Schindler’s science: a shift towards sustainable sands?
September 7, 2010
David William Schindler OC, D.Phil., FRSC, FRS (born August 3, 1940) is one of the world’s leading limnologists. He holds the Killam Memorial Chair and is Professor of Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Schindler was born August 3, 1940 in Fargo, North Dakota and grew up in Minnesota lake country. He holds dual citizenship in Canada and the USA. After completing his bachelor’s degree in zoology from North Dakota State in 1962 he studied aquatic ecology at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. He worked first under Nikolaas Niko 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. Dr. Schindler was an assistant professor in the Biology Department at Trent University from 1966 to 1968. From 1968 to 1989, he founded and directed the Experimental Lakes Project of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans near Kenora, Ontario. This long-term study of freshwater is part of Schindler’s large body of scientific work which has influenced public policies regarding the protection of freshwater including the regulation of toxins and the limitation of eutrophication (excessive algal blooms) and acid rain in Canada, the USA and Europe.
This post, my new delicious entries, a Google Map in the making, and a considerable contribution to wikipedia article (above) and related articles on world renowned limnologist David W. Schindler are in response to the Calgary Herald article (2010-08-30) by Deborah Yedlin criticizing Schindler’s science.
A report by Erin N. Kelly, David W. Schindler, Peter V. Hodson, Jeffrey W. Short, Roseanna Radmanovich, Charlene C. Nielsen entitled “Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries” was published 2010-08-24 in the prestigious and influential journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which the team of scientists show that the oil sands industry releases the 13 elements considered priority pollutants (PPE) under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, via air and water, to the Athabasca River and its watershed.
“Contrary to claims made by industry and government in the popular press, the oil sands industry substantially increases loadings of toxic PPE to the AR and its tributaries via air and water pathways. This increase confirms the serious defects of RAMP (11–13), which has not detected such patterns in the AR watershed. Detailed long-term monitoring is essential to distinguish the sources of these contaminants and control their potential impacts on environmental and human health (13). A robust monitoring program to measure exposure and health of fish, wildlife, and humans should be implemented in the region affected by oil sands development (38, 39) (Kelly et al).”
The scientific journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America is second only to the Journal of Biological Chemistry in the list of Top Ten Most-Cited Journals (All Fields), 1999-2009. Journals are ranked by total citations, based on papers published and cited in Thomson Reuters-indexed journals between January 1, 1999 and April 30, 2009 [*].
Yedlin has her finger on the pulse of the business world in general and the oil industry in particular but she is not a scientist. David W. Schindler is.
As I began to search out material to add to the paltry wikipedia entry I found mention of c. 250-300 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He has nine honorary doctorates from universities within Canada and the United States. The list of provincial, national and international awards is lengthy.
I began to hear his name associated with best practices in the early 1990s when my husband was working on his MA then his PhD where terms like the ecosystem approach and water resource management were part of our everyday conversations. In recent years I have consulted his work to understand the Wabano Lake phenomenon.
The oil industry in Alberta is currently under attack by a well-orchestrated Rethink Alberta campaign which reminds me of the anti-sealhunt ads, posters, postcards. Nervous investors may reconsider placing money in funds associated with industries under heavy scrutiny by major companies and major campaigns. Many are convinced that the oil industry is immune to these attacks and will continue with business as usual, pushing for lax regulations and publicly-funded financial incentives to move ahead as fast as possible with expansion. Indeed potential customers for oilsands oil include governments of countries like Korea, Japan, China who my not be swayed by public outcry over dirty oil.
There is a crisis of confidence in science, or at least in big science. Yet more than ever we need legitimate scientific knowledge claims to guide public policies particularly in those areas in which industry and the market fail us the most, in matters related to the environment.
To be continued
A Timeline of Selected Events
1940 Schindler was born August 3, 1940 in Fargo, North Dakota.
1958 Charles S. Elton’s book entitled The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants was published by the University of Chicago Press. Schindler was influenced by his early reading of this book when he was a studying under limnology professor, Gabriel Comita at North Dakota State University in the summer of 1958(?). Schindler argues that Elton’s book is better written and more useful than Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (Zagorski 2006-05-09).
1961-1963 John F. Kennedy was President of the USA.
