University of Delaware
delware environmental institute


Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

Cleaner water:  Novel membrane helps remove perchlorate from drinking water
11/15/2011 -

According to National Cancer Institute statistics, an estimated 48,020 men and women will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011. The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones that control metabolism and growth.

Perchlorate is an emerging contaminant that is known to interfere with the metabolism of the thyroid gland in humans and is thought to be a leading cause of thyroid cancer. Toxic even at low levels, on the order of four parts per billion (ppb), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that perchlorate contamination has affected 15 million people in the United States via drinking water.

Valued in laboratory experiments because it does not react with any other chemical species in water, perchlorate is a chemical byproduct of common fireworks, fertilizer, hazard flares and matches, as well as rocket fuel, munitions and propellants used in the defense industry. (full article)

11/09/2011 -

The Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) is forming a student-led, University-wide Student Programs Committee and invites interested undergraduate and graduate students to submit an application to become a member of the committee. The DENIN Student Programs Committee will plan several programs specifically targeted for UD students during the spring semester, with the goal of involving more students in DENIN’s environmental mission. Committee members, led by DENIN’s student intern, senior Lindsay McNamara, will work collaboratively with DENIN staff to identify the types of events and programs that would be most engaging to students and then carry out the activities. The committee will meet weekly during the 2012 winter session and spring semester, and members will be expected to help staff events.

In search of new biofuels:  UD wins $2.2 million grant for bioenergy research
11/09/2011 -

Biofuels are fuels made from renewable resources, such as agricultural and forest products and byproducts. Unlike their non-renewable fossil fuel counterparts, such as oil, their increased usage has the potential to reduce pollution and U.S. dependence on foreign resources.

Their production, however, is problematic. Biofuels must be produced quickly and at high concentrations in order to make them economically feasible. Unfortunately, the process can be toxic to cells necessary in their manufacture.

Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis, Eugene du Pont Chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, is working to create hardy organisms for producing biofuels and chemicals from renewable sources – microorganisms that are more resistant to toxic chemicals and engineered to withstand the stress response that can inhibit cell growth and cause cell death. (full article)

The Green goes green:  Sustainability successes, dedication to green initiatives celebrated
11/08/2011 -

Oct. 26, 2011, was a day to celebrate the power of the sustainability movement on college campuses across the country.  The University of Delaware joined the nationwide movement with a full day of activities, ranging from a water bottle exchange and a bike clinic to a clothing swap and a gardening workshop.

At UD, the event dovetails with the ongoing Initiative for the Planet, which is aimed at making the University a national and international resource for environmental research, technology, education and policy.

John Byrne, Distinguished Professor of Energy and Climate Policy and director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, started UD’s Campus Sustainability Day off by reiterating the University’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020. (full article)

Water shield:  UD engineer hopes to protect drinking water using raincoat fabric
11/08/2011 -

Steve Dentel unfurls a large piece of muted green fabric resembling a tablecloth.

“You could use this to line your outhouse pit,” the University of Delaware professor of civil and environmental engineering announces.

This offbeat potential application is not the first that pops to mind.  But, in the developing world, it could be a potential lifesaver.

In countries where sanitation remains antiquated, for instance, a pit in the ground serving as a latrine, pathogens, germs and parasites from human waste easily make their ways into drinking water.

Dentel believes the fabric, a breathable textile that allows water vapor to escape through it, could be the answer.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation concurs.(full article)

Want to understand drought? Follow the water!
11/07/2011 -

Lifecycle of water in the Susquehanna River Basin may reveal answers for drought prone areas

Water is a precious resource many take for granted until there is too little or too much. Scientists and engineers have positioned instruments at the Susquehanna Shale Hills Observatory at Pennsylvania State University to learn much more about the water cycle there. It is one of six Critical Zone Observatories in the United States.

"What we're trying to do is build experimental test beds across the United States and we're also working with several European Critical Zone Observatory test beds, to understand the cycle of water in detail," says Chris Duffy, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Penn State.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Duffy and his team are documenting the flow of water at the forested Shale Hills watershed from rain and snow through plants, soil and rock--from "bedrock to boundary layer."

From tropics to poles: study reveals diversity of life in soils
11/03/2011 -

Microscopic animals that live in soils are as diverse in the tropical forests of Costa Rica as they are in the arid grasslands of Kenya, or the tundra and boreal forests of Alaska and Sweden.That conclusion is found in research results published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Scientists have generally accepted that a wider range of species can be found above ground at the equator than at the Earth's poles. But this study proves for the first time that the same rules don't apply to the nematodes, mites and springtails living underground.

Funding a sustainable campus:  UD community invited to apply for environmental project grants
11/03/2011 -

The University of Delaware Sustainability Task Force invites the UD community to submit grant applications for projects that address sustainability issues.

The task force will be awarding $9,500 in grants to selected projects, with preference given to projects that are consistent with the goals of the University Climate Action Plan and the mission of the task force.

Faculty and staff created the University of Delaware Sustainability Fund (UDSF) to stimulate innovative opportunities to develop a more sustainable campus.

“The goal is to fund solid, well-thought-out projects that make the University community more sustainable,” said Jenny McDermott, chair of the UDSF working group. “Collaboration is strongly encouraged, and we like to see projects initiated by students.” (full article)

U.S. rivers and streams saturated with carbon
11/02/2011 -

Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing substantially more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previously thought. This according to researchers publishing their results in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience. Their findings could change the way scientists model the movement of carbon among land, water and the atmosphere.

Bat decline: UD grads research white-nose syndrome in bats
11/02/2011 -

Erin Adams devotes “99 percent” of her work hours to bats -- in particular, to white-nose syndrome in bats -- as a research assistant in the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. But her interest in these creatures of the night was sparked many years ago. A 2007 graduate of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Adams was required, as a wildlife conservation major, to take a course in mammalogy. She quickly discovered that her favorite taxonomic group didn’t win any popularity contests with her fellow classmates. “Everyone loves the cuddly creatures or the big, attractive mammals – the polar bears and the wolves,” says Adams. “Me, I’ve always liked the underdog; I think that’s why I was drawn to bats.”