The Delaware Sea Grant College Program, a statewide effort based at the University of Delaware, will receive over $1.3 million a year for the next two years from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct marine research, education, and public outreach projects critical to Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic region. The federal grant will be matched by over $500,000 annually from the State of Delaware and more than $600,000 each year from the University of Delaware.
"Delaware Sea Grant is committed to excellence in marine science research and education, as well as public outreach efforts such as Coast Day that engage thousands of Delawareans each year in learning more about the state's coastal resources," says Dr. Nancy Targett, director of the program and dean of the College of Marine Studies.
Every U.S. state with an ocean or Great Lakes shoreline has a Sea Grant program, which is a partnership involving the federal government, state government, and academic institutions. The program integrates university-based research and public education and outreach efforts to tackle major issues facing America's coasts.
"The goal of the Delaware Sea Grant College Program is to promote the wise use, conservation, and management of our ocean and coastal resources, which are under increasing pressure," Targett notes.
During the next two years, scientists and outreach staff at the University of Delaware will deal with challenges ranging from declining fisheries, to "smart-growth" planning for the state's rapidly growing coastal communities, to the implementation of new ocean observing systems that are designed to improve coastal weather forecasts and enhance boater safety, among other benefits.
A total of 19 projects, involving scientists, graduate students, and outreach specialists, have been funded in biotechnology, ecosystems, environmental technologies and engineering, marine commerce and transportation, and marine education, literacy, and outreach.
In Biotechnology, molecular biologist Pam Green and biochemist Yu-Sung Wu, who are both based at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, will continue their research to purify the protein in the female horseshoe crab that is such an attractant to eels and conch. The scientists' goal is to produce a synthetic protein that can be used in an artificial bait for the eel and conch fisheries. This would relieve fishing pressure on the declining horseshoe crab by eliminating the need to harvest the crab for bait.
In a regional research project based in the Chesapeake Bay, marine biologist Patrick Gaffney will expand on his research to develop a new genetic technique that is capable of distinguishing between hatchery-produced oysters and resident native oysters in the bay. The goal of the project is to help scientists and resource managers determine whether hatchery-produced oysters planted on newly constructed oyster reefs are surviving and contributing offspring to the area.
In Ecosystems, marine biologist Charles Epifanio and physical oceanographer Richard Garvine will collaborate with scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge and at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, on research about the region's most valuable commercial fishery: the blue crab. The scientists will examine how differences in freshwater flow from rivers and estuaries affect the blue crab population in the Delaware and Chesapeake bays.
Botanists Jack Gallagher and Denise Seliskar will identify salt-marsh plants that have the ability to filter and sequester nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, on a long-term basis or release these nutrients when the estuary is least vulnerable to algal blooms. In addition, they also will identify those plants that direct a large portion of their organic matter below ground. Such plants would have the ability to increase the elevation of the marsh surface as sea level rises, thus maintaining the area as an intertidal marsh.
In Environmental Technologies and Engineering, marine chemist George Luther will use a chemical analyzer system to measure the water quality in a "deep hole" in Torquay Canal where major fish kills have occurred. The analyzer system, developed by Donald Nuzzio, an adjunct associate professor at UD and president of Analytical Instrument Systems, Inc., in Flemington, New Jersey, in conjunction with electrodes developed by Luther in a previous Sea Grant project, allows for complex chemical measurements to be taken. The analyzer system will be moored from a homeowner's dock in Rehoboth Bay to monitor the water quality on a continuous basis. A second system, housed in a mooring, will be located in the lower Delaware Bay to determine whether it can be used on a long-term basis to monitor the water quality of coastal waters.
Policy experts James Corbett and Jeremy Firestone will develop a model that ranks various technology and policy alternatives designed to reduce the risk of introducing invasive species via the ballast water of ships. The model will assist decision makers in estimating the risk-reduction potential of emerging technologies, determine their cost-effectiveness, and evaluate uncertainty.
Marine biologist Charles Epifanio and physical oceanographer Richard Garvine, along with Charles Tilburg, a physical oceanographer at the University of Georgia, will continue their collaborative research to develop a predictive model of the blue crab fishery that considers the effect of natural forces -- wind and rainfall -- on the crab population. The model also may be applied to other species, such as bluefish, flounder, and menhaden, that use the estuary as nursery grounds.
