Pioneering ecologist Ruth Patrick honored by Federal-State Commission

December 12, 2005

The Academy of Natural Sciences' world-renowned environmental scientist Ruth Patrick was honored by the Delaware River Basin Commission when it named its to-be-developed office building courtyard the "Ruth Patrick River Garden."

"Dr. Ruth Patrick's outstanding career with The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia has spanned seven decades and her work has set the standard for how the environmental health of rivers and streams is evaluated," DRBC Chairman Kevin C. Donnelly said. Donnelly, who represents Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner on the federal-interstate commission, added, "We are thrilled to have Dr. Patrick join us today as we recognize her extensive contributions to riverine science and management."

At a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at its headquarters in West Trenton, N.J., the commission also released a concept design plan to improve the courtyard. "This design plan, which was shaped by comments received from DRBC staff, highlights the Delaware River Basin Commission and will provide an opportunity for visitors to enjoy the space while learning about the watershed environment," DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier said. "Naming this planned courtyard makeover the 'Ruth Patrick River Garden' is a fitting tribute to a pioneer whose work in the Delaware River Basin dates back to 1945."

Dr. Patrick in the 1940s developed a new scientific method to assess the health of freshwater systems (lakes, streams, and rivers) involving the study of changes in abundance and diversity of plants, animals, and bacteria as a way to measure the impact of pollution and natural changes. She was one of only a handful of female ecologists at the time and her method is still used today.

Born in Kansas, she has lived and worked in the Delaware River Basin her entire professional career. Dr. Patrick has been associated with The Academy of Natural Sciences since 1933 and continues to spend time in her office there every day. In 1947, she founded the Academy's Limnology Department, now called the Patrick Center for Environmental Research, for the study of freshwater bodies. She is currently the Francis Boyer Chair of Limnology at the Academy and the honorary chair of its Board of Trustees. Dr. Patrick is the recipient of many honorary degrees and awards, including the National Medal of Science, our nation's top science award, which she received from President Bill Clinton in 1996. The University of South Carolina's Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is also named in her honor.
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DRBC staff is exploring options to fund the construction costs of the planned courtyard redevelopment, expected to total over $200,000 according to preliminary estimates. The DRBC was formed by compact in 1961 through legislation signed into law by President John F. Kennedy and the governors of the four basin states with land draining to the Delaware River (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania). The passage of this compact marked the first time in our nation's history that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development, and regulatory agency.

For more information about Dr. Ruth Patrick, visit http://www.acnatsci.org/library/collections/academywomen/patrick/

The Academy is located at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and weekends until 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children ages 3-12, students with college I.D. and military personnel, $8.25 for seniors, and free for children under 3.

The Academy of Natural Sciences, an international museum of natural history operating since 1812, undertakes research and public education that focuses on the environment and its diverse species. The mission of the Academy is to create the basis for a healthy and sustainable planet through exploration, research and education.

Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

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