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Experimental Lakes Area scientists taking questions on Twitter

The scientists at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) near Kenora, Ont., are practicing a new skill this month: being brief.

Answering science-related questions on Twitter in July, responses limited to 140 characters or less

Scientists at the Experimental Lakes Area will be answering science-related questions on Twitter in July. The catch is, all replies must be 140 characters or less. (The Canadian Press)

The scientists at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) near Kenora, Ont., are practicing a new skill this month: being brief.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) — which operates the ELA, a natural laboratory made up of dozens of small lakes and their watersheds that have been set aside for scientific research — is running a campaign throughout July that will see its scientists answer science-related questions that are posed via Twitter.

The catch? All the replies, no matter now complex, must be broken down into a regular tweet of 140 characters or less.

"We are playing with the idea that scientists are far too wordy and verbose when it comes to relating what they've found," said Sumeep Bath, media and communications officer with the IISD.

"There are so many important findings that the IISD Experimental Lakes Area has found over the last 50 years, so we thought maybe we'll try and merge the two and take the brevity of Twitter and take the results of IISD Experimental Lakes Area and merge them together."

Science-related questions accepted

Questions can be posed using the hashtag #ELA140, or by tweeting to @IISD_ELA, the official ELA account. As far as questions go, it's wide-open: they can pertain to any of the research being done at the ELA, fresh water health in general, the IISD or ELA itself, or other fresh water science-related topics.

For example, Bath said, so far, the campaign has generated questions about climate change and mercury.

All the questions will come to Bath, who will then take them to the appropriate scientists for a response.

"We're trying to challenge our scientists as much as possible," he said. "One of our major focuses is to really communicate the work that we've been doing."

"We really want to make our findings and our science accessible to everyone."

Bath said only one question will be answered a day, as formulating a tweetable response takes time.


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