UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower Show

March 4, 2014 under CANR News

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowThanks to an interdisciplinary class and a new registered student organization (RSO), the University of Delaware again has an exhibit at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs through March 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This year’s educational exhibit takes on an ecological theme, specifically the key role of American shad, a fish that once held a prominent place in the Brandywine River but has seen a drastic population decline in recent years.

The project aims to raise public awareness of the issue by helping educate those in attendance on the importance of shad and the ecosystem services they provide to the Brandywine, which supplies the city of Wilmington’s drinking water. The UD group received a “Special Achievement: Best Achievement in Social Change Messaging” award for the display.

The class is called Design Process Practicum and is taught by Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration; and Jon Cox, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Art.

The newly formed RSO is called Design and Articulture (DART) and its members — many of whom are also in the class — helped with the creation of this year’s display.

The exhibit examines the Brandywine River and features flowers native to the Brandywine Valley that would naturally grow along its banks in the spring, as well as showing how shad once populated the river in large numbers. “Prior to settlement along the Brandywine we’ve read accounts of the water ‘boiling black’ with shad,” said Bruck, who explained that a lot of the dams along the Brandywine have prevented the shad from swimming upstream.

Some of these dams are historical treasures that can’t be removed — such as the dam at Hagley Museum — and part of the exhibit displays an alternative to dam removal known as a fish ladder. Bruck explained that a fish ladder is one of several techniques that can be used when there is a dam impeding fish trying to upstream.

“A fish ladder has short steps that the fish can flop up and over and get through them pretty easily, and depending on how high the water is, it’s easier at some times than others,” said Bruck, who explained that the group’s version of a fish ladder was a very contemporary version, not a realistic one. “It’s an idea that we just want people to be aware of,” she said.

The reason the group chose to focus on shad is that the fish is important culturally, historically and as indicator species to the relative health of the Brandywine.

Culturally, the shad were once linked to the Brandywine much like blue crab are linked to Baltimore. Middlebrooks explained that Gerald Kauffman, project director for the Water Resources Agency, was a guest speaker at a class session and explained the historical significance of the shad. Kauffman related to the class a story about how Washington’s troops were starving at Valley Forge and the shad migrated north just in time to provide a food supply.

Shad are also a very important indicator species. “Of course we’re interested in the species and their success but as many experts have now told us, shad are very indicative of water quality in the Brandywine watershed, which, of course, supplies all of Wilmington’s drinking water,” said Middlebrooks.

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowDART

DART is a relatively new RSO and Weber Stibolt, a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and club president, said that its members wanted to form a group to get more recognition for the project. “It’s been kind of an underground project these past couple of years; not a lot of people have known about it.”

Stibolt said that the club has 12 members right now and that his favorite part of working on the project has been learning about aspects of agriculture that he doesn’t get exposed to in his major.

Sydney Bruck, freshman in CANR and member of DART, said the RSO offers students who are in the class now and want to help out with the exhibit next year — but might not have room in their schedule to take the class again — a chance to participate. “If you don’t want to take the class again next year to be involved, you can still be part of the RSO and be involved,” said Bruck.

Bruck also said she enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of the project. “I think when you get a bunch of landscape designers together for a flower show, it’s missing something. It’s not complete. Or if you have a bunch of designers or art majors for an art project, it’s still very one sided. But I think we have a very well-rounded exhibit because of all the people, and I think the students really enjoy learning from each other, too.”

Future benefits

Another reason the professors enjoy having the students work on the flower show is that it looks great on their resumes when they apply for future jobs or internships.

Jules Bruck said that a student who worked on the show in the past came to her and said he applied for an internship and the Philadelphia Flower Show project was on his resume. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I got my internship because of the Philadelphia Flower Show. When I got my interview, that’s all they wanted to talk about,” Bruck said the student told her.

Middlebrooks said that the project is “really much more consequential for students long term. It provides yet another opportunity for them to get engaged with professors, get engaged outside the University. They make a variety of connections and I know a number of students have explicitly credited the flower show being on their resume with landing internships, even a Disney internship.”

