University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

It's time for the Delaware Environmental Institute

Delaware has a fragile coastal ecosystem, a long history of industrial production and agricultural land under pressure from increasing residential and commercial development.

As a consequence, the state faces a range of environmental challenges: Excess nutrients have resulted in algal blooms and fish kills in waterways; particulate release has polluted the air; climate change is contributing to a rise in sea level and marshland decline; industrial activity has contaminated the soil; and a growing population requires the redevelopment of urban brownfields.

At the same time, Delaware is in an ideal position to pilot research strategies to address these issues. The First State has a track record of effectively identifying, prioritizing and acting on difficult issues and valuable opportunities, and its small size and constancy of purpose enable effective communication and issue resolution among key stakeholders.

The environmental issues facing the state are too complex to solve by traditional means. They demand innovative applications of science, engineering and public policy and collaboration with outstanding researchers who are conducting cutting-edge and highly relevant environmental research.

The need to utilize this talent and foster collaboration led to the creation of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), a multidisciplinary institute focused on providing solutions to global environmental problems by coordinating environmental scientists, engineers and policy experts to help address complex environmental issues.

Working in partnership with each of the constituent colleges at the University of Delaware and other institutions of higher learning in the state, state agencies and the K-12 school system, DENIN aims to add value to current efforts in research and student training and to reach out to the community, state and federal agencies and nonprofit groups.

Thus, the official launch of DENIN at a public event at the University of Delaware on Friday will bring together state and federal officials, two world-renowned environmental scientists, researchers, teachers and students from kindergarten right up to graduate school.

DENIN will collaborate with government agencies, nonprofits, companies, policymakers and the public to address environmental challenges and support interdisciplinary graduate programs.

To support ongoing discussions and exchange of ideas, DENIN will sponsor seminars, panel discussions and roundtables that encourage dialogue between the academic community and the general public about pressing environmental concerns.

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.

DENIN will strive to translate cutting-edge discovery research to applications that will serve the state’s environmental needs and help create sound environmental policies while working with government and the private sector to create and promote green jobs and green technology.

For example, DENIN researchers may be able to provide key information that will help the state in its handling of waste products, optimization of industrial processes, policy analysis and risk management.

The natural environment is critical to human health, a vibrant tourism, a sustainable agriculture, economic development and indeed the quality of life, and the launch of the Delaware Environmental Institute is a major step toward preserving and enhancing the environment for all Delawareans.

Donald L. Sparks
October 20, 2009

Op Ed, The Wilmington News Journal