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DRBC Honors Pioneering Ecologist Ruth Patrick

For Immediate Release

December 7, 2005

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.)  --  The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) today named its to-be-developed office building courtyard the "Ruth Patrick River Garden" in honor of the world-renowned environmental scientist and Philadelphia resident.

"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."

The commission also released a concept design plan (pdf 329 KB) to improve the courtyard at the mid-day ceremony held at its West Trenton headquarters. "This design plan, which was shaped by comments received from DRBC staff, highlights the Delaware River Basin 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 numerous 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.

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 commission is not in the position to finance this project with its limited resources, and since we are a regulatory agency, we are unable to accept donations from some private and public organizations who may wish to contribute to this project honoring Dr. Patrick," Collier said. "We are hoping to identify a nonprofit organization that might be willing to serve as a collector of donations which could then be provided to DRBC in one sum."

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, visit the DRBC's web site at www.drbc.net.

(Please note: Additional information about Dr. Ruth Patrick can be found on The Academy of Natural Science's web site.)

Take a "virtual tour" of the proposed Ruth Patrick River Garden (avi 4.7 MB)

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Contact: Clarke Rupert, DRBC, 609-883-9500 ext. 260, clarke.rupert@drbc.state.nj.us

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