Middlebrooks also noted that the interdisciplinary and creative aspects of the class help the students in the long run because, in his experience, when people apply for jobs, companies are looking for two main things: creativity and collaboration. “So we’re always looking for ways to really maximize that. And that’s really limited if you just do that in your own discipline, or in a single class, so the flower show has always and continues to serve as an opportunity to cross disciplines,” said Middlebrooks.

Hometown roots

The project is particularly important for Cox who grew up along the Brandywine and said that he remembers playing in the river as a child.

“Some of my earliest memories are actually going down the Brandywine in this little inflatable Sevylor two-person boat with my sister,” said Cox. “So the Brandywine has always been special to me and we go canoeing a couple times a year and we started taking my son there now and he is two and a half now and so he’ll be able to grow up and have some of the same experiences.”

Group effort

Of course, the flower show couldn’t happen without the flowers, and getting the native plants to bloom and look like they would in the spring was no easy feat, especially during such a rough winter.

Bruck was in charge of growing the plants and the students helped out as well. Bruck also thanked Rodney Dempsey, Bill Barts and Joyce Zayakosky, members of the UD Greenhouse staff, for all that they did to get the flowers blooming on time.

The group also thanked the Center for Teaching and Effectiveness and Learning (CTAL), the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for help funding the project, and Kauffman and Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Brandywine Conservancy, for speaking to the class about the shad.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Jon Cox

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UD works to restore shad to White Clay Creek

July 3, 2013 under CANR News

UD works to restore shad population to White Clay CreekHold staff meeting. Write up report. Take apart a 236-year-old historic dam.

After Labor Day, Jerry Kauffman has an unusual item on his to-do list. As head of the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency, he has been charged with overseeing the deconstruction of a dam that has been in existence since colonial times.

Removing Dam No. 1 from the White Clay Creek will improve water flow and water quality in the creek, which was designated a National Wild and Scenic River in 2000. It also should make for some great fishing next spring and in years to come.

“Adult shad live in the Atlantic Ocean. In the spring, they travel up the Delaware River to spawn in fresh water,” says Kauffman. “But when they arrive at dams they can’t travel any further. By removing this dam, we’ll be re-opening 3 1/2 miles of spawning habitat for American shad for the first time in more than two centuries.”

The dam is located near present-day Delaware Park on land once owned by Daniel Byrnes, a Quaker preacher and miller.

American shad are richly flavored and make good eating. In the late 1890s, the Delaware River had the largest annual commercial catches of any river on the Atlantic Coast. However, the American shad catch started to decline in the early 1900s. Pollution was the biggest culprit, says Kauffman. “The Delaware was so polluted by the mid 20th century that oxygen levels were too low for migrating shad to survive,” he says.

With the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972, water quality in the Delaware River rapidly improved, enabling more adult shad to survive in the river and more adult and juvenile shad to return to the Atlantic Ocean after spawning.

However, restoring shad populations in northern Delaware can only go so far with structures such as Dam No. 1 still blocking the shad’s passage upstream. A number of other states also have made dam deconstruction a priority. In Rising Sun, Md., the Octoraro Dam was removed in 2005 and more dams in that state are slated for removal.

Dam No. 1 will be Kauffman’s first dam removal project but it won’t be his last. Thanks to an $85,606 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the nonprofit group American Rivers, six additional northern Delaware dams will be removed, reopening 14 miles of fish passage, all the way to the Pennsylvania state line.

Because Byrnes’ dam is one of the few remaining timber-crib dams in the area, Kauffman and his team aren’t just pulling it down willy-nilly. Three years ago, when he started planning the dam’s removal, he connected with Rebecca Sheppard, associate director of UD’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design.

“We evaluate the significance of historic properties in Delaware and throughout the region but this was the first time we were asked to document a historic dam,” says Sheppard. “My grad students and I did a lot of research to learn about dams and about this dam, in particular. Then in March, we put on our hip waders and waded into the White Clay for the actual field work.”

Sheppard learned that Byrnes built his dam around 1777, which was a very busy year for the miller, as well as for the new nation. In early September of that year, shortly after the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, George Washington held a war council at Byrnes’ residence, now known as the Hale-Byrnes House. The Marquis de Lafayette and others helped Washington plan the defense of Philadelphia at this meeting.

