By Kelly

Can anyone spot a response? http://saveela.org/2012/09/05/an-unparalleled-scientific-resource-endangered/

I’ll admit I was a little slow to join the social media craze. I have a bogus Facebook account just so that I can administrate the OnCirculation Facebook page, and I wasn’t sure whether the announcement that I was becoming a blogger would end my marriage. HOWEVER, last week I realised that my naysaying may be in error. After posting on the proposed closure of Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) I received a comment from a fellow PhD student who is leading the coalition to save the ELA. (And I thought I was ambitious trying to set up a successful blog and complete a PhD, I feel positively lazy).

Diane Orihel is rallying support (not least through their website, Facebook page and Twitter account) from concerned scientists and members of the public who are also baffled by the proposed closure . What makes it an outrage in my eyes is that is doesn’t make economic sense, it’s a political move that ignores the inherent scientific and environmental value in such a resource. Anyone who has ever run an experiment can surely see the worth in being able to manipulate an entire lake to understand a whole ecosystem response.   Or if this does not seem important enough, then what about the scientific value of maintaining long-term monitoring programs? This is the longest, “most complete and unique sets of information on water quality in the world ” that is tracking the long-term changes to our planet. Yet the government can not see the worth in raising $2 million a year to keep it open?

Through the capacity of the ELA the scientific community has been able to inform policy makers on issues as varied as:

  • Strategies for combating harmful algal blooms
  • Regulation of air pollution to reduce acid rain
  • Designing reservoirs to minimize greenhouse gases
  • Effectiveness of proposed measures to lower mercury contamination in fish
  • Environmental impacts of aquaculture and escaped genetically-modified fish
  • Impacts of hormones present in sewage effluent on fish health
  • Evidence that flame retardants degrade into banned toxic chemicals
  • Toxicity of antimicrobial nanoparticles ─ commonly used in clothing ─ to aquatic life
  • list taken from (http://saveela.org/why-is-ela-important/)

In an academic world that has become so metrics driven I believe that the output from the ELA is more than impressive. To quote directly from the ELA blog:

“It has produced 735 peer-reviewed scientific articles, 126 graduate theses, 102 book chapters and synthesis papers, 185 data reports, and several books. ELA scientists have been the recipients of numerous prestigious international water awards, including the Stockholm Water Prize, theInternational Tyler Prize for Environmental Science and the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.”

For those of us who are not Canadian citizens -and therefore unable to sign this petition here– there is much value in keeping this conversation alive in the scientific community. Concerned American and Swiss scientists are openly criticizing the decision, perhaps Australians should too? There are a number of avenues to learn more about Diane’s work, through their excellent website here, on their Facebook page here or through Twitter here.

– And for me, this has been a valuable lesson. Perhaps I’m not just talking into the ether. And just maybe social media can be a valuable platform for communicating ideas, rather than just a means of creating a cyber-self that doesn’t engage with reality (okay so I’m a little harsh at times). AND, because I’m an all or nothing kind of old dog learning new tricks, we now have a twitter account! (See widget bar on right) Just don’t tell my husband, he’s only just getting used to being married to a blogger …