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Vollenweider, Dr. Richard Albert (1922 – ) Swiss Limnologist

Dr. Richard Albert Vollenweider (1922 )
Swiss limnologist

Vollenweider is one of the world's most renowned authorities on eutrophication, the process by which lakes mature and are gradually converted into swamps, bogs, and finally meadows. Eutrophication is a natural process that normally takes place over hundreds or even thousands of years, but human activities can accelerate the rate at which it occurs. The study of these human effects has been an important topic of environmental research since the 1960s. Richard A. Vollenweider was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on June 27, 1922. He received his diploma in biology from the University of Zurich in 1946 and his Ph.D. in biology from the same institution in 1951. After teaching at various schools in Lucerne for five years, in 1954 he was appointed a fellow in limnology (the study of lakes) at the Italian Hydrobiological Institute in Palanza, Italy. A year later, he accepted a similar appointment at the Swiss-Swedish Research Council in Uppsala. Vollenweider has also worked for two international scientific organizations, the United Nations Economic, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO ), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). From 1957 to 1959, he was stationed in Egypt for UNESCO, working on problems of lakes and fisheries. Between 1966 and 1968, he was a consultant on water pollution for OECD in Paris.

In 1968, Vollenweider moved to Canada to take a position as chief limnologist and head of the fisheries research board of the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW). In 1970 he was promoted to chief of the Lakes Research Division and in 1973 to the position of senior scientist at CCIW.

Perhaps the peak of Vollenweider's career came in 1978 when he was awarded the Premio Internazionale Cervia Ambiente by Italian environmentalists for his contributions to research on the environment . The award was based largely on Vollenweider's work on eutrophication of lakes and waterways in the Po River region of Italy. Although the area was one of the few in Italy with sophisticated water and sewage treatment plants, there was abundant evidence of advanced eutrophication.

Vollenweider found a number of factors contributing to eutrophication in the area. Most importantly the treatment plants were not removing phosphorus , which is a major contributor to eutrophication. In addition, pig farming was widely practiced in the area, causing huge quantities of phosphorus contained in pig wastes to enter the surface water.

Vollenweider recommended a wide range of changes to reduce eutrophication. These included the addition of tertiary stages in sewage treatment plants to remove phosphorus, special treatment of wastes from pig farms, and agreements from manufacturers of detergents to reduce the amount of phosphorus contained in their products.

[David E. Newton ]



Davey, T. "CCIW Scientist Wins Top Italian Environmental Award." Water and Pollution Control (January 1979): 23.

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