Science Writers &

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  • 01 Oct 2018 8:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Voting is now closed for Canada’s Favourite Science Online. We asked you to vote for your fave science site and you did! Did your choice become a Finalist? And who won? The winner will be announced via video on Wednesday, October 10th on social media and on this page. Be sure to check back and cheer for the winner!

    In the meantime, here are your Finalists, three science sites we’re all proud to call our own!

    Finalists for Favourite Canadian Science Site:

    Inside the Perimeter

    Twitter: @Perimeter

    Who doesn’t want to understand the universe? Inside the Perimeter you’ll find mindbending ideas in theoretical physics. Combined with research, training, and outreach the PI aims to stimulate the breakthroughs that could transform our future. To explore bold new ideas Inside the Perimeter, visit their website or check it out on Twitter.



     Twitter: @r2rnow

    Does quantum physics answer unanswerable questions? Can farmed algae replace fossil fuels? Why is the bread wheat’s genome more than five times larger than a human’s? So many fascinating topics in the world today, so much iffy information on the internet. But don’t worry, real science is just one click away. Get the facts from world class scientists at Canadian universities who share their leading edge research online on this site.


    The Marine Detective

     Twitter: @OceanDetective

    Jackie Hildering is an educator, conservationist, diver, underwater photographer, and Humpback Whale researcher in BC. Her mission is to raise awareness about life in the ocean and to illuminate the fragility, beauty, and mystery of the deeps.  Her underwater images expose the vital importance of conservation and illustrate that the merging of science and art is breathtaking.

    Science Borealis will announce the Winner for Favourite Blog on Wednesday October 3rd on social media, and is announcing the runners-up starting on Monday October 1, 2018. @ScienceBorealis

  • 28 Sep 2018 10:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Author Brett D. Huson (Hetxw’ms Gyetxw) won the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Youth Book Award 2018 for his book The Sockeye Mother. SWCC board member Jay Whetter presented the award at the Millennium Library in Winnipeg during Science Literacy Week. (

    Huson is from the Gitxsan Nation, an Indigenous people from the northwest Interior of British Columbia. He now lives in Winnipeg.

    The Sockeye Mother explores the intricate connection between the sockeye salmon, the Gitxsan people, and British Columbia’s Skeena River valley. The book presents the life cycle of the sockeye salmon, introduces readers to basic Gitxsan words and is beautifully illustrated with traditional formline art. After the award presentation, Huson read from his book and took questions.

    Science Writers and Communicators of Canada offer two annual book awards to honour outstanding contributions to science writing. One is for books intended for and available to children/middle grades ages 8-12 years. The other is for the general public.

    Books are judged on literary excellence and scientific content and accuracy. In addition the two book juries look for initiative, originality, clarity of interpretation, relevance and value in promoting greater understanding of science by the general reader. 

    Winners receive a certificate and cash prize of $1,000. 

  • 17 Sep 2018 8:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It’s time to show your favourite Science Sites and Blogs some love. Yes, it’s the 2018 People’s Choice Awardsfor your Fave Canadian Science Online … and you choose who wins!

    We’re proud to call these outstanding Canadian sites and blogs our own. Some of them may already be your favourites, or maybe you’ve never heard of them. If you check them out, you might just find more online science to love.

    To award your favourites the bragging rights they so richly deserve, all you have to do is vote for your three favourite sites and your three favourite blogs. Once you’ve voted, join us on social media to cheer for your faves using the hashtag #CdnSciFav


    Voting closes Sept. 29 Winners TBA in early October across SWCC and SciBor social media channels and websites.

    Top 10 for Canada’s Favourite Science Site

    Earth Rangers

     Twitter: @EarthRangers

    Earth Rangers is all about knowledge of the environment and the confidence to take action. Participation in home experiments and missions give kids & families the tools to help our environment at a grass roots level.

    Hey Science – Science Sam

    Twitter: @heysciencesam

    Sam is passionate about communicating science in fun but informative ways. Speaking engagements, Instagram, Twitter, and educational videos – see Sam do it all on her site. Why? Because she wants you to understand, and love science as much as she does. 

    Inside the Perimeter Institute


    Who doesn’t want to understand the universe? Inside the Perimeter Institute you’ll find mindbending ideas in theoretical physics. Combined with research, training, and outreach the PI aims to stimulate the breakthroughs that could transform our future. 

    Québec Science

    Twitter: @QuebecScience 

    This award-winning French language science magazine has been a magnet for science fans since 1962. It’s knowledge-based features include the latest in science and technology breakthroughs, research, news, and commentary, and there’s a fun page for youth as well! 


