Sea Grant awarded $1.3 million for research, education
11:54 a.m., June 11, 2007--The Delaware Sea Grant College Program, a statewide effort based at the University of Delaware, will receive more than $1.3 million a year for the next two years from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct marine research, education and public outreach projects critical to Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic region. The federal grant will be matched by more than $500,000 annually from the state of Delaware and nearly $700,000 each year from the University of Delaware.

Delaware Sea Grant is one of 32 programs comprising a nationwide network. Each Sea Grant program conducts scientific research, education, training and outreach projects designed to tackle major issues facing America's coasts.

Since its creation in 1976, the Delaware Sea Grant College Program has worked to increase understanding of Delaware's coastal ocean environment. “Sea Grant researchers, outreach specialists and students are discovering innovative ways for society to benefit from the sea--today and in the future,” Nancy Targett, director of the program and dean of the College of Marine and Earth Studies, said. “We are also reaching out beyond the laboratories and meeting rooms to help Delawareans understand how they, too, can help ensure that coastal waters remain healthy and economically viable for our children and grandchildren.”

A total of 17 projects, involving scientists, graduate students and outreach specialists, have been funded in biotechnology, ecosystems, environmental technologies and engineering, marine commerce and transportation, and marine education, literacy and outreach.

In biotechnology, David Kirchman, Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Marine Studies, and Barbara Campbell, assistant professor of marine studies, will explore ways to improve the detection of harmful human pathogens in coastal waters. Their work will benefit efforts to protect human health.

In ecosystems, botanists Jack Gallagher and Denise Seliskar will identify marsh plants that have the ability to filter aquatic pollutants. They will also identify those plants that direct a large portion of their organic matter below ground. Such plants would have the ability to increase the elevation of the marsh surface as sea level rises, thus maintaining the area as an intertidal marsh.

Marine biologist Tim Targett and physical oceanographer Richard Garvine will investigate the factors influencing fish larvae as they make the transition from offshore spawning locations into the estuarine nurseries of Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. This work will improve scientists' understanding of valuable commercial and recreational species such as Atlantic menhaden, Atlantic croaker and American eel.

Marine chemist George Luther will build upon previous work to monitor chemical components in coastal waters and sediments. Using specially designed sensors, Luther will help improve understanding of natural chemical interactions and their effects on ecosystem health.

In environmental technologies and engineering, University of Delaware scientists Jim Kirby, Chandra Kambhamettu and James MacMahan will develop a tool that will lead to better predictions of when and where rip currents are likely to occur. This will help lifeguards and other public safety officials as they work to keep beachgoers out of harm's way.

In a related study, MacMahan, Kirby and fellow coastal engineer Fengyan Shi will use laboratory experiments and rescue data to investigate the factors responsible for rip current outbreaks. The study is anticipated to aid in rip current forecasting and improve techniques for rescuing bathers caught in rip currents.

Shi also will be involved in another Sea Grant project with Kirby. The scientists will develop a system to predict storm surge and other hazards caused by hurricanes and northeasters. This will help give coastal residents and visitors more advanced warnings about the potential risks of approaching storms.

Oceanographers Mohsen Badiey, Kuo-Chuin Wong and Bruce L. Lipphardt will analyze surface current data collected from coastal observing systems in Delaware Bay to aid others studying how fish larvae are distributed throughout the estuary. The research also will help experts develop response plans to environmental crises such as oil spills.

In a second project, Wong, Badiey and colleague Art Trembanis will integrate several coastal monitoring systems in Delaware Bay. This approach will allow them to better understand the variability in tides and winds and provide valuable information to boaters navigating Delaware Bay.

Marine geologist Christopher Sommerfield will track the flow of suspended sediments from the Delaware Bay estuary to adjacent marshes. Sediment flow in the estuary has impacts on the ecology, biogeochemistry and quality of coastal waters. An improved understanding of sediment transport will help scientists and resource managers with marsh restoration projects.

Coastal engineer Fabrice Veron will conduct experiments on the generation and dispersal of sea spray aerosols. Environmental conditions sometimes produce chemicals in the water that, in aerosol form, can irritate human respiratory systems. This research could allow scientists to predict when beach conditions could pose health concerns for people with asthma and other “at risk” populations.

In marine commerce and transportation, food scientists Haiqiang Chen and Dallas Hoover and seafood specialist Doris Hicks will continue their efforts to ensure that seafood products remain safe to eat. They are determining the effectiveness of various packaging films for fish and meat products in eliminating Listeria monocytogenes, a microorganism that can cause serious illnesses and death. Ensuring that processed meat products are safe to eat and extending the shelf life of such products will benefit the seafood industry and consumers.

Policy experts Willett Kempton and Jeremy Firestone will team with physical oceanographer Richard Garvine to investigate the role that offshore wind power can play in supplying the energy needs of Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic region. They will work to identify potential wind power facility sites, laws and policies needed to regulate them, their possible economic and environmental impacts and public opinions regarding offshore wind power.

Economist George Parsons will assess the economic value of birdwatching to Delaware. This work will help scientists and policy makers understand the economic implications of a decline in shorebirds and horseshoe crabs, whose eggs sustain shorebirds during their annual migrations.

In marine education, literacy and outreach, the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, based in Lewes and led by James Falk, and the Marine Public Education Office in Newark, under the direction of Ron Ohrel, will conduct a wide range of outreach projects relating to K-12 marine education, water quality, coastal storms, seafood safety, fisheries and aquaculture and other topics. The staff's award-winning educational efforts include seminars, workshops, publications, web sites, the "SeaTalk" radio series and Coast Day.

Additionally, as part of a comprehensive initiative focusing on coastal communities, Falk and Joe Farrell will address issues relating to wise land use, growth management, and natural resource-based planning. Wendy Carey will assist coastal communities in reducing their susceptibility to coastal hazards. The outreach specialists will conduct educational programs and demonstration projects, provide technical support to communities and respond to public requests, and produce a series of fact sheets on issues affecting coastal development.

For more information, contact the Marine Public Education Office at (302) 831-8083, or visit the Delaware Sea Grant web site at [].