1962 After completing his bachelor’s degree in zoology from North Dakota State in 1962 he studied aquatic ecology at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. He worked first under [“Niko” Tinbergen]. But it was while working under [Sutherland Elton] that he began formulating an interdisciplinary [ecosystem approach] to study water and ecology.
1963 Lester (Mike) Pearson was Prime Minister from 1963 to 1968.
1963-1969 Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the USA.
1966 Schindler received his doctorate from Oxford University.
1966 Canadian government created the Freshwater Institute (FWI) to study the Algal blooms that were plaguing Lake Erie. The predecessor of the FWI was the Central Fisheries Research Station of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada. Established in Winnipeg in 1944, the station was moved to London, Ont, in 1957 and then back to Winnipeg as the FWI in 1966. New laboratory and office facilities were opened in 1973. The FWI provides facilities for fisheries and environmental research in inland and Arctic waters as well as for the non-research activities of the region, such as fish and marine mammal management and protection in the Arctic; Arctic oceans management programs; protection of fish habitat in the prairies and the Arctic; and the management of federal harbours (FWI).
1966 Fisheries scientist Waldo Johnson proposed to pollute several small lakes intentionally.
|The Canadian government set aside lakes in northern Ontario called the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA). I am not sure of the exact location of these lakes but they appear to be to the south of HWY 17, East of Hwy 71 in the Dogtooth Lakes area which is in or near the Provincial Park by that name. See maps here, here and here.|
1966-1968 Schindler was an assistant professor in the Biology Department at Trent University.
1968-06 Schindler, D. W. 1968-06. “Feeding, Assimilation and Respiration Rates of Daphnia magna Under Various Environmental Conditions and their Relation to Production Estimates.” Journal of Animal Ecology. 37:2:369-385. British Ecological Society.
1968 Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister of Canada and remained in office until 1979. He was re-elected Prime Minister in 1980 and remained in office until 1984.
1968 Schindler was at the Freshwater Institute, Fisheries Research Board of Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
1968 Schindler was invited to head the Experimental Lakes Project of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans near Kenora, Ontario. He conducted conducting experiments on whole ecosystems to directly test the effects including eutrophication of nutrient inputs, acid rain, climate change and other human insults on boreal aquatic ecosystems. His work has been widely used in formulating ecological management policy in Canada, the USA and in Europe. The Experimental Lakes Area was set aside for large-scale, whole-lake experiments. This had never done before. The project included a stellar staff of senior scientists. The Eutrophication Section was headed by well known ecologist Jack Vallentyne, who had recruited a group of about 15 senior scientists from around the world. Schindler was “one of the two or three youngest members of the group, and it was just a terrific environment for a young scientist to be in (Zagorski 2006).”
1968 Early stages of the oil sands development.
1969 Schindler was part of a team that studied Lake Winnipeg.
1969-1974 Richard M. Nixon was President of USA.
1973 The United States Congress passed the Endangered Species Act considered to be the most comprehensive and powerful piece of environmental legislation (Orians 1993).
|Dr. David W. Schindler separated Lake 226 with a a giant shower curtain and “treated one half with carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous and the other half with carbon and nitrogen only (7). Aerial photographs captured the dramatic results: the phosphorous-treated half of the lake had become green and murky because of algal blooms, whereas the other half of the lake remained clear. Pictures can speak a thousand words, and the stark contrast of the two sides of Lake 226 caught the public’s eye and policymakers’ collective ear (Zagorski 2006-05-09).”1974-05-24 “In a now-famous experiment (Science, 24 May 1974, p. 897), the team divided Lake 226 with a plastic curtain and added phosphorus to one half. When it turned a distinctive murky green, they had their answer. It was an aerial photograph from this experiment that largely persuaded policymakers to phase out phosphorus from detergents. “I think that’s the single most powerful image in the history of limnology,” Elser says. When Schindler took the results— and the photo—to government hearings in Canada and the United States, he put ELA on the map as a hub of innovative,policy-relevant research.”|
1974 Gerald R. Ford was President of the USA from 1974-1977.
1976-1988 In the Experimental Lake Area Schindler tackled one of the most contentious issues of the day, acid rain. In a series of experiments conducted between 1976 and 1988, researchers added sulfuric and nitric acid, pollutants that lead to acid rain, to Lake 223 and others.
