University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

DENIN hosts inaugural advisory board meeting

DENIN hosts inaugural advisory board meeting

In its first year, the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) at the University of Delaware has coordinated interdisciplinary research teams that have garnered two large federal grants worth $5.5 million and submitted four more; forged research, education and outreach partnerships with organizations ranging from DNREC to the Delaware Nature Society; and inaugurated the popular DENIN Dialogue Lecture Series that brings renowned speakers in environmental fields to the Newark campus.

These were among the numerous accomplishments that the institute's external advisory board heard about when members gathered for their inaugural meeting on Nov. 16-17 at Clayton Hall.

During their meeting, the board reviewed the institute's progress toward fulfilling its vision of developing a world-class community of faculty, staff and students in environmental science, engineering and policy at UD and providing added value to that community's efforts to conduct groundbreaking environmental research.

Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation through its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), DENIN involves not only researchers at UD but also environmentally focused faculty, students and programs at Delaware State University, Delaware Technical and Community College, and Wesley College. Students from each of these institutions shared results of their research with the board at a midday poster session.

Mark Barteau, senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives at UD, provided context for the visiting board members, describing how research institutes such as DENIN fit into the University's strategic plan and efforts to promote areas of research that align both with existing strengths at UD and national priorities and opportunities.

Referring to the “Initiative for the Planet,” one of six milestones laid out in the University's Path to ProminenceTM strategic plan, Barteau said, “DENIN is playing an essential role in our quest to achieve our objective to make UD a national and international resource for environmental research, technology, education and policy.”

The board heard from a number of faculty and research partners conducting cross-disciplinary projects that might not have come about without the catalytic effect of DENIN. For example, Anthony Aufdenkamp, a research scientist with the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, Pa., explained the collaborative work between his organization and scientists affiliated with DENIN on the Christina River Basin Critical Zone Observatory (CZO), one of six CZOs nationwide funded by NSF.

The group also heard about a unique collaboration between UD economists Joshua Duke and Kent Messer of the Department of Food and Resource Economics and Holly Michael, a groundwater hydrologist in the Department of Geological Sciences. The trio is analyzing the dynamic interplay between water policy and economics and natural physical processes in determining how groundwater resources are used. This integration of environmental science and engineering with policy, economics, and social sciences is a hallmark of DENIN's mission.

In his remarks to the board, UD President Patrick Harker noted that more than 100 faculty from UD and its partner institutions are associated with the institute.

“We want our students, our scientists, and our faculty to be the world's foremost sustainability experts,” Harker said, “and we want the scholarship and discourse undertaken here to shape the international conversation on environmental stewardship. DENIN is the keystone effort in building this world-class cadre of environmental experts and the idea leadership they represent.”

“I am really impressed with DENIN and think you are developing something really special that will take UD to the very front of environmental science,” said advisory board member Scott Fendorf following the meeting. Fendorf is a professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems at Stanford University.

In addition to Fendorf, the DENIN external advisory board includes the following members: Stephen Borleske, Delaware EPSCoR; Jeffrey Bross, Duffield Associates, Inc.; Hugh J. Campbell, Jr., DuPont; Patricia Dwyer, Wesley College; Menachem Elimelech, Yale University; Stephanie L. Hansen, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP; Michael Hochella, Virginia Tech; Dyremple Marsh, Delaware State University; Patricia Maurice, University of Notre Dame; Alexandra Navrotsky, University of California at Davis; Michael Riska, Delaware Nature Society; Cynthia Rosenzweig, NASA/Columbia University; Stephen Sutton, Argonne National Laboratory; Bernard Sweeney, Stroud Water Research Center; Robert Taylor, Alabama A&M University; and June Turansky, Delaware Tech.

Four new members have also joined the DENIN external advisory board this fall, including three new international members:

-- Ruben Kretzschmar is the deputy head of the Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).

-- David Small is the deputy secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

-- Fu-Suo Zhang is dean of the College of Resources and Environmental Sciences at China Agricultural University.

-- Yong-Guan Zhu is professor of biogeochemistry and environmental biology and director general of the Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Article by Beth Chajes
Photos by Kathy Atkinson