     Twitter: @r2rnow

    Does quantum physics answer unanswerable questions? Can farmed algae replace fossil fuels? Why is the bread wheat’s genome more than five times larger than a human’s? World-class scientists at Canadian universities share their innovative, leading edge research on this site.

    Science Alive

     Twitter: @SciTechMuseum

    Did you know that Canada’s first automobilehad a horse and buggy design with a boiler and steam engine? What’s the dirt on dirt? Would teleportation work in real life as well as it does on Star Trek? How fast is ‘warp speed’ exactly? Curious about the answers? Who isn’t. 

    Science for the People 

     Twitter: @sci4thepeople

    Out of Edmonton, AB, this long-format podcast/radio show hits North America’s airwaves weekly. Exploring the connections between science, popular culture, history, and public policy, it aims to help listeners understand the evidence and arguments behind what's in the news and on the shelves. Listener supported and ad free.

    The Marine Detective 

     Twitter: @OceanDetective

    Jackie Hildering is a biology teacher, diver, underwater photographer, and Humpback Whale researcher in BC. Her mission is to raise awareness about life in the ocean and to illuminate the fragility, beauty, and mystery of the deeps. Her underwater images illustrates that the merging of science and art is breathtaking. 

    The Weather Network – Out of This World 

     Twitter: @weathernetwork

    Dedicated to Canada’s favourite topic, Scott Sutherland brings together all kinds of science news about weather, climate change, astronomy, space exploration, and space weather. Wondering about the weather in space, or even on Earth? Aren’t we all.


    Tomatosphere – Let’s Talk Science 


    Space tomatoes! Tomatosphere uses the excitement of space exploration as a way to teach the skills and processes of scientific inquiry. In the Seed Investigation, students examine the effects of the space environment on the germination of tomato seeds. 

    Vote for your faves now! 


    Short-List for Canada’s Favourite Science Blog

    Palaeocast –Dave Marshall, Joe Keating, Laura Soul, Liz Martin-Silverstone, Caitlin Colleary, Tom Merrick-Fletcher

    Twitter: @Palaeocast

    The Palaeocast blog is where we let palaeontologists around the world tell their own stories in their own voice. Paleocast is a free web series exploring the fossil record and the evolution of life on earth.

    Scientist Sees Squirrel– Stephen B. Heard


    I’m an evolutionary ecologist and entomologist at the University of New Brunswick. Most of my current research has to do with plant-insect interactions and with the evolution of new biodiversity.  But when I’m not doing research, I think about a lot of quasirandom things.  I blog about some of them here.

    Birds In Mud– Lisa Buckley

    Twitter: @LisaVipes

    I am a vertebrate paleontologist who specializes in the study of the tracks and traces of Mesozoic animals, specifically Cretaceous-age (145 million years ago to 66 million years ago) dinosaurs and birds!

    Agile Scientific– Matt Hall, Evan Bianco, Diego Castañeda, Robert Leckenby, Kara Turner, Tracey Lothian

    Twitter: @agilegeo

    A bioscience and technology blog with a string focus on geophysics and geosciences, Agile also organizes hackathons, teaches coding for geoscientists and engineers, and promotes open discussion about pressing topics in science and industry.

    Canadian Mountain Network Various authors


    CMN was established to collaboratively address the diverse challenges facing mountain regions by harnessing existing capacities and seeking new research relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and communities. Our aim is for CMN to become a national and global leader in inclusive, co-designed, interdisciplinary mountain-research that recognizes the interconnectedness in mountain systems between the environment, economy, and society, and encourages an integrated approach for long-term sustainability that serves the needs of mountain communities. CMN and its administrative centre is hosted at the University of Alberta.

    Obesity Panacea Peter Janiszewski and Travis Saunders

    Twitter:@TravisSaundersand @Dr_Janis

    Obesity Panacea educates people about the science (or lack thereof) behind popular weight loss products, and has grown to include discussions of the latest news and research regarding obesity, nutrition and physical activity.

    The Boreal Beetle– Dezene Huber

    Twitter: @docdez

    Insect Ecology Lab @UNBC blogging about ecology, entomology, and life.

    Spiderbytes – Catherine Scott

    Twitter: @Cataranea

    This is a blog about spiders (and probably occasionally some other stuff, too)! The idea is that each post will feature accumulations of cool bits of information (‘bytes’) about spiders: spiderbytes. By the way, spiders (usually) do NOT bite, and one of my dreams (for this blog, and in life) is to shift perceptions about spiders from fearsome, aggressive, disgusting etc., to amazing, beautiful, sophisticated, charming, fascinating, elegant, resourceful, mysterious, and many more adjectives that could be used to describe these awesome arthropods!

