We often associate acid rain with damaged forests and freshwater trout streams in the mountains of the Northeast and Canada. But the rainwater that falls on Delaware and its neighbors along the Atlantic coast is just as acidic. And scientists at the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies (CMS) are playing a lead role in assessing its magnitude, sources, and impacts.
On Thursday, September 30, at 7 p.m., marine scientist Joseph Scudlark will present "Acid Rain: Just a Drop in the Ocean?," a free public lecture at the University's Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. Scudlark will explain what acid rain is and where it comes from, look at the long-term trends associated with acid rain in Delaware and neighboring states, and discuss its ecological consequences.
"Our collection site on Cape Henlopen dates back to 1977, making it one of the longest continuous records in the United States," says Scudlark. "We've literally collected and analyzed every drop of rainwater that's fallen there over the past 22 years."
One way CMS researchers are using the data is to identify whether the costly emission controls mandated by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments are being effective in reducing acid rain. "Our lengthy data record is proving to be critical in sorting out the long-term trends from the year-to-year variability," he explains.
In addition to the acids, research has also begun to focus on other chemicals found in precipitation that are of environmental concern. For example, a recent study by Scudlark documents the importance of atmospherically derived nitrate and ammonium, which deposit to Delaware's Inland Bays, where an overload of such nutrients is causing a variety of adverse environmental impacts.
Scudlark also will discuss his unique research on trace metals in rain and how they can be used to "fingerprint" emission sources. As with nitrogen, the atmospheric input of toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury to surface waters also can be ecologically important.
Scudlark has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, and a master's degree in environmental chemistry from the State University of New York at Syracuse. He joined the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies in 1980 and serves as the college's laboratory technical coordinator.
His lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279. For more information, visit the college's Web site at www.ocean.udel.edu.