A tale of two lakes: the interaction of science, society, and the development of environmental policy

Our global freshwater ecosystems continue to degrade in environmental quality despite the numerous and often repeated studies that indicate best practices to prevent degradation. For example, in the last 60 years numerous studies have documented the drivers and influences of cultural eutrophication as well as the impacts of invasive species establishment to ecosystem function. Scientists and engineers have developed models and conducted natural experiments demonstrating ecological changes and economic losses resulting from alterations in natural flow regime of rivers; yet as a community we request funding to study the influence of dams and diversions to river function. As a mid career scientist I wonder, "Have we lost sight of the need for integrating our scientific discoveries into public policies that benefit society? Are scientists and engineers losing sight of the needs of an increasingly global society? Do we as a scientific culture have the ability to think global and bigger picture to solve issues like cultural eutrophication and climate change ?" In this presentation, I share my mid career angst as a limnologist. I suggest that scientists and engineers passively promote the degradation of water resources by not actively engaging to develop science-based environmental policies. In two case studies I present our work at Lakes Tahoe (USA) and Atitlan (Guatemala); how we have integrated our scientific discoveries to develop policies. I present a call to action, that scientists needs to act as a stakeholders, developing science that serves society. Professor Sudeep Chandra of the Universiy of Nevada at Reno, where his laboratory conducts limnological studies related to the restoration or conservation of aquatic ecosystems. His projects include recovering native species, managing nonnative species, understanding the affects of land use change (mining, urbanization, etc) on water quality, and developing natural resource management and conservation plans for the world's largest, freshwater fishes.