Looking for something different to do on your summer vacation? Come learn about the oceans and marine science on a free, guided tour of the University of Delaware’s marine research complex in Lewes. Tours are offered every Friday morning beginning at 10:30 a.m. during July and August.
Each tour is led by a trained volunteer from the community, called a docent, who introduces the public to the research and teaching facilities at the college. The docents typically guide more than 1,000 visitors through Cannon and Smith laboratories every year.
“The summer tours are ideal for anybody with an interest in the beach and the marine environment,” says Jean Boyer, director of the docent program. “Not only do we get the first-time visitor, but we also get many ‘repeat’ visitors who have a continuing interest in the college. In fact, the tours are so popular that area visitors will often call ahead, even before their vacation ‘officially’ begins, to reserve a spot.”
Each tour 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 is a walking tour of Cannon and Smith laboratories where the majority of the research in the college’s Oceanography and Marine Biology-Biochemistry programs is conducted. The walking tour typically takes approximately one hour to complete — making it ideal for the summer or weekend visitor to Delaware’s beaches.
The walking tour includes a visit inside the college’s greenhouse, where new uses for salt-marsh plants are being investigated. In addition, visitors may see scientists and graduate students conducting research in their laboratories.
Also included on the walking tour are a number of exhibits and displays that show how scientists at the college 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 for applications in science and industry.
New this year, and a highlight of the tour, is a tropical reef tank that introduces visitors to one of the most diverse communities on Earth — coral reefs. The tank, donated by the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, has an assortment of living corals and colorful fish as well as many other unusual marine organisms.
To join a Friday morning tour, call the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service at (302) 645-4346 no later than noon the preceding day to reserve a place. Tour groups are limited in size, so reservations are recommended. Families are invited to participate; the tours are suitable for children over the age of 12. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
In addition to the Friday morning tours, the college will continue to offer prearranged tours for groups of five or more people, junior-high age or older, Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Such tours may be scheduled by calling at least a week in advance. The Hugh R. Sharp Campus, located at 700 Pilottown Road in Lewes, is accessible to handicapped visitors.