University of Delaware
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Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

Isotope fingerprints:  Jaisi laboratory tracks chemicals in water, farmland throughout Mid-Atlantic
02/28/2013 -

University of Delaware researcher Deb Jaisi is using his newly established stable isotope facility in the Environmental Biogeochemistry Laboratory (EBL) to find the fingerprints of isotopes in chemical elements — specifically phosphorus — in order to track sources of nutrients in the environmentally-sensitive Chesapeake Bay, other bodies of water and farmland throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Jaisi, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, explained that he and his research team are currently working on many projects in the EBL, including two that are funded through seed grants, one focusing on terrestrial phosphorus sources and the other on marine phosphorus sources in the Chesapeake. One of those grants is from the UD Research Foundation (UDRF) and is titled “Role of Non-terrestrial Phosphorus Sources in Eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay.”

EPSCoR national meeting:  Leaders of the 31 state EPSCoR programs gathered in Newark for annual meeting
02/08/2013 -

More than 100 participants from around the country gathered in Newark for the annual meeting of directors and administrators of the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR program, Jan. 23-25.

EPSCoR stands for Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The program strengthens research and education in science and engineering throughout the United States and seeks to avoid undue concentration of those resources.

Through awards known as Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grants, NSF invests in multi-institutional and interdisciplinary projects that develop physical, human and cyber infrastructure aimed at improving research competitiveness.

01/24/2013 -

Like humans, with their complement of microbes that aid in everything from immune responses to nutrition, plants rely on a vast array of bacteria and fungi for health and defense. Over the last decade, research has revealed many new functional aspects of the crosstalk between human-associated microbes and human cells, but plant biologists are only beginning to scratch the surface of the often surprising ways that soil microbiota impact plants, from underground fungus-wired alarm systems to soil bacteria that can trigger defensive plant behavior or even act as a sort of vaccine. But despite these benefits, microbes are still primarily thought of as harbingers of disease.

Coons visits STAR:  Sen. Coons visits UD for update on vehicle-to-grid technology
01/23/2013 -

All-electric Mini Coopers at the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus may soon be referred to as mini power plants as they become sources of distributed energy and demonstrate the potential that innovative vehicle-to-grid technology has to change the fundamental design of the delivery of energy in the United States.

Willett Kempton, director of the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration (CCPI) and professor at UD, is the visionary and inventor behind the patented grid integration technology. Working with Kempton, UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP) helped form a joint venture between UD and major energy producer, NRG Energy Inc. called “eV2g” to determine the technical and commercial feasibility of grid integrated vehicles.

Keeping a float:  UD researchers gather data from high-tech float launched near Antarctica
01/18/2013 -

Off the coast of Antarctica, a 4-foot-long, bright yellow tube is drifting through the Southern Ocean and collecting scientific data on the frigid surrounding water.

The recently launched device, called a float, will provide researchers at the University of Delaware — and around the world — with valuable information on ocean conditions in this little-monitored region.

“It’s hard to get down there,” explained Matthew Oliver, assistant professor of oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE). “It’s remote, and ice can be a problem.”

Unidel Challenge:  Unidel commits additional $5 million to ISE Lab; UD announces challenge
01/15/2013 -

The University of Delaware has received a $5 million commitment from the Unidel Foundation Inc. to support the construction of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory (ISE Lab). To help motivate others to invest in the ISE Lab project, the University has decided to use this gift to establish a challenge to other prospective donors.

The Unidel Challenge will be in effect during 2013 to provide donors the chance to significantly upgrade their naming opportunity within the ISE Lab building. As long as sufficient matching funds remain during the challenge period, all new gifts to the ISE Lab of $50,000 to $2.5 million will receive a 1:1 match for the purpose of naming opportunities. For example, a donor who makes a gift of $50,000 during the Unidel Challenge period will receive a naming opportunity valued at $100,000. There are currently 126 naming opportunities still available in the ISE Lab.

Rising seas:  Research magazine focuses on sea level rise risks, preparation
12/22/2012 -

As the flattest state in the U.S., Delaware has a lot to lose in the face of rising seas. An estimated 8 to 11 percent of its land will be inundated by the end of this century, according to the state’s recent sea level rise vulnerability assessment, putting as many as 17,000 homes at risk, among other serious impacts.

The latest issue of the University of Delaware Research magazine showcases UD efforts to prepare for a “new normal,” from a new climate change education initiative for grades 8-12 — a National Science Foundation project that is a partnership with the University of Maryland — to the development of a new salt-tolerant crop plant for coastal farms.

Invasive species: Fooks, students help remove privet from Sharp Farm near Odessa
12/12/2012 -

University of Delaware instructor Jacob Fooks wanted students in his Department of Applied Economics and Statistics sustainable development class to experience things beyond the classroom, so when the opportunity arose to assist Delaware Wild Lands, a nonprofit land conservancy, with an invasive species removal project, he jumped at the opportunity. The UD students were assigned to work on a project at Delaware Wild Lands’ Sharp Farm near Odessa, said Fooks, who is a doctoral student in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.

Renewable news:  Wind, solar power paired with storage could be cost-effective way to power grid
12/11/2012 -

Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.

A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, the scientists found.

“These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive,” said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage — which we did by an exhaustive search — and to calculate costs correctly.”

News Journal: New Castle levees under scrutiny
12/10/2012 -

Coastal dikes in northern Delaware survived Superstorm Sandy without major breaches, but officials got a preview of just how vulnerable the levees could be during the catastrophic weather. Pounding surf and tides eroded chunks of the earthen structures, depositing mounds of debris on them and uprooting trees during the storm that struck the Atlantic coastline in late October.