Project Proposals for 2004-2005

DWRC Undergraduate Internships

 

As of 3/2/04

CHECK BACK OFTEN FOR NEW IDEAS!

 

1.  Invasive Plants Internship: Dr. Judith Hough-Goldstein, advisor, University of Delaware

2.  Hydrogeology Internship: A. Scott Andres, advisor, Delaware Geological Survey

3.  Water sampling / analysis / survey:  Dennis McIntosh, advisor, Delaware State University

4.  West Nile Vectors in Stormwater Ponds Internship:  Dr. Jack B. Gingrich, advisor, U. of Delaware

1.  Invasive Plants Internship

 

Advisor:           Dr. Judith Hough-Goldstein, Dept. of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology

Phone:              (302) 831-2529

Email:               jhough@udel.edu

Web:                http://ag.udel.edu/departments/ento/staff/hough2.htm

Project:            Biological Control of Purple Loosestrife, an Invasive Plant in Delaware Wetlands

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a perennial European plant that invades marshes and lakeshores in North America, replacing cattails and other wetland plants. It can form dense, impenetrable stands that are unsuitable as cover, food, or nesting sites for a wide range of native wetland animals.  Many rare and endangered wetland plants and animals are also at risk. Purple loosestrife has been declared a noxious weed in at least 23 states.

Herbicides and mechanical control methods are generally not feasible where vast stands of this weed have developed, and therefore scientists have sought biological control agents from the plant’s native range.  Of the more than 100 insect species that feed on purple loosestrife in Europe, several were thought to have excellent control potential. Following rigorous testing for safety, four species of beetles were approved for introduction into the United States, two leaf-feeding beetles, one root-boring weevil and one flower-feeding weevil.  These species have been released in various parts of the U.S. since 1992, including several sites in Delaware. 

Dramatic reductions of purple loosestrife stands have occurred in some areas where beetles have been released, while in others little noticeable change in the plant population has yet occurred.  This project would involve hands-on release and monitoring of one or more of these beetle species in Delaware wetlands, with an aim toward understanding and increasing the insects’ impact on purple loosestrife and encouraging the restoration of healthy wetland communities.

2. Hydrogeology Internship: Nanticoke Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load Project

 

Advisor:           A. Scott Andres, Delaware Geological Survey

Phone:              (302) 831-0599

Email:               asandres@udel.edu

Web:                http://www.udel.edu/dgs/DGS/Staff/asa.html

Project:            Nanticoke Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load Project

 

Student Opportunity:             The student will have responsibility for assisting with sample acquisition, performing QA/QC tasks on analytical data, acquiring and processing stream flow records, and computing pollutant loadings for five sampling stations in the Nanticoke River watershed.  The student will and will also interact with other staff at the DGS and the College of Marine Studies.  Contact Mr. Andres (asandres@udel.edu, 831-0599).

Rationale:       The Nanticoke River watershed has been ranked one of the top priority watersheds in Delaware in the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program.  A TMDL is the amount of pollutant that a water body can assimilate before significant environmental damage occurs and is a key component in the regulation of wastewater discharges and nutrient management practices,  and in the allocation of funds for pollution prevention measures.  Field monitoring of flow and water quality acquired during the first year of the project have provided the data necessary to evaluate current pollutant loads.

Objectives:     To gain practical knowledge and experience in the interpretation of water quality data, evaluation of the relationships between watershed characteristics and water quality, and methods used in multi-disciplinary environmental research.

Project Description:   This project has three main components, A) GIS analysis, B) data compilation and QA/QC, and C) computation of pollutant loads.

A.        The intern will get direct experience with GIS analysis of land use, soils, hydrologic characteristics, and pollutant sources in the study area.

B.         The intern will learn steps routinely employed for automated and manual compilation of water quality, precipitation, and stream discharge data, and data QA/QC tasks.  This work is done with spreadsheet, GIS, and database software packages and requires constructing charts and tables and completing statistical evaluation of data.

C.        The intern will work with existing programs and help develop and evaluate improved methods for computing pollutant loads.

 

3.  Water sampling / analysis / survey (Delaware State University)

 

Advisor:           Dr. Dennis McIntosh, Assistant Research Professor & Extension Specialist - Aquaculture

                        Delaware State University, 1200 N. DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901

Phone:              (302) 857-6456

Fax:                  (302) 857-6402

E-mail:              dmcintosh@desu.edu

Profile in recent DSU Aquaculture news on the Web: 

http://cars.desu.edu/aqua-sci/newsletters.htm (Winter 2004, see page 3)

 

Beginning this spring, I will be working in conjunction with other 1890 institutions in the Mid-Atlantic region to identify and sample drinking water from small, under-served farms.  The project involves water sampling, conducting chemical and biological analysis, and a survey instrument.  I anticipate that a student intern could directly assist the small farm extension agents in DE with the water sampling and survey.  In addition, I am seeking a collaborator here on campus to do the biological analysis.  The student intern would likely be able to participate here as well.  If the intern is interested, arrangements could likely be made for the intern to travel to University of Maryland Eastern Shore to assist in the chemical analysis of the samples as well.  

 

4.  West Nile Vectors in Stormwater Ponds Internship

 

Advisor:           Dr. Jack B. Gingrich, UD Dept. of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology

Phone:              302-831-1308

E-mail:              gingrich@udel.edu

Web:                http://ag.udel.edu/departments/ento/staff/gingrich.htm

 

Project Description: Assessment of stormwater BMP’s, mitigated wetlands, and highway sand filters as breeding areas for mosquito vectors of West Nile virus. 

 

In 2003, an epidemic of West Nile virus struck Delaware, causing 17 human cases and killing 2 adults.  In addition, over 60 horses were infected and >130 birds were killed by the virus, at a minimum.  Additionally, the effects on small songbirds, raptors, and shore birds were largely unstudied because of the nature of the survey program, which focused on crows, blue jays, and large charismatic birds. 

 

Last year, a preliminary study showed that about 20 percent of stormwater ponds were serious producers of large numbers of larval mosquitoes, many of them being West Nile vector species.  The percent of constructed/mitigated wetlands that were large producers was less certain because of difficulties in evaluating large acreages.  However, it was clear that most properly constructed wetlands were not a problem.  It was also indicated that retention ponds produced fewer mosquitoes, as a mean, than detention ponds.  Moreover, certain types of vegetation, steepness of the pond’s edge, shading, and frequency of alternate drying out and reflooding all appeared to affect the kinds and numbers of mosquitoes produced.  Water quality factors were studied, but were not consistent in terms of their impacts on mosquito populations. 

 

This year, we wish to study the above factors in greater depth, and obtain more predictive results regarding their relationships to mosquito abundance.  Moreover, two different sampling areas have been added that were not in last year’s project.  These two new areas include sand filters along Delaware highways and bioretention ponds that are meant to detoxify runoff from roads and pavement. 

 

Student Opportunity: The student will be placed on a team responsible for collecting larval samples at selected sites across the state, performing routine tests on water quality, evaluating site conditions, and identifying larval mosquitoes using morphological characteristics and dichotomous keys.  The student will also be involved in interacting with other members of the mosquito research team, database entry, trap placement, and analysis of data. 

 

Objectives: See “Project” above.

 

Special Requirement: The student must be able to drive independently to study sites across the state and work with limited supervision following an intensive training period at the outset of the study.  .