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IN THE NEWS

Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

Ferry as research vessel: Monitoring system on MV Twin Capes measures Delaware Bay water quality data
09/12/2011 -

During the summer, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), with the cooperation and assistance of Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA), launched a unique research project using a complex, automated measurement and sampling system on the MV Twin Capes. The SeaKeeper 1000, manufactured and installed aboard the ferry vessel by YSI, Inc. of Yellow Springs, Ohio, collects water quality data while the vessel transits the Delaware Bay.

“Although historically it did not suffer the extreme pollution of the urban Delaware River, the Delaware Bay does suffer from more subtle ‘pollution,’ habitat destruction and overfishing,” said Jonathan Sharp, oceanography professor in CEOE who has been studying the estuary of the Delaware River and Bay for more than three decades and is assisted in this project by doctoral student Yoana Voynova. “A research understanding is necessary to eventually provide a routine monitoring capability to assist in managing the valuable resources of the Delaware Estuary.”

NSF Highlight: Scientists collect water quality and climate change data from huge storm
08/29/2011 -

While Hurricane Irene had officials along the East Coast preparing for mass evacuations, scientists at the Stroud Water Research Center and the University of Delaware were grabbing their best data collection tools and heading straight for the storm's path. It was a rare opportunity for the scientists to learn more about climate change and water quality, as Irene threatened to be the biggest hurricane to hit the northeastern United States since 1985.

Prepping for Irene: State officials benefit from CEOE expertise on storms
08/26/2011 -

We all have a favorite TV station, website, or phone app that we consult for information as storms approach our area. But where does the state turn when it needs real-time, regional weather data to make critical decisions related to storm events such as Hurricane Irene?

Two sources are the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), a real-time regional monitoring system coordinated by the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), and the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS). DEOS provides 24/7 data on weather conditions, stream levels, tidal conditions, and many other environmental variables, while DGS supplies information on stream flow and coastal flooding.

As Irene heads north, DEOS and DGS personnel are checking monitoring stations to make sure that they will be ready for what could be significant rain and wind. “Our equipment is designed to withstand some pretty extreme weather,” said Dan Leathers, DEOS co-director and professor of geography.

Quake, rattle and roll: Quake largest felt in Delaware since 1886, researchers report
08/24/2011 -

The Aug. 23 earthquake, registering 5.9 at its epicenter in central Virginia, was the largest one felt in Delaware since 1886 when a magnitude 6.6-7.3 quake hit Charleston, S.C., according to geologist Stefanie Baxter, a DENIN faculty affilliate and research associate at the Delaware Geological Survey, a Delaware state agency based at the University of Delaware.

Baxter was having lunch at a restaurant on Main Street in Newark, Del., when the tables started shaking and the lights began to sway.

“Did you feel that?” Baxter said, and immediately headed back to the office.

The Delaware Geological Survey’s three seismographs recorded the quake; their data has been provided digitally to Lamont-Doherty Observatory at Columbia University, which will do regional analyses of the event. The DGS has also established a special webpage about the earthquake.

The softer side of x-rays: Researchers use NSLS to probe cadmium-contaminated soil
08/19/2011 -

Researchers at the University of Delaware in collaboration with scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown that the chemical structure and bioavailability of cadmium-contaminated soil changes with the flooding and drying cycles of lowland rice culture.

Cadmium is a natural element found in some soils, but human activities like mining and smelting release cadmium into the environment at higher concentrations than normal. This can create a toxic situation for organisms living nearby if the cadmium binds to organic elements and enters the food chain.

In 2003, the International Water Management Institute reported that the Mae Sot district of Thailand had “considerable amounts” of cadmium and zinc in its irrigation water, paddy soils, and rice grain. Saengdao Khaokaew, a Thai graduate student at the University of Delaware and the principal investigator of the study, wanted to determine whether the cadmium remained in inert mineral form or attached to organic sulfur and carbon as a result of the flooding and draining cycles used to cultivate rice. (full article)

Job well done:  Wilmington honors UD's Narvaez for coordinating inaugural Green Jobs Program
08/18/2011 -

Representatives from several environmental organizations attended the headquarters of the Challenge Program on the banks of the Christina River last week to celebrate the first class of teens to complete the city of Wilmington’s summer Green Jobs Program.

Martha Corrozi Narvaez, associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency, a program unit of the Institute for Public Administration in the the School of Public Policy and Administration, coordinated the Green Jobs Program and organized the closing celebration that honored the teenagers. (full article)

Governor Markell, City of Dover, LS Power dedicate 10-megawatt Dover SUN Park
08/17/2011 -

At a ceremony today attended by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Dover Mayor Carleton E. Carey, Sr., DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara and other dignitaries, White Oak Solar Energy, LLC, (a wholly owned subsidiary of LS Power Group) and SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA, SPWRB) recognized the commencement of operations of the 10-megawatt Dover SUN Park. Dover SUN Park is delivering solar power to the local utility distribution grid with the City of Dover, Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, Delmarva Power, and the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility purchasing the renewable energy credits associated with the system.

Summer achievements:  Symposium showcases summer undergrad research and service efforts
08/12/2011 -

Editor's note: This article highlights the work of two EPSCoR-sponsored summer research interns who were awarded prizes in the first-ever Undergraduate Research in Sustainability competition.

Undergraduate researchers were busy at the University of Delaware this summer, and the results of their research were on display during the second annual Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium, held Wednesday, Aug. 10, in Clayton Hall.

Representing every UD college and discipline, some 330 undergraduate research and service scholars and visiting scholars participated. The event featured 243 poster presentations and 87 oral presentations.

The keynote lecture, “Exploration and Exploitation of Mycobacteriophages,” was given by Graham Hatfull, Eberly Family Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Pittsburgh and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.

Mycobacteria cause diseases such as tuberculosis and leprosy. Mcyobacteriophages are viruses that infect mycobacteria. 

“We explore these phages by isolating new phages and analyzing their genomes in order to learn about what these phages are, their genetic diversity, how may types there are, and to see if we can learn about how they came to be,” Hatfull said. “We have barely scratched the surface. This is an incredibly rich field of information.” (full article)

Advanced spectroscopy in soil biogeochemical research
08/03/2011 -

Editor's note: This article appears in the August 2011 of CSA News, the magazine of the Crop Science Society of American, the Soil Science Society of America, and the American Society of Agronomy.

Synchrotron research isn’t just ideal for exploring natural materials such as soils, plants, and particulates, says University of Delaware soil chemist Don Sparks. It’s also ideal for fostering the explorations and development of young scientists.

“It provides a key learning experience,” says Sparks, who helped pioneer the use of synchrotron-based techniques in environmental chemistry two decades ago, “and a top selling point when students graduate and head into the job market.”

He should know. Under his mentorship, graduate students and postdocs frequently travel to synchrotrons around the country and the world, and today 24 of his former group members continue to conduct research at synchrotron facilities on four continents.(full article)

Water science, policy program launched: New interdisciplinary graduate program addresses the future of water
07/28/2011 -

The world’s human population is expected to top seven billion by April 2012. Of all the burdens this growing population places on the planet’s resources, none is more critical than the pressure on the world’s fresh water supplies. Just 2.5 percent of Earth’s water is fresh water, and much of that is frozen and unavailable to terrestrial life. Developing solutions to the problem of meeting the growing need for clean water that are socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable is the focus of the new interdisciplinary graduate program in water science and policy at the University of Delaware, which welcomes its first students this fall.