The University of Delaware College of Marine Studies is offering free, guided tours of its facilities in Lewes. At this world-class research institution, middle- and high-school students can get a firsthand look at science in action and learn about different careers in marine studies.
"The tours give students the opportunity to learn about the wide range of issues affecting the local and global marine environment -- from climate change to fisheries management -- as well as the exciting multidisciplinary science needed to solve them," says Rosalind Troupin, a retired physician and interim director of the tour program.
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.
"We were all very impressed at how involved the college is in conducting research on a global scale," says Timothy Dalby, a seventh-grade science teacher at Stanton Middle School in Delaware who has brought his students to tour the facilities. "We are so used to thinking of Delaware as being such a small state -- the tour really opened our eyes."
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. A favorite stop on the tour is a tropical reef tank, which introduces students to one of the most diverse communities on Earth -- coral reefs. The tank has an assortment of living corals and fish such as the colorful clownfish that was featured in the animated movie Finding Nemo.
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 Rita Baty at email@example.com, 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.