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IN THE NEWS

Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

Reducing arsenic in food chain:  Soil may harbor answer to reducing arsenic in rice
05/02/2013 -

Harsh Bais and Janine Sherrier of the University of Delaware’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences are studying whether a naturally occurring soil bacterium, referred to as UD1023 because it was first characterized at the University, can create an iron barrier in rice roots that reduces arsenic uptake.

Rice, grown as a staple food for a large portion of the world’s population, absorbs arsenic from the environment and transfers it to the grain. Arsenic is classified as a poison by the National Institutes of Health and is considered a carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program.

Long-term exposure to arsenic has been associated with skin, lung, bladder, liver, kidney and prostate cancers, and low levels can cause skin lesions, diarrhea and other symptoms. 

05/01/2013 -

In 2008, DuPont’s William F. Bailey was charged with leading an energy efficiency initiative for the company’s worldwide operations, which has reduced energy consumption by 20 percent and has saved the company more than $230 million. Bailey, a DuPont Engineering Fellow, and several other DuPont employees will be on the University of Delaware campus Thursday, May 2, to talk about DuPont sustainability efforts.

04/30/2013 -

A hard-to-remove toxic chemical that surfaced in a deep new Artesian Water Co. well south of New Castle has heated up debate over financial responsibility for fouled public water supplies and the effectiveness of a more-than-30-year Superfund cleanup effort. State and federal officials say they are confident the high levels of the likely carcinogen 1,4 dioxane, found in an Artesian well under Llangollen Estates, escaped from the Delaware Sand & Gravel Landfill federal Superfund site, nearly a mile to the north off Grantham Lane. Artesian shut down the well before it went into regular use, but officials acknowledged Monday that lower levels of the same chemical were detected last year in other wells that are part of the utility’s large regional supply complex around Llangollen Boulevard.

Environmental humanities:  New minor brings together science, humanities to study complex issues
04/30/2013 -

A new undergraduate minor will use tools and insights from the humanities to extend and strengthen the University of Delaware's longstanding expertise in exploring environmental issues through the natural sciences, engineering and public policy.

The interdisciplinary minor in environmental humanities received final approval from the University's Faculty Senate at its March meeting. 

"There's been an explosion of interest in environmental issues in various areas of the humanities," said Adam Rome, associate professor of history and one of the creators and faculty advisers for the minor. "The humanities have a perspective that's useful for seeing the forest, not just the trees, and looking at these scientific problems from a humanities perspective gives new insights."

04/23/2013 -

Scientists have uncovered one of nature's long-kept secrets--the true fate of charcoal in the world's soils. The ability to determine the fate of charcoal is critical to knowledge of the global carbon budget, which in turn can help understand and mitigate climate change. However, until now, researchers only had scientific guesses about what happens to charcoal once it's incorporated into soil. They believed it stayed there. Surprisingly, most of these researchers were wrong.

Sparks appointment:  UD's Sparks to chair national soil science committee
04/20/2013 -

Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry at the University of Delaware, has been appointed to a three-year term as chair of the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science (USNC/SS).

From 1999 to 2008, he was an ex-officio member of the USNC/SS and has served as a full member of the committee since 2010.

The USNC/SS advises the National Academies on issues related to soil science and is also the formal representative of the U.S. soil science community to the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS). It provides input to the union on behalf of U.S. soil scientists, arranges for scientific meetings in the United States in consonance with the union’s objectives, and directs attention to soil science research needs.

Protecting tidal wetlands:  UD scientists study tidal flow, sediment movement in Kent salt marsh
04/18/2013 -

According to a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global sea level is expected to increase one half meter or more over the next century. Along the Mid-Atlantic coast of the United States, relative sea-level rise is about two times higher than the global rise.

In Delaware, nearly 371,000 acres of contiguous tidal wetlands surround the Delaware Bay. Studies indicate that the proportion of wetlands that were degraded increased from 25 percent in 1984 to an alarming 54 percent in 1993.

Three University of Delaware scientists are studying tidal water flow and sediment movement in a Kent County salt marsh to better understand changes to the marsh ecosystem due to a rising sea level.

Hillel dialogue:  World Food Prize laureate calls for sustainable soil, water management practices
04/16/2013 -

As the population of the world soars toward 9 billion by midcentury, sustainable agriculture pioneer Daniel Hillel is “conditionally optimistic” that humanity will find a way to feed up to two billion more people in the coming decades.

Hillel addressed the audience gathered for the most recent DENIN Dialogue talk, sponsored by the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), on April 4. Robin Morgan, professor and former dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, hosted the discussion in the University of Delaware’s Mitchell Hall.

Green infrastructure:  UD students, faculty and staff aim to improve stormwater runoff
04/03/2013 -

In a hydrology class last fall, University of Delaware students saw firsthand the lasting impact of storm runoff: deep gullies carved into the ground by rainfall over several decades. These gullies start at drainpipes that open into the woods near Laird Campus, and during storms they collect water and flush sediment into White Clay Creek.

Luc Claessens, assistant professor of geography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment who studies human effects on watersheds, used the field trip to connect classroom material with real-world experiences. Now he is working with UD staff and students to develop a comprehensive plan that would improve stormwater drainage at the site, supported by a UD Sustainability Fund grant.

April 12: DENIN field trip:  Join DENIN, partners in guided trip to St. Jones Reserve in Kent County
03/23/2013 -

Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) at the University of Delaware,Delaware Wild Lands, the state’s oldest land conservation organization, and theDelaware National Estuarine Research Reserve are sponsoring a free field trip to the St. Jones Reserve, in Kent County, Del., on Friday, April 12.

A component of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR), the St. Jones Reserve includes about 3,750 acres of tidal brackish-water and salt marshes, wooded fringe habitat, farmlands and meadows distributed along the lower St. Jones River. The St. Jones watershed drains a portion of central Kent County, including the city of Dover, and empties into Delaware Bay.