as natural extensions of those fields, but with minimal training in the importance of biogeochemistry to ecosystem functioning. Environmental resource programs have proliferated in geography and resource groups with minimal science underpinnings, but effective solutions of water resource problems require an understanding of metabolic constraints within ecosystems and the biogeochemical dependencies of ecosystem functioning. Such fragmentation frustrates students who wish to obtain essential interdisciplinary training and faculty who wish to communicate and collaborate in both instruction and research. Many small aquatic foci within a university also compete less effectively with larger, departmentally oriented programs for funding, positions, and program development.

Another development is an increase in the programs in ecology and environmental sciences in non-research-oriented colleges and universities. Often these programs develop in response to perceived needs for broadly trained individuals in environmental sciences, deficiencies of those programs in larger universities, and dedicated individual faculty members. Students of the better programs are involved in research projects, and dedicated instruction is common. Many of these programs, however, lack the necessary physical, chemical, and biological expertise. Often a single committed individual has developed an admirable but modest program without the programmatic resources required. A number of exceptional programs exist at undergraduate schools; these should be promoted and enhanced. In times of limited resources, dilution of resources at the expense of quality is unwise. (See discussion of a national initiative in general education below.)

OPTIMAL CRITERIA FOR LIMNOLOGICAL EDUCATION

Effective management of freshwater resources ultimately must be based on an in-depth understanding of the structure and physical, chemical, and biological mechanisms governing biotic development within lake, river, and wetland ecosystems. This understanding must be sufficiently detailed to encompass both the individualities of the ecosystems and the functional commonalities that prevail among them.

Limnological education should strive to train limnologists (1) with the critical scientific underpinnings required for understanding integrative ecosystem processes and (2) with sufficient understanding of ecosystem components to make effective managerial and regulatory decisions. These objectives are rarely accomplished in training programs.

Limnology students frequently are trained in general biology or environmental engineering, with specialized exposure to a course in general limnology and one or more courses in the biology of aquatic organisms (e.g., algae, aquatic insects). Limnology is usually taught as a brief lecture course, with no exposure to field conditions. Rarely are students more



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement