University of Delaware
delware environmental institute


Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

Our toxic world:  UD professor examines everyday exposure to harmful materials
04/14/2011 -

Ever browse the aisles of a big-box store to check out the ingredients in that paint you’re going to use to decorate your child’s bedroom walls? Or in the lotion you’ll be applying directly to your face?

McKay Jenkins has, and the results weren’t pretty.

The Cornelius A. Tilghman Professor of English and director of the journalism program at the University of Delaware details his “field trip” to the discount store in his new book, What’s Gotten Into Us: Staying Healthy in a Toxic World. It’s just one chapter in a book that explores the prevalence of chemicals in common consumer products and the extent to which those substances make their way into our bodies.

An experienced journalist and nonfiction author, Jenkins based the new book on his examination of numerous scientific studies and on interviews with experts, including some colleagues at UD, on a variety of subjects. (ful article)

04/12/2011 -

The University of Delaware will mark Earth Week 2011 with a variety of activites scheduled April 17-30.

Earth Week serves to generate action through recognition and celebration of the planet by bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds. Activities on campus are designed to engage UD students, faculty and the community in environmental awareness.

A highlight will be a presentation by McKay Jenkins, Cornelius A. Tilghman Professor of English, who will discuss his new book What’s Gotten Into Us? Staying Healthy in a Toxic World at 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 20, in Multipurpose Room C of the Trabant University Center.
(full article)

Rising sea levels threaten birds in salt marshes
04/11/2011 -

Greg Shriver, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, has received a $300,000 collaborative grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct research on salt marsh birds from Maine to Virginia as part of the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Project (SHARP).

The project’s short-term goal is to provide the information necessary for all states in the bird conservation region stretching from New England through the Mid-Atlantic coast to protect regionally important habitats for tidal marsh birds. Of particular interest is the salt marsh sparrow, which is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and has a limited breeding range from Virginia to Maine.

Because the sparrow spends its entire life in salt marsh habitats, Shriver says, “The species is extremely vulnerable to extinction over the next 50-100 years, given even modest estimates of sea-level rise during the same time period.” (full article)

Solar cell research to benefit Pakistan’s remote villages
04/11/2011 -

A University scientist is helping researchers in Pakistan study solar energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

S. Ismat Shah, a professor with joint appointments in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, estimates that 40 to 45 percent of villages in his native Pakistan do not have electricity.

Pakistan currently depends on fossil fuels for more than 80 percent of its energy requirements. Solar power, particularly photovoltaics, is considered an untapped resource due to the country’s geographical location in a region that receives abundant sunshine throughout much of the year.

“The great thing about solar cell technology is that it brings electricity without wires,” Shah says. “You take a panel, put it up on your hut or shanty, and you’ve got power.” (full article)

More ships, more pollution as Arctic warms
04/11/2011 -

As the ice-capped Arctic Ocean warms, ship traffic will increase at the top of the world. And if the sea ice continues to decline, a new route connecting international trading partners may emerge—but not without significant repercussions to climate.

Those are the findings of a U.S. and Canadian research team that includes a UD scientist.

Growing Arctic ship traffic will bring with it air pollution that has the potential to accelerate climate change in the world’s northern reaches, according to the researchers. And, they say, it’s more than a greenhouse gas problem, as engine exhaust particles could increase warming by some 17-78 percent.

James J. Corbett, professor of marine science and policy at UD, is a lead author of the first geospatial approach to evaluating the potential impacts of shipping on Arctic climate. The study, “Arctic Shipping Emissions Inventories and Future Scenarios,” was published recently in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. (full article)

04/08/2011 -

Students for the Environment presents, Environmental Injustice: Mountaintop Removal, a discussion led by Cathy Kunkel of Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW), a grassroots organization against mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal is a way of mining coal that involves blasting up to 800 vertical feet of mountain apart with millions of tons of explosives and then dumping the loose rock into sources of drinking water in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. The mission of Coal River Mountain Watch is to stop the destruction of their communities in West Virginia and environment by mountaintop removal mining, to improve the quality of life in their area and to help rebuild sustainable communities. Please join us on Tuesday, April 19 at 7 PM in Smith 120 to learn more about the social, economic and environmental injustices of mountain top removal.
Please find the flyer attached.

