The new faculty who presented their research at the symposium included Angelia Seyfferth and Rodrigo Vargas, both of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Cristina Archer of the School of Marine Science and Policy and Andrea Sarzynski of the School of Public Policy and Administration.
After Seyfferth discussed her research regarding the uptake of toxic compounds in the soil by staple crops such as rice, Vargas focused on how biophysical factors regulate carbon and water dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems. Archer spoke about wind power, including her interests in airborne wind turbines. Sarzynski then covered her research agenda, including her studies in metropolitan sprawl and state incentives to support solar power.
Jenkins keynote presentation
Keynote speaker Jenkins then discussed his book, What's Gotten Into Us: Staying Healthy in a Toxic World, which he wrote about his personal "free-fall into terror" after doctors first discovered a tumor in his abdomen. Though the tumor was benign, the event led Jenkins to question his own exposure to toxins.
Jenkins pointed out that United States chemical companies make up a $637 billion industry, yet consumers are often unaware of toxins in their own homes. While some products contain clear labels about the included chemicals, others, such as cosmetics, offer no convenient information. Jenkins asked, "Why would you regulate something for your car engine and not something you put on your face?"
He suggested consumers pay attention to their purchases, stick to plant-based products and eliminate unnecessary chemicals from the house, including old paints, adhesives and caulks.
Following the keynote speech, philosophy professor Tom Powers, director of the Center for Science, Ethics and Public Policy, moderated a panel consisting of representatives from the departments of History (newly hired Adam Rome), English (Jenkins), Sociology and Criminal Justice (Victor Perez) and the School of Public Policy and Administration (Andrea Sarzynski). Additionally, Holly Michael, assistant professor of geological sciences, joined the panel. Michael has experience conducting joint research projects with economists.
"These faculty members really have a wealth of experience in working across the disciplines," noted Powers. "That experience can be tapped to advance several UD initiatives relating to the environment."
The panel, with the somewhat tongue-in-cheek title, "Getting to Know You: Why Environmental Scientists, Humanists, and Social Scientists Need Each Other and How They Can Join Forces to Save the Planet," answered audience questions that touched on topics ranging from teaching advocacy training in the classroom to tackling issues like climate change and collaborating with other faculty, including those in nursing and the business college.
Overall, panel members agreed that the biggest environmental problems, such as climate change, are not just an issue of science, but include moral issues as well. "There's always a limit to science-based decision making," Sarzynski said.
A poster session after lunch highlighted a number of additional projects in departments ranging from engineering to foreign language and literature studies. Posters addressed topics that included the economic value of watersheds, the visual effects of offshore wind projects, UD resources for geospatial research and teaching and the role of gardens throughout history.
"This is a very exciting and challenging time to be working on environmental issues, and bringing together faculty from different disciplines is clearly an optimal way to approach what are often very complex problems," Jenkins said.
For those who were unable to attend the symposium or who would like to review portions of it, video of the presentations will be added to the DENIN podcast web page in the near future.