Campers get up-close look at Delaware Bay, marine science

by Dave on July 23, 2009

Connor Armstrong applied to TIDE Camp, held July 6-18, because he wanted to get an in-depth look at Delaware Bay. By the end of the two-week camp, the high schooler said that’s definitely what he got.

“We learned everything and more than I was expecting,” he said of the camp hosted by the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) and Delaware Sea Grant College Program.

Armstrong, from Potomac, Md., was one of 10 high school students from here in Delaware and around the country who took part in the second annual camp. TIDE, short for Taking an Interest in Delaware’s Estuary, is aimed at introducing students to the study of the scientific processes that occur at and along the coast.

With that goal in mind, the students spent the time at camp doing things such as taking part in a daylong research cruise, visiting state-of-the-art research labs, touring a marsh, interacting with a variety of faculty members, and studying wildlife at the beach. The field trips and lectures taught them about topics such as marine animals, tides, habitat loss, species adaptation, wind power, and climate change.

Armstrong’s favorite activity? When the students worked in groups to build their own remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), machines used by scientists to study life on the ocean floor. The students received all the materials they needed – PVC tubing, propellers, motors, and an underwater video camera – and were asked to do everything from constructing the vehicles’ frames to wiring the motors. Then they got to test them in the pool at Carpenter Sports Building.

“It was tough doing all the trials and figuring out the wires, but it was fun,” he said. “We learned how sophisticated and really cool all the technology is behind all the science.”

Camper Cansu Culha, of Derwood, Md., also said she found the ROV exercise challenging but a good time, and very rewarding.

“It was fun how all of our minds came together to form a robot.”

Another popular project involved beach profiling, in which the students took measurements of the beach and did calculations to see how its shape had changed over time.

“Since most of their first impressions of the ocean is going to the beach, I think it really resonated with them,” said Dana Veron, a research faculty member who organized the camp with CEOE Assistant Dean Frank Newton.

Veron, who compiled the camp’s curriculum, said she wanted the students to not only see what it’s like to be a marine scientist but to also understand that different academic disciplines interact during the scientific process.

One of the many activities to demonstrate that idea was the 12-hour cruise aboard UD’s 146-foot ship, R/V Hugh R. Sharp. On the cruise, the students learned about the university’s autonomous underwater vehicle, a piece of equipment operated by Assistant Professor of Geology Art Trembanis that glides underwater and gathers information such as water quality data. They also helped Associate Professor of Oceanography Doug Miller dredge the ocean floor and got to meet all the creatures once the net came to the surface.

“We saw a ton of horseshoe crabs,” said camper Jason Truong, adding that marine science is “massive, you can do almost anything – geology, biology, chemistry…”

Truong, from Philadelphia, and the other campers had to demonstrate an interest in marine science and show they have solid math and science skills in their camp applications.

For these science lovers, it was an amazing two weeks.

“It’s a great opportunity for any person,” Truong said. “If they can work hard, they can learn a lot.”

For more about TIDE, visit

To learn about Delaware Sea Grant, visit For more on CEOE, visit

–Provided by UD CEOE

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