University of Delaware hosts Coast Day at Lewes campus

by Danica Brendon

The University of Delaware’s Coast Day was held on October 1st at the Hugh. R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, and it was a day filled with blue skies, blue hens, and cutting-edge research. This was the first Coast Day in four years, and organizers were eager to showcase the groundbreaking work being done on campus.

The event was focused on the theme of “Weathering the Storm” and aimed to highlight the resiliency that is being built to face the challenges of today, including the pandemic and climate change. Fabrice Veron, dean of the university’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, expressed his excitement about the progress made in the last four years, including the establishment of a pilot-scale oyster hatchery, the creation of the Climate Change Science and Policy Hub, and the development of a program in marine robotics in collaboration with industry partners.

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis emphasized the importance of the work being done at the university in making communities safer and healthier. The event featured over 100 exhibitors, offering hands-on interaction with sea creatures and showcasing demonstrations, lectures, shark feeding, and touch tanks.

One of the popular attractions at Coast Day were the ships, particularly the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, which is a multipurpose research ship. Jon Swallow, the UD director of maritime operations, explained that the ship is equipped with state-of-the-art oceanographic equipment and serves as one of the 18 vessels in the country’s Academic Research Fleet. The ship undertakes various scientific missions, including annual expeditions to study scallops off the coast of Cape Cod, where researchers measure the sizes of scallops and assess their health.

Visitors also had the opportunity to explore the oil response ship DelRiver, which is always on call in case of a spill in the Delaware Bay, as well as other smaller vessels.

On the other side of the campus, robotics stole the show. Chris Petrone, the Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service director, explained that remotely operated underwater vehicles are used for various purposes, equipped with different sensors and cameras for underwater exploration. Yuleny Gomez, a graduate student at the Sharp Campus, showcased an underwater glider, which looks like a yellow torpedo with wings. The glider is used to measure temperature, salinity, and the presence of photosynthesis in the water, providing valuable data for hurricane research.

Gomez mentioned that the glider was deployed off the coast of North Carolina and was able to make its way back to Lewes, providing crucial information about the movement of energy in the water during Tropical Storm Ophelia.

Overall, Coast Day at the University of Delaware was a resounding success, with attendees having the opportunity to learn and interact with the cutting-edge research being conducted on campus. The event not only showcased the university’s commitment to advancing scientific knowledge but also highlighted the importance of building resilient communities to face the challenges of the present and the future.

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