University of Delaware College of Marine Studies

by Dave on July 4, 2009

As first seen in Coastal Sussex Weekly, June 11, 2009:

Thousands of Delawareans venture down the winding, canalfront Pilottown Road in Lewes every October to visit the Lewes campus of the University of Delaware for the great annual Sussex County festival known as Coast Day. In between bites of crab cake and chowder, people take the opportunity to learn a little bit about the activities and pursuits of the faculty and students.
But not even Coast Day can reveal all of the fascinating work that goes on at the College of Marine and Earth studies, formerly know as the College of Marine Studies, and soon to be known as the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

“We started out in the 1970’s as a graduate-only college, which grew out of the need that the General Assembly saw in Delaware for menhaden research,” says Nancy Targett, the school’s dean. “They thought that research should be done at the University of Delaware, and everything has grown from there. In 2006, we became the College of Marine and Earth Studies because we took in the Geology group.”

This July, the college is making one more change and becoming the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

“We’re very excited. The marine component will be incorporated into a School of Marine Science and Policy. The Department of Geological Sciences, and then the Department of Geography. It’s all a good fit.”

A change in name will only reflect the myriad ways in which the school is involved in the community.

“I think we’re a huge asset to the southern Delaware community,” claims Targett. “We are home to Delaware Sea Grant and all of our outreach extesion agents are located in southern Delaware, working on things like Jim Falk (see sidebar) with the Lewes FutureScan project, Doris Hicks doing seafood safety in the schools, Wendy Carey working on rip currents and beach erosion, and Joe Farrell working with the Center for the Inland Bays doing water quality and training the citizen volunteers that the state of Delaware has told us they simply could not have the coverage they now have without them. It extends the reach of what the state can do.”

One of the short-tem goals of the College is to create a ‘Friends’ program to increase the ways that people can be involved with the school.

“People can be involved now with our community outreach seminars, where they can make their opinions known,” adds Targett. “We also have a docent program, which is a volunteer corps of people who learn about what we do and take others on tours of our facility.”

One of the school’s upcoming project is their plan to erect a wind turbine at the campus.

“We commissioned a report and we’re going to have a public seminar on this on the 28th of July to engage everybody about what we hope to accomplish,” states Targett. “We want to put the turbine up, but the idea is not just to have a wind turbine to generate electricity, it’s actually to conduct research and educate with it. We have plans in that regard that we want to talk to the public about.”

That effort is a continuation of the school’s goal to provide clear links between what they do and how people are impacted by it.

“We make an effort to link science, policy and things that are relevant to society,” adds Targett. “The idea is that it’s got to be clear and people have to understand where the impacts are and why it’s relevant to them. It’s pretty easy to make that connection with a lot of what we do.”

That connection, however, begins for many local people at Coast Day, an event the University thoroughly enjoys.

“I think that what you’ll find is that there’s a real commitment on the part of the people at the University,” shares Targett. “We feel it’s our responsibility to engage in events like Coast Day. It’s our chance to give back to the community. It’s the largest public education event that the University of Delaware does, with 10,000 attendees. We try to mix it up and keep it fresh and fun every year.”

And the University’s idea of mixing hands-on fun and science, long a staple of Coast Day, is now being shared with high school students with the College’s TIDE (Taking an Interest in Delaware’s Estuary) program.

“Last year we started the program, a two week camp for high school students. We had a great group last year and they had a lot of fun. They get to spend a week up in Newark building a remotely-operated vehicle in a competition. They we bring them to Lewes, take them out on the MV Sharp, do some seining on the beach. We even watch scary movies like Jaws and debunk the myths propagated in the movies.

“The whole idea is that if we’re going to turn kids on to science, they have to understand that it’s so much fun, and they need to see that side of it.”

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