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 potential careers in marine science.
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 shores of Delaware Bay where scientists study invasive species, air and water quality, and the status of the horseshoe crab population, to the remote sensing labs in Newark where satellite technology is used to monitor and predict El Niño and other related phenomena.
Following the video presentation, knowledgeable guides take the students on a walking tour of the facilities where the majority of the research in the college’s Marine Biology–Biochemistry and Oceanography programs is conducted.
During the walking tour, the students will encounter numerous exhibits and poster displays that show how UD scientists study extreme marine environments such as the frigid, ice-covered seas of the Antarctic and the super-heated hydrothermal vent sites over a mile deep at the bottom of the ocean. Students also see how the scientists are working to address local issues including how land use affects water quality and, ultimately, the populations of fish and crabs in Delaware waters.
“The tour is a wonderful opportunity for our students to see the scientific method that they are learning about being used to solve real-world problems,” says Peter McLean, a ninth-grade biology teacher at St. Andrews School in Middletown, Delaware. He and his colleagues have been bringing their students on a tour of the college for the past 15 years.
“In addition, the students realize ways that they can have a positive impact on their environment as they witness the scientists’ search for solutions,” McClean adds.
In one 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. Horseshoe crab eggs are a vital link in the migration and breeding of shorebirds. A short distance away, investigations into new uses for salt-marsh plants are being conducted in a large greenhouse.
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. With the rapid deterioration of these reefs worldwide, the tank provides a springboard for discussions about the causes and solutions to this global crisis.
“We are mindful of educators’ needs to align student field experiences with grade-appropriate science standards and would encourage your contacting us for discussion if you’re considering a tour,” says Rosalind Troupin, a retired physician and current director of the tour program. “We may, for instance, be able to help coordinate a tour with a field biology or environmental education lesson with naturalists in the nearby Cape Henlopen State Park.”
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 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.