Plant and Soil Sciences | Faculty
Dr. Donald Sparks
- B.S. Agronomy- 1975, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
- M.S. Soil Science-1976, University of Kentucky,
M.S. Thesis - "Physical, mineralogical, and chemical properties, including ammonium distribution, in the Shrouts soils of Kentucky"
- Ph.D. Soil Science - 1979, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,Blacksburg, Virginia
Ph.D. Dissertation - "Potassium adsorption and desorption kinetics in a soil system and its relation to plant uptake"
- PLSC 608 Environmental Soil Chemistry
- PLSC 810 Kinetics and Surface Chemistry of Soils
- PLSC 833 Soil Science Seminar
Research in the Environmental Soil Chemistry Laboratory focuses on how toxic metals such as arsenic (As), nickel (Ni), and zinc (Zn) and plant nutrients such as phosphorus (P) and sulfur (S) are bound (sorbed) on soils. We conduct these studies under different environmental and experimental conditions (pH, time, temperature, hydration state, presence of microbes) to best represent the natural environment. We use bright light sources generated at syncrotron facilities (associated with National Laboratories) to determine the forms (species) of the metals and nutrients in the soil at the molecular scale. This information is necessary to make accurate predictions about how easily the contaminant will leach into the water supplies, and determine its toxicity and bioavailability to plants, animals, and humans. We also conduct speciation research on metal contaminated soils and on plants that accumulate large quantities of metals (hyperaccumulators). The resuls of these studies are useful in developing effective strategies for soil remediation.
Dr. Donald L. Sparks is S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Soil and Environmental Chemistry, Francis Alison Professor, and Chairperson, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware at Newark. He also holds joint faculty appointments in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemistry and Biochemistry, and in the College of Marine Studies. He joined UD in 1979 and served as Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware from 1979-1983, Associate Professor from 1983-1987, Professor in 1987-1994, Distinguished Professor from 1994-2001 and T. A. Baker Professor from 2001-2002. In 1986, he served as a Visiting Professor at the University of California in Riverside and in 2005 at INRA in Aix-en-Provence. He served as Assistant Department Chairperson from 1983-1985 and has served as Chairperson beginning in January, 1989. In 2006, he was appointed as Director of the Center for Critical Zone Research, a university wide center dealing with environmental science and engineering.
Dr. Sparks is internationally recognized for his research in the areas of: kinetics of soil chemical processes, surface chemistry of soils and soil components using in-situ spectroscopic and microscopic techniques and the physical chemistry of soil potassium. He has pioneered the application of chemical kinetics to soils and soil minerals including development of widely used methods, elucidation of rate-limiting steps and mechanisms, and coupling of kinetic studies with molecular scale investigations, particularly synchrotron based x-ray absorption spectroscopy. His discoveries on the formation and role of surface precipitates in the retention, fate and transport of metals in natural systems have received worldwide attention and had major impacts in the areas of sorption models, metal speciation and soil remediation/contamination. He is the author, coauthor, or editor, of 267 publications. These include: 57 edited or authored books, 44 book chapters, and 166 refereed papers. He is the author of two widely adopted textbooks, Kinetics of Soil Chemical Processes and Environmental Soil Chemistry (1st and 2nd editions), published by Academic Press. He is the editor of: a textbook, Soil Physical Chemistry (1st and 2nd editions); three monographs, Rates of Soil Chemical Phenomena, Methods of Soil Analysis: Chemical Methods, Mineral-Water Interfacial Reactions: Kinetics and Mechanisms; and the most prestigious serial review in the fields of crop and soil science, Advances in Agronomy. He has edited 45 volumes of Advances in Agronomy since assuming the editorship in 1990. He has presented his research findings at national and international symposia and has served as an invitational speaker at 67 universities and institutes in the United States, Canada, Asia, Australia and Europe.
Dr. Sparks has been the recipient of over $12 million in grants and contracts from a number of governmental, academic and industrial sources including the Agency for International Development, Potash and Phosphate Institute, Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, University of Delaware Research Foundation, the National Science Foundation (NSF), United States Borax Corporation, U.S.-Israel Binational Research and Development Fund, Bikini Atoll Rehabilitation Committee, the DuPont Corporation, the Unidel Foundation, and NASA.
