First with the Ontario government, then at York University in Toronto, and finally with the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, Norman Yan has devoted half a century of work to understanding human impacts on Ontario’s lakes, how the damage can be fixed, and its re-occurrence prevented. Norman did his Master’s research on the effects of acid rain on the microscopic plants in lakes, the phytoplankton, and his doctoral research on effects of metals on animal plankton, which he calls the “little living lawnmowers in our lakes”. He and his wife Sandy moved to Bracebridge 35 years ago, and working from the Dorset Environmental Science Centre, he continued his work on the effects of shoreline development, acid rain and metal pollution on lakes. In 2000 he set up a research partnership between York University, his new employer, and the Ministry of the Environment, and broadened his research to include impacts of introduced predators, ozone depletion, climate change, road salt and calcium decline on our lakes. He also started international research to compare methods of restoring damaged lakes in Canada and Europe. Norman retired in 2014 moving into a senior research scholar position at York University, and chair of the newly formed Friends of the Muskoka Watershed – a not-for-profit corporation that fosters the understanding, choices, actions, and wise management needed to protect Muskoka’s lakes and watersheds into the future.
Norman has co-authored over 200 scientific articles, a body of work that has garnered over 10,000 scholarly citations, provincial and national awards for research excellence, academic fellowships in Europe and Australia, and, in 2012, an induction into the Royal Society of Canada.