Making a splash

by Charles Riordan

Welcome to the Fall 2012 edition of UD Research. Regular readers will note a change in authorship of this page. Mark Barteau, senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives, has retired from UD after a 35-year career and has taken up shop at the University of Michigan. One of the activities initiated under Mark’s leadership was this magazine, designed to elevate the visibility of UD’s research enterprise. And a significant enterprise it is. As noted on page 46, sponsored research expenditures in FY 2012 surpassed $140 million for the first time in UD history. This represents a 35 percent increase over the past five years.

This issue’s special section addresses another advancing force, one of society’s most pressing challenges: sea level rise. Delaware’s location and topography make it particularly susceptible to sea level changes. UD faculty, staff and students are addressing a wide array of issues through research, outreach and policy.

Among the highlighted topics, Art Trembanis describes barrier islands as the “canaries in the coal mine” when it comes to sea level changes.
He is studying shoreline retreat on Cedar Island, a barrier island off Virginia, which serves as his laboratory.

In a multi-university collaboration, Greg Shriver and colleagues are using real-time kinetic GPS instruments to evaluate changes in the tidal marshes along the East Coast and what they mean to their avian residents.

As sea levels rise, communities respond by reinforcing with bulkheads and riprap, but these alterations to the natural shoreline can impact
wildlife. Tim Targett is part of a regional reconnaisance team, supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that is evaluating the effects of “hardened” shorelines on finfish, shellfish and sea birds in the Chesapeake and Delaware bays and other coastal bays of Delmarva.

Last year, John Callahan and Kevin Brinson
developed the Coastal Flood Monitoring System as an early warning system to alert Delaware’s emergency management teams to water level rises. The system includes a four-day-outlook predictive model and flood inundation maps along major evacuation routes to guide decision-making.

Holly Michael, Josh Duke and Kent Messer form a formidable interdisciplinary team seeking to predict the
future of water availability in Delaware. Since much of the state’s drinking water derives from groundwater, understanding the hydrology, soil and water chemistry changes, as well as the economic drivers and policy implications, is key.

In collaboration with the University System of Maryland, UD has received a $5.8 million cooperative agreement from the National Science Foundation for “MADE CLEAR,” a program designed to forge a bi-state network of scientists, educators and state agencies to develop and distribute educational materials on climate change science for grades 8–12. Nancy Brickhouse and Nancy Targett lead the UD team.

Through these projects and others you will read about in this issue, UD’s faculty, staff and students are committed to proactive and multidisciplinary approaches to address the impact of sea level rise on a state that, with a mean elevation of only
60 feet, is the flattest in the nation.


Charles Riordan
Vice Provost for Research


Sponsored research
expenditures surpassed $140 million for the
first time in UD history.

Fiscal Year