04/08/2011 -

Contact: Melanie Rapp, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
DNREC Secretary invites volunteers to help clean up the Christina River

NEW CASTLE COUNTY (April 8, 2011) – Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara encourages volunteers to join the clean-up efforts along the Christina River and several of its tributaries on Saturday, April 16 from 8 a.m. until noon. Volunteers are asked to register to work at one of 10 sites throughout northern New Castle County, from north Wilmington to just south of Newark.
“Helping to beautify our waterways is the perfect way to spend a few hours on a Saturday morning,” said Secretary O’Mara. “Clearing debris from the Christina watershed not only improves the landscape for residents and visitors to enjoy, it improves the health and water quality of the river and its tributaries, the primary sources of public water supply for New Castle County.”
For a list of cleanup sites with directions and to register, visit or call 302-838-1897.  Registration is encouraged before April 14, so adequate supplies can be provided to each site captain. Due to insurance requirements, volunteers under the age of sixteen must have adult supervision.

Water watchdogs:  Delaware Sea Grant water monitoring program celebrates 20 years
04/08/2011 -

They converge off Florida’s Gulf Coast, filling the water with ghostly rouge-colored clouds, causing human respiratory irritation, and forcing the state to close shellfish beds. When the tiny, toxic plants associated with red tide showed up in Delaware’s Indian River Inlet in 2007 — the first time they’d appeared north of Cape Hatteras, N.C. — John Schneider knew the possible consequences.

“It’s nothing to mess with, that’s for sure,” said Schneider, who oversees the state of Delaware’s water resources management section and has faced red tide before in both Florida and North Carolina.

Thankfully, a ready team of staff and trained volunteers from the University of Delaware Citizen Monitoring Program took more than 100 water samples and supplied daily reports for two weeks after they initially identified the problem. That steady stream of information allowed the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to provide the public with appropriate health advisories and to keep a close eye on the situation at little cost. (Full article)

04/06/2011 -

For more information, contact Joanna Wilson, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Training announced for volunteer piping plover, beachnester monitors

LEWES (April 6, 2011) – Volunteers who would like to learn more about Delaware’s endangered piping plovers and other beachnesters and find out how they can join DNREC’s monitoring team are invited to a free training session from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Biden Center at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes.
The session will begin with refreshments and a slideshow, followed by a discussion on the monitoring program and how volunteers can help to ensure that our beachnesting shorebirds are given the peace and quiet they need to successfully rear their chicks.
Weather permitting, the group will finish out the session by going out to the Point at Cape Henlopen to look for piping plovers and other shorebirds that will likely be out on the tidal flats feeding. A few birding scopes and pairs of binoculars will be available for use, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own optics if they have them.

04/06/2011 -

For more information, contact Joanna Wilson, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
DNREC’s DuPont Nature Center announces ‘Peace, Love & Horseshoe Crabs’ to be held on May 21
SLAUGHTER BEACH (April 6, 2011) – The DuPont Nature Center at Mispillion Harbor Reserve, a DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife facility, will host “Peace, Love & Horseshoe Crabs,” its second-annual festival celebrating the spring spectacle of migrating shorebirds and spawning horseshoe crabs, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 at the center and the Slaughter Beach Fire Hall in Slaughter Beach. Admission is free.
The festivities will feature children’s games, music, crafts and vendors, food and a variety of fun and educational activities at eco-stations set up on the grounds. Visitors will have great viewing opportunities from the center’s large deck to check out migrating shorebirds including the Red Knot. Guides will be on hand to help identify the birds, which depend on horseshoe crab eggs to help fuel their 9,000-mile journey. In addition, special presentations on topics such as birding, horseshoe crabs and shipbuilding will be presented throughout the day at the fire hall.