Kathryn Coyne and Dana Veron have joined the research faculty of the UD College of Marine Studies. Coyne joins the Marine Biology–Biochemistry Program as an assistant professor at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, and Veron joins the Physical Ocean Science and Engineering Program as an assistant professor at the Newark Campus.
Coyne is conducting research on the factors that cause certain algae to grow to very high densities, or “bloom,” producing what is known as a harmful algal bloom (HAB). Some HABs form large, unsightly mats of algae near the water’s surface or discolor the water. Other algal species produce toxins that are harmful to finfish and shellfish as well as to humans.
In the past, a HAB would not be noticed until the water became discolored, the fish began dying, or there was an odor associated with it. However, Coyne is working to develop methods that will detect these species at very low concentrations, before the bloom occurs.
“We’re starting to look at why certain HAB species bloom at certain times and other species don’t,” says Coyne. “We’re beginning to see that salinity and temperature seem to have a huge impact on species selection during the early stages of a bloom. We’re also starting to understand how human impacts such as increasing the amount of nutrients — whether it’s nitrates, phosphates, or ammonium — that are being washed into the bays affect the growth of these species.”
This research will assist resource managers and the public in taking steps to prevent or mitigate the impact of a HAB. For example, if overfertilization of lawns is shown to be a factor in the growth of HABs, educational programs can be established to encourage a reduction in the use of fertilizer. Coyne’s research is being supported by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I’m thrilled about becoming an assistant professor,” says Coyne, who has been a research scientist at the college since 2004. “I’ve been part of the University community for over 20 years — it has been a large part of my life. Although this position is a commitment by the college to me, it also represents a larger commitment from me to the college.”
Coyne earned an associate’s degree in biology in 1979 from Morrisville College of Agriculture and Technology, a unit of the State University of New York. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Delaware in 1986 and 1997, respectively. From 1997 to 2004, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the college.
Veron will be conducting research on the effect that cloud geometry has on the amount of shortwave radiation that is transmitted through the atmosphere and eventually reaches the surface of the Earth. Incoming radiation is an important factor in the movement of air in the atmosphere and the temperature of the Earth’s surface, which, in the long turn, affects the Earth’s climate.
“The fact that clouds have a size and a shape and spacing actually has a large effect on how much sunlight reaches the surface of the Earth,” says Veron. “However, the spatial resolution in most climate models has not been high enough to resolve individual clouds or even cloud fields.”
According to Veron, the models also had to use numerous approximations to describe the physical and geometrical properties of cloud fields. These approximations are the major contributor to the large degree of uncertainty in the ability of these models to predict climate change.
The creation of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program in the early 1990s, by the U.S. Department of Energy, has provided continuous field measurements on cloud and radiation properties. These observations are recorded on spatial and temporal scales, which are useful for developing and evaluating the representation of clouds in modern climate models.
Veron will use these measurements, both directly as well as through statistical measures, to simulate the effects of clouds on the radiation field. This should improve the ability of climate models to simulate current and future conditions. Her research is being supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.
“There is a large potential for developing exciting collaborations with colleagues at the University and for broadening my research areas,” says Veron. “This potential for growth is part of what attracted me to the University of Delaware.”
Veron earned a bachelor’s degree in physics with a minor in mathematics from the State University of New York’s College at Geneseo in 1995 and a doctorate in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in 2000. Prior to joining the University of Delaware, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.