There are plans to move portions of the dam to the Hale-Byrnes House. It could be used for school programs and during public events that are held periodically at the house.

Kauffman expects the deconstruction of the dam to go slowly, and not just because the goal is to keep portions intact for transfer to the Hale-Byrnes House.

“This dam was a high-tech, class A dam in its time,” says Kauffman. “Byrnes was a miller from Brandywine Village and he knew what he was doing. Built with just logs, stones and iron pins, the dam has stood intact for centuries. It was only during recent storms that it has started to show deterioration.”

“Once all seven dams are removed there will be new recreational activities for the public,” notes Kauffman. “We’d like to establish a kayak trail so people can travel the route of this historic waterway. There also will be opportunities to fish for shad at county parks, including one located off Old Manor Road in Wilmington and another in Windy Hills in Newark.”

Article by Margo McDonough

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Natural Resource Management turns out law school students, legal professionals

August 7, 2012 under CANR News

Renee Connor had wanted to be a lawyer since high school and thanks to the University of Delaware’s Natural Resource Management (NRM) program, she is well on her way to achieving her goal. Connor has been accepted into the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law.

Connor, who graduated from UD in 2012 with a double major in NRM and political science, said that after figuring out that she wanted to pursue a career in law, she had to decide which branch of law she wanted to study. “When I looked into environmental law, that seemed like something I’d be really interested in,” she said, adding that it made sense to major in NRM to pursue a career in that field.

The NRM program, housed in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, helped Connor in many ways but she said that perhaps the most significant benefit was providing her with enriching and diverse coursework. “I took a lot of classes in different areas,” said Connor. “I took economics classes, science classes and policy classes, and I feel like it was a good major to prepare me for law school because you have to understand a wide range of topics to do environmental law.”

Steve Hastings, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics and at the Agricultural Experiment Center, said of Connor’s acceptance into law school, “Renee was a very focused student who knew she wanted to be an attorney — she worked hard to achieve that goal.”

Hastings echoed Connor’s sentiments about the plethora of educational opportunities afforded to those who choose to major in NRM.

“NRM is an excellent interdisciplinary major that exposes students to both physical and social sciences,” said Hastings. “It is this mix that makes it a great preparation for law school or graduate school in a variety of areas. In fact, which area to pursue is the hardest decision the students have to make.”

Connor joins a number of NRM graduates who have gone on to law school and become lawyers. Among them is Kristen DeWire, a 2004 UD graduate who works as an assistant attorney general in the office of the attorney general in Maryland. Specifically, her role is to represent the Maryland Department of the Environment.

DeWire said that she decided to study NRM at UD because of her love of outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. She also said that she thought she would be more successful in the policy side of environmental issues instead of “focusing on environmental science or environmental engineering.”

She also enjoyed the fact that the NRM major would give her a diverse group of classes from which to choose. “Being able to do analysis and analytical writing through communications, economics and environmental law classes, and from internship experiences, was really helpful in terms of being able to think critically and analytically about applying theories to particular sets of facts, which is a lot of what legal practice is.”

DeWire added that the science classes she took, from soil science to geology, provided her a head start when it comes to examining legal cases in those areas and the work has proven beneficial when talking with experts and preparing for cases.

DeWire also said that the small classes sizes, the excellent faculty and the “family environment” of CANR added a lot to her undergraduate experience.

Internship opportunities

One thing that Connor and DeWire have in common is that they both took advantage of an internship opportunity while they were undergraduates in the NRM program.

Connor worked at UD’s Garden for the Community, an internship she said she really enjoyed because it gave her a hands-on experience working outdoors.

DeWire had two internships during her time at UD, both sponsored by CANR’s Delaware Water Resources Center. The first involved working on a paper focusing on the impact of a Supreme Court ruling on the federal jurisdiction over wetlands in Delaware, and the second involved her working at the Water Resources Agency (WRA) surveying a stream running through UD’s campus and making recommendations for restoration.

Article by Adam Thomas

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Wilmington teens learn about environment via Green Jobs program

August 7, 2012 under CANR News

On a recent sunny morning, two shimmering blue dragonflies darted by the mauve blooms of Joe Pye weed in a newly created wetland on University of Delaware’s Newark Farm. It created the perfect teaching moment for Jenny McDermott, facilities and land manager for UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as she led a tour for teenagers participating in the city of Wilmington’s Green Jobs program.