Satellite oceanographers Xiao-Hai Yan and Victor Klemas, who co-direct UD's Center for Remote Sensing, will be assisted by postdoctoral researcher Young-Heon Jo on a new project to develop and advance techniques for incorporating satellite data into a coastal ocean observing system for the Delaware Bay and the adjacent coastal zone. Satellites offer a cost-effective method of collecting environmental data over large areas of land and sea at regular time intervals.
In related research, oceanographers Mohsen Badiey and Kuo-Chuin Wong will analyze data collected from coastal observing systems in the Delaware Bay to determine how wind varies over the length of the bay and how it affects sea level and the currents in the bay. The accurate prediction of sea level and currents in estuarine and coastal waters will benefit residents and environmental managers who are concerned about coastal flooding during storms and other strong wind events.
Badiey and Wong also will work with coastal engineer Jim Kirby to develop a model for "nowcasting" ocean surface waves. Nowcasting is a prediction that is time and place specific, usually covering a period of up to two hours. A well-developed wave-nowcasting capability that uses the real-time measurements currently available in Delaware Bay and along the adjacent Atlantic beaches could be used by local and federal entities in hazard evaluation, shoreline erosion management, and estuarine environmental studies. Furthermore, the accurate prediction of surface-wave conditions could be combined with weather forecasts to enhance the safety of mariners and fishermen.
Wong also will be involved in a continuing Sea Grant project led by marine geologist Christopher Sommerfield to identify the mechanisms that control the flow of suspended sediments in the Delaware Estuary. In spring 2005, sensor arrays were deployed throughout the estuary and recorded effects of a major flood of the Delaware River -- the third largest in the past 100 years. The new data will be used to assess the relative roles of tides, river runoff, and winds on salinity and turbidity, and how these conditions vary on a seasonal basis. Sediment flow in the estuary has impacts on the ecology, biogeochemistry, and quality of coastal waters.
In another project, Kirby will collaborate with scientists at Johns Hopkins University to provide a tool that will lead to better predictions of when and where rip currents are likely to occur. The scientists will obtain data from two heavily used beaches in Delaware and Maryland to validate models that simulate the environment in which rip currents occur. The data will be obtained from a network of local observers including Delaware Sea Grant specialist Wendy Carey, video cameras, and wave measurements.
Coastal engineer Nobuhisa Kobayashi will develop a model to predict the morphological changes of tidal flats due to sea-level rise, tides, and wind-generated waves. Besides serving as a storm buffer, intertidal mudflats are important food sources for crabs, shorebirds, and other marine life.
In Marine Commerce and Transportation, food scientists Haiqiang Chen and Dallas Hoover and seafood specialist Doris Hicks will determine the effectiveness of various packaging films for fish and fish products in eliminating Listeria monocytogenes, a microorganism that can cause serious illnesses and death. Ensuring that seafood is safe to eat and extending the shelf life of fish and fish products would benefit the seafood industry and consumers.
In another project, economist George Parsons will update a model that he developed in 1997 to assess the economic value of Delaware's beaches. This model will improve on his previous work by including beaches along the Atlantic coast, surveying residents from areas outside Delaware, and looking at extended visits to the beach, as well as other variables. The results will help policy makers predict the decrease in the economic value of a beach due to erosion or closure from an event such as an oil spill or, likewise, the increase in the value of a beach from nourishment projects.
In Marine Education, Literacy, and Outreach, the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, based in Lewes and led by James Falk, and the Marine Public Education Office in Newark, under the direction of Tracey Bryant, will conduct a wide range of outreach projects relating to K-12 marine education, water quality, coastal storms, seafood, fisheries and aquaculture, and other topics. The staff's award-winning educational efforts range from seminars, workshops, publications, on-line research expeditions, and Web sites, to the "SeaTalk" radio series and Coast Day.
Additionally, as part of a comprehensive initiative focusing on coastal communities, James Falk and Joe Farrell will address issues relating to wise land use, growth management, and natural resource-based planning; and Wendy Carey will assist coastal communities in reducing their susceptibility to coastal hazards. The outreach specialists will conduct educational programs and demonstration projects, provide technical support to communities and respond to public requests, and produce a series of fact sheets on issues affecting coastal development.
For more information, contact the Marine Public Education Office at (302) 831-8083, or visit the Delaware Sea Grant Web site at www.ocean.udel.edu/seagrant.