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

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)

Beach buddies: UD monitoring program helps Delaware achieve highest national ratings
07/12/2011 -

Delaware’s beach waters are among the cleanest in the nation according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). That’s thanks in part to a partnership between the University of Delaware and the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). The UD Citizen Monitoring Program, run by Delaware Sea Grant and featuring the efforts of trained citizen volunteers, helps DNREC monitor the state’s waterbodies for signs of pollution. The program recently celebrated its 20th year serving the state.

An ultra-bright future:  UD grad students benefit from research at national laboratories
07/12/2011 -

Graduate students in soil and environmental chemistry at the University of Delaware have logged an unusual record of success in gaining access to some of the most advanced scientific equipment in the world at national laboratories around the country.

That access has been a key learning experience and a top selling point when the students graduate and head into the job market, according to Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Plant and Soil Sciences and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute.

Sparks has been instrumental in building the soil science program at UD and has served as an adviser to 52 graduate students and 25 postdoctoral researchers in soil and environmental chemistry. With his mentorship, students in his research group have frequently traveled to a number of national labs including Brookhaven, Lawrence-Berkeley, and Argonne, as well as the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, the Swiss Light Source, and the Canadian Light Source. (full article)

07/07/2011 -

For 20 years now, water quality monitoring volunteers with the Delaware Sea Grant-led University of Delaware Citizen Monitoring Program have fanned out across the state’s coastal region to visit assigned monitoring sites and collect data such as clarity and dissolved oxygen, harmful algae and bacteria levels.

The steady stream of information allows the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and other organizations to provide the public with appropriate health advisories and to keep a close eye on the quality of water.

While their complete impact can’t be quantified — it is known their efforts help ensure safe swimming water, clean shellfish to eat and a healthy ecosystem for citizens and tourists — the volunteers have contributed at least 25,000 service hours, an estimated $550,000 of donated time. (full article)

On top of the world:  UD geographers collaborate on Tibetan Plateau research
07/07/2011 -

A 10-day trip to western China’s Tibetan Plateau in June by two University of Delaware geographers may yield enhanced research collaborations in this vast area so high and cold it’s often referred to as Earth’s “third polar region.”

Profs. Del Levia and Frederick (Fritz) Nelson in the University of Delaware Department of Geography presented a series of lectures at Lanzhou University (LU) and the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The National Key Basic Research Program of China and CAS supported the trip.

The visit to Lanzhou was a reunion between the UD geographers and Professors Meixue Yang and Xiaohua Gou. Yang, a senior scientist with Key Lab, and Gou, a professor in LU’s College of Earth and Environmental Science, had spent two years at UD in 2006-2008, establishing ties among research programs at the three institutions. (full article)

NSF Highlight: International, interagency PEER program to launch at NSF on July 7
07/01/2011 -

Next week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and United States Agency for International Development will launch a new international, interagency joint initiative, PEER, "Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research." PEER addresses environmental challenges that affect both the United States and the developing world by reinforcing existing relationships and creating new connections. PEER unites NSF's competitively-awarded scientific investments in U.S. institutions with similarly awarded USAID funding directly to international counterpart scientists in the developing world to support and build scientific and technical capacity. PEER builds bonds that will endure beyond the tenure of the program awards.