The University of Delaware’s David R. Wunsch has been selected to receive the American Geosciences Institute’s 2014 Outstanding Contribution to the Understanding of Geoscience award.
Wunsch, who joined UD in 2011, serves as the state geologist for Delaware and directs the Delaware Geological Survey, a state agency based at UD and housed in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE).
He will receive the award at the Geological Society of America’s 126th annual meeting Oct 19-22, held this year in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Given annually, the award recognizes contributions that lead to “greater public appreciation and better understanding of the role of geology in the affairs of our society.” Previous award winners include Simon Winchester, Susan Solomon, Stephen J. Gould, the U.S. Geological Survey and ExxonMobil, among others.
Prior to joining UD in 2011, Wunsch served as director of science and technology at the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) and as the state geologist for New Hampshire from 2000 to 2010.
In selecting him for the award, AGI cited his work aimed at helping the U.S. public understand the important role groundwater plays in supporting society; his support of the SECURE Water Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama; and his outreach efforts to help New Hampshire residents understand the collapse of the “Old Man on the Mountain,” the state’s iconic natural symbol.
“Winning the AGI award places David Wunsch in outstanding company and showcases David’s tremendous accomplishments and his longtime commitment to the field," said UD Provost Domenico Grasso. “His work deepens the public and scientific understanding of geological issues of consequence, and we are very fortunate to have him here at UD.”
Earlier this year, DGS developed a collaborative agreement with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to restore the states’ dunes and beaches following coastal storms, activities essential for reducing potential storm damage to Delaware residents, economies and coastal infrastructure.
According to CEOE Dean Nancy Targett, the agreement — part of a series of partnerships with coastal Atlantic states using part of the $13.6 million allocated to BOEM through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 — is an apt illustration of Wunsch’s leadership, both locally and nationally.
“Delaware Sea Grant research estimates that Delaware’s coastal economy generates approximately $6.9 billion annually. DGS efforts to protect and preserve the state’s coastal resources under David’s leadership plays an important role in protecting and sustaining important geological resources that contribute to the state’s overall economy,” Targett said.
Wunsch has testified before Congress regarding national water and energy issues and has served on various federal advisory committees and expert panels. He also has worked in collaboration with Amax Coal Company, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Department of Energy.
He served on Capitol Hill as a science adviser to the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources while an American Geological Institute Congressional Science Fellow from 1998-99.
He helped develop a national data sharing program for geological information. The resulting websites allow users to piece together information from various state geological surveys to create regional maps.
Wunsch has served as a member of the board of directors of the Association of Ground Water Scientists and Engineers, a division of NGWA, and as an associate editor of the journal Groundwater.
He is currently the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) representative to the federal advisory committee that oversees the National Cooperative Geological Mapping Program at the U.S. Geological Survey. He served as AASG president, which represents the chief executives of the geologic bureaus of the 50 states and U.S. territories, from 2009-10, and has served as secretary of the American Geological Institute.
He also is a founding member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Water Information’s Subcommittee on Ground Water, which is charged with developing a framework for monitoring the nation’s ground-water resources.
A fellow of the Geological Society of America, Wunsch’s other professional memberships include the American Institute of Professional Geologists and the American Geophysical Union.
His scientific interests and expertise includes ground-water monitoring, aqueous geochemistry, reaction-path modeling, mine hydrology and engineering geology.
Article by Karen B. Roberts
Photo by Ambre Alexander Payne