Dr. David Schindler, world renowned environmental conservationist, dead at 80

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Family and friends are mourning the loss and remembering the legacy of Dr. David Schindler, nationally and internationally-renowned environmental conservationist at the University of Alberta, following his death Thursday.

Schindler was a co-founder of the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario where whole lake studies are performed on freshwater bodies. His work over his 50-year career in the field was instrumental in forming public policy around acid rain including restrictions on acid emissions and the amount of chemicals in detergent.

He later studied the effects of climate change on boreal lake ecosystems and the effect the oil sands had on the Athabasca River.

Dr. Mark Boyce, Schindler’s friend and colleague at the U of A, said he will miss fishing for salmon with Schindler in the summer. He said he will remember how influential his friend was with making sure politicians and other decision makers were paying attention to issues he believed were important.

“I think that we as scientists needed to try to emulate his ability to communicate effectively the results of our research and to make sure that it isn’t buried in the scientific literature,” said Boyce. “There was a tweet this morning that I noticed, something to the effect that government officials were terrified of David Schindler because he would just spare no words and go right to the throat on issues where the government was not paying attention to science.”

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Schindler was born in Fargo, North Dakota in 1940. He earned a Bachelor of Zoology from North Dakota State University and a PHD as a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford University. He took a teaching position in 1966 at Trent University and eventually made his way to the U of A in 1989 where he held the position of Killam Memorial Chair and Professor of Ecology.

Boyce said Schindler’s work on documenting the effects of phosphorous in lakes causing algae blooms and the ensuing ban of the chemical in detergents was a “huge ramification for society.”

“It’s a never-ending battle, of course, dealing with the effects of humans on the environment and Dave was in the thick on a number of very contentious issues,” said Boyce. “The oil sands, for example, and acid rain, he was right in the thick of all of that, and he did not hesitate to explain the consequences of development, and consequences of the industry to the environment.”

Academics, environmentalists and politicians alike offered condolences and remembrance online Thursday evening and Friday morning as they learned of Schindler’s death. Boyce said Schindler fell while running with his dogs leading to an abdominal infection two years ago and never fully recovered. He died of congestive heart failure.

Schindler’s work led to him being appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 2004. He was also awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2008 and the President’s Award, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution in 2011 among other numerous awards.


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