Researchers at the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment explore local ecology — and humans’ role in preserving it

By Lynn R. Parks  |  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
From the May 2017 issue

may-feature-studying-coast Studying the Coast - Delaware Beach LifeThe University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment was created in 2009 when the university’s College of Marine Studies was merged with its Department of Geography. Located on two campuses, in Newark and Lewes, the college’s mission is to study the workings of the physical world and how human society interacts with and affects that world.

“We want to better understand the land, water and atmosphere in ways that will help improve conditions for humans as well as for the environment,” says spokesman Mark Jolly, whose office is in Newark but who travels south to Lewes “whenever I get the opportunity.”

Jolly adds that the college’s position is that the interests of both the environment and society can go hand-in-hand: “It is our firm belief that we can have both a positive environmental impact and a positive economic impact.”

The college is the umbrella for three university schools: geography, geology, and marine science and policy. Currently, about 400 undergraduates and 150 graduate students are enrolled in programs within the college. The former are based in Newark and take occasional courses in Lewes. About 30 from the latter group are based at the Lewes campus.

But the scope of studies goes far beyond those two locations. CEOE researchers and their students travel the globe, making observations and conducting experiments. “We have a lot going on at the poles, in the Arctic and the Antarctic,” Jolly notes. And the geography department “has particular strength in climate studies.” Adds Delphis Levia, the department chairman, department researchers “are conducting pioneering research on the basic science of climatology, as well as applying that knowledge to solve real world problems, such as climate change.” They are studying the retreat of sea ice at the poles and are developing models “to improve our understanding of the complicated dynamics of the climate system.”

Closer to home, the Lewes campus hosts four programs: marine bioscience, marine policy, oceanography, and physical oceanic science and energy. Many of the research projects based there focus on the coastal Sussex environment, from how sharks that live in Delaware Bay are faring to the best ways to create wetlands and preserve beaches.

“We are working toward a better understanding of ecology, so that we can find ways to solve challenges that our world faces,” Jolly says.

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