Diane M. Orihel
The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) presents the Yentsch-Schindler Early Career Award each year to an early career scientist who has made outstanding and balanced contributions to research, education, and society. The 2023 Yentsch-Schindler Early Career Award is being presented to Dr. Diane M. Orihel for her outstanding contributions to the study of environmental pollutants in freshwater ecosystems, her efforts to make science more accessible, her commitment to teaching and mentorship, and for her advocacy to preserve the Experimental Lakes Area. The award will be presented to Dr. Orihel at the 2023 ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Palma, Spain in June 2023.
Dr. Diane M. Orihel is Assistant Professor and Queen’s National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology at Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada). Over her career, Dr. Orihel has conducted policy-relevant research that covers a remarkable breadth of topics including eutrophication, mercury contamination, brominated flame retardants, oil sands mining and oil spills, and most recently, microplastics. Dr. Orihel uses large-scale mesocosms and whole ecosystems to rigorously investigate contaminant fate and anthropogenic impacts on many different organismal groups including phytoplankton, invertebrates, fish, and amphibians. She is currently co-leading a whole-ecosystem experiment at the Experimental Lakes Area to understand the fate and effects of microplastics in freshwater lakes. As a Queen’s National Scholar, Dr. Orihel designed and built an outdoor ecotoxicological facility at the Queen’s University’s Biology Station with major funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. This has enabled her to recruit and train dozens of young scientists, students, and interns, thus supporting the development of the next generation of aquatic scientists. Dr. Orihel is described as a supportive and caring supervisor and an excellent mentor who values the important contributions of her mentees.
Dr. Orihel has received distinctions rarely seen in early career researchers, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Governor General of Canada and the Science Promotion Prize from the Canadian Council of University Biology Chairs. She also demonstrates strong commitment to public education having given hundreds of interviews and published several popular science articles, often co-authored by her students as part of their training. She has also developed a fourth-year course in science communication. Dr. Orihel was recently awarded a NSERC Science Communication Grant to develop anti-racist pedagogy for training graduate students in science communication and co-organized a special session at a national aquatic science meeting on inclusive science communication.
In 2012, Dr. Orihel put aside her PhD studies to lead a campaign to retain Canada’s world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a globally unique field station where 58 freshwater lakes have been set aside for whole-ecosystem research. She founded the “Coalition to Save ELA” and formed the website Saveela.org. She met with prominent politicians of all parties at local, provincial, and federal levels. Her leading role in this large-scale, international effort culminated in the International Institute for Sustainable Development coming forward to serve as the new operator of the ELA thus preventing its closure.
It is also noted that Dr. Orihel was the last PhD student of Dr. David Schindler, for whom the Yentsch-Schindler Award is named. “It is such an honor to receive an award in his name,” Dr. Orihel told ASLO. Dr. Schindler served as ASLO President from 1982-83 and received numerous awards from the society, becoming one of two of the award’s namesakes when it was created in 2012.
“Dr. Orihel’s drive to conduct policy-relevant research is reflected in the breadth and diversity of her research. She is an example of how scientists can effectively and creatively work to lead to positive change,” said ASLO President Patricia Glibert. “Together with her commitment to equitable mentorship, she represents an outstanding combination for an early-career scientist. The scientific community keenly awaits and supports the continued work of Professor Orihel.”