Volume 20, No. 1 Special Issue 2001
Preserving Delaware's Coastal Heritage
When you look at a map of Delaware, what do
you see? At the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program,
our focus is on the state's coastal resources the ocean,
bays, beaches, marshes, and marine life that make the "Diamond
Since our program was established in 1976,
our goals have been to promote the wise use, conservation, and management
of Delaware's coast through three major efforts: the conduct of
high-quality marine research, the education of graduate students
who will become tomorrow's environmental scientists and teachers,
and the transfer of useful information to the public on topics ranging
from rip currents to seafood.
From the early days of human settlement,
the ocean and coast have played a critical role in sustaining us,
providing food, transportation, industry, and recreation. Today,
Delaware's ocean beaches attract millions of visitors a year, while
our bay beaches rank as one of the world's key stopovers for migrating
shorebirds. The Delaware Bay is a vital shipping corridor, supporting
the fourth largest port complex in the nation. It is also the world's
population center for the horseshoe crab and home to over 100 species
This map points out just a few of the coastal
resources we have, the benefits we derive from them, and the pressures
they face from human and natural forces. I hope it will remind you
of our state's rich coastal heritage and how important it is to
As we mark 25 years of history at the University
of Delaware Sea Grant College Program, we renew our commitment to
addressing coastal challenges on behalf of Delawareans and the environment
we all depend on.
Dr. Carolyn A. Thoroughgood
Director, Sea Grant College Program
Dean, College of Marine and Earth Studies
What is Sea Grant?
Congress established the National
Sea Grant College Program in 1966 to foster research and education
focusing on marine resources "a far-reaching and largely
untapped asset of immense potential significance to the United States."
The name "Sea Grant" was chosen as a parallel to the "Land
Grant" program, which was created in 1862 to accelerate U.S.
In 1968, the University of Delaware received
funding for its first Sea Grant project, on the declining oyster
population in the Delaware Bay. Our capabilities in marine science
and outreach grew steadily. In 1976, in recognition of our academic
excellence and strong statewide support, the University of Delaware
was designated the ninth Sea Grant College in the United States.
Today, there are 30 Sea Grant programs,
one in each coastal state. It is a unique partnership between the
nation's universities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
and the states aimed at advancing coastal research, education, and
During the past 25 years, Delaware Sea Grant
has conducted research in coastal engineering to marine biotechnology.
We've trained hundreds of students and shared information with thousands
of citizens via our Marine Advisory Service and Marine Communications
staffs. An advisory council of leaders in state government, industry,
education, and resource management plays a key role in guiding our
The following pages highlight several of
our program's past accomplishments and current efforts. To learn
more, please visit our Web site at www.ocean.udel.edu.
We look forward to welcoming you aboard!
Helping the Horseshoe Crab
The number of horseshoe crabs that come ashore
along Delaware Bay to spawn each spring has declined by more than
50% in the last decade from over 1 million crabs to 500,000
crabs according to an annual census that Sea Grant helps
organize along Delaware and New Jersey beaches.
The crab's welfare is critical to thousands
of migrating shorebirds that stop by Delaware Bay each spring to
feed on the crab's protein-rich eggs before resuming their flight
to the Arctic. Fish also rely on the crab's eggs for food.
The horseshoe crab also benefits human health.
Its blood, removed with no apparent harm to the crab, contains a
clotting agent called Limulus amoebocyte lysate (LAL), which
is used to test intravenous drugs, heart valves, and other prosthetics
The horseshoe crab also has been used for
years as bait in the eel and conch fisheries. Marine biologist Nancy
Targett and graduate student Kirstin Ferrari recently isolated the
compound in the crab that is so irresistible to eels and conch.
It is concentrated in the female's eggs and found in smaller quantities
in hemolymph, a blood component that is discarded when the crabs
"donate" some of their blood to human medicine.
The scientists are working to incorporate
the hemolymph's fish-attracting properties into an inexpensive,
artificial bait to relieve fishing pressure on the crab. The scientists
have met with a bait manufacturer and developed several prototypes
that will be tested this summer.
Chitin Is Excitin'!
In the 1970s and '80s, Delaware Sea Grant scientists
Paul Austin, John Castle, and Charles Albisetti discovered how to
dissolve a compound called chitin ("kite'n") found in
blue crab shells the waste left in seafood processing
and formulate it into a variety of products. Today, chitin and its
derivatives are used to make absorbable, non-allergenic sutures,
wound-healing dressings for burn victims, cholesterol-reducing medications,
dietary supplements, and other products.
A Cool Tool for "Hot"
The gold-tipped microelectrode that George
Luther has invented is advancing marine research. The probe can
instantaneously measure key aquatic health indicators including
dissolved oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, manganese, and iron. Previous
sensors could measure only one element at a time.
Last year, Luther used the sensor in Torquay
Canal off Rehoboth Bay to find out why two fish kills occurred.
The device also is aiding other U.S. researchers, as well as scientists
in Canada, Germany, Ukraine, and other countries.
Luther recently adapted the sensor for work
deep in the ocean at underwater geysers called hydrothermal vents.
