The University of Washington Tacoma has hired Dr. Joel Baker, a leading researcher of water pollution in marine environments, as the first holder of the Port of Tacoma Chair. Pending approval of the UW Board of Regents, Baker starts Jan. 1, 2008.
Baker, who has extensive experience studying urban waterways, will conduct scientific research and teach environmental science classes at UW Tacoma. Baker will develop an applied scientific research program at the university, collaborating with the community to focus on issues impacting the marine environment in South Puget Sound. He also will work with the Port of Tacoma Chair Advisory Board to identify research of interest to the community and will serve as science advisor for the Urban Waters marine research center.
Urban Waters was established to promote research on local marine environmental issues and to help develop solutions for water pollution in Tacoma and other urban bay communities. The Port of Tacoma Chair is funded through endowments from the Port, the City of Tacoma, SSA Marine and matching funds from the university.
"Dr. Baker's experience with applied research in marine environments that have been highly impacted by urban surroundings makes him ideally suited to take on this role at UW Tacoma," said Cheryl Greengrove, interim director of the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program. "He is a top-notch scientist who is very skilled at leading teams and interacting with the public."
Baker's research focuses on pollutant transport and fate in natural waters and the accumulation of chemicals in aquatic food webs. His goal is to learn how pollutant sources and cycling mechanisms can be controlled to protect the health of humans and the ecosystem. Currently a professor at the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Baker leads a research group studying the flow of contaminants from the atmosphere and surface water to the marine environment.
The Port of Tacoma Chair is a unique career opportunity for an environmental scientist, Greengrove said. In addition to teaching, Baker's connection to Urban Waters means he will research pollution in the Foss Waterway, Commencement Bay and South Puget Sound, and study the surrounding urban environment's impact on the marine environment . The Port of Tacoma Chair will also be active in the community, working to collaborate with the City of Tacoma, the Port and other constituents on water quality and pollution issues. Research performed through Urban Waters will be vital in the effort to protect local waterways.
"Dr. Baker is one of the rare people who can combine high-level science with developing good public policy to protect the environment," she said. "He has the ability to talk to everyone, from other scientists to the general public, about his work."
Baker has a Ph.D. and M.S. in environmental engineering sciences from the University of Minnesota and a B.S. in environmental chemistry from the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science & Forestry. He currently serves on the San Francisco Bay Toxics Advisory Committee and the Delaware River Basin Commission Toxics Modeling Expert Panel and is chair of the New York/New Jersey Harbor Contamination Assessment and Reduction Project Model Evaluation Group. He recently received the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President's Award for Excellence in Application of Science.