“When we put this wetland in, some people were concerned that we’d have more mosquitoes in the chicken houses nearby but we actually have less of a problem. Can anyone tell me why?” asked McDermott.

“Dragonflies eat mosquitoes,” replied Elijah White, a 14-year-old who, in summer, lives with his mother in Wilmington and in Georgia during the school year. “We learned that from Mr. Jim White when we were at the DuPont Environmental Education Center.”

The eating habits of dragonflies is just the start of what White and nine other youth are discovering about the environment during this summer’s Green Jobs program. A partnership between the University of Delaware, the city of Wilmington and six other organizations, the six-week paid work experience exposes the students to a variety of environmental topics.

The teens discovered where their drinking water comes from during a visit to the city’s water treatment plant. They learned how to map GIS coordinates and the ways that scientists use geographic information systems at UD’s Water Resources Agency, a program unit of the Institute for Public Administration in the School of Public Policy and Administration. They removed invasive plants from the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge and found out why these species are harmful even if — as one student noticed – they sometimes have attractive flowers and foliage. They toured UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, where they kayaked and then splashed around in the water as they caught aquatic critters in seining nets.

“I loved the trip to Lewes; it was fun,” said Jonathan Tucker, a 17-year-old rising junior at Newark High School whose mother encouraged him to apply for the Green Jobs program. A self-confessed “indoor guy,” Tucker said he now has a better appreciation for the natural world around him. “Yeah, there’s something to be said for nature,” said Tucker. “I’m amazed at how much land there is at the Urban Wildlife Refuge, even though it’s in the city.”

“I really like technology and want to work in the technology field,” he added. “Now that I’m with Green Jobs, I’ve been thinking it would be cool to design hybrid cars that run on plant-based fuels.”

Regardless of whether Tucker works in the biofuels industry or ultimately chooses another career path, he is picking up useful job skills this summer, including public speaking and resume writing.

“Although Green Jobs is centered on the environmental field, we want to help the students develop skills they will need to work as professionals in any career field,” said Martha Corrozi Narvaez, associate policy scientist at UD’s Water Resources Agency and the mastermind behind the Green Jobs program.

Several new features have been added to Green Jobs, which is now in its second year. “One thing I’m really excited about is that each participant has been paired with a mentor this summer,” says Narvaez. “These experts will provide one-on-one guidance, training and insight into a variety of environmental careers. The hope is that many of these relationships are sustained so that if the teens have a career question next school year, they feel comfortable contacting their mentor by email or phone.”

The teens also have a mentor in program counselor Adib Rushdan. A 2006 UD grad, Rushdan was employed in the medical technology field for several years before recently completing a stint in Wilmington city schools with AmeriCorps. He said that he plans to earn his teaching certification. “I’m enjoying my work with the Green Jobs students,” said Rushdan. “They’re a good group of kids. Green Jobs is a valuable program; it exposes teens to many different things outside of their normal experiences.”

Such as a modern milking parlor – that’s not an everyday experience for most American teens. The UD parlor was empty when McDermott and the students walked through it – it was close to 11 a.m.; way past milking time. McDermott explained that corn and alfalfa are grown on 120 acres of cropland to feed the farm’s 100 dairy cows and that some of the milk is sold to a cooperative. “Chances are, if you drink milk and live in Delaware then you’ve had UD milk before,” said McDermott.

As for what happens to the rest of the milk supply, the Green Jobs students discovered the tasty answer to that question on the last stop on the tour – at the UDairy Creamery, which produces premium ice cream from milk from UD’s dairy cows.

Cherry vanilla? Chocolate marshmallow? Delaware River mud pie? Who knew that learning about the environment could be so sweet.

Article and photo by Margo McDonough

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CANR student helps WRA try to improve shad population in White Clay Creek

October 5, 2011 under CANR News

While some students spent their summer vacations taking a break from college course work, Chelsea Halley was immersed in an eight-week study aimed at improving the shad population in White Clay Creek.

The internship was funded by the Delaware Water Resources Center, within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and Halley, a senior in the college, was part of a research team that surveyed seven dams along White Clay Creek that restrict fish passage.

