerrard said scientists at ELA were able to discover how reducing emissions will also reduce the level of mercury in our wildlife.

After monitoring the great lakes in northwestern Ontario for the past 50 years, she said the ELA was also able to examine the behaviours of fish, climate change and the effects of that in our lakes. 

Environmental Lakes Area

For the past 50 years scientists at the Environmental Lakes Area have completed various studies on the behaviour of fish, climate change and the changes to our great lakes. (ELA / web)

"With some very cool technology we implant radio tags basically into the fish...and what we want to know is as the lakes get warmer, how does that impact our cold water species like lake trout," Gerrard said.

And in light of their 50th anniversary, Gerrard said they held a essay competition where students in Canada were asked what the ELA should study and examine in the next 50 years.

"Im really excited to hear what students have to say [and] I think we're going to get some really interesting and cool ideas," Gerrard said.