Back home in France, 17-year-old Julien Levaufre loves to learn about the sea. So when the friends he was visiting in South Bethany suggested going on a tour of the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies (CMS) in Lewes, he eagerly accepted. When Levaufre strode through the college's doors on July 30, he became the tour program's 10,000th visitor.
"It was a great milestone for our program," says Dorothy Danegger, who led the tour. Danegger is one of a dedicated corps of trained volunteers from the community, called docents, who introduce the public to the research and teaching facilities at CMS throughout the year. The tour program has been under way since 1992.
"Our goal is to help people learn about the ocean and the exciting research that's under way here at the college," she says. "In doing so, we get to meet so many nice people from all different walks of life."
During the tour, Lefauvre learned about the college's recent discovery of the most heat-tolerant organism on Earth--a worm that lives near hydrothermal vents over a mile deep on the Pacific Ocean floor--to the development of salt-tolerant crops from salt-marsh plants.
The French teen had never seen a horseshoe crab before coming to Delaware, so he was particularly intrigued by the research CMS scientists are conducting to develop an artificial bait to relieve fishing pressure on the animal, whose population appears to be declining. The crab's eggs provide a critical food source for migrating shorebirds each spring along the Atlantic Flyway, while a component in its blood is used to test prosthetics and intravenous medicines for dangerous bacteria.
The CMS tour was one of several highlights during Lefauvre's three-week visit with Dana Cowell, 15, and his parents, Daniel and Diana Cowell, at their summer home in South Bethany. The Cowells are from Huntington, West Virginia, where Daniel Cowell, a physician, is chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Marshall University School of Medicine.
The Cowells' association with the Lefauvres stems to World War II, when Mrs. Cowell's father, a member of the U.S. Army's 90th Division, helped liberate Julien's grandfather's hometown in Normandy. The 90th Division entered WWII combat in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Julien's grandfather is now working to establish a museum in France with the artifacts and stories he's collected from the war.
Julien Levaufre flew home to France a few weeks ago, with lots of great memories from his visit to Delaware, including the bit of history he made as the 10,000th tour visitor at the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies. Ironically, Levaufre's home is in Tours, France.
For more information about the CMS tour program, please contact the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service at (302) 645-4346.