Residents of Northwestern Ontario may see some unfamiliar faces around the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), come next year. Up to twelve women that are a part of the African Women in Science Program that are accustomed to doing research across the globe could make their way to the ELA next summer.

The African Women in Science Program is a part of the African Centre of Aquatic Research and Education, which is affiliated with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

ELANamakau Muyumbana – Lecturer at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Zambia. Photo supplied by Ted Lawrence

“This program was created due to the lack of a huge inequality in the representation of women on the African Great Lakes. We get young women and early career women in trying to help advance their careers and development so that they can be a bigger part of addressing the problems on the African Great Lakes.” said Ted Lawrence  Executive Director of the African Center for Aquatic Research and Education.”

Lawrence added, “Our intention is to strengthen partnerships and communications and science through in-person interactions and really experiencing how science is done.”

Lawrence started the African Centre for Aquatic Research and Education after many years of experience with the North America Great Lakes and realized that the same problem-solving techniques transferred well to problems that affect the African Great Lakes. The African Women in Science program started about two years ago and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has strictly been online.

The plan for the trip is to allow these women exposure to some of the approaches and equipment that are used in the North American Great Lakes and to use those same practices to address problems on the African Great Lakes.

A week of the trip is designated to bringing the 12 women to the Experimental Lakes Area in Northwestern Ontario come the summer of 2022.

ELANoella Bugabanda Nabintu – Research Assistant, Centre of Research in Hydrobiology, Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo supplied by Ted Lawrence

“We really want to get the women out on the lakes in the boats, nets in hand and to really see some of the approaches that we take in researching these lakes. And we want to get them back into the labs. [Their] eyes under the lab equipment that we use to  see how we process samples and to see how we move forward and discover the problems and issues on our lakes too.” Lawrence says

Lawrence did say that the cohort of 12 women are very excited about the idea of traveling to another country, experiencing a new culture, visiting the Experimental Lakes Area, and meeting the experts, researchers, scientists, and even locals.

The average cost per woman to come over to North America for this program is $5000 CAD, one of the biggest challenges of bringing over 12 women is looking for partners, groups, or even individuals that will help support this very unique program.

ELANoella Bugabanda Nabintu – Research Assistant at Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute, Tanzania. Photo supplied by Ted Lawrence 

The African Great Lakes are of series of lakes including Lake Victoria which is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world by area, Lake Tanganyika, the world's second-largest freshwater lake by volume and depth, and Lake Malawi, the world’s eighth-largest freshwater lake by area. All together the lake contains a combined 7,400 cubic metres of water. The African Great Lakes make up about 25 per cent of the planet’s unfrozen surface freshwater.

To support the African Women in Science program, you can go to the International Institute for Sustainable Development website and click the donate button at the top of the page.