Lab Canada

Research going cheap

Experimental Lakes Area on the dock

There are not too many research facilities that can be bought for a song in the world. Especially not one containing song birds.

Birds were not the reason for the existence of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) research facility. It was set up in 1967 as a dedicated research facility for ecosystem-scale experimental investigations and long-term monitoring of ecosystem processes. Located in a remote region of North-Western Ontario, ELA serves as a natural laboratory for the study of physical, chemical and biological processes and interactions operating on an ecosystem spatial scale and a multi-year time scale.

When the May 2012 announcement came that the ELA research facility was to be shut down as of March 2013, there was a huge outcry from the scientific community that the decision was shortsighted and imprudent. ELA is credited with ground-breaking research on acid rain, nutrient pollution, mercury contamination and aquaculture, among others.

To add insult to injury, the price tag for this one-of-a-kind research facility is a measly dollar. That’s the going price for the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area research facility. The price was noted by Manitoba Conservative MP Joyce Bateman in a letter to a constituent sent on June 2. She stated that the government’s plan is to transfer ownership of ELA to a university or private business. “This facility will be very attractive to them, especially given recent investments, and the federal government is committed to offering a transfer of ownership for a nominal fee of $1,” she wrote, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

For one shiny loonie, there are plenty of real loons in the ELA. You can get a huge tract of land with approximately 60 lakes, ranging in size from 1 to 84 hectares, some 20 buildings that encompass over 3,700 square meters of research and living space. The facilities are all top notch as the federal government has spent $3.5 million in the last 10 years to upgrade the buildings. This includes $850,000 as part of the Economic Action Plan in 2009 for three new labs.

This article originally ran in the June 2012 issue of Lab Product News

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