The shad restoration project is being overseen by the University’s Water Resources Agency, a program unit of the Institute for Public Administration.

Halley explained that some of the dams were built in the 1700s and that they once served a purpose, such as diverting water to mills, but have long since been rendered unnecessary.

Because of this, a five-year plan was created in order to remove all seven dams from White Clay Creek, with the first dam being removed in November. Halley explained that removing the dams is vital to restore the shad populations because “shad must swim upstream to spawn, but are restricted because of the dams. American shad and hickory shad were once a thriving fish in the White Clay Creek, but their population has diminished significantly. Downstream from the dams, some shad have been detected, but upstream none have been found.”

Unlike salmon, which are able to leap over the dams, shad can’t make it over the structures and Halley explained, “It is imperative to their survival that we remove the dams.”

Halley estimated that she worked between 20-25 hours per week and she measured the dams using diverse tools ranging from a large measuring stick to an electronic level. She even used a kayak and measuring tape to figure out the depth at 10-foot intervals along each dam’s cross section. Said Halley, “We surveyed 100-foot cross sections of the creek 1,000 feet downstream and 1,000 feet upstream of each dam.”

Halley then would input the results into a computer model and diagram each cross section that was measured.

After discovering the internship through the UD website, Halley contacted Gerald J. Kaufman, director of the Water Resources Agency, and was drawn to the shad restoration project because it involved a lot of hands-on field work, which she said has been the most beneficial aspect of her internship.

Kauffman became Halley’s adviser for the research project, which began in June and runs through the spring of 2012. Halley now works at the Water Resources Agency office for about 10 hours a week as she continues to work on the shad restoration project and other WRA projects.

After the first dam is removed in November, Halley explained that they will start comparing the new data about “the water quality and shape of the creek to the data that my research team and I collected over the summer.”

Halley said that she is proud that her internship allowed her to be a part of Delaware’s history, explaining that shad were once very plentiful and of great economic importance in the First State. “It is a great feeling knowing that the work we did is being used to benefit the environment in such a monumental project. This will be the first time in hundreds of years that shad will really have a shot at multiplying and succeeding.”

For now, Halley is relishing the opportunity to put to use all of the techniques that she learned over the summer in the field of water resources and to continue her education in the field.

Other students involved in the project include: Sarah Ackerman, a CANR senior; Seth Olson, an environmental studies student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment; Katherine Adami, a senior environmental studies major with a concentration in environmental law, policy and politics; Kayla Iuliano, a junior Honors Program student majoring in environmental science; Ian Kaliakin, a sophomore environmental science major; and Erica Addonizio, a sophomore chemical engineering major.

Article by Adam Thomas

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CANR fights stormwater runoff to help White Clay Creek

May 17, 2011 under CANR News

After the storm has passed, the damage isn’t done. In fact, for White Clay Creek, the destruction is just beginning.

Much of the University of Delaware’s campus, including the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) farm, drains into Cool Run, a tributary of White Clay Creek. Because the creek has been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, a designation spearhead by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., a UD alumnus, the University now has the distinction of being one of only two universities in the country to have a National Wild and Scenic River run through its campus. Because of this, there is an urgency to quell the impact of stormwater runoff into the creek.

Stormwater runoff, unfiltered water that reaches bodies of water by flowing across impervious surfaces, enters White Clay Creek through multiple sources throughout the city of Newark and the UD campus. Because of this, CANR has teamed with partners from across the University and the city to see what can be done to help reduce the University’s contribution to the problem, activity that has led to the formation of the University of Delaware Watershed Action Team for Ecological Restoration (UD WATER).

UD WATER is led by Tom Sims, deputy dean of the college and the T.A. Baker Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry, and Gerald Kauffman, state water coordinator and director of the Water Resources Agency, a unit of the Institute for Public Administration. It includes faculty members from the University as well as members from the city and the Delaware Geological Survey and UD student interns.

In addition to many other projects undertaken on the CANR farm to stop stormwater pollutants from reaching White Clay Creek, the UD WATER team decided another step to curb stormwater runoff was to create a biological filtration system on the CANR campus.

Read more at UDaily > >

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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