    Jasmine Janes Jamsine Janes


    I am an Assistant Professor in Plant Ecology/Genetics at Vancouver Island University. I teach units including Plant Ecology, Conservation Biology, Terrestrial Ecosystems and Computing for Biologists. I currently work and collaborate on projects ranging from genomics of eucalypts and mountain pine beetle, to speciation mechanisms in Stellaria, to dietary metagenomics in Vancouver Island Marmot

    Vote for your faves now! 


  • 12 Sep 2018 3:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Stay Tuned! 

    Shortlist will be announced on

     Monday, September 17

  • 11 Sep 2018 2:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Stephen Strauss

    It has been globally instructive watching Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield turn space flight into a performance art form and in so doing reconfigure what it means to be a successful astronaut.             

    To appreciate this you had to begin by knowing two things. One is what motivated Hadfield to himself go up in space.  He told the Globe and Maillast summer that as a nine-year-old farmers’ son in southern Ontario he saw Neal Armstrong on television landing on the moon, and “I just found it absolutely inspiring; fundamentally inspiring. And I resolved that night, July 20, 1969, to be an astronaut when I grew up.”

     He is far from being alone in making in seeing moon walking as a good career choice. Julie Payette, another Canadian astronaut, watched subsequent moon take offs and landings and bouncy, bounce moon buggy rides and thought. “This is so cool. I’d love to do that. This is what I want to do.”

    The second thing to appreciate is what astronaut Chris Hadfield actually didwhile in space on 31stof January 2013.  I chose this date at random but think it is representative of most days aboard the International Space Station.  In terms of formal work Hadfield spent the bulk of his time setting up a new version of Robonaut. What’s a Robonaut, you might well say? I quote from the NASA webpage describing it. “The first humanoid robot in space was sent to the space station with the intention of eventually taking over tasks too dangerous or mundane for astronauts, and the first such task identified for it was monitoring air velocity....

    It’s not exactly a job that requires a rocket scientist – or astronaut – to accomplish...”

    Specifically what Hadfield and a fellow astronaut did is take Robonaut2 out of its “sleeping compartment”, assemble it, turn it on, and set up a “task board for the upcoming remote commanding of it” and then turn it off. That was however almost fascinating when compared to what he did later in the day, which was to install ultrasound equipment to measure noise in the ISS. And don’t think other astronauts’ work was more engrossing.  Their tasksincluded jobs like cleaning air filters, cleaning water filters, and copying data from the Kulonovskiy Kristall experiment onto a hard drive. This Russian experiment aims at a – I again quote from the websitewhich describes it – “Study of dynamic and structural characteristics of the coulomb systems formed by the charged dispersed diamagnetic macroparticles in the magnetic trap.”

    I recount all of this to point out the obvious. No child, adult or sentient ape ever said to themselves: “I long to become an astronaut because I so, so want to be a weightless robot assembler, or a floating lab technician, or a twisting in space maintenance person.”  Let me repeat: No starry headed human ever dreamed of going into space to do what astronauts are actually supposed to be doing in space today. 

    And that brings me to what Chris Hadfield did in his spare time on January 31, 2013. He sent 11 tweets on that day to the 392,107 people who were at that moment following him. It should be pointed out that Hadfield didn’t do what he had done on many other days, that is release a video podcast explaining something about being in space – how you wash your hands without water for example – or have a question/answer sessions with people on earth, particularly with school children. Or sing while playing his guitar and tumbling.

     Some tweet exchanges sounded mundane but in retrospect weren’t. 

    Jimi Walsh, who describes himself as a “Musician Guitarist/Composer ... Connoisseur, Lothario and part-time Rock'n Roll Rebel” tweeted he was having bacon and eggs for breakfast and wondered what Hadfield had had and if there was anything  he missed. 

    Hadfield replied he had had “oatmeal, dehydrated scrambled eggs, instant cider, instant Kona coffee and dried apricots.”            

     Which caused Jenny Woods to tweet that Hadfield should remind followers in the U.K. that American cider is non-alcoholic. And others to say he must miss the smell of breakfast and did one know what spending time in space did to taste buds? And this led the Canadian Space Agency to weigh in pointing out that Hadfield had answered this question in an open discussionwith the Governor General the day before.

