delware environmental institute

IN THE NEWS

Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

Job well done:  Wilmington honors UD's Narvaez for coordinating inaugural Green Jobs Program
08/18/2011 -

Representatives from several environmental organizations attended the headquarters of the Challenge Program on the banks of the Christina River last week to celebrate the first class of teens to complete the city of Wilmington’s summer Green Jobs Program.

Martha Corrozi Narvaez, associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency, a program unit of the Institute for Public Administration in the the School of Public Policy and Administration, coordinated the Green Jobs Program and organized the closing celebration that honored the teenagers. (full article)

Governor Markell, City of Dover, LS Power dedicate 10-megawatt Dover SUN Park
08/17/2011 -

At a ceremony today attended by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Dover Mayor Carleton E. Carey, Sr., DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara and other dignitaries, White Oak Solar Energy, LLC, (a wholly owned subsidiary of LS Power Group) and SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA, SPWRB) recognized the commencement of operations of the 10-megawatt Dover SUN Park. Dover SUN Park is delivering solar power to the local utility distribution grid with the City of Dover, Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, Delmarva Power, and the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility purchasing the renewable energy credits associated with the system.

Summer achievements:  Symposium showcases summer undergrad research and service efforts
08/12/2011 -

Editor's note: This article highlights the work of two EPSCoR-sponsored summer research interns who were awarded prizes in the first-ever Undergraduate Research in Sustainability competition.

Undergraduate researchers were busy at the University of Delaware this summer, and the results of their research were on display during the second annual Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium, held Wednesday, Aug. 10, in Clayton Hall.

Representing every UD college and discipline, some 330 undergraduate research and service scholars and visiting scholars participated. The event featured 243 poster presentations and 87 oral presentations.

The keynote lecture, “Exploration and Exploitation of Mycobacteriophages,” was given by Graham Hatfull, Eberly Family Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Pittsburgh and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.

Mycobacteria cause diseases such as tuberculosis and leprosy. Mcyobacteriophages are viruses that infect mycobacteria. 

“We explore these phages by isolating new phages and analyzing their genomes in order to learn about what these phages are, their genetic diversity, how may types there are, and to see if we can learn about how they came to be,” Hatfull said. “We have barely scratched the surface. This is an incredibly rich field of information.” (full article)

Advanced spectroscopy in soil biogeochemical research
08/03/2011 -

Editor's note: This article appears in the August 2011 of CSA News, the magazine of the Crop Science Society of American, the Soil Science Society of America, and the American Society of Agronomy.

Synchrotron research isn’t just ideal for exploring natural materials such as soils, plants, and particulates, says University of Delaware soil chemist Don Sparks. It’s also ideal for fostering the explorations and development of young scientists.

“It provides a key learning experience,” says Sparks, who helped pioneer the use of synchrotron-based techniques in environmental chemistry two decades ago, “and a top selling point when students graduate and head into the job market.”

He should know. Under his mentorship, graduate students and postdocs frequently travel to synchrotrons around the country and the world, and today 24 of his former group members continue to conduct research at synchrotron facilities on four continents.(full article)

Water science, policy program launched: New interdisciplinary graduate program addresses the future of water
07/28/2011 -

The world’s human population is expected to top seven billion by April 2012. Of all the burdens this growing population places on the planet’s resources, none is more critical than the pressure on the world’s fresh water supplies. Just 2.5 percent of Earth’s water is fresh water, and much of that is frozen and unavailable to terrestrial life. Developing solutions to the problem of meeting the growing need for clean water that are socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable is the focus of the new interdisciplinary graduate program in water science and policy at the University of Delaware, which welcomes its first students this fall. 

For the love of trees:  Levia edits major book on forest hydrology and biogeochemistry
07/26/2011 -

Delphis (Del) Levia, associate professor of geography at the University of Delaware, has always loved trees. Growing up on his parents’ 93-acre farm in central Massachusetts, he and his brothers and sisters played in the woods all the time, under the towering American beech, sugar maple and oak trees.

As a freshman in college, he originally thought he would pursue a career involving another type of “green” as a financial adviser. But then he took his first course in forest hydrology and became instantly rooted in learning more about this science, which requires extensive knowledge of both trees and the planet’s water system to address such issues as the protection of watersheds for drinking water supplies.

Recently, the energetic Levia put his passion to the page, as editor of the new book Forest Hydrology and Biogeochemistry: Synthesis of Past Research and Future Directions. Published in June by Springer in its distinguished Ecological Studies Series, the 740-page hardcover book has 75 contributors from 14 countries and is designed to serve as a comprehensive one-stop reference tool for researchers and practitioners internationally. (full article)

Research rules:  Discovery learning rules the summer for Delaware EPSCoR research interns
07/22/2011 -

Thirty-nine undergraduate students from the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wesley College and Delaware Technical and Community College are spending the summer immersed in the nitty-gritty of environmental research with the support of the Delaware EPSCoR program.

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is funded by the National Science Foundation to help states build strategic research initiatives and institutions. In Delaware, the statewide program focuses on enhancing environmental science, engineering and policy research in support of the state’s goal of achieving a sustainable environment and a prosperous economy.

“An important aspect of advancing environmental research and policy in Delaware is ensuring that there is a solid stream of bright young people who are well-prepared to tackle the environmental problems and issues we face with creativity and innovation,” says Jeanette Miller, who directs the EPSCoR internship program. (full article)

NSF Highlight: Loss of large predators caused widespread disruption of ecosystems
07/20/2011 -

The decline of large predators and other "apex consumers" at the top of the food chain has disrupted ecosystems across the planet. The finding is reported by an international team of scientists in a paper in last week's issue of the journal Science. The study looked at research results from a wide range of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and concluded "the loss of apex consumers is arguably humankind's most pervasive influence on the natural world."

07/20/2011 -

DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship is now accepting project proposals from state, county and municipal governments and governmental subdivisions for matching grants for surface water project planning. Proposals must be received by 4:30 p.m. August 31, 2011.

The Surface Water Matching Planning Grant program is a set-aside in the state’s Clean Water Revolving Fund. Projects will be recommended for funding by Delaware’s Clean Water Advisory Council (CWAC) through a competitive grant process.

When viruses attack:  Chesapeake virus activity mirrors seasonal changes, plays critical ecosystem role
07/19/2011 -

The Chesapeake Bay houses a huge diversity of fish, birds, plants, and mammals. But to understand this vital habitat, University of Delaware scientists studied its tiniest inhabitants — viruses — and found that they play an extremely important role in the workings of the ecosystem.

The research, published in the June 24 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at viral lysis, the process through which viruses invade and destroy cells (in this case, microbes such as bacteria). The 4.5-year study revealed that the occurrence of viral lysis on microbes follows seasonal patterns. Particularly of interest, the researchers found that it plays a disproportionally large role in the mortality of microbes in the wintertime.

“Every year you can go back and find approximately the same proportion of bacteria being killed by viruses, and it follows these really nice seasonal patterns,” said lead author Danielle Winget. “It shows viruses are a part of this ecosystem, and they’re actually alive and interacting and following the same patterns of other living things.” (full article)