David Schindler

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David Schindler
Born (1940-08-03) August 3, 1940 (age 78)
Fargo, North Dakota
Residence Edmonton, Alberta
  • American
  • Canadian
Alma mater
Known for Experimental Lakes Area
Scientific career
Thesis Energy Relations at Three Trophic Levels in an Aquatic Food Chain (1966)

David William Schindler, OC AOE FRSC FRS, (born August 3, 1940) is an American/Canadian limnologist. He holds the Killam Memorial Chair and is Professor of Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.[1][2] He is notable for "innovative large-scale experiments" on whole lakes at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA)[3] which proved that "phosphorus controls the eutrophication (excessive algal blooms) in temperate lakes [4] leading to the banning of phosphates in detergents. He is also known for his research on acid rain[4][5] In 1989, Dr. Schindler moved from the ELA to continue his research at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, with studies into fresh water shortages and the effects of climate disruption on Canada’s alpine and northern boreal ecosystems.[4] Schindler’s has earned him numerous national and international awards, including the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal, the First Stockholm Water Prize (1991)[6](Sundbom 2010, p. 5),[7] the Volvo Environment Prize (1998),[8] and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2006).[4]

Early life[edit]

Schindler was born August 3, 1940 in Fargo, North Dakota and grew up in Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. He holds dual-citizenship in Canada and the U.S.[3][8] He earned his bachelor's degree at NDSU and PhD at the University of Oxford.


After completing his bachelor's degree in zoology from North Dakota State University in 1962 he studied aquatic ecology at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. He worked first under Nikolaas Tinbergen. But it was while working under Charles Sutherland Elton, one of the founders of ecology, who also established and led Oxford University's Bureau of Animal Population, that he began formulating an interdisciplinary ecosystem approach to study water and ecology. He received his Ph.D in ecology in 1966 from Oxford University. For two years he was an assistant professor in the Biology Department at Trent University. From 1968 to 1989, he directed the newly created Experimental Lakes Area of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans near Kenora, Ontario. This long-term study used whole lakes as natural laboratories, using an integrated ecosystem approach.[6] This work is part of Schindler's large body of scientific work, which has influenced freshwater management policies including the regulation of toxins and the limitation of eutrophication and acid rain in Canada, the USA, and Europe.

In 1991 Schindler was awarded the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize for research into excess nutrification and acidification of freshwater lakes. In awarding the Prize, the committee noted that "A famous photograph of a Canadian lake drew attention to the effects of phosphorus and played an important part in generating public support for tackling the growing problem of eutrophication, an over-abundance of nutrients in aquatic systems and one of the most serious environmental threats facing freshwater bodies and semi-enclosed seas like the Baltic. That photograph has since been reproduced hundreds of times, for students, scientists and the general public."(Sundbom 2010, p. 5)[7]

In 2006 Schindler received the Tyler Award for Environmental Achievement joining "luminaries as primatologist Jane Goodall; Sir Richard Doll, who established the link between lung cancer and cigarette smoking; and Nobel laureates Paul Critzen and Mario Molina." In a letter supporting the award, Stanford University biological sciences professor Peter Vitousek claimed that the "fertilization of entire lakes" the Experimental Lakes area "provided incorruptible findings" that proved that "phosphorus controls the eutrophication of temperate lakes."[4] "In a series of landmark experiments conducted during the 1970s and 1980s, Schindler demonstrated that acid rain could begin destroying freshwater lakes at far lower levels than previously thought, and that phosphorus was the major cause of uncontrolled algae growth."[4] Wallace S. Broecker

In his book co-authored with John R. Vallentyne entitled The Algal Bowl: Overfertilization of the World's Freshwaters and Estuaries (2008), Schindler warned about algal blooms and dead zones, "The fish-killing blooms that devastated the Great Lakes in the 1960s and 1970s haven't gone away; they've moved west into an arid world in which people, industry, and agriculture are increasingly taxing the quality of what little freshwater there is to be had here....This isn't just a prairie problem. Global expansion of dead zones caused by algal blooms is rising rapidly...(Schindler 2008)"[9]

In 2008 he was honoured with the Alberta Order of Excellence as professor and mentor and "an internationally celebrated scientist who has led efforts to protect fresh water resources in Canada and around the world. His groundbreaking research has served as a clarion call alerting authorities and the public to the effects of pollutants and climate change on the environment. "[3][8]

In 2010 he co-authored a report on contaminants in fresh water systems in the area affected by the oil sands development entitled "Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries."[10]

Schindler has made numerous appearances in film and television programs speaking on issues of water and air quality, particularly regarding the environmental impact of Alberta's oil sands. In 2011 he was featured in the documentary film Peace Out.

Selected publications[edit]

Selected Awards and Honours[edit]


  1. ^ Zagorski, N. (2006). "Profile of David W. Schindler". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103 (19): 7207–7209. doi:10.1073/pnas.0602793103. PMC 1564277Freely accessible. PMID 16670196. 
  2. ^ AB. Members Profile David W. Schindler. Alberta Order of Excellence
  3. ^ a b c Speakers/Panelists: Professor David Schindler. IAP Conference and General Assembly. IAP - The Global Network of Science Academies. 2010. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Cairney, Richard (28 April 2006). "Schindler earns Tyler Award: Renowned ecologist credits inspirational mentors". Folio. University of Alberta. p. 9. 
  5. ^ "Tipping Point, The Age of the Oil Sands". The Nature of Things. CBC. 
  6. ^ a b "David W. Schindler". Stockholm International Water Institute. 
  7. ^ a b Gunnel Sundbom; Per-Arne Malmqvist, eds. (2010). The Story of the Stockholm Water Prize Laureate (PDF) (Report). ISBN 91-974183-9-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-09. 
  8. ^ a b c "Dr. David W. Schindler OC, D.Phil., FRSC, FRS. Alberta Order of Excellence homepage". Government of Alberta. 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  9. ^ David W. Schindler; John R. Vallentyne (2008). The Algal Bowl: Overfertilization of the World's Freshwaters and Estuaries. Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  10. ^ Erin N. Kelly; David W. Schindler; Peter V. Hodson; Jeffrey W. Short; Roseanna Radmanovich; Charlene C. Nielsen. "Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107 (37): 16178–16183. doi:10.1073/pnas.1008754107. PMC 2941314Freely accessible. PMID 20805486. 
  11. ^ Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). Profile David W. Schindler.

External links[edit]