A new two-book set titled Salty Memoirs: Adventures in Marine Science captures the fascinating story behind the University of Delaware’s world-renowned College of Marine Studies. Salty Memoirs is written by Joanne Currier Daiber and Dr. Franklin C. Daiber — two of the college’s first scientists.
The seeds of the college were planted in 1950 when the Delaware General Assembly allocated money to establish a marine program that would address a drastic decline in fisheries in the Delaware Bay. A handful of scientists were hired and housed in a deserted restaurant at Bunting’s Landing in Lewes, Delaware. The program blossomed, and in 1970, it was formally dedicated as the College of Marine Studies.
The two books — Views from the Distaff Side by Joanne Currier Daiber and Birth Pangs and Growing Pains by Dr. Franklin C. Daiber — are illustrated with numerous pen-and-ink drawings by the Daibers’ oldest son, Steven, a UD graduate. Black-and-white photographs of the early years also are included.
In Views from the Distaff Side, Mrs. Daiber, who married Dr. Daiber in 1953, describes both the grueling schedule faced by this fledgling group of scientists and the trials and tribulations of being the first female marine scientist to be hired by the University.
“Almost every day brought duties that demanded immediate attention,” Mrs. Daiber recalls. When her father urged her to take time off, she notes, “No one else did, and I was still trying to prove that a woman would not be a handicap to the job.”
In Birth Pangs and Growing Pains, Dr. Daiber recounts the challenges of building a program when only the bare essentials in terms of money, staff, and equipment were available. “The ceiling of our first lab,” says Dr. Daiber, “was so low that I continually broke the overhead light bulb with my head when I rose from my chair.”
Included in both books are detailed descriptions of the University’s first research vessels — Acartia, a 40-foot converted headboat, and Wolverine, a 45-foot ketch-rigged motor sailer. With tongue-in-cheek, Mrs. Daiber refers to Acartia as a “hardship,” while Dr. Daiber says, “It had a cabin, a faulty compass, a car engine, and little else.”
Acartia and Wolverine and the makeshift facilities are long gone — replaced by a 120-foot research vessel and state-of-the-art research laboratories. And while the original goal was to address local concerns, research at the college now encompasses marine issues on both a local and global level.
The Daibers’ pride in the accomplishments of UD’s first marine scientists is evident throughout their books. In closing, Dr. Daiber says, “What a princely place it was — and is — to work!” Salty Memoirs is not just a history of the College of Marine Studies; it is a testament to the individuals who helped build the college into the thriving institution it is today.
Salty Memoirs:Adventures in Marine Science, published by the University of Delaware, is available for $50.00. A dos-a-dos edition, where the two books are bound back-to-back, is also available. This edition features special covers that are hand-made from Spartina, a salt-marsh grass. For more information, please call the Marine Public Education Office at (302) 831-8083 or e-mail MarineCom@udel.edu.
Dr. Daiber has made a generous contribution to establish the Joanne Currier Daiber Fellowship at the UD College of Marine Studies in recognition of his wife’s pioneering work. The fellowship will be awarded annually to a female graduate student matriculated in the Marine Biology-Biochemistry Program. Contributions to the fellowship can be made by contacting the UD Development Office at (302) 831-8379.