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Our History

We trace our roots from inception as a marine program 1951, to the 1970s when we were the Graduate College of Marine Studies, to 2006 with our growth to the college of Marine and Earth Studies, through today as the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

While our name and scope has changed, what has not changed throughout our history is our passion for educating our students, serving the public through science and being on the cutting edge of discovery in the realm of earth, ocean, and atmospheric systems.

Marine LaboratoryThe college has its roots in the marine environment. In 1950, a group of local fishermen, alarmed by a drastic decline in Delaware Bay fisheries, approached the Delaware General Assembly for help. The 116th session of the General Assembly responded by allocating $30,000 to set up a marine biology program in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware.

history-GroundBreak.jpgDuring those years, important programs in aquaculture, ocean engineering, and marine geology also emerged at the University. To unite these marine research programs, the Board of Trustees created the College of Marine Studies on June 6, 1970. 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, its mission would be to move beyond just scientific examination by also studying 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.

In March 1974, ground was broken for Cannon Lab, the first building of the University's new Marine Studies Complex in Lewes. Participating in the ground-breaking ceremony were, from left, Seymour (Sy) Orlofsky, President, Columbia LNG; James Beebe, MD, President of Beebe Hospital; Dr. E. Arthur Trabant, President University of Delaware; Honorable Sherman W. Tribbitt, Governor of Delaware; Dr. William S. Gaither, Founding Dean of CMS; Dr. Kent Price, Associate Dean, CMS.

Just six years later, in 1976, the University of Delaware became the nation’s ninth Sea Grant College, a designation which reflected the University's growing importance as a center for marine research. Today, there are 30 Sea Grant programs, one in every coastal state and one in Puerto Rico.

history-PennyHall.jpgThe College has grown considerably since those early years. The addition of the Department of Geological Sciences in 2006 broadened the scope of the college and resulted in the name change to the College of Marine and Earth Studies. Until it joined CMES, Geology resided in the College of Arts and Sciences where it had been a department since 1960. The University of Delaware has offered undergraduate degrees in Geology since the early 1960s and has offered master and doctoral degrees in geology since 1968.

Penny Hall is the home of the Department of Geological Science. It is named in memory of Prof. Charles Lyndell Penny, who taught geology and mineralogy at the University from 1900-24. It was a gift of the family of Irenee du Pont (1876-63), and it also houses the University Mineralogical Museum, which has a collection of more than 6,000 specimens.

history-PearsonHall.jpgIn July, 2009 CMES joined with the Department of Geography to form the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. The addition of our colleagues in the areas of atmospheric science, human and physical geography and environmental science and studies enhanced our work in earth systems. The marine programs of the college were housed under the newly formed School for Marine Science and Policy, whose director is based in Lewes, Del., home of the college’s marine science labs and marine fleet.

The Geography Department is housed in Pearson Hall, named in honor of University benefactors Edith du Pont Pearson and her late husband, longtime trustee G. Burton Pearson, Jr.

Today, we offer modern instruction and research facilities in both the Newark and Lewes campuses and our facilities house the world class Irenee DuPont Mineralogical Museum. In addition, we are home to a fleet of innovative vehicles and instruments that contribute to CEOE's environmental research: the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, a state-of-the-art 146 foot research vessel that is part of the National University Fleet; a cutting edge Geographic Information Systems Laboratory; the University’s AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle); and the world's only tiltable Wind-Wave-Current tank. Our original handful of faculty has expanded to a team of more than 70 professors and research scientists.

From its humble beginnings in 1951, our program that was once focused locally has evolved into a world-class institution whose impact and influence is felt throughout the world.


The video below, "History of Marine Science at UD," is from an Ocean Currents lecture, given by CEOE professor, Dr. Charles Epifanio, in August 2013 (recorded on UD Capture).


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CEOE School & Departments

School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Department of Earth Sciences

Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences

Providing a unique spatial perspective that seeks to explain patterns of differences and commonality across the human and natural environment.

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College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment • 111 Robinson Hall • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: 302-831-8062
Geography and Spatial Sciences: 302-831-2294 • Earth Sciences: 302-831-2569 • Marine Science and Policy: 302-645-4212 • E-mail: ceoe-info@udel.edu

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