1977 James Carter was President of the USA from 1977-1981.
1979 The Department of Fisheries and Oceans took over the management of Freshwater Institute and the Experimental Lakes which meant that departmental officials not scientists were in charge. This eventually changed the direction of research. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans focused on marine not freshwater and Experimental Lakes Project suffered from chronic underfunding.
1979-1990 Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister of UK.
1980 Since 1980, “Canada’s total energy production has increased by 87 percent, while its total energy consumption has increased by only 44 percent. Almost all of Canada’s energy exports go to the United States, making it the largest source of U.S. energy imports. Canada is consistently among the top sources for U.S. oil imports, and it is the largest source of U.S. natural gas and electricity imports. Recognizing the importance of the energy trade between the two countries, both participate in the North American Energy Working Group, which seeks to improve energy integration and cooperation between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico (EIA).”
1981 “Atmosphere-Biosphere Interactions: Toward a Better Understanding of the Ecological Consequences of Fossil Fuel Combustion.” Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR)
1981 Schindler was head of the Committee on the Atmosphere and the Biosphere “Atmosphere-Biosphere Interactions: Toward a Better Understanding of the Ecological Consequences of Fossil Fuel Combustion.” National Academy Press.
1981 Ronald Reagan was President of the USA from 1981-1989.
1982 Schindler was President of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography.
1984 Schindler was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award of the American Institute of Fisheries Biologists,
1984 Schindler was awarded the Frank Rigler Award of the Canadian Limnological Society.
1984 Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993.
1983 Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC).
1985 G.E. Hutchinson Medal of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography,
1986 “A publication by (Moon et al 1986) indicated that Suncor permitted effluent discharge of oil and grease to the Athabasca River at 420 kg per day (Moon et al 1986). Sometimes, operation problems resulted in excessive effluent discharge into the river (Moon et al 1986) In addition to water-born effluents, the two oil sands extraction plants (Suncor and Syncrude) emitted massive amounts of particulates in the atmosphere. Particulates mass emissions from the Suncor powerhouse stack ranged from 547 to 780 kg per hour; the Syncrude Canada main stacks mass emissions ranged from 713 to 1067 kg per hour (Moon et al 1986) cited in (Chen 2009-02).”
“This study examined trace metal levels in scalp hair taken from 122 children and 27 adult residents of three small northern Alberta (Canada) Indian villages, one of which is situated close to the world’s first tar sands oil extraction plants. The three communities studied were: Fort McKay (the exposed village), Fort Chipewyan (also in the tar sands ecosystem but distant from the plants), and Garden River (not in the tar sands ecosystem). Inductively coupled argon plasma emission spectroscopy was used to determine hair sample metal content. Nineteen metals were included in data analysis. Children from Fort McKay had the highest average hair lead, cadmium and nickel levels. Chromium levels were approximately equal in hair from Fort McKay and Garden River children, and significantly elevated above levels found in the hair of Fort Chipewyan children. Children from Garden River showed highest hair levels of eight metals: vanadium, aluminum, iron, manganese, barium, zinc, magnesium and calcium. Fort Chipewyan children had the highest hair levels of copper, but the lowest levels of all other metals. Among adults, hair lead, nickel and cadmium levels were highest in Fort McKay residents, while phosphorous and vanadium were highest in hair from Garden River residents. Bioaccumulation of lead, cadmium, nickel and chromium in hair from Fort McKay residents may be related to exposure to extraction plant pollution. Plant stack emissions are known to contain appreciable amounts of lead, nickel and chromium. Spills into the Athabasca River, until recently the source of Fort McKay drinking water, have been reported from plant wastewater holding ponds, known to contain elevated levels of lead, nickel and cadmium. An increased number of significant metal—metal correlations in hair metal levels for Fort McKay children suggests a richer source of multiple metal exposure, relative to children in the other two communities (Moon et al 1986).”
1988 Schindler was awarded the Naumann-Thienemann Medal of the International Limnological Society,
1989 Schindler left the Experimental Lakes Project which he had founded and managed since 1968.
1989-90 Schindler was a federal member of the Alberta Pacific Review Panel.
