Scientists will soon have a new research facility at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

Through FedNor’s Northern Ontario Development Program, $180,000 has been pledged to hire engineers to prepare designs for the Centre for Climate and Lake Learning; a new knowledge-based ecotourism centre in the Kenora area.

Ecotourism involves travelling to natural areas within the environment, sustains the well-being of the local population and involves interpretation and education. It’s known as one of the fastest-growing sectors of the travel industry worldwide.

“In a time of increasing population and climate changes, the ground-breaking research at IISD-ELA is more critical than ever,” said Matthew McCandless, Senior Director of the IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

“The Centre for Climate and Lake Learning will be a hub for environmental education and outreach for Northwestern Ontario—allowing us to create a unique eco-tourism experience, furthering our research and advancing our understanding of aquatic ecosystems, while welcoming and educating local communities on the health of freshwater.”

THE IISD-ELA is the only place on earth where researchers can experiment on over 50 real lakes and watersheds to discover the long-term impact of human activities within the natural environment.

For the last 53 years, those lakes and researchers have taught us what causes algal blooms; the effects of acid rain, mercury, dams and oil spills on fresh water and much more, including tracking a roughly half-degree increase in northwestern Ontario’s temperatures each decade.

The state-of-the-art Centre for Climate and Lake Learning facility is expected to provide a boost for local tourism initiatives by attracting more visitors to the area, will be built with Indigenous culture and values, and aims to host researchers and students from around the world.

“Canadian tourism operators and those working within the industry have demonstrated incredible resilience over the past year,” said Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedNor.

“Investments in capacity-building projects, like the one announced today, help us look beyond the pandemic to a future when tourists once again turn to Canada for travels and adventures. Our message is clear: We’ve been there for you with immediate measures and we are here for you now to ensure that our economy comes roaring back.”

In 2019, Ottawa pledged $40,500 to expand their freshwater research, along with a $30,000 provincial investment to prepare designs to guide a new Water Science Education and Training Centre. The centre allows high school and university students to participate in the ELA’s field biology program.

These recent investments are on top of the Province of Manitoba’s $6 million over six years to support the facility, announced in 2016, along with Ontario’s $2 million in funding annually.

Formerly managed by the federal government, the Experimental Lakes Area was transferred to the International Institute for Sustainable Development in 2014, after Ottawa’s funding cuts in 2012. It’s been an ongoing scientific research site since 1968.