Tours offer glimpse into marine research at UD Lewes campus

Date Published: 
July 21, 2017

A multicolored display of the Earth is shown across nine contiguous television screens and, with the click of a mouse, a University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean & Environment (CEOE) graduate student zooms in on North America, the United States, Delaware and, eventually, Lewes.

Coastal Point photos • Submitted Docent Jack Pallace shows visitors preserved deep-sea creatures.Coastal Point photos • Submitted: Docent Jack Pallace shows visitors preserved deep-sea creatures.The demonstration in the Global Visualization Lab (GVL) is just one stop along the free, guided tours offered by the university this summer in its marine research complex on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. through July and August.

The tours are designed to educate the public about the research conducted at the university and connect the projects to issues in the world at large and close to home.

Docents also give a brief history of the CEOE.

“Within the last 50 years, there has been major emphasis on marine studies at universities everywhere,” said docent Jack Pallace. The increase in interest and research is thanks to advanced technology that allows researchers to better study the ocean.

In contrast to the CEOE’s current marine research complex, UD marine research had its beginnings in a marine laboratory located in a renovated restaurant from 1952 to 1956.

On the tour, visitors can see a model of the Hugh R. Sharp research vessel. The vessel has advanced maneuverability and is extremely quiet; it is the quietest civilian vessel in the country. The U.S. Navy is the biggest client for research conducted on the vessel, said Pallace.

The tour also visits the GVL, where researchers use and edit images from NASA satellites. A Google Earth map displays water temperature with color, illustrating how the Gulf Stream affects water temperature, therefore impacting climate.

Using technology in the GVL, researchers can map the paths that animals, such as sturgeon and penguins, travel. Using tags on the sturgeon and acoustic receivers in several locations along the Delaware coast, researchers can track how the fish travel, which allows them to map habitats and create a predictive model.

Sturgeon are an endangered species, so researchers hope to be able to develop a program to monitor patterns and warn fishermen via text as to where there will be large numbers of sturgeon.

The tour also visits the greenhouse, a display of preserved sea creatures and a mural of ocean typography that shows marine environments and scales the depth of the ocean. Visitors can also view and learn about the Lewes campus’ wind turbine, which generates enough energy to power the campus labs and facilities.

Each year, docents meet with researchers to learn about the different projects in the CEOE and the Delaware Sea Grant program — a program designed to address major marine challenges.

“If we wanted to be correct, we would call this Planet Ocean, not Planet Earth,” said Pallace, “because the ocean covers the majority of the planet.”

Tours last about two hours, and reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance. To schedule a visitor tour, contact Lisa Dorey at ceoe-tours@udel.edu or (3020 645-4234.