Project Proposals for 2009-2010 DWRC Undergraduate Internships

THIRTEEN as of 2/6/2009

1. Controlling greenhouse gas emissions from landfills with biologically active soils (posted 2/27/08)
2. Fresh water possibilities using a membrane distillation process (posted
2/11/08)

3. Zero valent iron and additives to enhance biofiltration of water (posted 2/11/08)

4. Patterns and processes for controlling intertidal groundwater discharge to the Delaware Bay at Roosevelt Inlet (posted 3/9/07)

5. Sustainable mosquito control for stormwater ponds (posted 2/23/07)

6. Lewes Citizen Monitoring Program, Broadkill Watershed Tributary Team, and Delaware NEMO Program (posted 3/10/06)

7. Hormones in runoff from agricultural lands receiving application of poultry litter (posted 2/6/09)

8. Identifying sources, flow paths, and fate of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON) in forested watersheds (posted 2/6/09)

9. Baseline assessment of water quality in relation to salt marsh breeding birds at Woodland Beech, Delaware (posted 3/17/06)

10. Influence on the Delaware River and Bay system from varying inputs from the watershed (posted 2/20/07)

11. Ecological monitoring of Delaware’s wetlands: Developing and implementing detailed methods to determine the condition and function of wetlands throughout the State of Delaware (posted 2/23/07)

12. Education and outreach internship to improve public perception of wetlands throughout Delaware

(posted 2/23/07)

13. Interactions between soil chemistry, exotic plants invasions, and stream biodiversity in forested riparian corridors of varying width (posted 3/16/07)

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1. Controlling greenhouse gas emissions from landfills with biologically active soils (posted 2/27/08)

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Paul T. Imhoff imhoff@udel.edu, (302) 831-0541

University of Delaware (UD) College of Civil and Environmental Engineering  Web: www.ce.udel.edu/~imhoff


There is growing concern that the buildup of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere is leading to global climate change with undetermined consequences. Most of the attention to date has focused on controlling emissions of carbon dioxide (CO 2), the most common GHG. However, interest in controlling other GHGs, particularly methane, is increasing. Methane is of concern because it is more than 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO 2. Landfills are the largest source of anthropogenic methane, accounting for approximately 30 percent of emissions.

One means of mitigating methane emissions from landfills is by constructing biologically active soils on the landfill surface. Microorganisms in these soils may then oxidize methane, converting it to less potent CO 2 and water. With support from the US Department of Energy, we are evaluating the ability of different compost/soil/woodchip mixtures to oxidize fugitive methane, particularly under different climatic conditions.

This project involves field work in California, laboratory studies in Delaware, and mathematical modeling. Students participating in this project would assist in the laboratory measurements and possibly some field studies. If you are interested in either microbiology, water and gas flow in natural systems, or environmental chemistry you should enjoy this project.

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2. Fresh water possibilities using a membrane distillation process (posted 2/11/08)

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Steven Dentel dentel@udel.edu, (302) 831-8120

University of Delaware (UD) College of Civil and Environmental Engineering  Web: www.ce.udel.edu/~dentel

 

Fresh water sources are becoming more limited in Delaware, and many other locations nationally and worldwide. In some areas of this country, desalination processes are now being employed to convert sea water and brackish water to fresh water. Unfortunately, these processes (flash distillation, reverse osmosis, and electrodialysis) are energy intensive, which makes them costly.

A newer process for desalination is called membrane distillation. This process uses waste heat to remove salt from water. Its main advantage is that heat sources such as waste heat from industrial processes, or even solar heat, may be usable to drive the desalination process.

Current work is with a major industry which has provided our lab with a pilot scale unit. We are analyzing the feasibility of this process for industrial applications where it may be the most profitable. As the process evolves, it may become a viable method of providing fresh water in developing countries or in warmer climates. A student working on this project would work with current researchers until familiar with the industrial applications and then, on a more independent basis, explore these other applications. You should enjoy this project if you’re interested in one or more of the following: water supply, water chemistry, water treatment, heat transfer, computer programming, economics,
practical experimental design and analysis.

