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  

David Velinsky

Office: Patrick Center, Academy of Natural Sciences
Phone: 215.299.1147


  • 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

  • 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.

Courses Taught

  • Marine Ecology
  • Introduction to Oceanography
  • Environmental Chemistry

Post Doctorate and Graduate Students

  • Tracy Quirk, PhD, Ruth Patrick Postdoctoral Scholar: Wetlands Ecology and Climate Change
  • Steven Pearson, Graduate Student, Department of Biology, Drexel University