A trailblazing researcher widely respected for his work to protect Canada’s freshwater systems from industrial harm, David Schindler was renowned in the field of freshwater science (limnology), and was perhaps best known for co-founding the Experimental Lakes Project of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 1968 and serving as its director until 1989. The work of Dr. Schindler and his colleagues led to more ecological management policies in Canada and beyond — including the reduction of harmful phosphates to lakes, reducing acid rain emissions, and improved monitoring of the Alberta oil sands.
From 1989 until his retirement in 2013, Dr. Schindler was the Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology at the University of Alberta. He taught limnology, boreal ecology, and environmental decision-making.
David Schindler (right) helped PIC president Madeline Weld and member Tim Murray run a population information booth on behalf of PIC and SEPS (Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization) at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution in Kelowna, BC, in May of 2013.
His awards reflected the impact of his work. Indeed, it was said by a University of Alberta colleague that if there were a Nobel prize for ecology, he would have won it. In addition to receiving the Order of Canada, he won the first Stockholm Water Prize (1991), the Volvo Environment Prize (1998) and the Tyler Award for Environmental Achievement (2006). In 2001, he was awarded the NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Canada’s highest scientific honour.
He also received national and international awards for conservation and public science education and was a member of the Royal Societies of Canada and the UK, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and a foreign associate of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering.
Given that many environmentalists are reluctant to attach their names to a cause that is seen as controversial, Population Institute Canada was extremely fortunate and very grateful to have counted him as an Honorary Patron. He conveyed his feelings about what our growth was doing to the planet prophetically in a Canadian Geographic interview in 2014:
“I would like my grandchild to remember the warnings I’ve given, that we can’t press the Earth any more than we’re pressing it now. We have to back off a bit — either in our personal demands or in the size of the population — or they’re not going to have such a great future.”
Aside from doing science and advocating for environmental protection, Dr. Schindler’s passions included fly fishing and raising and racing sled dogs. He devoted his life to being an advocate for the planet but managed to have a lot of fun in the process.