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Freshwater Ecosystems: Revitalizing Educational Programs in Limnology
was funded primarily by the EPA (roughly 70 percent) in 1995, and the program does not yet have a permanent home in the NSF administrative structure. Consequently, it is premature to conclude that this program will provide a long-term source of funds for interdisciplinary research in limnology, but developing a permanent program to fund such research should be a priority.
Over the past decade or two, limnological programs have been eliminated or significantly downsized at some leading research universities as prominent faculty limnologists retired. Notable examples include G. E. Hutchinson of Yale University (Box 2-5); D. G. Frey of Indiana University, highly regarded for his examination of biological remains in sediments to chronicle past histories of lake conditions; and W. T. Edmondson of the University of Washington, noted for his pioneering studies of eutrophication in Lake Washington (see Chapter 4). Although Frey retired and was not replaced, Indiana University still offers a limnology course through its Department of Public and Environmental Affairs, but Yale no longer offers courses or employs faculty in limnology. The University of Washington offered a course in limnology for more than 30 years through the Department of Zoology, but when Edmondson's retirement was followed by cuts in state funding, the frequency of the course was reduced, and it was taught by visiting professors for several years (in 1996, the university again hired a limnologist to serve on its faculty). On a national basis, it is fair to say that some faculty positions have been lost because of declining financial resources in some universities, but in other cases, positions vacated by limnologists have been converted to other subject areas, usually some aspect of subcellular biology, which reflects a trend in many academic biology programs away from organismal and higher-level biology and toward subcellular and molecular scales.
The loss of highly visible academic positions in biological limnology probably is the single most important factor contributing to the perception among academic limnologists that all is not well within their profession, but in some respects the concern about lost positions may not be well founded. As limnological positions have been los tin traditional biology departments, others have been added in departments and colleges of environmental science and engineering, fisheries science, natural resources, and other resource-oriented programs. It is possible that larger numbers of faculty are involved in teaching and research across the broad field of limnology at research universities in the 1990s than ever before. However, they are dispersed more widely across departments and colleges than they were in earlier decades, when limnology was a narrower and simpler field that focused on temperate lakes. In summary, the elimination or deemphasis of limnology in the biology departments of major research universities has left a leadership vacuum in limnology, at least at many institutions, as well as a vacuum in the training of biologists