    That is to say how it “feels” to be in space, the sensations which we experience in a milieu that hardly anyone has ever been in continues to excite humans’ imagination. Not to mention actually talk/texting with someone there.

    But a very different version of space as an experience was seen via what Hadfield did in between all his less-than-fascinating “real” work on the ISS. That is alerted people via tweets to the imageshe had photographed out of the windows of the International Space Station.  A full moon rising and looking as it always does like a biologically mute earth.  The oddly cross shaped patterns the lights of Reno, Nevada – “the biggest little town on earth” Hadfield called it, cast. The muscular, intestinal twists of the Amazon River; the perfect circle a meteor craterin Africa forms. “The earth has a belly button,” Hadfield poetically chimed in about it. 

    The most interesting responses by far came from an almost off-hand tweet Hadfield sent out. Officially off work he asked his Twitter followers “if you had a free evening in space, what would you do?”

    There were jokey answers. Catch M & M’s in your mouth as they free-floated in space. Sing “Stardust” by Hoagie Carmichael. Sunbathe. But over and over people said things like “simply relish where I was” and “look down on our beautiful planet” and “float while looking out the space station window.”

    And that to my mind is the subversive message in Hadfield’s tweets.  In 2013 with nobody on the Moon or Mars or anywhere else, the most important reason to go into space is to experience going into space and convey what you see and feel to people still on earth. And if that is the case two things follow. 

    One is that NASA and CSA and other agencies should select astronauts who are really good at explaining what it feels like to be there and even better good at looking down on earth and seeing what should be imaged from space. Think recruiting campaigns actively searching for space minded poets and photographers and emotive writers rather than  free loating lab rats, and maintenance people, and robot assemblers.

    You do this because Hadfield has taught us that daily communication from space isn’t a tangential “social media” activities that “cool” astronauts might do. His tweets aren’t spare time after work afterthoughts. Rather showing what an astronauts sees and feels in space and communicating that is what really inspires most of us on earth who, among other things, fund space flights. 

    And consequently  after he returns Hadfield should give communication’s seminars to existing astronauts explaining that their most significant purpose on the ISS is to inspire some 21stcentury children looking at their tweets and podcasts and photos of the earth to say to themselves:

     “I want to be the best astronaut you can be when people aren’t going to the moon. And that means I want to be a tweeting, talking, singing, flipping about astro-tourist – just like Chris Hadfield.”

    Stephen Strauss is a science writer with over 30 years of experience in the Canadian media. He covered science over a 25 year period for Globe and Mailand since leaving there has written a regular column for the CBC’s website. Stephen is also an accomplished author and speaker with numerous awards and fellowships. He is currently a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada.

  • 10 Sep 2018 10:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Date and location:

    Thursday, September 20
    7:00 p.m.
    Millennium Library
    Ah kha koo gheesh reading-in-the-round space
    Main Floor
    251 Donald St.
    Winnipeg, Manitoba

    SWCC presents Brett D. Huson with Youth Book Award during Science Week

    Author Brett D. Huson won the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Youth Book Award 2018 for his book The Sockeye Mother.

    Huson will read the book and SWCC board-member Jay Whetter will present the award September 20 at 7:00 at Winnipeg’s Millennium Library.

    The Sockeye Mother explores the intricate connection between the sockeye salmon, the Gitxsan people, and British Columbia’s Skeena River valley. The book presents the life cycle of the sockeye salmon, introduces readers to basic Gitxsan words and is beautifully illustrated with traditional formline art.

    Brett D. Huson (Hetxw’ms Gyetxw) is from the Gitxsan Nation, an Indigenous people from an unceded territory in the northwest Interior of British Columbia. He now lives in Winnipeg.

    The reading is one of many events planned across Canada to recognize Science Literacy Week ( 

  • 20 Aug 2018 7:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Are you creative, enthusiastic, organized, flexible, and eager to enhance your skills set? Would you like to explore the world of Canadian science online, all the while honing your media, public relations, and promotional skills?

    SWCC’s People Choice Award is looking for a few exceptional people to help grow a unique Canadian award, the SWCC People’s Choice Award for Favourite Canadian Science Site.

    If you’re up for the challenge, here’s who we’re looking for: 

    ·     SWCC People’s Choice Award Social Media Coordinator. You will be responsible for implementing our media campaign of tweets and posts promoting the award. You will work closely and coordinate with Science Borealis’ social media whiz Theresa Liao on a creative and effective social media campaign for our award and our sister award for best Canadian blog. 

    ·       SWCC People’s Choice Award Associate Executive Producer, working with the producer, Eva Everything, to evolve the awards. You will help to coordinate this year’s awards from start to finish, from selecting the nominees to congratulating the winner, while connecting with the successful professionals behind Canada’s Fave Science Sites. You will have the opportunity to be the Executive Producer of the award in 2020. 

    ·       Your commitment to this year’s award (for both opportunities) runs from now until the beginning of October. Total commitment involves a few hours a week. 

    We aim to generate excitement and interest in Canada’s online science community and to celebrate Canada best science sites. 

    If either, or both, of these opportunities interest you, contact me, Eva Everything 

  • 12 Jun 2018 3:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Science Writers and Communicators of Canada is pleased to announce the winners of this year's book awards for books published in 2017. 

    Science Writers and Communicators of Canada offer two annual book awards to honour outstanding contributions to science writing 1) intended for and available to children/middle grades ages 8-12 years, and 2) intended for and available to the general public. Books are judged on literary excellence and scientific content and accuracy. In addition the two book juries look for initiative, originality, clarity of interpretation, relevance and value in promoting greater understanding of science by the general reader. The independent juries are composed of writers, scientists and members of the intended audience. Winners receive a certificate and cash prize of $1,000 that will be presented during Science Literacy Week in September. 

    youth book winner

    The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw'ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) | illustrated by Natasha Donovan 

    Portage & Main Press, High Water Press

    To the Gitxsan people of Northwestern British Columbia, the sockeye salmon is more than just a source of food. Over its life cycle, it nourishes the very land and forests that the Skeena River runs through and where the Gitxsan make their home. The Sockeye Mother explores how the animals, water, soil, and seasons are all intertwined.

    Brett D. Husonis from the Gitxsan Nation, an Indigenous people from an unceded territory in the Northwest Interior of British Columbia, Canada. For the past decade, Brett has worked in the film and television industry, and has volunteered for such organizations as Ka Ni Kanichihk and Indigenous Music Manitoba.

    Growing up in a strong matrilineal society, Brett experienced and learned about the culture, land, and political landscape he was born into. From this came a passion to create and share the knowledge and stories of his people, which reflect the importance of environmental balance and a cultural knowledge that spans thousands of years.

    The jury for this award was: 

    Teresa MacDonald

    Middle School Math/Science Teacher

    The York School, Toronto

    Neelam Mal (Grade 6 Teacher)

    Student Services

    Twelve Mile Coulee School, Calgary

    Eileen van der Flier-Kelle

    Teaching Professor

    Dept of Earth Sciences

    Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

    Romilla Karnick

    Documentary Producer

    New York, New York

    Jury Chair:

    David McKay

    Communications Dept.

    Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

    general book winner

    Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future by Edward Struzik

    Island Press

    For two months in the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire “the Beast.” It acted like a mythical animal, alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it’s not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. A glance at international headlines shows a remarkable increase in higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands– a trifecta for igniting wildfires like we’ve rarely seen before.

    This change is particularly noticeable in the northern forests of the United States and Canada. These forests require fire to maintain healthy ecosystems, but as the human population grows, and as changes in climate, animal and insect species, and disease cause further destabilization, wildfires have turned into a potentially uncontrollable threat to human lives and livelihoods.

    Our understanding of the role fire plays in healthy forests has come a long way in the past century. Despite this, we are not prepared to deal with an escalation of fire during periods of intense drought and shorter winters, earlier springs, potentially more lightning strikes and hotter summers. There is too much fuel on the ground, too many people and assets to protect, and no plan in place to deal with these challenges.

    Firestorm, journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.

    Edward Struzikhas been writing about scientific and environmental issues for more than 30 years. A fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, his numerous accolades include the prestigious Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and the Sir Sandford Fleming Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions to the understanding of science. In 1996 he was awarded the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and spent a year at Harvard and MIT researching environment, evolutionary biology, and politics with E.O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. His 2015 book, Future Arctic, focuses on the effects of climate change in the Canadian Arctic and the impacts they will have on rest of the world. His other books include Arctic Icons, The Big Thaw, and Northwest Passage. He is an active speaker and lecturer, and his work as a regular contributor to Yale Environment 360 covers topics such as the effects of climate change and fossil fuel extraction on northern ecosystems and their inhabitants. He is on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, a citizens’ organization dedicated to the long-term environmental and social well-being of northern Canada and its peoples. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

    The jury for this award was: 

    Annie Locas

    Technical Food Safety Specialist 

    Gatineau, QC

    Kelly Crowe

    Journalist CBC

    Toronto ON

    Jim Davies

    Cognitive Scientist, Playwright, Artist, and Author, Carlton University

    Ottawa ON

    Mark Winston

    Biologist and Writer, Simon Fraser University

    Vancouver, BC

    Jury Chair:

    Veronique Morin


    Québec, Québec

  • 05 Jun 2018 9:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Coming to Winnipeg for SWCC 2019? A few conference attendees will be able to add on an overnight tour of the Experimental Lakes Area.

