A Bracebridge resident is receiving national honour for his research on lakes; research that has influenced government policy.
Norman Yan researches an invisible part of lake ecology that’s seldom thought about, but he says comprises about 99 per cent of the 5,000 species in Muskoka’s lakes — plankton.
“We’d probably be hungry, dim-witted, and maybe dead without them,” he said.
He calls plankton the “little living lawn mowers in your lake” that keep the lakes clean, feed fish, and produce oxygen and the lipids in our brains.
He is a world leader in analyzing the damage to zooplankton caused by acid rain and metal pollution. More recently he has also analyzed its recovery from these pollutants. Yan is also internationally recognized for his research on the effects of predatory invaders and environmental calcium decline on lakes.
Most of his work has been done on Muskoka’s lakes and in Sudbury.
Recently Yan was elected to the Royal Society of Canada for his research, the highest academic honour a scholar can achieve in the arts, humanities and sciences.
“I’m just kind of amazed that an ecologist snuck in among all the medical researchers,” he said.
He counted only six aquatic scientists in the society, which began in 1882 to recognize scholarly research and artistic excellence.
Yan’s research has underpinned both provincial and federal policies on things such as shoreline development and sulfur emissions.
“In Muskoka we’re in this area between the parts of Ontario where the environmental damage caused by human spread are obvious. The damage is not so obvious here, but it’s there,” he said.
Muskokans need to be aware of the environment, he said.
The Royal Society of Canada awards ceremony will take place at the Ottawa Convention Centre on Nov. 17.