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3. Zero valent iron and other additives to enhance biofilitration of water (posted 2/11/08)

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Pei Chiu pei@udel.edu, (302) 831-3104

University of Delaware (UD) College of Civil and Environmental Engineering  Web: www.ce.udel.edu/~pei

 

Both locally and in third-world countries, methods for the treatment of well water often rely on filtration though a bed of sand. The removal of both bacterial and chemical constituents from the water is accomplished mainly by a bacterial film that forms on the upper layers of the sand. However, there is recent evidence that viruses are not efficiently removed, even though these can carry water-borne diseases.
 
A new method of removing (or, more accurately, inactivating) viruses in water has recently been developed at UD. It uses metallic iron, known as zero-valent iron (ZVI), which provides a chemical process shown to remove some contaminants and to inactivate viruses in water. The next
step is to determine whether this ZVI can be added to a conventional sand filter to improve the removal of viruses and other contaminants. To apply the method in third-world countries, the method should also remove chemical constituents that impart undesirable tastes to water.

This project will assess the combination of biofiltration with the ZVI additive. To be successful, the modification should not impair the
removal of bacteria as already achieved by the sand filter, and this will be assessed. The removal of viruses will be determined, and the
removal of organic and inorganic substances contributing to poor taste will be evaluated. Different filter configurations must also be
compared in order to optimize the process.

 

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4. Patterns and processes controlling intertidal groundwater discharge to Delaware Bay at Roosevelt Inlet (posted 3/9/07)

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Bill Ullman ullman@udel.edu, (302) 645-4302

or Doug Miller dmiller@udel.edu or Tom McKenna mckennat@udel.edu for more information.

University of Delaware (UD) College of Marine and Earth Studies, Lewes, DE and Delaware Geological Survey  Web: www.ocean.udel.edu and www.udel.edu/dgs/

 

Project description:

A significant fraction of water and associated nutrients from coastal watersheds in southern Delaware are transported to Delaware Bay through groundwater pathways. Groundwater discharge is spatially patchy, but where it occurs, there is evidence of discharge at all times except during the highest high tides. The intern will use multiple field techniques to estimate groundwater flow at a known discharge site near Roosevelt Inlet at the UD campus in Lewes, Delaware. The first approach will estimate groundwater flow rates from the upland to the Bay using upland water levels, estimates of hydraulic conductivity based on the propagation of the tidal signal into the aquifer, and Darcy’s law. The second approach will estimate groundwater flow rates perpendicular to the shoreline as a function of tidal height using data from in situ temperature sensors and simple analytical models. Lastly, discharge per unit area at the discharge site will be directly measured using seepage meters deployed in an array perpendicular to the shoreline. These techniques will allow the student researcher to estimate aquifer characteristics and determine the magnitude and distribution of fresh, salty, and total groundwater discharge as a function of tidal height and other factors. There also is potential to estimate associated nutrient loads to the intertidal and subtidal zones. This work builds on research conducted by a previous DWRC undergraduate intern (Garrett Peters, Summer 2006). Summer dormitory housing is available (shared bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen; $545/ten weeks) at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus of the University of Delaware in Lewes. This project is ideal for a student with interests in developing their field and analytical skills in hydrology, hydrogeology, and/or coastal processes. 

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5. Sustainable mosquito control for stormwater ponds

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Jack B. Gingrich gingrich@udel.edu, (302) 831-1308

University of Delaware (UD) Dept. of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology


Introduction

 

Stormwater ponds (BMPs) have been shown to be an important breeding habitat for mosquitoes, including both nuisance species and West Nile virus (WNV) vectors. Over the past four years, Gingrich et al.(J. Amer. Mosq. Cont. Assoc., 2006) have developed new evaluation methods that distinguish among types of ponds that produce mosquitoes in large numbers and those that do not. Detention ponds, especially extended detention ponds, often do not drain within the 72-hour period that they were designed for. Instead they often take 10-14 days or longer to dry out, which is more than ample time for a brood of mosquitoes to complete its life cycle. When they do dry out, wet mud around the periphery of these ponds become the target for oviposition by floodwater mosquitoes of the Aedes group of mosquitoes, which include several potential WNV vector species. Also, certain categories of retention ponds, especially shaded ponds with shallow perimeters, become breeding sites for numerous mosquito species, including Culex and Aedes group members. We have also studied these same characteristics for bioswales and bioretention strips. Certain common features that lead to problems in all these BMPs are improper design, poor drainage, silting in, or excessive riprap areas that provide protection and food for mosquito larvae.

