Tours offer a unique opportunity to learn about Delaware's
coastal environment. Photo by Lisa Tossey
For anyone who’s intrigued by the ocean or interested in a marine science career, a free tour of the University of Delaware’s marine research complex in Lewes, Del., is the perfect summer activity.
Tours are led by trained volunteer docents who introduce the public to the research and teaching facilities at UD's College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES). Docents typically guide hundreds of visitors through the research laboratories at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus every year. Tour content is suitable for adults and children ages 10 and older.
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, docents take visitors on a walking tour of the facilities where the majority of the research in the college's marine biosciences and oceanography programs is conducted. The full tour typically takes under two hours to complete, making it ideal for summer visitors to Delaware's beaches.
“Many residents and visitors to the area want to learn specifically about our local coastal environment, as well as the global oceans,” said Rosalind Troupin, director of the docent program. “Our faculty and graduate students are investigating fish, oyster, and crab populations; wetland invaders; water quality in the bays; wave action on our beaches; and the impacts of climate change.”
Inside the laboratories, scientists conduct research on topics ranging from the ecology of estuarine and coastal fish to the population dynamics of blue crabs and the genetics of marine organisms. The walking tour also includes a visit inside the college's greenhouse, where botanists are investigating new uses for marsh plants.
Also included are a number of 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. Visitors also learn how scientists are working to address local issues, such as the impacts of land development on Delaware water quality and wildlife.
A favorite stop on the tour is a tropical reef tank, which introduces visitors 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.
Tours are offered Friday mornings in June, increasing to Tuesdays and Fridays in July and August. Tour groups are limited in size, so reservations are required by noon of the preceding day. For complete tour schedules and reservations, call 302-645-4346.
In addition to these summer public tours, the college arranges year-round private tours for groups of five or more people 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Schedule by calling 302-645-4346 at least one week in advance. The Hugh R. Sharp Campus, located at 700 Pilottown Road in Lewes, is accessible to disabled visitors.
To learn more about the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, visit www.deseagrant.org. For more about CMES, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.