Indian River, Little Assawoman, and Rehoboth bays comprise a system of interconnected waterways known as Delaware’s Inland Bays. Every year, the Inland Bays attract hundreds of thousands of visitors who enjoy a myriad of activities, including fishing and bird watching. In addition, the bays provide important nursery grounds for both shellfish and finfish.
Unfortunately, the Inland Bays are plagued with water quality problems, which can upset the delicate balance of this fragile ecosystem. The bays are shallow, on the average of 3- to 8-feet deep, and are poorly flushed with seawater. Impurities that find their way into the water can remain for extended periods of time and have potentially devastating effects on this critical ecosystem.
On Tuesday, November 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Dr. Bruce Richards, executive director of the Center for the Inland Bays, will present “The Inland Bays: Pollution and Solution.” The lecture, which includes lunch, will kick off the sixth annual Wilmington Lunch and Lecture Series sponsored by the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies and the Sea Grant College Program.
“Many of the problems of the Inland Bays are due to excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that originate from human activities,” says Richards.“These nutrients feed the algae and can result in what is called an ‘algal bloom’ and make the water murky. In addition, the plant and algal growth often leads to depleted levels of oxygen in the water. Eventually, the plants and animals that live in the water cannot survive these low oxygen levels.”
After briefly describing some of the issues facing the Inland Bays, Richards will discuss his research on the effects of CCA-treated wood on benthic, or bottom-dwelling, organisms in the bays. CCA (chromated copper arsenate) is a chemical preservative that protects wood from damage by insects and microbial agents. CCA-treated wood has been used to build many of the piers, docks, and bulkheads found in the Inland Bays.
Initial findings indicate that CCA may affect the behavior of benthic organisms as well as increase their risk of mortality. These organisms include worms, oysters, clams, and crabs and are a critical source of food for shellfish and finfish that live in the bays.
“But the important point now is to focus on solutions to these issues,” says Richards. “This is where organizations like the Center for the Inland Bays, along with UD’s Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and other partners, can step in. Our role is to help citizens reduce the input of nutrients to the bays and improve water quality through research, education, and restoration programs.”
Prior to his position as the center’s executive director, Richards worked for the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service. He has a Ph.D. in agricultural education and a master’s degree in education from Penn State University and a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from UD. Richards currently is working toward a master’s degree in marine studies, also from UD.
The lecture includes lunch at the award-winning Hotel du Pont. To reserve your seat, at $15 per person, call (302) 831-8062. Or e-mail your reservations to MarineCom@udel.edu.