The first of two government-appointed science panels, which are examining the impact of the oilsands on the Athabasca River watershed, reported their findings Dec. 21.

That panel submitted their report to federal Environment Minister John Baird last week.

The federal Oilsands Advisory Panel  found "significant shortcomings" in the current monitoring system and called for "the establishment and implementation of an effective oilsands monitoring program."

The other panel was appointed by Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner. It's report is expected in February.

Both governments created a panel following the publication of a paper by a team of scientists headed by University of Alberta ecology professor David Schindler. Their paper — "Oil Sands Development Contributes Elements Toxic at Low Concentrations to the Athabasca River and Its Tributaries" — was published in September in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Here's how the two panels compare:

  Federal panel Alberta panel
Reports by Dec. 16, 2010 Feb. 1, 2011
Members 6 6
Royal Society of Canada members 3 (Peter Dillon, Andrew Miall, John Smol) 3 (Peter Dillon, John Giesy, Jerome Nriagu)
Panel members suggested by D. Schindler 3 (Peter Dillon, Andrew Miall, John Smol) 3 (Peter Dillon, John Giesy, Jerome Nriagu)

Member of both panels: Peter Dillon

Federal panel members:

  • Elizabeth Dowdeswell (chair): former executive director of the United Nations environment program and former UN under-secretary general; president, the Council of Canadian Academies (advises the federal government on science issues); former president, Nuclear Waste Management Organization; former assistant deputy minister, Environment Canada.
  • Peter Dillon: director of the Water Quality Centre, Trent University; world-class  watershed monitoring expert and airborne pollutant expert; specializes in biogeochemistry of lakes and their catchments ; studies acid rain in Ontario.
  • Subhasis Ghoshal: McGill University, expert on soil and groundwater contamination by hydrocarbon pollutants.
  • Andrew D. Miall: University of Toronto geology professor; Gordon Stollery Chair in Basin Analysis and Petroleum Geology; expert on sedimentary basins. 
    david_schindler-fish-cp9408657

    David Schindler, Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology at the University of Alberta, holds a deformed white fish caught in Lake Athabasca, near Fort Chipewyan, during a press conference in Edmonton, Sept. 16. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

  • Joseph Rasmussen: University of Lethbridge biologist; Canada Research Council Chair in Aquatic Ecosystems; expert on tracer approaches that are used to model energy flow in aquatic food webs.
  • John Smol: Queen's University biologist; Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change; founder and co-director of the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab at Queen's; expert on the impacts of acid rain, nutrients and climate warming on aquatic systems; 2004 Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal winner.

Alberta panel members:

  • Peter Dillon: director of the Water Quality Centre, Trent University; world-class watershed monitoring expert and airborne pollutant expert; specializes in biogeochemistry of lakes and their catchments ; studies acid rain in Ontario.
  • George Dixon: University of Waterloo, studies the effect of toxic chemicals on fish and other water organisms.
  • Charles Driscoll: Syracuse University, studies how water quality changes when the ecosystem is disturbed.
  • John Giesy: eco-toxicologist, University of Saskatchewan, specializes in ecological risk assessment.
  • Stuart Hurlbert: director, Centre for Inland Waters, San Diego University; specializes in the statistical design of monitoring practices.
  • Jerome Nriagu: University of Michigan, expert in toxic trace metals; studied smelters in Sudbury.