 

Over the past two years, we have determined a non-pesticidal pond treatment method that provides multiple benefits to stormwater ponds. Using aluminum sulfate treatment once per month in the summers, we found that we can not only reduce larval abundance of the worst groups of mosquito vectors for West Nile virus, but also we can reduce phosphorus concentrations and bacterial loads. Although these preliminary findings look promising, more work is needed in quantifying these benefits, and in determining if there are long term issues in using this treatment. An additional possible benefit might be reducing nitrogen concentrations, which would also need further study. Looking at possible adverse impacts, are invertebrate predators affected, are applications needed too frequently, and are there undesirable effects on pH?

 

Proposed Field Tests

 

The field tests would involve selecting 24-48 comparable retention ponds previously studied in 2004-2006. Ponds that would be picked would be known to produce fairly high mosquito numbers (mean = 0.6 larvae per dip or greater). We will use only one treatment group (alum) and one control group. Twelve to 14 ponds will be placed in each group, being careful to select ponds in pairs so that high abundance and low abundance selections will be evenly dispersed among the two groups.

 

Starting in later May, we will do three pre-treatment collections. By late June, we will start treating the treatment group with alum, and continue the treatments once a month thereafter. We will collect all larvae from 100 dips from each pond for every two-week cycle (total of eight collections from June to September), and perform all the environmental measures concurrently as well. We will be identifying larval mosquitoes in the lab, as well as counting them. We will also be analyzing chlorophyll, phosphates, nitrates and pH, as well as making slides for bacterial counts. These will be done under oil immersion magnification in an epifluorescence microscope.

 

In addition to these field experiments, we would be conducting lab studies to evaluate the relative development of larvae given algae or bacteria as food. These experiments will be designed to determine which of these foods is most essential for selected groups of mosquito larvae, and they should help to corroborate our field findings.

Data would be entered into an automated database, with all the information from site collections plus all field site characteristics included. Controls and treatment groups would be analyzed by stepwise multiple regression and paired t-

Success of the treatment method would be evaluated based on mosquito abundance reduction, ease of treatment, and overall cost to implement each treatment. Results will be presented in both tables and graphs. We will link these field results to results obtained in the laboratory studies.

Expected Results

Our expectation is that the treatment group will show reduced larval abundance compared to the control group, and this difference will be statistically valid. We expect to see improved water quality (N and P reductions), reduced bacteria counts, and minimal adverse impacts. We also expect to have more definitive data, based on lab results, on why the treatment works. This will be important im making adjustments to treatments, and finding out when and how often treatments should be applied in order to maximize treatement benefits.

References

 

Gingrich, J.B., R.D. Anderson, G.M. Williams, L.L. O’Connor, and K.H. Harkins. 2006.  Stormwater ponds, constructed wetlands, and other best management practices as potential breeding sites for West Nile virus vectors in Delaware during 2004.  J. Amer. Mosq. Cont. Assoc. 22: 282-291.

 

Peck, G.W. and W.E. Walton.  2006. Effect of bacterial quality and density on growth and whole body stoichiometry on Culex quinquefasciatus and Cx. tarsalis (Diptera: Culicidae). J. Med. Entomol. 43:25-33.

 

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6. Lewes Citizen Monitoring Program, Broadkill Watershed Tributary Team, and Delaware NEMO Program (posted 3/10/06)

 

We have opportunities for internships with our Citizen Monitoring Program, Broadkill Watershed Tributary Team, and Delaware NEMO Program for students having interest in outreach education and some applied research while living down at the beach. We could probably find them student housing in a UD dorm.

 

Contact Joe Farrell jfarrell@udel.edu (302) 645-4250

University of Delaware (UD) Sea Grant Program, Lewes

 

  

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7. Hormones in runoff from agricultural lands receiving application of poultry litter, Newark, Delaware.  (posted 2/6/09)

 

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Shreeram Inamdar inamdar@udel.edu  (302) 831- 8877

University of Delaware (UD) Department of Bioresources Engineering

Sex hormones are produced naturally by poultry and cattle and excreted in their urine and feces. Large numbers or cattle or poultry (on animal production facilities or farms) can result in significant amounts of hormones to be discharged with runoff. Land application of manure or poultry can also be an important source of hormones. These hormones are also referred to as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) since they cause physiological and reproductive disorders in aquatic and wildlife species that are exposed to these hormones. Thus, these hormones are of environmental concern and are now being regarded as emerging contaminants.

