University of Delaware
Don Sparks

Sparks appointment

UD's Sparks to chair national soil science committee


1:36 p.m., April 19, 2013--Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry at the University of Delaware, has been appointed to a three-year term as chair of the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science (USNC/SS).

From 1999 to 2008, he was an ex-officio member of the USNC/SS and has served as a full member of the committee since 2010.

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The USNC/SS advises the National Academies on issues related to soil science and is also the formal representative of the U.S. soil science community to the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS). It provides input to the union on behalf of U.S. soil scientists, arranges for scientific meetings in the United States in consonance with the union’s objectives, and directs attention to soil science research needs.

“I am honored to serve as chair of the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science,” Sparks said. “Soil science is at the center of all the major global challenges we face today including water, land degradation, climate change, contamination and food security. As chair of the committee, I will work with my colleagues to promote the importance of soil and the discipline of soil science to the global community.”

“I cannot imagine a better lead representative of the U.S. soil science community than Don Sparks,” said Paul Bertsch, the outgoing chair of the USNC/SS and professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at the University of Kentucky. “He is among the most respected soil scientists worldwide. He brings critical leadership skills along with a deep recognition of the primary international soil science societies as well as the most important issues surrounding this global resource.”

The USNC/SS is one of several U.S. national committees focused on specific scientific disciplines within the National Research Council’s (NRC) Board on International Scientific Organizations. The national committees as a whole perform the dual function of fostering U.S. participation in international science and fortifying communication linkages between the U.S. and international scientific communities.

In addition to addressing research needs in their respective fields, the national committees are encouraged to work together to identify areas where cross-disciplinary teamwork may be more effective.

In addition to Sparks, the USNC/SS is composed of 10 at-large members, six members representing various allied scientific societies, and several ex officio and staff members representing the National Academies, of which the NRC is one branch. All committee members must be approved by the chair of the NRC.

Sparks has been active in the international soil science community for many years. He served as the president of the IUSS from 2002–06 and past president from 2006–10. In 2010 he received that organization’s von Liebig Medal for his outstanding contributions to soil science research and, most recently, was elected an honorary member of IUSS. 

Sparks is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Soil Science Society of America, the Geochemical Society, and the European Society of Geochemists. He has also served as president of the Soil Science Society of America.

Sparks has been a faculty member in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources since 1979 and served as chair of the department for 20 years. He was the first recipient of UD’s Outstanding Graduate Advising and Mentoring Award. In 1996, he received the Francis Alison Award, the highest academic honor bestowed at UD.

Article by Beth Chajes

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