1989 Robert Hecky replaced Schindler as Director of the Experimental Lakes Project.
1989 George H. W. Bush President of the USA 1989-1993
1989-present “Dr. Schindler holds the Killam Memorial Chair and is Professor of Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta. He has studied the effects of climate warming, alien fish stocks, airborne contaminants and other human impacts on freshwaters of the Rocky Mountains.
1990 The U.S. Congress passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act that helped reduce acid rain (Science, 6 November 1998, p. 1024).
1990 Environmentalist, specialist in biosphere pollutants and water chemistry, David William Schindler received an honorary D.Sc. from the University of Victoria (1990).
1992 Dr. David Schindler received the Stockholm Prize, aquatic science’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, for research studies carried out by the Freshwater Institute (FWI) at the Institute’s Experimental Lakes area field station in northwestern Ontario.
1993 Jean Chretien was Prime Minister of Canada from 1993 to 2003.
1993 Bill Clinton was elected as President of the USA and remained in office until 2001.
1993 Schindler was awarded the Manning Award of Distinction for Innovation in Science.
1994 Schindler was awarded the first Romanowski Medal of the Royal Society of Canada.
1996 The Canadian federal government tried to shut Experimental Lakes Project and Director Robert Hecky resigned in protest.
1998 Schindler was awarded the Volvo Environment Prize.
1997 The Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) is a joint environmental monitoring program that assesses the health of rivers and lakes in the oil sands region of northeastern Alberta. The RAMP Regional Study Area (RSA) is defined by the northeastern Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The RAMP RSA is bounded by the Alberta-Saskatchewan border on the east, the Alberta-Northwest Territories to the northeast, the Wood Buffalo National Park to the northwest and various demarcations including the Athabasca River and Cold Lake Air Weapons Range to the south. Within the Regional Study area is the Focal Study area and this area is defined by the watersheds in which oil sands development is occuring or will occur as well as portions of the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers found within the RSA. RAMP has focused on these main aquatic systems: The Athabasca River and Peace Athabasca delta. Tributaries to the Athabasca River including the Steepbank, Clearwater -Christina, Hangingstone, Ells, Tar, Firebag, Calumet, Muskeg, MacKay Rivers as well as several smaller tributaries Wetlands and lakes occurring near current and proposed oil sands developments (Isadore’s Lake, Shipyard Lake, McClelland Lake and Kearl Lake. Acid sensitive lakes in northeastern Alberta. Regional Lakes important to fisheries (RAMP website).
1997-2009 Dr. Hans Peterson founded the Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF), a small non-profit foundation that specializes in helping aboriginal communities with their water problems and in educating students about protecting freshwaters. In 2010 Schindler chaired the board of directors of the Safe Drinking Water Foundation.
1991 Schindler was awarded the first Stockholm Water Prize.
2000 Schindler was awarded the NSERC Award of Excellence in Research.
2000-2003 Schindler was a member of Environment Canada’s Science and Technology Advisory Board.
2001-01 George W. Bush was elected as President of the United States.
2001 Schindler was nominated as membership of the Royal Society of London in 2000 and named as Fellow in 2001 (FRS).
2001 Schindler was awarded the Environment Canada’s Vollenweider Lectureship.
2001 Schindler was awarded the Canadian Nature Federation’s Douglas Pimlott Award for Conservation.
2001 Schindler was awarded the National Science and Engineering Research Council’s Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Canada’s highest scientific honor.
2003 Paul Martin was Prime Minister of Canada from 2003 to 2006.
2003 Schindler received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
2003-05 Schindler received the Killam prize, awarded for outstanding career achievements.
2004-01 Schindler was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
2004 Schindler was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
2004 Schindler was elected as one of 100 Edmontonians of the Century, in honour of Edmonton’s centennial year.
2005 Schindler chaired Alberta Environment’s 2005 review of Lake Wabamun.
2005 Schindler was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal.
2005 The RAMP report claimed there was no negative impact of the Oil Sands development on the regional water system.
2006 Stephen Harper was elected as Prime Minister of Canada.
2006 “Canada is a net exporter of oil, natural gas, coal, and electricity. It is one of the most important sources for U.S. energy imports. Canada is consistently the top supplier of oil imports to the United States. Canada produced 19.3 quadrillion British Thermal Units (Btu) of total energy, the fifth-largest amount in the world. In 2006, the largest source of energy consumption in Canada was oil (32 percent), followed by hydroelectricity (25 percent) and natural gas (24 percent). Both coal (10 percent) and nuclear (7 percent) constitute a smaller share of the country’s overall energy mix (EIA).”
