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David Velinsky

David Velinsky, PhD

Department Head
Professor, Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science
VP for Environmental Research
Director and Senior Scientist, Patrick Center for Environmental Research
Section Leader, Biogeochemistry, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University  
Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science
Office: Patrick Center, Academy of Natural Sciences
Phone: 215.299.1147

Additional Sites:

Environmental Biogeochemistry Group


  • BS, Oceanography, Minor in chemistry, Florida Institute of Technology, 1977
  • PhD, Chemical Oceanography, Old Dominion University, 1987

Research Interests:

My current research interests focus on the fate and transport of chemical contaminants and bioactive elements in aquatic systems. I am particularly interested in the tidal freshwater reaches of estuaries, such as the urbanized area of the Delaware River in the Philadelphia region and the Anacostia and Potomac rivers within the District of Columbia. A key focus is how tidal freshwater wetlands and marshes in these areas alter the movement of nutrients and contaminants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead (Pb), from the watershed to the more saline sections of the estuary. My group is actively investigating the changes that freshwater and salt marshes may undergo as a result of climate change and how these changes can change ecosystem services such as nitrogen and phosphorus removal. I am also investigating long-term changes in chemical loadings and ecological responses, using sediment cores from freshwater and salt marshes throughout the Delaware estuary.


David Velinsky, PhD, is a Biogeochemist, Senior Scientist and Vice President of the Patrick Center for Environmental Research at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He obtained a BS Degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in Oceanography with a minor in Chemistry and was awarded his PhD degree from Old Dominion University in Chemical Oceanography. For his doctorate, Velinsky studied the cycling of selenium and sulfur in coastal marshes of the Delaware estuary. He then continued his studies as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the College of Marine Studies, University of Delaware and at the Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington. He used the stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to trace biogeochemical processes in estuaries and low-oxygen water bodies such as the Black Sea, Saanich Inlet and Farmvaren Fjord (Norway). He then worked on science and policy issues with the Potomac River Basin Commission researching issues related to sediment and water contamination in the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Chesapeake Bay. David Velinsky, PhD is the author of over 30 peer-reviewed publications and over 60 presentations at local, national and international scientific meetings. He was a member of the Chesapeake Bay Program (Toxics Subcommittee) and is currently a member of the Toxics Advisory Committee at the Delaware River Basin Commission and of the Science and Technical Advisory Committee of the Delaware Estuary Program at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

Selected Publications:

  • Unger, V., T. Elsey-Quirk, C. Sommerfield and D. Velinsky. 2016. Stability of organic carbon accumulating in Spartina alterniflora-dominated salt marshes of the mid-Atlantic US. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science. 182: 179-189.
  • Nyphus. R. and others. 2016. Environmental Deans and Directors Call for NSF Climate Funding. Science. Science 352: 755-756.
  • Ashley, J.T.F, R. Soroka, Y. Cintron, A. Sarno, L. Zaoudeh, D. J. Velinsky and J. Baker. 2016. Can polychlorinated biphenyls be removed from Chesapeake Bay by a commercial fishery? Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 2(12); 397–406
  • Paudel, B., T. Belton, H. Pang and D.J. Velinsky. 2016 Spatial variability of estuarineenvironmental drivers and response by phytoplankton: A model based approach. Ecological Informatics 34 (2016) 1–12
  • Velinsky, D.J., H. Holland, and F.N Scatena. 2015. 2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science presented to Robert Arbuckle Berner. Journal of the Franklin Institute 352(7): 2591-2595.
  • Rowell, H.C, R.F. Bopp, F. Peng, D.J.Velinsky, and J.A. Bloomfield. 2015. Annually LaminatedSediments in Onondaga Lake, NY: high resolution stratigraphy for interpreting lake degradation and recovery. Journal of Paleolimnology 53: 107-121 (DOI 10.1007/s10933-014-9811-5)
  • Weston, N.B, S.C. Neubauer, D.J. Velinsky and M.A. Vile. 2014. Net Ecosystem Carbon Exchange an the Greenhouse Gas Balance of Tidal Marshes along an Estuarine Salinity Gradient. Biogeochemistry:120: 163-189. (August)
  • Pearson, S.H., S.S. Kilham, D.J. Velinsky, J.R. Spotila, and H.W. Avery. 2013 Stable isotopes of C and Nreveal habitat dependent dietary overlap between native and introduced turtles Pseudemys rubriventrisand Trachemys scripta. PLOS One 8(5): e62891 (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062891)
  • Smith, A.J., R.L. Thomas, J.K. Nolan, D.J. Velinsky, S. Klein, and B.T. Duffy. 2013. Regional nutrientthresholds in wadeable streams of New York State protective of aquatic life. Ecol. Ind. 29: 455-467.
  • Elsey-Quirk, T., A. Smyth, M. Piehler, J. Mead and D.J. Velinsky 2013. Exchange of nitrogen through anurban tidal freshwater wetland in Philadelphia, PA. Jour. Environ. Qual. 42: 1-12.
  • Ismail, N.S., D.J. Velinsky, J.T.F. Ashley and R.W. Sanders. 2013. Chorioallantoic membrane as a non lethal sampling method for polychlorinated biphenyls analysis in the northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin). Chemistry and Ecology 29(5): 391-4023.
  • Velinsky, D.J., G.R. Riedel, J.T. Ashley and J. Cornwell 2011. A contamination history of the Anacostia River, Washington, D.C. Environmental Assessment and Monitoring (published online).
  • Weston, N.B., M.A. Vile, S.C. Neubauer and D.J. Velinsky. 2011. Accelerated microbial organic matter mineralization following salt-water intrusion into tidal freshwater marsh soils. Biogeochemistry 102 (1-3):135-151.
  • Stansley, W., D.J. Velinsky and R. Thomas. 2010. Mercury and halogenated organic contaminants in river otters (Lontra Canadensis) in New Jersey USA. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; 29: 2235-2242.
  • Ashley, J.T.F., J.S. Ward, M.W. Schafer, H.M. Stapleton, and D.J. Velinsky. 2010 Polychlorinated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in fish oil supplements: Evaluating exposure and health risks. Food Additives and Contaminants 27(8): 1177-1185.
  • Ashley, J.T.F., M.L. Webster, J.E. Baker, R. Horwitz, and D.J. Velinsky. 2009. Polychlorinated biphenyls in sediment and biota from the Delaware River estuary. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences. 158: 89-105.
  • McGee, B.L, A.E. Pinkney, D.J. Velinsky, J.T.F. Ashley, D.J. Fisher, L.C. Ferrington and T.J Norberg-King. 2009. Using the sediment quality triad to characterize baseline conditions in the Anacostia River, Washington, DC. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment: 156: 51-67.