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In Memorium: David Schindler

Friday, September 3, 2021

Dr. David Schindler | 1940 - 2021

Few can claim such a deep and impactful legacy on the field of freshwater science as Dr. David Schindler. He left indelible impacts on our understanding of everything from nutrient-limitation of primary productivity to the ecosystem-wide impacts of acid rain.

Leading the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario, Canada and later as a Professor at the University of Alberta, he was a pioneer of ecosystem-scale experimentation in aquatic science, enabling the clear documentation of numerous threats to aquatic systems over the long term. His work spanned topics including mercury, UV radiation, climate change and oil sands but was poignantly focused on addressing questions that improved the protection of the freshwaters on which we all rely. It was his unique combination of elegantly designed research and commitment to promoting science in the halls of governance, that led to the development of freshwater protection policies that have shaped management and policy around the globe, including removing phosphorus from detergents and informing policies such as the 1990 Clean Air Act and the 1991 Acid Rain Treaty.

He won countless awards recognizing his contributions to freshwater and ecosystem protection including the first Stockholm Water Prize, the Rachel Carson award; all major ASLO awards; election to the National Academy of Sciences and the Order of Canada; and 15 honorary doctorates. But perhaps his most unique distinction is declining an invitation from the NFL to pursue a career in limnology – a legacy that few share and that will far outlast any championship or Superbowl ring he could have won. In choosing freshwater, Dr. Schindler changed the field, shaped freshwater protections across the globe, and taught us to keep our eye on the right ball as we face increasingly challenging threats to the integrity and protection of freshwater ecosystems.