We are currently evaluating the concentration, fate, and transport of hormones from plots receiving poultry litters. Samples of surface runoff and soil water are collected following rainfall events. These samples are then analyzed in the laboratory using state-of-the-art ELISA techniques. Students will be involved in collection of runoff samples, analysis of samples in the laboratory, and synthesis of results. Students interested in the project should have some background in environmental or agricultural sciences and preferably courses in chemistry, water quality, hydrology, soils, or watershed management.

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8. Identifying sources, flow paths, and fate of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON) in forested watersheds (posted 2/6/09)

 

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Shreeram Inamdar inamdar@udel.edu  (302) 831- 8877

University of Delaware (UD) Department of Bioresources Engineering

DOC and DON have important environmental implications. DOC plays an important role in the acid-base chemistry of acid sensitive freshwater systems; affects the complexation, solubility and mobility of metals such as aluminum and mercury; influences the adsorption of pesticides in soils; is linked to the formation of potentially carcinogenic trihalomethanes when surface water is chlorinated for drinking; attenuates UV radiation and thus provides protection to aquatic biota; and connects the C and N cycles of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

DON constitutes a significant portion of the total N flux for some ecosystems; a large portion of DON can become bioavailable for estuarine plankton; and recent research suggests that DON in drinking water sources can contribute to formation of toxic nitrogen disinfection by-products.

We are currently evaluating the sources, flowpaths, and fate of DOC and DON in runoff waters from a forested watershed near the campus of UD. This study has been funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Water samples are collected routinely from rainfall, throughfall, soil water, groundwater, and streams during storm events and non-storm periods. The samples are then analyzed for DOC, DON and other parameters in the laboratory. Students will be involved in watershed instrumentation, collection of runoff samples, analysis of samples in the laboratory, and evaluation of the data to determine the quality and quantity of DOC and DON in various runoff sources. Students interested in this project should have a strong background in environmental sciences and preferably courses in chemistry, water quality, hydrology, soils, or watershed management.

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9. Baseline assessment of water quality in relation to salt marsh breeding birds at Woodland Beech, Delaware (posted 3/17/06).

 

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Greg Shriver gshriver@udel.edu (302) 831-1300

University of Delaware (UD) Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology

 

As part of a breeding ecology study of tidal marsh passerine birds, this project will provide the initial assessment of water chemistry within the breeding areas for two obligate marsh species.  The internship would provide avian sampling experience, including mist-netting, color banding, nest searching, and avian inventories as well as an opportunity to establish the baseline assessment of water chemistry in relation to avian breeding ecology.  Basic water chemistry data (DO, pH, salinity) will be collected at permanent sites throughout the tidal wetland during the breeding season (May-August).  We will also collect water level depth using peizometers (shallow ground water wells).  All sampling locations will be permanently marked using GPS and integrated into a multi-layer GIS for spatial analyses.

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10. Influence on the Delaware River and Bay system from varying inputs from the watershed (posted 2/20/07)

 

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Jonathan Sharp jsharp@udel.edu (302) 645-4259

University of Delaware (UD) College of Marine Studies, Lewes, DE  Web: www.ocean.udel.edu

The Delaware River and Bay system is one of the largest and most important estuarine systems in the United States. Housing the sixth largest urban region in the country, it provides drinking water to over 10 million people in New York City and Philadelphia urban areas. It serves as one of the largest port complexes in the country and one of the largest fresh water ports in the world. By most standards, it was the first and, at one time, the most polluted estuary in the US; yet it has had one of the most dramatic water quality improvements in the world. The Delaware Estuary is home of many valuable living resources: it used to be the major fishery site in the country for shad and sturgeon, and it currently supports the largest horseshoe crab population in the country. Consequently it is invaluable to migratory shorebirds that feed on the horseshoe crab eggs.

Professor Sharp’s laboratory group has been studying the microbial biogeochemistry of the Delaware Estuary for almost three decades. We define microbial biogeochemistry as the study of inputs, and biological and geochemical reactions of the major elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen, and silicon. Natural inputs come into the estuary from the watershed, while anthropogenic (man-made) inputs come from industrial and municipal activities primarily in the greater Philadelphia area. The upper watershed inputs can vary depending on weather and climate conditions. For example, major storm events will introduce higher levels of natural inputs, but will also dilute urban inputs. The anthropogenic inputs have changed considerably over the last 4 decades. We have a number of long-term databases (with time scales ranging from about 25 to 100 years) that allow us to understand changes in time. With this project, we will further extract information from these databases and interpret the impact from long-term improvement in anthropogenic activities and inputs on the Delaware River and Bay system. We will also evaluate the impact from recent changes from periodic storm activities, possibly associated with climate change.

