Robert Brinkmann is professor global studies and geography, director of sustainability studies and director of sustainability research at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University®. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, he spent many hours hiking, fishing, and canoeing. In 1979 he entered the geology program at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, where he earned a Bachelor of Science with a focus on lithology, mineralogy, and field geology. During this period, he traveled throughout North America and conducted field research in the Yukon. His first publication, on the formation of the Berlin Rhyolite, was published in 1982.
After graduation, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he earned an M.S. in geology in 1986 and a Ph.D. in geography in 1989. During this period, he worked in diamond exploration, ice crystallography, and soil chemistry. While conducting field work in diamond exploration, Dr. Brinkmann began to be influenced by sustainability issues. He found the surface of the world so altered that it was difficult to obtain undisturbed samples for detailed analysis. He started to take courses with the late Forest (yes, that’s how his first name is spelled) Stearns, one of the first ecologists to call for research on urban ecosystems, and the late Robert Eidt, a soil scientist noted for his definition and interpretation of anthrosols, or humanly modified soils. Dr. Brinkmann began to study heavy metal geochemistry of garden soils in cities, pre-Islamic agricultural soils in the Arabian Peninsula, and soil and sediment erosion in mountainous regions. He also took courses with cave and karst expert Michael J. Day and noted archaeologist Lynne Goldstein.
In 1990 Dr. Brinkmann became an assistant professor at the University of South Florida (USF), where he continued his research on urban sustainability, particularly as associated with soil and sediment pollution in urban and suburban areas. He published numerous articles and three books, including the only book on the science, policy, and management of urban street sweeping (with Graham Tobin). He became a full professor in 2000 and the first chair of USF’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy. He also served as chair of the Department of Geography and as interim associate dean for faculty development in the 2000s. Over the years, he designed a number of courses on sustainability management, wetlands, and community-based sustainability. He is currently involved in a number of projects, including analysis of sustainability efforts in Florida, evaluation of energy policy in the United States, and the development of a karst sustainability index.
Dr. Brinkmann firmly believes in practicing what he preaches. He has taught dozens of people how to make rain barrels, how to create gardens for small spaces, and how to worm compost.
He is vice chair of the board of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and has served as co-editor of the Southeastern Geographer. He is an associate editor for the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies. He has served as an elected officer with a number of national, regional, and local organizations. Dr. Brinkmann is also active with human rights issues and sat on the Tampa/Hillsborough Human Rights Task Force that seeks to protect the human rights of all citizens in the Tampa region.