The University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program has earned high honors from a national review team, which recently concluded following a campus visit that the UD program is “in all respects considered excellent.”
UD’s program is “unique and one-of-a-kind in terms of its administrative structure within the University, its management, its high level of research, its outreach, and its translation of science to its constituents,” the team found.
As a direct result of the program’s “exceptionally high quality,” the review team included no formal recommendations in its final report.
Since the University of Delaware was named the nation’s ninth Sea Grant College in 1976, the program has conducted research on issues ranging from beach erosion to fisheries decline, educated hundreds of graduate students in marine science, and extended research-based information to the public through the Marine Advisory Service and Marine Public Education Office.
“We were honored to earn such high marks, which testify to the hard work and dedication of our researchers and outreach staff, as well as the staunch support provided by the State of Delaware, our Sea Grant Advisory Council, and the many citizens, agencies, and industries that work with us,” said Dr. Carolyn Thoroughgood, Sea Grant director and dean of the College of Marine Studies. “Sea Grant is indeed a true partnership aimed at fostering the wise use, conservation, and management of marine resources.”
The report recognized Delaware Sea Grant for best management practices in three areas — administration of Sea Grant funding, excellence in education for its interactive Web sites hosted in conjunction with deep-sea research projects such as Extreme 2001, and the annual Coast Day, which informs over 10,000 visitors each year about ocean issues.
Concerning funding, the report noted that the pursuit of matching grants from industry and the establishment of partnerships are strongly encouraged by Delaware Sea Grant, which sets aside federal money that can be accessed only if a researcher has an industry partner willing to match the funds dollar for dollar, either in cash or in-kind services.
“This approach has proven effective in gaining industry partners,”the report noted.
Delaware Sea Grant also has used its Web site “very effectively” in reaching the public with marine information, the report said. It specifically cited the interactive and highly educational Extreme 2000 site, which was followed this year by the establishment of an Extreme 2001 site (www.ocean.udel.edu/extreme2001).
At those sites, students, teachers, and members of the public can learn about deep-sea hydrothermal vents and the creatures that live there. During this year’s dive, from Oct. 15 through Nov. 1, students could interact with the scientists at sea via conference calls and e-mail.
Delaware Sea Grant also was recognized for its Coast Day open house, held annually at the Lewes campus. The event serves as an important forum for the dissemination of marine information and has earned state and national awards for environmental education.
The review team reported that Delaware Sea Grant has developed an aggressive and effective strategic plan, which lists 50 goals and objectives in the research priority areas of coastal ocean studies, coastal engineering, environmental technology, marine biotechnology, and fisheries.
The team noted that Delaware Sea Grant “is producing significant results in all aspects of their stated strategic goals. This is evidenced by the number and quality of peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, significant partnerships, and outreach.”
In reviewing each research priority area, the team commented on the program’s success in pursuing “sound research to solve practical problems,” such as the development of new micro-sensors for measuring environmentally important chemicals in marine waters and the adaptation of salt-tolerant marsh plants into new forage and food crops.
They pointed out that a current marine biotechnology project exploring the potential for microscopic organisms to naturally clean up toxic pollutants (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) in the Delaware River could have “significant” national economic benefit.
They also noted the “clever and efficient use” of an existing series of lighthouses in Delaware Bay as a novel environmental monitoring network. The evolving Delaware Bay Observing System (DBOS) is aimed at collecting real-time oceanographic and atmospheric data needed by scientists and resource managers.
The team recognized Delaware Sea Grant’s historically important contributions to fisheries research on blue crabs to weakfish and pointed to “especially noteworthy” research on essential fish habitat and on oyster genetics. They also noted that “biochemical research to develop an artificial bait for replacement of horseshoe crabs in trap fisheries seems destined for success and may assure conservation of the ecologically and economically valuable horseshoe crab resource.”
Concerning coastal engineering, the team noted that “the University of Delaware has one of the most highly respected programs in coastal engineering in the country.” Sea Grant researchers in this area “have made significant contributions in the understanding of coastal and shoreline processes,” and their work has been incorporated into national and international engineering practice.
The review team also acknowledged the “highly complimentary” feedback they received about Delaware Sea Grant from constituents ranging from individuals from state and local government, environmental organizations, and marine businesses, to Web site visitors.
“The constituents interviewed were extremely grateful for the assistance, advice, and hard data provided to them by members of the UD program,” the reviewers noted.
The review team included experts in fisheries, engineering, industry, and education appointed by the National Sea Grant College Program in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
A member of a national network of 30 Sea Grant programs, based in each coastal state, Delaware Sea Grant is funded by NOAA, the State of Delaware, and the University of Delaware.