    By Jay Whetter

    Lake Erie “died” in the 1960s. Excessive nutrients in the lake, due to runoff and pollution, first caused a massive growth in algae. As this algae died, it took up all the oxygen in the water and the fish died. The scientific name for this process is eutrophication.

    In response to the Lake Erie situation, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans set up the Experimental Lakes Area ( in 1968 to study causes and solutions to eutrophication. Lakes 226 and 227 were the first lakes studied. Those first studies concluded that phosphorus added to a lake caused excessive algae growth that led to eutrophication. By reducing phosphorus runoff through farm and lawn fertilizer practices, regulation of detergent ingredients and improved water treatment facilities, we could greatly reduce algae growth.

    ELA kept going, studying acid rain and mercury effects on freshwater lakes and more recently nano silver, diluted bitumen (from oil pipelines), aquaculture and climate change effects on lake habitat and health.

    The research facility seems stronger than ever. After the federal government pulled funding in 2012, a non-profit called the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) took over. This summer the facility has 60 researchers, students and support staff on site – the most ever. ELA has 58 lakes, chosen for their relative containment and variety of sizes and depths. Through IISD, ELA also expanded its mandate to include education and outreach. That is why the ELA staff look forward to presenting at the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada conference in Winnipeg May 23-25, 2019 and, for a select few, hosting an overnight tour at the ELA site four hours east of Winnipeg.

    Research at ELA is in five primary fields: Water chemistry, hydrology/limnology, fish biology, zooplankton biology and phytoplankton biology.

    Here are a few quick notes and observations from my visit to ELA on Friday, June 1, 2018:

    1.     When studying the effects of additives, researchers use very low doses. They want to mimic the more serious of contaminated lakes and rivers, but they don’t want to test higher levels that will cause unnecessary stress on the ecosystem. So they take a low and slow approach. For mercury research, for example, they use a mercury isotope so it can be tracked through the ecosystem. Over five years they have added only one teaspoon of mercury isotope to the waters. They don’t even use mercury thermometers anymore in case one breaks and adds more mercury unnecessarily. Top predators will accumulate the most mercury, but the good news, as ELA science has shown, is that once mercury levels coming into the ecosystem are reduced, bioaccumulation throughout the ecosystem will start to reverse.

    2.     As many of the research projects at ELA have concluded, once a problem is identified, it can often be corrected through changes in human activity. We can make a difference!

    3.     Because Canadian Shield lakes have bedrock bottoms for the most part, they are not rich in food for fish. Lakes with weedier or bio-rich beds also have more food and therefore more and faster-growing fish. With climate change, the ice-free periods for Canadian lakes are longer. You might think longer summers would mean fish get bigger, but the opposite happens. Fish are cold-blooded, so a longer summer means the fish metabolism is increased for more days per year. But the food source in these Shield lakes does not increase to the same extent. Therefore, since fish can’t take in enough food to match that rising metabolism, climate change means that fish are getting smaller. 

    4.     ELA’s remote and pristine location makes it perfectly suited to study climate change effects on fresh-water lakes because it doesn’t have the other influencers, including human population growth, changes in energy use or sewage treatment, etc., that will confound trend analysis for others bodies of water.

    5.     ELA has its own scientists on staff, but also does a lot of collaboration with various universities and institutions. While I was there, a representative from the U.S. EPA was looking into the diluted bitumen research at ELA.

    In the few hours I was at ELA, I saw a black bear outside my truck window and encountered an aggressive and very territorial ruffed grouse. ELA is a hive of science, complete with lots of indoor labs, ATVs to access remote lakes on little trails, canoes galore and, at night, complete darkness to show off the amazing skies. It combines world class science in a wild Canadian setting. It’s pretty easy to fall in love with the place.

    Here is a link to further information about ELA and science communication. 

    Jay Whetter is on the SWCC board and leads the Winnipeg 2019 organizing committee. He lives in Kenora, Ontario, and spends most of his time writing about agriculture. 

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