delware environmental institute


Environmental news from Delaware and the surrounding region.

As good as gold: Pyrite nanoparticles from hydrothermal vents are a rich source of iron
05/11/2011 -

Similar to humans, the bacteria and tiny plants living in the ocean need iron for energy and growth. But their situation is quite different than ours — for one, they can’t exactly turn to natural iron sources like leafy greens or red meat for a pick-me-up.

So where does their iron come from? New research published by Nature Geoscience points to a source on the seafloor: minute particles (called nanoparticles) of pyrite, or fool’s gold, from hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.

Scientists already knew the vents’ cloudy plumes emitted from the earth’s interior include pyrite particles, but they thought they were solids that settled back on the ocean bottom. A University of Delaware team has shown that the vents emit a significant amount of pyrite as nanoparticles, which have a diameter that is one thousand times smaller than that of a human hair. Because the nanoparticles are so small, they are dispersed into the ocean rather than falling to the bottom. (Full article)

See also the NSF news site.

A renewable twist on fossil fuesl: UD chemist wins award for novel renewable energy research
05/06/2011 -

Pulling valuable fuels out of thin air? It sounds like magic, but Joel Rosenthal, a chemist at the University of Delaware, is working to transform carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, into gas for your car and clean-energy future fuels.

Such a feat could help reduce the rising CO2 levels implicated in global warming and also offer a new method of renewable energy production. (full article)

Going with the wind:  Students certified to facilitate research at top of wind turbine
05/05/2011 -

Graduate students DeAnna Sewell and Blaise Sheridan have taken the idea of “hands-on learning” to a whole new level. Literally. The pair earned certification to climb the University of Delaware’s 2-megawatt wind turbine and recently completed their first ascent to the top of the 256-foot-tall machine.

After climbing the ladder that scales the tower’s interior, a process that took about an hour, they poked their heads out the top of the nacelle, which houses the turbine’s mechanical and electrical components. Stretching out below them was UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus, a wide swath of brown marsh, and miles of Delaware Bay obscured by the clouds of an early spring day.

"I’m not really afraid of heights," Sheridan said. "But you certainly found that out when you were sitting on top of the nacelle." (full article)

An award for cold, hard research:  Nelson receives lifetime achievement award for permafrost work
05/05/2011 -

Growing up, Frederick “Fritz” Nelson dreamed of traveling to exotic places. Over the years, the University of Delaware geography professor has ventured to Alaska, Canada, Russia, Mongolia, and places in between, to examine perennially frozen ground called permafrost and the implications of its thawing for society.

Along the way, Nelson helped to establish the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) network, which now consists of some 200 sites in 15 countries. The network is producing a long-term record of permafrost behavior to document how this frozen ground responds to snow cover and other climatic “drivers,” and to evaluate the performance of climate models.

In recognition of his contributions, the Association of American Geographers (AAG) presented Nelson with the Francois Emile Matthes Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cryospheric Science on April 14, at the AAG annual meeting in Seattle. The society, founded in 1904, has more than 12,000 members representing over 60 countries. (full article)

05/03/2011 -


DOVER (May 3, 2011) – In anticipation of its restart, the Delaware City Refining Company has received permits from DNREC and begun a series of projects that are expected to improve the environmental performance of the facility, as part of its commitment to the state to reduce the refinery’s emissions below all previous years of operation from day one.

Over the past year, DNREC has been in constant communication with the refinery’s new owner and management team to ensure that the turnaround activities proceeded in compliance with environmental regulations; that all required permits have been obtained, and that environmental obligations are understood and fulfilled since PBF Energy LLC purchased the refinery from Valero last year.

May 2: Water in developing countries: Case studies from Benin, West Africa, focus of Darcy Lecture
05/02/2011 -

Stephen E. Silliman, the 2011 Henry Darcy Distinguished Lecturer, will discuss his work in developing groundwater resources in Benin, West Africa, at a talk in Room 103 Gore Hall on Monday, May 2, at 3:30 p.m. Ensuring a high-quality water supply can pose challenges in developing countries, since it requires both reliable hydrologic data and effective collaboration among local communities. Silliman will discuss the value of both statistical analysis when sampling in difficult environments, as well as the power of close collaboration with in-country colleagues and local populations.

May 3: Where does water go when it rains?:  Watershed expert to present new data and innovative concepts
04/26/2011 -

Jeffrey J. McDonnell, the 2011 Birdsall-Dreiss Lecturer of the Geological Society of America, will discuss his new ideas conceptualizing runoff processes in headwater catchments at a talk in Room 102, Delaware Biotechnology Institute, on Tuesday, May 3, at 2 p.m.

McDonnell is University Distinguished Professor of Hydrology, Richardson Chair of Watershed Sciences and director of the Institute for Water and Watersheds at Oregon State University.

Streamflow generation concepts have remained largely unchanged since the First International Hydrological Decade (1965–1974) despite numerous case studies from an ever-widening array of catchments. McDonnell’s talk examines the future of runoff conceptualization and advances a simple concept of subsurface "storage excess" and offers evidence in support of storage excess using field data from catchments distributed across a wide array of climate, geology, vegetation, and topographic conditions. These data show subsurface storage filling and then spilling is a simple concept that makes sense across many scales and may help explain runoff amount and timing, geographic and time source components, and residence time. (full article)

Delaware EPSCoR annual meeting:  State leaders mark progress, plans in economic and workforce development
04/26/2011 -

Delaware EPSCoR, the statewide network that links higher education institutions with the public and private sectors to develop Delaware's research infrastructure and capacity, held its annual meeting on April 14 at the Delaware Technical and Community College campus in Dover.

At the meeting, approximately 70 people representing the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Tech, and Wesley College, as well as state agencies and the National Science Foundation (NSF), focused on how the program is having an impact on economic and workforce development in the state.

Henry Blount, head of the NSF EPSCoR Office, complimented Delaware EPSCoR on being a model of partnership for other states. Delaware is one of 29 states currently being funded by NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). (full article)

Environmentally responsible:  UD highlighted in guide to green colleges
04/23/2011 -

The University of Delaware has been named one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada, according to a new book published by the Princeton Review.

Created by the Princeton Review in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), The Princeton Review's Guide to 311 Green Colleges is a free guidebook that profiles institutions of higher education that demonstrate a notable commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. Schools were selected based on a survey of administrators at hundreds of colleges that the company polled in 2010 about their school's sustainability initiatives.

The guide's section on the University of Delaware notes that the "overarching objective is to make the University of Delaware a national and international resource for environmental research, technology, education and policy -- today and into the future -- by leading the way in environmental research, becoming 'The Green University,' developing and demonstrating alternative energy technologies and integrating environmental programs within the curriculum." (full article)

Eco-attire wins design award:  UD students honored for eco-friendly clothing, footwear
04/22/2011 -

Eco-friendly clothing and footwear has earned four University of Delaware undergraduates the 2011 Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology (YCOSST) P3 design award.

Given by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE) Institute for Sustainability, the award recognizes the UD research team’s interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in creating sustainable products.

Huantian Cao, associate professor in fashion and apparel studies, and Richard P. Wool, chemical engineering professor and director of the Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources (ACRES) program, advised the group with help from chemical engineering graduate student Mingjiang Zhan. (full article)