Professor Sharp’s laboratory is on the Lewes campus. This project could include residence in Lewes in the summer and/or work from Newark with periodic visits to Lewes. It may also include participation on research cruises on the Delaware Estuary.

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11. Ecological monitoring of Delaware’s wetlands: Developing and implementing detailed methods to determine the condition and function of wetlands throughout the State of Delaware (posted 2/23/07)

 

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Katherine Bunting-Howarth katherine.howarth@state.de.us (302) 739-9949

Division of Water Resources, Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

As watersheds become more impacted by human alterations it is essential to protect remaining natural resources and improve degraded systems. Wetlands are important components of the landscape and provide many functions and services such as improving water quality, providing wildlife habitat and retaining flood waters. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is using a three- tiered approach to assess wetlands at the watershed scale. Protocols use a combination of detailed vegetation, hydrologic, landuse and stressor data to assess the condition and function of wetlands. In addition, we are developing wetland bird and macroinvertebrate data collection protocols to be implemented this coming field season. The intern would have the opportunity to conduct avian surveys (May-June), and collect streamside insects (September-November) and water quality information. In addition, current protocols could be expanded to include more detailed vegetation and hydrologic data collection. This project can be tailored to the interests of the intern and can lead to a basic understanding of GIS applications, field assessment techniques, database management, statistical analyses, species identification and the ability to edit and create protocols. The intern would be exposed to a variety of wetland systems such as riparian, depressional, forested, salt water and estuarine, depending on the student’s interest. This internship offers an opportunity to gain a wide range of applicable skills in a variety of habitat types. Start and end dates of the internship are flexible but a preferred time period would fall between May and October.

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12. Education and outreach internship to improve public perception of wetlands throughout Delaware (posted 2/23/07)

 

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Katherine Bunting-Howarth katherine.howarth@state.de.us (302) 739-9949

Division of Water Resources, Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

 

The need to improve the understanding of wetland functions and benefits among the public of Delaware is imperative to the protection and sustainable use of our natural resources. This internship will focus on improving access to education and outreach materials by public and private organizations. There are multiple venues that can be utilized and this project can be tailored to the interests of the intern. Product options include one or more of the following: 1.) Design a webpage that will be a clearinghouse for educational material; 2.) Organize/Collaborate with citizen monitoring groups (Adopt-a-Wetland, Delaware Nature Society, Center for Inland Bays) to streamline data collection methods so they can be accessed by the public; 3.) Create a wetland newsletter and template; 4.)Write articles for local newspapers regarding benefits and positive aspects of wetlands; and 5.) Provide information to landowners concerning wetland protection/restoration techniques, financial aspects of preserving open space and programs available to assist in wetland related construction projects. Additional project ideas are welcome and will be considered on a per student basis.

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13. Interactions between soil chemistry, exotic plants invasions, and stream biodiversity in forested riparian corridors of varying width (posted 3/16/07)

Interested in this internship? 

Contact Dr. Chris Williams ckwillia@udel.edu (302) 831-4592

University of Delaware (UD) Dept. of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology


Forested strips along streams often remain after an area has been developed for anthropogenic use. Although prior research suggests these buffers can be effective at protecting water quality, their potential value as a source of suburban biodiversity has remained unexplored. The primary objective of this study is to understand the factors governing the ability of riparian forest corridors to preserve native biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and suburbia. To this end, we intend to meet four research goals, each focusing on one aspect of riparian corridor function: 1) we will determine the width of forest buffer needed to protect a stream from nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide runoff, based on local conditions, 2) we will determine the width of buffer needed to maximize the native plant biodiversity of the corridor and to discourage exotic plant invasion, 3) we will determine the nature of the relationship between corridor width and stream macroinvertebrate community health, and 4) we will investigate the relationship between patterns of riparian corridor presence and patterns of fish assemblage composition across the landscape. Meeting these research goals will allow the building of a comprehensive model of how riparian forest corridors can best be utilized to protect native biodiversity when the connectivity of natural habitats is at odds with necessary human land use.