Teachers, are you looking for ways to introduce the world of marine studies to your students? How about taking them on a free, guided tour of the University of Delaware’s research facilities at the College of Marine Studies in Lewes? At these world-class facilities, students can get a first-hand look at science in action and learn about different careers in marine studies.
“It’s really a pleasure to take the students around,” says Jean Boyer, who took over as director of the tour program this year. “The students have an open mind and are very interested in what they see.”
Each tour typically begins with a 20-minute introductory video that highlights many of the college’s research activities. The video transports visitors from the beaches of Delaware Bay where scientists collect data to assess the status of the horseshoe crab population, to the remote sensing labs in Newark where satellite technology is being used to monitor and predict El Niño and other related phenomena.
Following the video presentation, trained guides take the students on a walking tour of Cannon and Smith laboratories where the majority of the research in the college’s Marine Biology–Biochemistry and Oceanography programs is conducted.
The walking tour contains numerous exhibits and poster displays that show how UD scientists are studying extreme marine environments such as the ice-covered seas of the Antarctic and hydrothermal vent sites over a mile deep at the bottom of the ocean. Research in these areas is leading to exciting discoveries and new techniques with applications in science and industry.
Students also get a chance to see laboratories where genetic research on marine organisms such as oysters and fish is performed and greenhouses where new uses for salt-marsh plants are being investigated. In another laboratory, scientists are working to develop an artificial bait to use in place of Delaware’s marine animal, the horseshoe crab, whose population has come under increasing pressure in recent years.
New this year is a tropical reef tank, which was donated to the college by the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, with an assortment of living corals and fish as well as other marine organisms. The tank introduces visitors to one of the most diverse communities on Earth — coral reefs.
Last year, Donald Ott, a naturalist and teen day camp leader at Cape Henlopen State Park, brought a group to tour the facilities. The tour was part of a program to show campers various career positions that could be pursued in college. In addition to wanting his students to see people working in marine science, Ott also wanted them to see the importance of protecting and studying Delaware’s bays and the ocean.
“My kids really loved the experience,” says Ott. “They had a great time exploring the facility and seeing the various research that was being conducted. They especially enjoyed going into the ‘open’ labs and looking at the different specimens that had been collected.”
The free tours may be scheduled for middle- and high-school classes of five or more people, Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Requests should be made at least a week in advance by calling the College of Marine Studies at (302) 645-4346, by e-mailing Jean Boyer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing to the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes, DE 19958-1298. The Hugh R. Sharp Campus is accessible to people with disabilities.