This 1953 painting by Dr. Allan Colburn shows the former
restaurant at Bunting's Landing on the Lewes and Rehoboth
Canal that housed UD's marine biology lab from 1952 to 1956.
June 6 marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of what today is the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE). Originally with roots in marine studies, the college has expanded its research and teaching expertise over four decades to include the full realm of earth, ocean, and atmospheric systems.
The foundation for today’s CEOE began in the late 1940s with a significant decline in menhaden stocks in the Delaware Estuary. Recognizing the university’s potential to help determine the cause of this decline, the state allocated funds to establish a marine biology program at UD.
Over time, programs in aquaculture, marine geology, and ocean engineering also emerged at the university. To unite these marine research programs, the Board of Trustees created the interdisciplinary Graduate College of Marine Studies.
The college’s founders had a unique vision of an interdisciplinary marine institution that would include all aspects of human interaction with the sea. As a college of marine studies, it would move beyond just scientific examination to also include the political, social, and economic dimensions of the marine environment. At a time when most marine programs were highly stratified by discipline, this novel approach catapulted the University of Delaware to the forefront of marine education.
The college’s prominence was strengthened by two more actions in those early years. In 1974, the university broke ground for the first building at its marine studies complex in Lewes. The campus quickly provided researchers with state-of-the-art facilities and ready access to Delaware’s coastal and marine ecosystems. Two years later, the university became the nation’s ninth Sea Grant College. This designation reflected the university’s growing importance as a center for marine research. Today, Delaware Sea Grant is part of a national network of 32 university-based programs working to foster the wise use, conservation, and management of marine resources.
The college has grown considerably since those early years. The addition of the Department of Geological Sciences in 2006 broadened its scope and resulted in a name change to the College of Marine and Earth Studies. This change also marked the first time that undergraduate majors became part of the college’s academic tradition.
A second merger took place in 2009, when the college joined with UD’s Department of Geography to form the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. At that time, Dean Nancy Targett explained that “We have clustered units that share expertise in policy, science, and the human environment. In doing so, we are accentuating the already strong foundation that UD has in the areas of earth and ocean studies.”
The 2009 reorganization gave the college its current structure of two departments — Geological Sciences and Geography — and a School of Marine Science and Policy.
In addition to Delaware Sea Grant, CEOE houses the Delaware Geological Survey — part of a national network that conducts geologic and hydrologic research — and the Delaware Environmental Observing System, which plays a critical role in emergency management, natural resource monitoring, and transportation across the region. The college is also the administrative base of several research centers, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, and the Joint Institute for Coastal Research and Management — a partnership with China’s Xiamen University.
From its humble early days founded in fisheries to new research opportunities in alternative energies, CEOE continues to foster cutting-edge work that is opening up important new areas of study, responsibility, and, perhaps most importantly, opportunity.
For more about the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, visit www.ceoe.udel.edu.
Save the date for the college’s 40th anniversary celebration picnic Sunday, Oct. 3 in Lewes. Learn more here, or contact Claire Birney (firstname.lastname@example.org; 302-831-2169) with questions or to be added to the event mailing list.