Sparks to lead Delaware Environmental Institute; launch set Oct. 23
Donald L. Sparks has been appointed director of the Delaware Environmental Institute.
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2:44 p.m., Sept. 21, 2009----Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in soil and environmental chemistry at the University of Delaware, has been appointed director of the Delaware Environmental Institute, which will be officially opened on Friday, Oct. 23, at the University's Newark campus.

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The Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) is a multidisciplinary institute focused on providing solutions to global environmental challenges through knowledge-based partnerships that integrate environmental science, engineering and policy.

DENIN will be closely allied with the colleges at UD and other educational institutions in the state. Institute research will initially focus on three areas: Processes at the air, land and sea interface, environmental forecasting and restoration, and ecosystem health and sustainability.

A three-day celebration of the environment at the University of Delaware's Mitchell Hall and central Green will mark the institute's official opening:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 21: UD Campus Sustainability Day;
  • Thursday, Oct. 22: Environmental Sustainability Day and “2020: A Greener Vision,” an undergraduate expo; and
  • Friday, Oct. 23: Delaware Environmental Institute Opening, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sparks, who joined the University of Delaware faculty in 1979, was the chairperson of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences from January 1989 until December 2008. In his role as chairperson, he was instrumental in building a world-class faculty, particularly in the areas of soil science and plant biology. He also helped establish the federally funded Institute of Soil and Environmental Quality and the Center for Critical Zone Research.

Sparks holds joint faculty appointments in civil and environmental engineering, chemistry and biochemistry and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Sparks is internationally recognized for his research in the areas of kinetics of soil chemical processes, surface chemistry of soils and soil minerals using in-situ spectroscopic and microscopic techniques and the physical chemistry of soil potassium. He is the author, co-author or editor of 284 publications and author of three widely adopted textbooks in environmental soil chemistry and kinetics of geochemical processes.

He has mentored 50 graduate students and 24 postdoctoral fellows and regularly hosts visiting scholars and professors from around the world. Sparks has also lectured at universities, institutes and national laboratories worldwide.

Sparks has received numerous awards and honors. These include: Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America; the Francis Alison Award, UD's highest faculty honor; the first UD doctoral student advising and mentoring award; the Soil Science Basic Research Award; the M.L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Award; the American Society of Agronomy Environmental Quality Award; the Sterling B. Hendricks Medal and Memorial Lectureship; distinguished alumni awards from the University of Kentucky and Virginia Tech; and honorary member of the Polish Society of Soil Science.

Sparks also served as president of the Soil Science Society of America and the International Union of Soil Sciences.

“Don Sparks is an outstanding scientist and a great academic leader,” said UD Provost Tom Apple. “He has forged strong research collaborations in the environmental arena that have borne fruit and brought prominence to UD. In his new role as director of DENIN, he will leverage the strengths across many of UD's colleges to make the University a world leader in environmental research.”

Article by Katie Ginder-Vogel
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson