University of Delaware
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Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

Phragmites partners with microbes to plot native plants' demise
12/23/2009 -

University of Delaware researchers have uncovered a novel means of conquest employed by the common reed, Phragmites australis, which ranks as one of the world's most invasive plants.

The research by an interdisciplinary UD team led by Harsh Bais, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, is reported in the December issue of the scientific journal Plant Physiologyand also is highlighted in one of the journal's editorials.The invasive strain, which hails from Eurasia, overtakes its “native” cousin, which has lived in North America for the past 10,000 years, ironically by provoking the native plant to “take itself out,” through a combination of microbial and enzymatic activity in the soil.

Copenhagen Oceans Day participants say more focus on oceans needed
12/23/2009 -

 Oceans Day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) this month brought together 320 leaders from 40 countries, representing governments, U.N. agencies, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, and industry to focus on the direct link between climate change, ocean health, and human well being.

The nearly 50 percent of the world's population living in coastal areas will suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts such as ocean warming, sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification, attendees said. The effects of such changes are expected to be wide ranging and include loss of food security and threats to the diversity of ocean wildlife.During the Dec. 14 event -- co-sponsored by the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, housed at UD -- world leaders affirmed the urgent need to protect the central role of oceans in Earth's life support system and address threats facing coastal and island communities.

University plans new interdisciplinary science, engineering building
12/17/2009 -

In 1810, German educator and philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote, in his now-famous prescription for the future University of Berlin, that “universities should treat learning as not yet wholly solved problems and hence always in research mode.”

If Humboldt were still alive, he would undoubtedly be pleased with the plans for the new interdisciplinary science and engineering building that will be constructed at UD with donor support. With a goal of engaging students and stimulating excitement about science and engineering, the new building is being designed to be dynamic, dramatic and distinctive, while providing badly needed classroom and lab space for a growing number of engineering students.

New enterprise to focus on environment
12/16/2009 -

The University has launched the Delaware Environmental Institute, a multidisciplinary initiative focused on providing solutions to global environmental challenges through knowledge-based partnerships that integrate environmental science, engineering and policy.

Known as DENIN, the institute will be closely allied with the colleges at UD and other educational institutions in the state. Institute research initially will focus on three areas: Processes at the air, land and sea interface; environmental forecasting and restoration; and ecosystem health and sustainability.

Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in soil and environmental chemistry at the University, has been appointed director of DENIN, which was officially opened at an Oct. 23 celebration on campus. The event drew more than 200 people, including a cadre of elementary and high school students who contributed posters on topics ranging from the benefits of trees to the problems associated with invasive species.

UD experts weigh in on U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen
12/16/2009 -

University of Delaware professors attending the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, and their colleagues in Newark, Del., are this week weighing in on the key issues at the 192-nation summit, which ends Dec. 18.

The conference aims to curb global greenhouse gas emissions and to identify how the world will pay for dramatic reductions, and reach an agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which required 37 industrial countries to cut emissions an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

John Byrne, director of the UD Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) and co-chair of the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), will present a "how to" in reducing CO2 emissions on the final day of the summit. His presentation is based on examples of CEEP's research into communities empowered to take collective action that have led to cuts in energy waste and fostered job and economic growth.

Dispatch from Copenhagen: Dec. 14
12/15/2009 -

Editor's note: John Byrne, director of the University of Delaware's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) and co-chair of the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), is at the international Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. Following is the first in a series of his reports from the summit.

Copenhagen and the Bella Center -- the site of the 2009 global climate change summit -- is reeling with a crush of advocates and organizations converging on the city. The site of the summit can only hold 15,000 and more than 40,000 are gathered outside the building in freezing temperatures trying to enter.

The U.N. is simply overwhelmed by the demand and has tightened security in and around the Bella Center. Despite the contentious day, Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, professor in the University's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, led the Oceans Day program with distinction and polish. She did an admirable job on a difficult day in the city.

Extension scientist's research helps to protect Chesapeake Bay
12/14/2009 -

Greg Binford spends his days in college laboratories and cornfields miles from the Chesapeake Bay but his research has a direct impact on the water quality of this estuary, which is home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals and more than 16.6 million people.

A plant and soil science specialist for University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Binford works to optimize crop production for farmers while minimizing the impact on the environment of the fertilizer and manure nutrients essential for crop growth. Binford also serves as an associate professor in UD's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Earlier this year, he received a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a nutrient management system that will result in less nitrogen leaving cornfields and entering the Chesapeake Bay while improving overall profitability to growers.

UD, China Agricultural University organize symposium
11/30/2009 -

Four leading Chinese scientists participated in an invitational symposium organized by the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and China Agricultural University at the recent International Meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, held Nov. 1-5 in Pittsburgh.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Association of Chinese Soil and Plant Scientists in North America.Symposium organizers were Tom Sims, deputy dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and T.A. Baker Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry, and Fusuo Zhang, dean and professor in the CAU College of Resources and Environmental Sciences.

11/30/2009 -

The University of Delaware's single stream recycling plan has achieved a campus record diversion rate of just over 31 percent in September and just over 30 percent in October

Diversion rates are calculated by dividing the total weight of recyclable material by the weight of all trash plus recyclables.

The total amount of trash in September was 341 tons, and an estimated 106 tons were diverted from landfills through recycling. The total amount of trash in October was 324 tons, with 97.5 tons recycled.

Plugging in to sun's power
11/18/2009 -

Newark, UD have plenty of solar panel potential

The News Journal

In a new sign of solar energy's burgeoning clout, a study has concluded that Newark and the University of Delaware could affordably tap rooftop sunlight for more than three-quarters of daytime power needs using readily available equipment and financing.

The finding appeared in a study dubbed "Creating a Solar City," led by the university's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP).

Using maps and aerial photos, researchers found thousands of Newark-area rooftop surfaces suitable for solar panel grids. By conservative standards, the combined areas could generate as much 96.4 megawatts, displacing up to 76.3 percent of city and university daytime consumption, and 32 percent of 24-hour average needs.