DENIN Director Sparks speaks in Germany, China
DENIN Director Donald L. Sparks spoke recently in Germany, China.

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10:36 a.m., Oct. 30, 2009----Before kicking off the Delaware Environmental Institute Oct. 23, DENIN Director Donald L. Sparks, the S. Hallock du Pont Chair of plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware, traveled around the globe to speak at two international environmental science meetings in Germany and China.

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Sparks was the keynote speaker at the German Research Foundation (DFG)/International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) symposium in Jena, Germany, Oct. 6-7.

His talk was entitled “The Value of a Multi-Scale, Multi-Tool Approach in Elucidating Metal(loid) Biogeochemistry in the Environment.”

“My talk stressed the importance of using macroscopic approaches and molecular and atomic resolution techniques, along with computational modeling and kinetics, to better understand complex environmental reactions and mechanisms,” said Sparks.

The symposium focused on the techniques that can be used to ensure a multi-scale approach to better predict the fate and transport of contaminants like arsenic in the environment.

Sparks also served on the scientific committee of the conference, which included scientists from Germany, Austria, Brazil, Great Britain and the U.S.

In China, Sparks was the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Plenary Lecturer at the International Symposium on Molecular Environmental Science at Critical Zone Interfaces conference, which was held at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou Oct. 10-14.

Sparks' lecture, entitled “Advances in the Use of Synchrotron Radiation in Elucidating Environmental Interfacial Reaction Processes and Mechanisms in the Earth's Critical Zone,” emphasized the use of small-scale techniques, especially those that employ bright X-ray synchrotron-based tools, to address major challenges and scientific questions related to the environment, including climate change, soil and water contamination and ecosystem health.

The symposium promoted research on environmental processes and reaction mechanisms at the molecular level, which is expected to contribute to the international advancement of environmental chemistry and its impacts on the terrestrial ecosystem in the Earth's critical zone, which includes the lower atmosphere, land surface, vegetation, and water bodies and extends down through layers of soil to the edge of groundwater penetration.

There were more than 200 attendees from 20 countries who attended the meeting.

“Both meetings were multidisciplinary, consistent with where environmental science is going,” said Sparks. “It was very satisfying to see a gathering of scientists, engineers, and policy specialists discussing issues related to the environment.”

Sparks noted that the term “critical zone,” first coined by the National Academy of Sciences and embraced early on by the University of Delaware, is catching on internationally. “The Chinese are using it, and there are Critical Zone Observatories like the one we have here at UD being created throughout Europe and in Australia,” said Sparks. “UD was one of the first institutions to promote the term and the concept of land, air and water as an integrated research field.”

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

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