The tropical reef tank is a popular stop on the tours.
Photo by Andrew Tobias
The University of Delaware College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES) offers free guided tours of its Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes to schools throughout the region. 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.
Tours typically begin with a 15-minute video that showcases some of the many ways CMES researchers and students explore the coastal environment. The video highlights projects in which scientists study topics such as wind energy, invasive species, the use of marsh plants for biodiesel fuel, and emissions from oceangoing ships.
Following the video presentation, knowledgeable guides take students on a walking tour of the facilities where the majority of the research in the college's marine biosciences and oceanography programs is conducted.
Students will find many exhibits showing how UD scientists study extreme marine environments such as the frigid, ice-covered seas of the Antarctic and the super-heated hydrothermal vents found more than a mile below the sea surface. Students also will see how scientists are working to address local issues, such as the impacts of land development on Delaware water quality and wildlife.
“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,” Peter McLean, a ninth-grade biology teacher at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Del., said. He and his colleagues have been bringing their students on a tour of the college for the past 17 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,” McLean said.
In one laboratory, scientists are working to develop an artificial bait to use in place of Delaware's official state 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.
In a large greenhouse a short distance away, UD scientists are investigating salt marsh plants that can withstand rising sea levels and filter water pollution.
A favorite stop on the tour is a tropical reef tank, which introduces students to one of the most diverse communities on Earth. With the rapid deterioration of coral reefs worldwide, the tank provides a springboard for discussions about the causes of and solutions to this global crisis.
“We are mindful of educators' needs to align student field experiences with grade-appropriate science standards and are prepared to customize the tours accordingly,” Rosalind Troupin, a retired physician and director of the tour program, said. “Based on an educator's needs, we may, for instance, help coordinate a tour with a field biology or environmental education lesson involving naturalists in 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 one week in advance by calling CMES at 302-645-4346, by e-mailing Linda Milligan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing to the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, University of Delaware, College of Marine and Earth Studies, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes, DE 19958-1298. The Hugh R. Sharp Campus is accessible to people with disabilities.
To learn more about the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, visit www.deseagrant.org. For more about UD’s College of Marine and Earth Studies, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.