Alumnus David L. Freedman named UW-Green Bay’s ‘Earth Caretaker’ for 2023

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Environmental Management and Business Institute (EMBI) will award the 13th annual Earth Caretaker Award to UW-Green Bay alumnus David L. Freedman. David’s academic journey started at UW-Green Bay in 1973, when he made the move from his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts to Green Bay to join many other undergraduates from across the U.S. who shared a deep concern for the fate of the planet. David went on to earn a B.S. degree in Science and Environmental Change in 1978. David then landed a dream job after graduating at the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS) at Washington University, where he worked for Dr. Barry Commoner. At CBNS, David extended what he learned at UW-Green Bay to a project that explored the potential to replace all US gasoline and diesel fuel with renewable ethanol-based fuel, without impacting the food supply.

From CBNS, David went on to earn an M.S. in Environmental Engineering in 1985 from the University of Cincinnati, where he worked at the EPA’s Test and Evaluation Facility. This gave David an opportunity to further explore environmental research, leading to a doctoral program at Cornell University. Along with his advisor, he published a paper entitled Biological Reductive Dechlorination of Tetrachloroethylene and Trichloroethylene to Ethylene under Methanogenic Conditions, which was given a landmark publication award by the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. He also developed an anaerobic enrichment culture that converts the solvent dichloromethane, also a significant groundwater pollutant, to nonhazardous acetic acid and methane. Upon graduation from Cornell in 1990, David was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the American College of Toxicology.

That same year he began his academic career at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where his research focused on microbial dehalogenation and anaerobic degradation of nitrated organic compounds. In 1996, David moved to Clemson University where he has been ever since. He extended his research to include abiotic degradation of chlorinated ethenes through reaction with iron minerals in soils, a process that is of great interest for management of sites with persistent levels of contamination. Over his career, David has mentored 66 M.S. students, 12 Ph.D. students, and five post-docs. He has taught 14 different environmental engineering courses, ranging from the sophomore to graduate level.

David’s many accomplishments will be celebrated at the Earth Caretaker Award ceremony April 19 from 11:00 am – 1:00pm in the Phoenix Rooms of the University Union. Students, faculty, and staff who have exemplified sustainability this past year will also be honored. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP here by April 12 . Hors d’oeuvres will be served.

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