delware environmental institute


Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

DENIN Symposium:  Environmental institute to hold second research symposium Jan. 12
01/04/2012 -

Faculty and students from across the University of Delaware are welcome to attend the second Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) Research Symposium on Thursday, Jan. 12, in Clayton Hall.

The symposium will introduce faculty with environmental interests who are new to the University of Delaware and to DENIN, with an emphasis on building a community that is truly interdisciplinary and University-wide.

“One thing we’ve realized in the first two years of DENIN’s existence is that environmental interest and expertise extends very broadly across the University,” said Don Sparks, director of DENIN. “At the same time, the agencies that typically fund scientific research are increasingly requiring the integration of social sciences, ethics, communication and education into research projects. DENIN’s symposium provides a forum for people to learn what others with environmental interests are doing right here at UD.” (full article)

Oceans Day: UD researchers highlight oceans at UN climate negotiations
12/28/2011 -

Oceans play a central role in climate--generating oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide and regulating climate and temperature. However, climate change is predicted to have adverse impacts on ocean resources and coastal communities, including ocean warming, sea-level rise and extreme weather events.

Coastal countries and small islands in particular stand to experience irreversible damage with severe socioeconomic implications. 

Delegates from around the world gathered in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month to work towards a global consensus to address climate change, and University of Delaware researchers played a lead role in discussions on the importance of oceans in climate issues.

Active environment: Art, outdoors come together for environmental studies student
12/27/2011 -

Jarret Katz is a youthful Renaissance man—artist, athlete and environmental activist. During summer 2011, all of these interests came together for the University of Delaware junior in an internship at the University of Rhode Island energy center.

An environmental studies major in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Katz started out in biology. But after one semester, he felt that bio wasn’t a good fit for him, and he decided to explore other options.

“I came across a listing for environmental studies,” he says, “and it just clicked. I was raised to be an outdoor person—I grew up ten minutes from the beach, I’ve been skiing since I was three years old, and I love to hike. Protecting the environment for those kinds of activities is important to me.”

River otters: UD grad student researches river otters, 'class clowns' of the animal kingdom
12/22/2011 -

11:08 a.m., Dec. 20, 2011--If high school existed in the animal kingdom, the river otter would be voted “class clown.” These curious and playful creatures have been known to chase sticks, play hide-and-seek and roll around in the grass. They’re loud, too. While playing, they bark, whistle, squeal and growl.


“A few years ago, I went to Centennial Park in Milton one Saturday and saw three river otters splashing around. They kept diving into the water and popping back up,” recalls Jason Beale, manager of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center in Milford. “The otters were a lot of fun to watch and they didn’t care that people were around.”

The North American river otter is native to Delaware and at one point was found throughout North America. But their range has been greatly reduced due to habitat loss and their sensitivity to environmental pollution.

12/21/2011 -


Contact: Melanie Rapp, DNREC, 302-739-9902

Delmar’s new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility unveiled
Plant provides significant clean water benefits, protecting public health and the Chesapeake Bay

DELMAR, Del./Md. (Dec. 20, 2011) – Delmar’s new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility was unveiled today at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included dignitaries from Delaware, Maryland, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They were joined by representatives from local construction and engineering companies who worked for more than a year to transform the outdated facility to an innovative, effective wastewater treatment plant that protects the health and safety of families and provides significant clean water benefits for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Delmar Mayor Michael Houlihan (Delaware) was joined by Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del), Senator Chris Coons (D-Del), EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin, Maryland Department of the Environment Deputy Secretary for Planning and Policy David A. Costello, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara and other officials to announce the expansion and upgrades at the facility.

Humboldt fellowship:  Levia awarded fellowship to conduct research on insect-forest interactions
12/20/2011 -

On the underside of a beech leaf, there may be small, white clumps that look like cotton candy. Upon closer look, these sticky fibers encase wriggling insects harming the tree’s health – and potentially the surrounding ecosystem.

The University of Delaware’s Delphis F. Levia, associate professor in the Department of Geography with a secondary appointment in plant and soil sciences, recently received a Humboldt Research Fellowship to examine the effects of these tree-damaging insects on forests and the water that flows through them.

“Whether insects, droughts, hurricanes or climate change, all of these things cause stress on our forests,” Levia said. “Our aim is to better understand how pest infestations affect the rainfall that passes through foliage, down tree trunks and into the watershed.” (full article)

Polar quest: Will Antarctic worms warm to changing climate?
12/19/2011 -

Researchers at the University of Delaware are examining tiny worms that inhabit the frigid sea off Antarctica to learn not only how these organisms adapt to the severe cold, but how they will survive as ocean temperatures increase. 

The National Science Foundation study, led by Adam Marsh, associate professor of marine biosciences in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, also will compare the process of temperature adaptation in the polar worm, known scientifically as Capitella perarmata, with that of a close relative that inhabits temperate waters, Capitella teleta.

UDRF grants: University of Delaware Research Foundation awards six projects
12/15/2011 -

 The University of Delaware Research Foundation (UDRF), a nonprofit organization supporting fundamental research in all fields of science at UD, has awarded six strategic initiative grants for collaborative research in the life and health sciences, energy and the environment -- areas emphasized in the University’s Path to Prominence. One of the awards went to a pair of DENIN-affiliated faculty.

Clara Chan, assistant professor of geological sciences, and Thomas Hanson, associate professor of marine biosciences, will explore how a single microbe can both synthesize and degrade a mineral. Their focus is Chlorobaculum tepidum, a bacterium that both forms and consumes globules of sulfur — the mineral that is responsible for the “Yellow” in Yellowstone National Park, is used as a slow-release fertilizer in agriculture, and is the desired end product for industrial processes to remediate toxic hydrogen sulfide. The researchers will work to identify the genes involved using advanced microscropy and proteomic techniques.

Energy conservation:  White House highlights Delaware's SEU among nationwide energy conservation programs
12/15/2011 -

The White House announced nearly $4 billion in combined federal and private sector energy upgrades to buildings over the next two years in a Dec. 2 press release.  The Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility’s Bond Program was one of several initiatives highlighted by the White House as a positive example of how to capture the enormous potential of energy efficiency and to lead the country in achieving a clean energy economy and green workforce.

Former President Bill Clinton also praised the Delaware bond in an interview on the TV news program PBS NewsHour. (The reference to Delaware begins at 3:40.)

The SEU, and its tax-exempt bond program, is a Delaware-grown idea conceived and developed at the University of Delaware by John Byrne, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy and Distinguished Professor of Energy and Climate Policy in the College of Engineering. (full article)

Blackbirds, fly: Colossal flocks of blackbirds are a common wintertime phenomenon in Delaware
12/14/2011 -

If your holiday shopping takes you to Christiana Mall, time your drive for a half hour before sunset. That’s when you’re most likely to see a massive flock of black birds winging its way to Churchmans Marsh.

This flock of several million birds forms a solid black carpet in the sky; if it was earlier in the day, when the sun is higher, the flock would blot it from view.  The mixed flock consists of true blackbirds (red-winged, specifically) but also common grackles, brown-headed cowbirds and starlings.

“It’s an amazing spectacle,” says Derek Stoner, past president of the Delmarva Ornithological Society. “The sky is filled with birds returning to roost in the marsh after a day of feeding. You get the very best views of this super flock around the intersection of Route 7 and Churchmans Road -- as long as you time it right.”

A flock of blackbirds so colossal that they block the sun sounds like something straight out of Hitchcock’s thriller, The Birds, but it’s a common wintertime phenomenon in Delaware.