2006 Schindler was awarded the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement “In recognition of his discoveries, made through interdisciplinary experimental research and ecological hypothesis testing, that contribute to understanding how anthropogenic stressors affect the health of freshwater ecosystems.”
2006 American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Ruth Patrick Award.
2006-05-09 Schindler and Donahue published their findings in the The National Academy of Sciences of the USA on “An impending water crisis in Canada’s western prairie provinces.”
2006 Dr. John O’Connor, a physician working in Fort Chipewyan, reported a high number of cases of cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of bile duct cancer, as well as high rates of other cancers (Chen 2009-02).
2007-03-22 At the University of British Columbia guest speaker Dr. Schindler presented his paper entitled “Western Canada’s Freshwater Supply in the 21st Century” in which he argued that Canada’s western prairie provinces (WPP) will experience severe water shortages as a result of natural drought, climate warming, damage to natural drainage patterns and human demands for water.
2007-11 Kevin P. Timoney’s report, “funded by the Nunee Health Board Society evaluated environmental contaminants in the area surrounding Fort Chipewyan. From 2001 to 2005, concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) rose within the sediment around Lake Athabasca. The report indicated that the treated drinking water in Fort Chipewyan was safe, but described high levels of arsenic, mercury and PAHs in fish, which is the main diet of many people in Fort Chipewyan, especially members of its Aboriginal communities (Chen 2009-02).”
2008 Schindler was appointed to the Alberta Order of Excellence.
2008 Schindler co-authored the book entitled The Algal Bowl: Overfertilization of the World’s Freshwaters and Estuaries with J.R. Vallentyne. In it they describes in accessible language the causes of algal blooms and ways that this excessive production could be avoided and even reversed.
2008-10-26/28 Schindler was a guest speaker along with other internationally distinguished scientists specializing in Lake Winnipeg’s watershed issues who presented at a conference at the University of Winnipeg entitled The Red Zone: Currents, Chemicals and Change Symposium held in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2008 An anonymous donor endowed the $1 million David Schindler Professorship in Aquatic Science which will ensure that Trent University will be able to attract and retain the finest faculty in perpetuity.
2008(?) Schindler served on the Board of Directors of the provincial Safety, Security and Environment Institute.
2008(?) Schindler chaired the International Review Committee for the Alberta Ingenuity Water Research Center.
2009-05 Schindler received the Royal Canadian Institute’s Sandford Fleming Medal for public communication of science.
2009-02 Alberta Health Services (AHS) released a study entitled Cancer Incidence Cancer Incidence in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta 1995-2006 by Yiqun Chen. The study found that cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan were 30% higher than expected and that community residents had a much higher likelihood of suffering from rare auto-immune diseases than other Albertans.
2009-12-03 Schindler, David W. 2009-12-03. “Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Issues in the Canadian Boreal Biome: The Cumulative Effects of Human Disturbance and Changing Climate.” IAP: The Global Network of Science Academies
2010-08-24. A report by Kelly, Erin N. Kelly, David W. Schindler, Peter V. Hodson, Jeffrey W. Short, Roseanna Radmanovich, Charlene C. Nielsen entitled “Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries.” was published in the prestigious and influential journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
2010-01-12 Schindler presented IAP Conference on Biodiversity in London.
Academic and Honorary Degrees
Awards and Honours
Service in the International Scientific Community
Selected Awards and Honours
Elton, Charles S. 1958. The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. University of Chicago Press.
Yedlin, Deborah. 2010-08-31. “Athabasca water study misses bigger picture.” Calgary Herald.
Chen, Yiqun. 2009-02. Cancer Incidence Cancer Incidence in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta 1995-2006 . Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Moon J, Smith TJ, Tamaro S, Enarson D, Fadl S, Davison AJ et al. “Trace metals in scalp hair of children and adults in three Alberta Indian villages.” Sci Total Environ 1986; 54:107-125.