Dr. Sparks has served as an invitation reviewer for numerous manuscripts in scientific journals and for grant proposals to the National Science Foundation, the Agency for International Development, U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, the USDA, the EPA, the Canadian Research and Engineering Council and the Swiss National Science Foundation. He has served on the Editorial Boards of the Soil Science Society of America Journal (as Associate Editor, 1985-1987, Div. S-2, and as Technical Editor, Div. S-2, S-5, and S-9, 1988-1993). He served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Geoderma and on the Editorial Boards of Soil Science, Advances in Agronomy, Pedosphere, Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, and Vadose Zone Journal.
At the University of Delaware, Dr. Sparks was instrumental in building the soil science program, including the establishment of the federally funded Institute of Soil and Environmental Quality (ISEQ) and the establishment of the UD Center for Critical Zone Research (CCZR). He has been very active in graduate education. He has served as major professor and mentor to 46 graduate students and 24 postdoctoral fellows who hold positions in academe, government, and industry in the U.S.A. and throughout the world. He has also served as host to Visiting Scholars and Professors from around the world. His graduate students have been the recipients of numerous awards and honors including Potash and Phosphate Institute International Fellowships (five students), UD Theodore Wolf Dissertation Prize in the Physical and Life Sciences (three students), University of Delaware Fellowships, Outstanding Northeastern Regional Agronomy Society Graduate Student Awards, NASA and NSF, and USDA Fellowships. Two Ph.D. students, Drs. Christian P. Schulthess and Scott E. Fendorf, were the recipients of the Emil Truog Award from the Soil Science Society of America. Three of his students have received The Presidential Achievement Award from the University of Delaware and two students have received U.S. Presidential Research awards. This award is given for the most outstanding dissertation in the soil sciences. In 1999, Dr. André M. Scheidegger, a former postdoctoral associate, received the F.W. Clarke Medal from the Geochemical Society of America, the first soil scientist to receive this award.
Awards and Honors
Dr. Sparks has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. In 1982, he was the recipient of the University of Delaware Potash Institute for his outstanding research on soil potassium. In 1985, he was recipient of the American Society of Agronomy's Visiting Scientist Award and in 1986 he received the Research Award from the Northeastern Branch, American Society of Agronomy. In 1987, Dr. Sparks was elected Chairman of the Soil Chemistry Division (Div. S-2) of the Soil Science Society of America. In 1989, he was named a Fellow of both the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America, the most prestigious honors given by both societies. In 1991, he received the F.D. Chester Distinguished Performance Award from the College of Agricultural Sciences and the M.L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Soil Science Award from the Soil Science Society of America. In 1994, he was named Distinguished Professor of Soil Science, the first such professorship in the College of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Delaware. In 1994, Dr. Sparks also received the Soil Science Research Award from the Soil Science Society of America and was elected Vice-Chair (Commission II, Soil Chemistry) of the International Society of Soil Science. In 1996 Dr. Sparks was the recipient of the University of Delaware's Francis Alison Award, which is the highest award that a faculty member can receive. The award is given for distinguished achievements in scholarship and one's profession, teaching, dedication and service to the university, and mentoring of students. In 1997, Dr. Sparks was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1998, he was elected President of the Soil Science Society of America and Chairman of Div. 2 (Soil Chemistry) of the International Union of Soil Sciences. In 2000, he was selected as President-Elect of the International Union of Soil Sciences, and installed as President in 2002. In 2001, he received the prestigious McMaster Fellowship from CSIRO, Australia. In 2001, he was named the T. A. Baker Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences. In 2002, he received the University of Kentucky's Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta Outstanding Alumnus Award, was the first recipient of the University of Delaware's Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring Award, and was named S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Plant and Soil Sciences. In 2003, he received the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievements in research from the Polish Society of Soil Science and the Environmental Quality Research Award from the American Society of Agronomy. In 2005, he was named the Sterling B. Hendricks Memorial Lecturer by NSDA-ARC. In 2007, he received distinguished alumni awards from the University of Kentucky and Virginia Tech and was named an Honorary Member of the Polish Society of Soil Science.
