David Schindler

Dr. David W. Schindler OC, D.Phil., FRSC, FRS


Dr. David Schindler is 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. His extensive service as a professor and mentor has encouraged others to join him in his work to care for Canada’s most precious natural resources.

As founding director of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans Experimental Lakes Project, Dr. Schindler began innovative large-scale experiments that would reveal serious changes taking place in Canada’s lakes.

The studies produced sobering proof of the destruction to the Great Lakes and other fresh water resources in Canada and the United States due to pollutants such as phosphate-based detergents and fertilizers. Although the results provoked strong resistance from some quarters, Dr. Schindler’s work eventually led to much needed North American controls to mitigate the effects of phosphates on fresh water systems. He then went on to conduct ground-breaking and equally important research into the effects of acid rain and climate change on the health and biodiversity of the environment.

In 1989, David decided to leave his position at the Experimental Lakes Area and move his career in a new direction. David and his wife, Suzanne Bayley, were looking for a place that would allow them both to continue their research and teaching careers. They found that place at the University of Alberta where Suzanne joined the Department of Biological Sciences and David became the school’s Killam Memorial Chair and Professor of Ecology. They settled on a farm near the small community of Wildwood, just west of Edmonton. The household also included the sizable kennel of sled dogs that the family had been raising and racing since 1980.

At the U of A, Dr. Schindler continued his cutting edge research with studies into fresh water shortages and the effects of climate change on Canada’s alpine and northern boreal ecosystems. Dr. Schindler has received numerous prestigious international awards including the Stockholm Water Prize, the Volvo International Environmental Prize and the Tyler Gold Medal Prize, the Naumann-Thienemann Medal of the International Limnological Society and the Hutchinson Medal of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. He also received several national awards, including Canada’s highest honor for Science and Engineering, the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal of Science and Engineering, the Manning Award of Distinction for Innovation in Science and the Killam Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Societies of Canada and London, a foreign fellow of the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences. His leadership has been recognized by a long list of Canadian and international scientific organizations as well as ten honourary degrees from North American universities. In 2008 Trent University unveiled the David Schindler Endowed Professorship in Aquatic Studies to commemorate his contributions to the field.

Over the years, Dr. Schindler’s work has been widely used in formulating ecological management policy in Canada, the United States and Europe. Although he is anxious to see quicker and more expansive changes, David notes that the public and governments are giving greater attention to the science behind policy issues.

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