Remembering David Schindler and His Lasting Legacy in Limnology

Last week, the freshwater science community lost a a true giant in our field. David Schindler was a trailblazing scientist and an early enthusiast for whole-lake experiments in the 1970s and 80s that brought issues like acid rain and algae blooms to wide public attention.

His life and work leaves a “tremendous impact,” says CFL director, Jake Vander Zanden, “not only on science, but public understanding and policy as well.”

Dave was a gifted communicator and dedicated to ensuring that the things we learned in the field and in the lab were passed on to elected officials, lake stakeholders and the general public.

His work, especially the twenty years he spent in Ontario’s Experimental Lakes Area, led to research that spurred action on a while array of important environmental issues – from efforts to curb acid rain, the Canadian government’s ban on high-phosphorus laundry detergents and federal oversight of Alberta’s oilsands after his research documented the oil and gas industry’s impacts on freshwater resources.

Dave had many Wisconsin connections through his work on eutrophication and acid rain. He also left a lasting impact at the Center for Limnology. For example,  director emeritus, Steve Carpenter, remembers attending a talk Dave gave on campus in the mid 1970s when Carpenter was a graduate student at UW-Madison.

“The power of whole-lake experiments made a deep impression on me, and I wanted to learn more.”

That led Carpenter to schedule a meeting with Art Hasler, who walked him through the rich history of such experiments up in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and the CFL’s leading role in them. After learning this history, Carpenter says, “I realized then that Dave’s talk was a homecoming, a pilgrimage to the birthplace of experimental limnology. I never forgot that experience, and it influenced my research path for the rest of my career.”

It’s just one of countless careers impacted by crossing paths with Dave Schindler.

His legacy will live on in anyone who sets out to better understand how human activity impacts our freshwater systems.

He will be missed – and remembered.

To learn more about Dave’s life and work, here is an article from the CBC.