Damon A. Chaky is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Science at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He conducts research in the field of environmental chemistry, particularly in the sources, transport, behavior and fate of chemical contaminants. A majority of his work focuses on the greater New York City urban environment and the lakes and rivers of the Hudson Basin.
At Pratt, Prof. Chaky explores the multidisciplinary connections between science and “real life” with the future leaders of architecture, the arts and design. In the courses he teaches, he tries to focus on how science informs the major issues of our 21st century existence and what it means to be science-literate in today’s world. Examples of these classes include; Ecology for Architects, Toxics and the elective course Science and Society.
Prof. Chaky most recently served as chair of Sustainable Pratt — a group of faculty, administrators, students and staff dedicated to identifying, interpreting, inspiring, incorporating and instituting ecologically responsible practices into curricula, operations and programs at Pratt Institute. For more info on Sustainable Pratt, visit http://www.sustainablepratt.org/
The main focus of Prof. Chaky’s research is the interpretation of dated sediments as indicators of major contaminant sources. Many persistent contaminants of the industrial age ultimately reside within the sediments of aquatic systems. With a few well-chosen sediment samples, it is often possible to say a great deal about contaminant sources, transport, and fate in a complex environment. Recent work has focused on contaminants in New York Harbor, the Hudson River, and urban and rural lakes and reservoirs in the Hudson Basin.
Prof. Chaky has contributed to the River Summer Field Course offered through Pace University, Barnard College, and the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities. In the summer of 2005, he led the course segment on sediment and contaminant transport in the Upper Hudson River.
In the Spring of 2004 Prof. Chaky joined the Riverscope project — a coordinated research effort of Columbia University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His work with Riverscope includes a pilot study to investigate short-duration sediment transport events in the Hudson River and tributaries using acoustic backscatter measurements.
Prof. Chaky is part of the development team for the World Trade Center Environmental Contaminant Database (WTCECD), a publicly-available repository of air monitoring data in the New York/New Jersey area. The WTCECD includes over three decades of ambient air quality data from fixed-site monitoring stations in New York City and the state of New Jersey.
“People who are going into Industrial Design, people going into Architecture, any sort of manipulation of the built environment are actually the people who are going to have the greatest impact on the world in the coming decades…So, I can teach courses in sustainability for science majors, but honestly, I think I’m making more of an impact by teaching here. Because at Pratt these are actually the leaders who are going to see us through the next few decades.”