In the early part of this century, the Delaware River and Bay ranked among the world's most polluted estuaries. However, in the last 25 years, thanks to targeted efforts to better control industrial and municipal inputs, the Delaware River and Bay have shown improvements in water quality unequaled by almost any other estuary in the world. But does that mean the estuary is now healthy?
On Thursday, July 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies (CMS) in Lewes, oceanography professor Jonathan Sharp will present a public lecture, "The Delaware River and Bay: How Clean Is Clean Enough?," as part of the "Ocean Currents Lecture Series" initiated earlier this year by CMS in honor of the International Year of the Ocean. In addition to giving a general overview of the chemical and biological information critical in understanding the past, present, and future state of the Delaware Estuary, Sharp will discuss how the Delaware system compares to its neighbor, the Chesapeake Bay.
A member of the CMS faculty for the past 25 years, Sharp has conducted oceanographic research on the Delaware River and Bay for two decades, generating one of the most comprehensive "biogeochemical" portraits ever developed for an estuary. Using the college's 120-foot research vessel Cape Henlopen, he has examined the complex interactions that occur between the estuary's basic physical characteristics -- river flow, tidal currents, salinity, and temperature; its basic chemical characteristics -- dissolved oxygen, nutrients, and toxic chemicals; and its biology -- especially microscopic algae and bacteria.
Additionally, Sharp serves as chairman of the environmental monitoring coordinating committee that is a cooperative effort of the states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the federal government, industry, environmental organizations, and academic institutions. He also chairs the board of directors of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Inc., a non-profit organization that is working to implement preservation and improvements of the estuary agreed upon by the three states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"The Philadelphia waterfront, once a foul-smelling eyesore, is becoming a magnet for tourism," Sharp says. "Populations of fish like shad, which migrate from the Delaware Bay through the tidal river, are returning in numbers greater than anytime in the past 80 years. Yet in spite of remarkable improvements, there are still problems in the estuary that need to be addressed now and in the future," he notes. "To understand human impacts on the Delaware Estuary, we need to take a look at the entire watershed surrounding it. We also need to have a detailed understanding of the impact of toxic chemicals, habitat alteration and destruction, and fishing pressure on the system."
Sharp's lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat for Sharp's presentation, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279. For more information about CMS, visit the college's Web site at www.ocean.udel.edu.