Coated in tough plastic and placed inside a wand attached to a submarine,
the novel tool acquired the first, real-time readings of the sulfur
compounds in the hot, toxic water rocketing out of the Earth's crust.
This information is helping scientists learn more about the heat-hardy
worms and other creatures that live there. Some possess heat-tolerant
enzymes that might be harnessed for processing food and other applications.
Studying the Ocean from Space
Orbiting above the Earth, satellites provide
marine scientists with the ability to forecast phenomena ranging
from El Niño to the path of an oil spill.
In Sea Grant research, scientists Vic Klemas
and Xiao-Hai Yan have been using satellite data to track the invasive
plant Phragmites in the state's marshes. They also are refining
techniques to detect chlorophyll, a key indicator of microscopic
plants in bay surface waters. Algae form the base of the food chain,
providing food for fish. However, when too abundant "fertilized"
by high nutrient inputs from land runoff algae can harm the
bays. As the tiny plants decompose, the water is robbed of oxygen.
In a new project, co-sponsored by the U.S.
Office of Naval Research, the scientists are examining satellite
images for internal waves. These waves, which occur offshore entirely
underwater, can reach the height of a 30-story building. They pose
danger to submarines and offshore oil rigs.
Catching a Wave
Using a flume at the University of Delaware
Center for Applied Coastal
Research, engineer Jim Kirby and graduate student Arun Chawla
conduct experiments to simulate high-energy waves. The researchers
recently tested and refined a computer model that can estimate when
hazardous conditions would be expected to occur in inlets, making
them unsafe for navigation.
Their study is being integrated into Delaware
Sea Grant's popular Refraction/Diffraction model, which is being
used by engineers in the United States and around the world to show
how waves behave near harbors, inlets, and islands. The model can
be used to determine, for example, what changes in wave height might
occur if a new channel were dredged near a harbor. The tool helps
engineers test shore protection designs and strategies before they
From Salt Marsh to Farm Crop
Salt from years of irrigation and fertilization
has snuffed out over 15% of the world's once-productive farmland.
In the 1980s, Delaware Sea Grant scientists Denise Seliskar and
Jack Gallagher began examining tidal marsh plants, which tolerate
salt water, to see if any of them could be developed into crops
for salty fields.
The researchers pioneered new techniques
for culturing salt-tolerant plants, which "speed up" nature,
yielding many plants with different genetic characteristics. These
plants are then analyzed for high seedling vigor, nutritional value,
and taste. Delaware "marsh crops" a hay, a grain,
and a spinach-like vegetable are now being tested locally
as well as in China, Egypt, Israel, and Thailand.
of the Marsh
and into Wastewater Treatment
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranks
Phragmites australis (common reed) the number-one invasive
species in our region. It has overtaken more than a third of Delaware's
tidal marshes, crowding out plants that are better for wildlife.
In the 1980s, Delaware Sea Grant researchers
Jack Gallagher and Denise Seliskar helped resource managers pinpoint
the optimum time to spray Phragmites with herbicide. The
present control method is to spray the plant in the late summer
and early fall and burn the dead canes in the spring a process
that doesn't always stop the marsh invader from coming back.
Currently, with support from Sea Grant and
Public Service Enterprise Group's Estuary Enhancement Program, the
scientists are evaluating marsh plants found in nature, as well
as plants they have cultured in the lab, to assess their ability
to form a natural barrier, or "biological fence," to Phragmites.
The scientists also have been helping Phragmites
turn over a new leaf and become a "sludge buster." The
scientists have developed a striped variety of the plant that is
not likely to escape sewage treatment facilities and become a weed.
Once planted in sludge drying beds, Phragmites' extensive
root system helps dry out and decompose treated waste, reducing
sludge removal costs and landfill fees. In recent tests, Phragmites
helped save the wastewater treatment plant in Bridgeville, Delaware,
about $2,000 per year.
Training Tomorrow's Environmental Leaders
Graduate students in marine science gain
valuable hands-on experience assisting their advisers with Sea Grant
research. They also may compete for the National Sea Grant Program's
John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, which enables awardees
to spend a year working in Washington, DC, to see how coastal policy
is developed and implemented at the national level. Giselle Firme,
a master's student in oceanography at the UD College of Marine Studies,
won one of the coveted fellowships this year. She is now working
in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office
of the Chief Scientist, assisting the Science Advisory Board and
the National Invasive Species Council.
So far, Delaware Sea Grant has contributed
to the graduate education of over 300 students, who now hold careers
in academia, resource management, government, and industry. For
example, after graduating with his Ph.D. from the UD College of
Marine Studies in 1985, Doug Hicks capitalized on his Sea Grant
research experience to create a line of patented high-pressure pumps
Delpumps that can provide drinking water to
mobilized U.S. and Canadian troops, process chemicals, and perform
other functions. Today, he is president of Composite High-Pressure
Technologies Manufacturing, Inc., in Lewes, and department chair
for engineering technologies at Delaware Technical and Community
College in Georgetown.
Developing High-Tech Probes
Detect Harmful Algae
This is a magnified view of the toxic stage
of Pfiesteria piscicida. The microscopic organism belongs
to a small group of algae that grow rapidly, or "bloom,"
under certain conditions in seawater, with serious consequences.
Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) species have been linked to fish kills,
human health problems, and other impacts.
Marine scientists David Hutchins and Craig
Cary recently created a super-sensitive molecular probe to test
for the presence of Pfiesteria in coastal waters. With Sea
Grant support, they are now developing a probe to rapidly detect
another HAB species brown tide (Aureococcus anophagefferens).
While this microscopic plant is harmless to humans, it can hurt
bays and estuaries. When it blooms at the water's surface, it forms
a thick brown soup that shades out underwater life. In New York
and New Jersey, brown-tide blooms have caused millions of dollars
in losses to the shellfish and tourism industries.
In 1998, in research funded by Sea Grant
and Delaware's Center for the Inland Bays, Hutchins discovered small
numbers of brown-tide organisms in Little Assawoman Bay the
southernmost reporting to date. Once the probe is ready, the scientists
will use it to determine brown tide's range along the East Coast,
how nutrient inputs affect its growth, and the potential for a brown
tide "bloom" in Delaware.
Coast Day: An Ocean of Fun!
Delaware Sea Grant hosted the first Coast
Day at the University of Delaware's Lewes campus in 1977. Today,
the award-winning open house, held the first Sunday in October,
annually attracts over 10,000 visitors who take part in dozens of
activities from laboratory research demonstrations to ship
tours, popular science lectures, a crab cake cook-off, and much
Visitors give Coast Day a high educational
ranking. In a recent survey, 99% said they left Coast Day with a
better understanding and appreciation of marine resources.
Sea Grant Education & Outreach
Serving as the "honest
broker" sharing timely, trustworthy information about
marine issues and phenomena is a hallmark of Sea Grant. Our
Marine Advisory Service (MAS) and Marine Communications staff deliver
information through seminars, publications, SeaTalk
radio announcements, and Web sites. Our outreach team includes specialists
in the following areas. For more information, contact the MAS at
(302) 645-4346 or Marine Communications at (302) 831-8083.
Marine Recreation and Tourism. Jim
Falk, MAS director, helps coastal residents deal with issues
ranging from boating safety to Pfiesteria. In May, he helped
organize "Livable Communities," a seminar for local
officials and developers focusing on land-use planning techniques
that make protecting natural resources a top priority. Last year,
his Inland Bays boater guide, packed with conservation tips, won
top honors in the Governor's Tourism Awards.
Coastal Processes. Wendy
Carey teaches audiences about natural forces that impact the
shore from rip currents to hurricanes and how to minimize
risks to life and property. In March, she held a workshop on the
infamous 1962 storm that devastated Delaware's coastal communities.
Over 200 residents turned out to share photos and personal recollections,
as well as learn storm-resistant construction techniques. Last fall,
she received an award for her outreach activities from the Federal
Emergency Management Agency.
Aquaculture. If you're interested
in fish farming, John
Ewart can help you. He operates the Delaware Aquaculture Resource
Center at the Lewes campus, a one-stop shop providing reports and
videos on raising fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. His Web site
provides information to several thousand visitors each year.
Currently, he's working to establish a pilot-scale oyster reef in
the Inland Bays with the help of local volunteers.
Seafood Technology. Doris
Hicks teaches seafood processors, restaurant personnel, and
the public how to properly handle, store, and prepare seafood via
workshops, publications, videos, and the Internet. She also writes
the popular "Seafood Advisor" column, which is now available
on the National Fisheries Institute's Web site aboutseafood.com.
Marine Education. Bill
Hall helps bring the ocean to Delaware classrooms. He trains
dozens of teachers in marine and aquatic science each year in workshops
hosted with the Delaware Department of Education. He also is an
event supervisor for the National Science Olympiad, helps coordinate
Bay horseshoe crab census, and writes popular publications on
dolphins to blue crabs.
Marine Resource Management.
Joe Farrell organized the Inland
Bays Citizens Monitoring Program in 1991. Today, the program
is still going strong, with 30 volunteers collecting and analyzing
bay water samples. This summer, volunteers will participate in a
pilot program to monitor microscopic plants in the bays in response
to growing concerns about Harmful Algal Blooms. He also helps conduct
public meetings on coastal issues ranging from land use to watershed
Marine Transportation. Dave Chapman
joined the MAS as a part-time specialist in February. He's transferring
research on ship emissions and fuel-efficient technologies to the
maritime industry. He's also meeting with port authorities and ship
owners to explore ballast policies and other issues.
Marine Communications. Professional
communicators play a critical role in marine education, translating
complex research into engaging publications, radio announcements,
and Web sites. The Marine
Communications staff reached thousands of people last year and
won 15 state, regional, and national awards for excellence. The
team, led by marine outreach coordinator Tracey Bryant, includes
production manager Pam Donnelly, artist David Barczak, writer Kari
Gulbrandsen, and staff assistant Kim Doucette. In October, they
will premiere a new Web expedition to hydrothermal vents with UD
2001: A Deep-Sea Odyssey.
Sea Grant College Program
1, 2000 June 30, 2001
Federal & Other