Learn about the world of marine science


Free, guided tours of the University of Delaware’s marine research complex in Lewes will resume on Friday, June 3. Tours will be offered every Friday morning, beginning at 10:30 a.m., during June, July and August.

Each tour is led by a trained volunteer from the community, called a docent, who introduces the public to the research and teaching facilities at the college. The docents typically guide more than 1,000 visitors through Cannon and Smith laboratories every year.

“Many residents and visitors to the area want to learn more about our coastal environment,” said Rosalind Troupin, acting director of the docent program. “Our faculty and graduate students investigate fish and crab populations, wetland invaders, water quality in the Inland Bays and wave action on the beaches.”

Each tour begins with a 20-minute introductory video that highlights many of the college’s research activities. The video transports visitors from the beaches of Delaware Bay where scientists collect data to assess the status of the horseshoe crab population, to the remote sensing labs in Newark where satellite technology is being used to monitor and predict El Nino and other related phenomena.

Following the video presentation is a walking tour of Cannon and Smith laboratories where the majority of the research in the college’s Oceanography and Marine Biology-Biochemistry programs is conducted. The walking tour typically takes approximately one hour to complete — making it ideal for the summer or weekend visitor to Delaware’s beaches.

Inside the many laboratories, scientists and graduate students conduct research on topics ranging from the ecology of estuarine and coastal fish to the population dynamics of blue crabs to the genetics of marine organisms. The walking tour also includes a visit inside the college’s greenhouse, where new uses for salt-marsh plants are being investigated.

Also included are a number of exhibits and displays that show how scientists at the college are studying extreme marine environments such as the ice-covered seas of the Antarctic and hydrothermal vent sites over a mile deep at the bottom of the ocean. Research in these areas is leading to exciting discoveries and new techniques for applications in science and industry.

A favorite stop on the tour is a tropical reef tank, which introduces visitors to one of the most diverse communities on Earth — coral reefs. The tank has an assortment of living corals and fish such as the colorful clownfish that was featured in the animated movie Finding Nemo.

To join a Friday morning tour, call the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service at (302) 645-4346 no later than noon the preceding day to reserve a place. Tour groups are limited in size, so reservations are recommended. Families are invited to participate — the tours are suitable for children over the age of 12. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

In addition to the Friday morning tours, the college will continue to offer prearranged tours for groups of five or more people, junior-high age or older, Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Such tours may be scheduled by calling at least a week in advance. The Hugh R. Sharp Campus, located at 700 Pilottown Road in Lewes, is accessible to handicapped visitors.