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BEES: The Get Up and Go Department

September 26, 2012 —

BEES Students in the field

BEES students and faculty pause for a
photo opp during a recent field excursion.


As the new academic year gets underway, the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES, for short) is welcoming its first incoming class. Fresh from a three-day excursion at the Barnegat Bay Field Station in New Jersey, the beginner “bees” have only just begun to experience the perks of Drexel’s partnership with America’s oldest natural history museum—the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Home to the recently redesigned environmental science major, BEES is the perfect combination of old and new. Intertwined with the Academy’s 200-year-old collection of scientific treasures (over 18 million specimens, to be exact) are exciting new courses like “The Tree of Life,” an exploration of the evolutionary relationships of organisms; “Conservation Biology” a look at the loss of our planet’s biodiversity and the potential for change; and “Natural History, Research and Collections,” a behind-the-scenes look at collection care, maintenance and growth at the Academy.

BEES courses will be taught both by Drexel and Academy researchers, whose work ranges from primate conservation and army ant research, to watershed planning and 3-D robotic dinosaur modeling. And with over a dozen Academy scientists joining the College’s already stellar cast of environmental experts, opportunities abound for student research, co-op and even study abroad programs. In addition to Drexel field sites in the U.S. and in international locations like Argentina, Costa Rica and Bioko Island, students will now have access to Academy sites in places like Mongolia, the Canadian Arctic, and Jamaica.

“The environment has been a focus of research at Drexel for many years,” says Dr. Donna Murasko, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The addition of these scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences, together with the strengths of the faculty at Drexel, has created a dynamic new department with a motto [‘Field Experience, Early and Often’] that has been carefully woven into every square inch of the program.”

With three required co-op cycles for undergraduate students and opportunities to participate in Academy service programs and academic outreach projects in the local community, students will be (do we dare say) busy bees from day one.

Dr. David Velinsky

Dr. David Velinsky, BEES department head

At the helm of the new BEES department is Dr. David Velinsky, vice president for environmental research, director and senior scientist of the Academy’s Patrick Center for Environmental Research, and now head of the new department.

“It’s a privilege and honor to lead our faculty, scientists and students in the BEES program,” says Velinsky. “I’m especially looking forward to working with the students, seeing them learn and grow with each new field experience.”

Velinsky received his B.S. in oceanography with a minor in chemistry from the Florida Institute of Technology, and his Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from Old Dominion University. He completed his postdoctoral research at the College of Marine Studies, University of Delaware, and the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institute of Washington.

During his career, Velinsky has authored over 40 peer-reviewed publications and given over 60 national and international presentations. He serves on the Science and Technical Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees for the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and is a member of the Toxics Advisory Workgroup of the Delaware River Basin Commission. His research focuses on the fate and transport of chemical contaminants and bioactive elements in aquatic systems, in particular the tidal freshwater reaches of estuaries.

BONUS! Be sure to check out the CoAS Facebook page and website (and the BEES site too!) to learn more about the faculty of the BEES department. We’ll post a Q&A every Thursday!

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