Dr. Sparks served on the Scientific Advisory Committees of the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Center for Environmental Molecular Science (EMSI) at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and the Steering Committee of the Institute of Soil and Environmental Quality (ISEQ) at the University of Delaware. Dr. Sparks has also served on several committees of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences. He has consulted with a number of major industries.
- American Society of Agronomy
- Soil Science Society of America
- International Union of Soil Sciences
- American Chemical Society
- Clay Minerals Society
- The Geochemical Society
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Gamma Sigma Delta
- Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
Borda M.J. and D.L. Sparks. 2008. Kinetics and mechanismsof sorption-desorption in soils: A multiscale sssessment, p. 75-124. In Biophysico-Chemical Processes of Heavy Metals and Metalloids In Soil Environments, A. Violante, Huang, P.M., G.M. Gadd, eds., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
Ginder-Vogel, M. and D. L. Sparks. 2010. The impacts of X-ray absorption spectroscopy on understanding soil processes and reaction mechanisms, p. 1-26. In Developments in Soil Science 34: Synchrotron-based Techniques in Soils and Sediments. B. Singh and M. Grafe, eds. Elsevier, Burlington, MA.
Feng, X.H., M, Zhu, M, Ginder-Vogel, C. Nic, S. J. Parikh, and D. L. Sparks. 2010. Formation of nano-crystalline todorokite from biogenic Mn oxides. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 74:3232-3245.
Lafferty, B., M. Ginder-Vogel and D.L. Sparks. 2010. Arsenite oxidation by a poorly crystalline manganese-oxide 1. Stirred-flow experiments. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44:8460-8466.
Lafferty, B., M. Ginder-Vogel, M. Zhu, K.J.T. Livi and D.L. Sparks. 2010. Arsenite oxidation by a poorly crystalline manganese-oxide 2.Results from X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44:8467–8472
Landrot, G., M. Ginder-Vogel and D.L. Sparks. 2010. Kinetics of chromium(III) oxidation by manganese(IV) oxides using Quick Scanning X-ray Absorption Fine Structure Spectroscopy (Q-XAFS). Environ. Sci. Technol. 44 (1): 143–149.
Khalid, S., W. Caliebe, P. Siddons, I. So, B. Clay, T. Lenhard, J. Hanson, Q. Wang, A. I. Frenkel, N. Marinkovic, N. Hould, M. Ginder-Vogel, G. L. Landrot, D. L. Sparks, and A. Ganjoo. 2010. Quick extended x-ray absorption fine structure instrument with millisecond time scale, optimized for in situ applications. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 81: 015105
McNear, D. H. Jr. , R. L. Chaney and D.L. Sparks. 2010. The hyperaccumulator Alyssum murale uses complexation with nitrogen and oxygen donor ligands for Ni transport and storage. Phytochemistry 71:188-200.
Parikh, S.J., B. J. Lafferty, T. G. Meade and D.L. Sparks. 2010. Evaluating environmental influences on AsIII oxidation kinetics by a poorly crystalline Mn-oxide. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44:3772-377.
Parikh, S.J., J.D. Kubicki, C. M. Jonsson, C. L. Jonsson, R. M. Hazen, D. A. Sverjensky and D.L. Sparks. 2011. Evaluating glutamate and aspartate binding mechanisms to rutile (a-TiO2) via ATR-FTIR spectroscopy and quantum chemical calculations. (In Press)
Peltier, E., D. van der Lelie and D.L. Sparks. 2010. Formation and stability of Ni−Al hydroxide phases in soils. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44 (1): 302–308.
Shimizu, M., M. Ginder-Vogel, S. J. Parikh and D.L. Sparks. 2010. Molecular scale assessment of methylarsenic sorption on aluminum oxide. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44(2):612–617.
Zhu, M., M. Ginder-Vogel, S.J. Parikh, X. Feng and D.L. Sparks. 2010.Cation effects on the layer structure of biogenic Mn-oxides. Environ. Sci. Technol.44: 4465–4471.
Zhu, M., M. Ginder-Vogel and D.L. Sparks. 2010. Ni(II) Sorption on biogenic Mn-oxides with varying Mn octahedral layer structure. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44:4472–4478..