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Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

NSF Forum: The challenge of a sustainable future: Long-term ecological research offers new answers
02/10/2012 -

On Thursday, March 1, 2012, NSF will host a symposium titled "How Long-Term Ecological Research Informs Sustainability Science and Action."

The meeting is the 11th such annual NSF symposium to address topics in long-term ecological research.

50 years later: Activities recall devastating '62 Storm that pummeled Delaware coast
02/10/2012 -

In March 1962, a powerful, slow-moving northeaster pummeled the mid-Atlantic coast, bringing huge waves, extreme winds and record-setting tides over the course of three days. Often called “Delaware’s Coastal Storm of the Century,” the catastrophe destroyed homes, flooded communities and killed seven people.

In commemoration of the storm’s 50th anniversary, free public events highlighting coastal vulnerability and sustainability are scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

Bird count: Birds aren't flocking to backyard feeders this winter
02/10/2012 -

What’s in short supply this winter? If you said snow you guessed the first (and obvious) answer. But you may not have noticed what else has been scarce -- birds at backyard feeders.

“Our customers are talking about the fact that fewer birds are coming to feeders this winter,” says Charles Shattuck who, with his wife, Kathy, owns Wild Birds Unlimited in Hockessin. “I’ve heard reports of fewer birds at feeders across the East Coast.”

02/09/2012 -

The Delaware Association for Environmental Education (DAEE) will hold its third conference, which is focused on “Turning the Tide toward Environmental Education,” from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Officer’s Club in Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Del.

The one-day conference will kick off with a keynote address by Tom Horton, an award-winning environmental educator and writer. Horton is well-known for writing about environmental issues for the Baltimore Sun and has penned several books on the Chesapeake Bay as well as articles for National Geographic, Rolling Stone, and many other magazines.

More than 100 formal and non-formal educators in the field of environmental education will come together for the conference, which will feature several strands of educational sessions and field trips, as well as exhibits and opportunities for networking and professional development.

DNREC News: World Wetlands Day draws attention to new DNREC website.
02/06/2012 -

DNREC’s Delaware Wetlands website landed with a splash today in coinciding with celebration of World Wetlands Day. The newly revamped website at is replete with online tools, making it possible for all Delawareans to get involved in the ongoing effort to conserve our wetlands – the site is primed to host landowners, educators, volunteers, biologists, and environmental decision makers. “There’s something for everybody to help make a difference for our wetlands and to ensure that Delaware’s wetlands continue contributing to our quality of life,” said Mark Biddle, environmental scientist with DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship.

NSF Highlights: Engineering safer drinking water in Africa
02/06/2012 -

In the United States and other developed countries, fluoride is often added to drinking water and toothpaste to help strengthen teeth. But too much naturally occurring fluoride can have exactly the opposite effect. Large amounts of fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis.

"Dental fluorosis is a darkening or mottling of the teeth, and you can tell very easily when people smile, because their teeth will be dark and discolored," says Laura Brunson, environmental scientist at the University of Oklahoma (OU) in Norman, Okla. Skeletal fluorosis is much more debilitating.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Brunson is working on methods of removing fluoride from drinking water, using tools and raw materials readily available in local communities. Brunson and her team recently returned from a month of fieldwork in Ethiopia, where they tested filtering methods using charred bones and charred wood.

"We'd prefer to find filtration materials that don't have to be shipped in from another country, and that are inexpensive," says Brunson.

Promoting sustainability:  Volunteers needed to plan second Regional Institute on Sustainability
02/04/2012 -

The University of Delaware Sustainability Task Force is looking for volunteers to help plan the Regional Institute on Sustainability (RSI) to be held on the UD campus during the fall semester.

After the success of the 2011 Regional Institute on Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainability Task Force (STF) has committed to hosting a 2012 institute. 

01/31/2012 -

Delaware Technical and Community College is looking for volunteers to judge the 17th annual Science Expo. The expo, which is open to New Castle County middle school and high school students, will be held Feb. 28 and 29 and March 1 at the Delaware Tech Stanton campus

The event challenges students to pose a question and use the scientific method to perform and evaluate hands-on research. Each year, more than 100 members of the community volunteer to judge projects.

In addition to professors, graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to judge the event, even if they do no have a science background. “Anyone who is willing to review some very hard work of middle and high school students and provide constructive feedback is welcome,” Trish Warriner, program manager, said.

Not just for scientists: DENIN Research Symposium offers multiple perspectives on environmental challenges
01/31/2012 -

Over 150 members of the University of Delaware community filled Clayton Hall on Jan. 12 for the second Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) Research Symposium, an event that brought together speakers of disparate disciplines with a shared desire to address environmental issues.

The event included an introduction to four new environmental faculty members, a keynote speech by McKay Jenkins, the Cornelius A. Tilghman Professor of English, and a panel discussion consisting of five UD professors.

“This gathering of scholars from around the University, and of activists and others from the community around UD, was one of the most energizing meetings I've been to in years,” Jenkins said. “The initiative UD has taken on the environment, from its commitment to science and environmental policy to its latest investment in the environmental humanities, is promising indeed.”

Solar energy: UD a partner in $18.5 million solar grant with Arizona State University
01/31/2012 -

University of Delaware materials scientist Robert L. Opila is leading efforts with colleagues at Arizona State University to create a new hybrid solar cell with distinct efficiency advantages.Silicon solar cells, like those perched on top of homes and businesses, only capture up to 20 percent of sun’s energy.