Engaging with Science | Dec 6, 2016 | By Sonya Havens, Chemist

Students Play an Integral Role in IISD-ELA Research

Each year, we hire least four undergraduate students to assist with the Fisheries, Lake Sampling and Hydrology and Chemistry programs at IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA). Students are hired from biology, chemistry and environmental science programs from universities and colleges across the Canada. These students work alongside scientists with decades of experience in the field of freshwater research to help conduct research that facilitates our understanding of the aquatic environment and the effects of disruptions to these aquatic environments. In their duties as research assistants, the students gain practical, hands-on experience in the fields of fish biology, limnology, hydrology and chemistry, in addition to learning an array of limnological concepts and the processes involved in whole-ecosystem-level research.

Justin Budyk, a University of Manitoba Environmental Science undergraduate student who worked with the Lake Sampling and Hydrology and Chemistry programs this past summer, speaks emphatically about his time working at IISD-ELA. “As an undergraduate student who was initially eager to see what freshwater research was all about, I was blown away by the level of research that was being conducted at the site. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with a broad range of world-class scientists during my employment: from hydrologists to chemists and fish biologists. During my time at IISD-ELA, I have gained a more nuanced understanding of freshwater lake systems and a deeper appreciation of the importance of the entire lake-based experiments that are conducted here. Working with such an array of scientists I was also able to get my hands dirty and become proficient in data collection, chemical analysis, and learn what happens at all different levels of the scientific process.”

IISD-ELA student Justin Budyk

Justin Budyk, a University of Manitoba Environmental Science undergraduate student worked with the Lake Sampling and Hydrology and Chemistry programs this past summer.

The students work incredibly hard. They frequently carry large packs of equipment and work long hours, often in inclement weather. When the long work day is done, they hang out together by the fire, go swimming, go fishing or practice volleyball for the upcoming Staff vs. Students volleyball game. On the weekends, they go canoeing, camping, or canoe camping. This combination of having fun together and working hard toward a common goal foments a feeling of being part of team. When Justin was asked if he would come to work for IISD-ELA again next year, he responded with, “I would have no hesitation to return to work at IISD Experimental Lakes Area if the opportunity were to arise. I cannot emphasize enough how important I believe the research that is being conducted here is to the protection of fresh water worldwide; to have a part in conducting that research is very exciting. It has been a fantastic opportunity to spend my summer working in such a beautiful natural setting, doing stimulating research with a wonderful community of people. I would jump at the chance to do it again!”

Despite the remoteness and the hard work, it is the team comradery, the learning and the feeling of contributing to science that combine to make students want to come back and do it all again the following year.

Students are vital to the successful operation of IISD-ELA. IISD-ELA continues to expand its educational and research projects; consequently, we hope to hire more students each year.

We are proud of our role in moulding future environmental scientists.