Best known for his research to underpin environmental policies on eutrophication, acid rain, and the oil sands industry, David Schindler earned his doctorate from the University of Oxford, where he was an American Rhodes Scholar. He emigrated to Canada in 1966 to become assistant professor at Trent University (1966-1968). He then joined the Fisheries Research Board of Canada to become the founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario. He joined the University of Alberta as Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology in 1989. He has served as president of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and as the Canadian national representative to the International Limnological Society. He is the author of over 320 scientific publications.
Professor Schindler chaired the International Joint Commission's Expert Panel on Ecology and Biogeochemistry from 1975 to 1978, and the US National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Atmosphere and the Biosphere from 1979 to 1981. He has served as a member of the federal-provincial review panel for the Alberta Pacific pulp mill (1989-90), of the Science Advisory Panel of the Northern River Basins Study (1991-1996), of Environment Canada's Science and Technology Advisory Board (1998-2001), and of the Alberta Environmental Protection Commission (2005-2008). Schindler was a member of the 2009 and 2012 Rosenberg Panels on Northwest Territory-Alberta water issues.
A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London, David Schindler is also a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a foreign fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. He has received eleven honorary doctorates from Canadian and US universities; he is an Officer in the Order of Canada and a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence. His international awards include the first Stockholm Water Prize (2001), the Volvo Environment Prize (1998), the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2006), and the International Society of Conservation Biology's LaRoe Prize (2010). In 2001, he was awarded the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal. Alberta Venture named him one of the 50 most influential Albertans in three years, most recently in 2011. Trent University has endowed a professorship in his honour.