Crowdfunding Basic Science: Support the Experimental Lakes Area, the world's leading freshwater research facility

There are two very strong competing emotions at work here in this post: delight versus depression.

Depression that the government-funded research landscape here in Canada can sink so low that the premier freshwater research facility likely in the world is reduced to putting its hand out and asking for spare change just to fund its core research program.

But there's also a kind of delight in acknowledging that we've reached a place in the evolution of open public science that regular people like you and I can participate directly in making sure important research happens and continues to happen.

Thus we come to the happy and sad case of the Experimental Lakes Area and their current Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign: World's Leading Freshwater Research Facility, the ELA, Needs YOUR Support!

Here's their story:

The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is a freshwater research facility in Northwestern Ontario, Canada that has operated as a government research program for over 45 years. After the Canadian Government announced that it would no longer fund the ELA program, operations were transferred to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in April 2014. IISD now needs additional funding to expand ELA’s vital legacy of research so that it can continue to find effective solutions to environmental problems affecting fresh water.

We can thank the ELA for many of the improvements we have seen in recent years to the quality of the water we use daily. ELA’s whole-lake research findings have been instrumental in the phase-out of harmful phosphorus additives in cleaning products, tightening air pollution standards in response to acid rain threats, and proposed installation of scrubbers inside industrial smokestacks to reduce mercury levels found in the fish we eat.

The ELA features a collection of 58 small lakes, as well as a facility with accommodations and laboratories. Since its establishment in 1968, ELA has become one of the world’s most influential freshwater research facilities. In part, this is because of the globally unique ability at ELA to undertake whole-ecosystem experiments.

There is nowhere else in the world that has the same potential to conduct this type of research and make such a positive impact on our world’s freshwater supplies.

What We Need

Now we need your support.

As IISD takes over the Experimental Lakes Area, initial funding has been secured to manage the facilities and conduct a minimum amount of research, and for this we are grateful. It is our goal, however, to rebuild the program to its former status and to help it expand and thrive. We are also striving to reduce the ELA’s reliance on government support so that it may never again be shuttered because of changes in policy. This will help us understand and address global freshwater challenges and communicate what we have learned to improve understanding, education and decision making.

Your generous donations will help us create and benefit from numerous educational and training opportunities for university students at the ELA.

The ELA offers great potential for the scientists and researchers of tomorrow to garner hands-on research experience and gain practice in driving and conducting research projects. In turn, the facility benefits immensely from the hard work and research generated by summer students.

As part of the new era for ELA that IISD is ushering in, we plan to expand its role to include training, workshops and field courses that will educate and benefit local communities, as well as the greater scientific community.

Charitable tax receipts can be issued for donations over $25 (minus the fair market value of the perk).

If you wish to donate without receiving a perk, please consider donating through Canada Helps:

So join me in supporting the ELA and sponsor a fish or a plankton count, get a tweet or a t-shirt or a magnet or a postcard or even borrow a scientist or visit the IISD's Winnipeg office. Or just donate some money for a good cause.

As of the evening of June 3rd, they are $13,555 of their $25,000 goal. More than half way with 10 days to go. Let's help hit that target and more.

Some additional background:

The good news is that the ELA is getting its 2014 research season under way as we can see from a couple of recent media reports such as Research returns to Experimental Lakes Area and Experiments resume Monday at Experimental Lakes Area.

Let's keep the good news coming.

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