delware environmental institute

Undergraduate Research: Special Project Opportunity

Using Salt Tolerant Crops on Marginal Agricultural Land

Deadline for applications is Friday, November 22, 2013.

The DENIN Environmental Scholars Program invites applications from UD undergraduate students for a research internship for the current academic year, to assist in assessing the feasibility of planting salt tolerant agricultural crops in lands that are too saline to grow more traditional agricultural crops.

Background:
Delaware is experiencing significant sea level rise, impacting low-lying agricultural areas and natural lands along Delaware’s coasts. Storm surges and extreme tide events have increased the salinity of soils, degrading soil quality and the ability to produce crops like corn and soybeans. Areas affected by salt water, while no longer suitable for standard crops, can support salt tolerant plants, such as the seashore mallow, a native plant. Seashore mallow has many potential uses as a crop; in addition, it provides ecosystem services such as air and water filtration, nutrient uptake, and reduced erosion.

The student selected for the seashore mallow project will work with a multidisciplinary team of researchers, extension professionals, and nonprofit partners who are interested in advancing the knowledge of seashore mallow as an alternative crop. Organizations working on this issue include a multidisciplinary, public/private/nonprofit collaboration among the Delaware Environmental Institute; the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service; Delaware Wild Lands; the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment; and the University of Delaware Sea Grant Program.

The internship is part of a broader research and implementation collaboration to assess the development and use of marsh plants, such as seashore mallow, as viable agricultural crops and sources of agricultural products. The intern will be expected to analyze GIS data to identify distribution, location, and area of coastal agricultural lands in Delaware and the region where production of traditional agricultural crops such as corn and soybeans is limited because of increasing salinity levels and create a map of affected areas for the team. Required skills include GIS data compilation and analysis, excellent research skils, organizational skills, motivation and ability to work independently, and good written and berbal communication skills.

The internship will begin in the fall semester 2013 on a part-time basis, will continue full-time during Winter Session 2014, and part-time during spring semester 2014. The intern will present his or her findings along with other DENIN Environmental Scholars in May 2014. The intern will receive a stipend of $4,250 for the period.

Download application materials here.