Researchers have launched into work once more at the new Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a world-class facility saved after nearly two years of uncertainty.

More than just a pretty place, 58 lakes set aside for science have shaped global policy for decades.

“We have cleaner air in cities because of research that has happened in ELA. We're improving water quality around the world because of ELA,” said Matt McCandless, executive director at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, which now runs ELA.

That potential continues as new research began in May.

A group from Trent University launched an experiment on nano-silver - small particles used as antibacterials.

The material will be dumped into a lake to study the effects.

“They're added to things like underwear, washing machines, toothpastes, stuff like that, but we really don't know what the fate of this material is in the open environment,” said Michael Paterson, head scientist with IISD, as he explains why the visiting researchers chose the experiment.

The federal government ran ELA for nearly 45 years but in 2012 decided to pull out. In April, Winnipeg organization, IISD got approval to take over.

Most of the former staff came back too, happy for the chance to continue experimenting in a facility unlike any in the world.

One experiment includes surgically implanting trackers in trout to study the effects of global warming in the lake.

ELA is unique because it allows researchers to study an entire ecosystem.

“Predictions based on lab studies or even bag studies in lakes have often failed to predict well what happens on the ecosystem scale,” said Paterson.

With entire lakes to experiment with, ELA has already attracted attention from researchers, industry and educators worldwide.

That will likely be an important revenue stream for the future. Government funding will help keep ELA afloat for five years and then the organization must find money elsewhere.

ELA also offers the most comprehensive data record of any freshwater lakes.