delware environmental institute

WHYY: Taking census of the Delaware Bay's smallest residents

University of Delaware researchers are examining the health of zooplankton in the bay, part of a study that hasn’t been done in nearly 60 years. Whether it's boating off the coast of Lewes in Delaware or fishing at Fortescue in New Jersey, The Delaware Bay offers a chance to unwind, relax and enjoy the beauty of its shores. But how healthy is the water?

While the Delaware Bay may be healthier now than it was decades ago, the quality of the water could be improved. “There’s a lot of work to be done still to restore the vitality of this bay,” said Tim Dillingham. He’s the executive director of the American Littoral Society, a national group based in New Jersey that focuses on protecting coastal areas like the Delaware Bay. “Our futures and our community and our lives here are tied to the quality of the bay.”

Based on his research, Dillingham says the bay has earned a “D” grade at best.

Back on the Delaware side, researchers at the University of Delaware’s Lewes campus are monitoring the health of the bay via some of its smallest inhabitants. Professor Jonathan Cohen is leading a team of researchers taking a census of zooplankton -  some of the tiniest residents of the bay, which make up the lower rungs of the food chain.