UD's marine sciences college a wet, wild success

School adds earth, wind science at Lewes campus
August 12, 2013
An aerial view of the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. The campus stretches from the mouth of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, where the college's RV Hugh R. Sharp is docked near the Marine Operations Building, inland to the Virden Conference Center and student housing complex, far left. The Cannon and Smith laboratories are center. COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

The University of Delaware's marine sciences college in Lewes has grown to become one of the country's top-rated programs.

Charles Epifanio's witty and informative slide show and commentary, "History of Marine Science at University of Delaware: A Wild, Wet and Windy Story," chronicles growth of the program in a humorous, attention-keeping way.

The presentation makes clever use of the World Series winner, Academy Award Best Picture winner, Delaware Bay sea-level rise and Sussex County population rise as guideposts to the school's history.

In the third segment, Epifanio wraps up the history beginning in 2005, when Nancy Targett replaces Carolyn Thoroughgood as dean.

“More things have happened since 2005, in terms of organization, than in all the years of the program,” Epifanio said. Targett, was dean of the College of Marine Studies for one year.

“You might wonder what happened to her. She didn’t leave, because she’s right back there,” he said, acknowledging Targett who had stepped into the room to listen.

“Now for the complicated part,” Epifanio, said.

Targett was a proponent of bringing earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences into a common home. Earth science was in the geology department, and that was in the College of Arts and Science; ocean science was in the College of Marine Studies; and atmospheric sciences were in the geography department, and they were also in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“For those of you who are in academia or have had jobs in academia, well, you know, the wheels turn slowly in academia. Everything is done by consensus. We don’t have CEOs who say we’re just putting these things together,” Epifanio said.

Through Targett’s efforts, the geology department joined the College of Marine Studies in 2006.

He said Targett was dean for a only a year because the College of Marine Studies became the College of Marine and Earth Studies, where she served as dean for three years, the entire history of the college.

In 2005, RV Cape Henlopen was retired and replaced in 2006 by RV Hugh R. Sharp. Epifanio said inserting the new boat at this point didn’t quite fit, but he had to put it in.

“This was a huge thing. This vessel, which is our present vessel, is the most advanced coastal research vessel in the United States. It’s a fantastic vessel, and it’s a product of the efforts of both Dean Targett and Dean Thoroughgood,” he said.

The final touches came in 2009 when the Geography Department, where atmospheric studies were ongoing, came on board.

“I don’t know how it happened. It was decided through some combination of negotiation, maybe threats and blackmail, I don’t know how it happened exactly. But they decided to come on board, and we formed a brand- new college in 2009, the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.” Targett was appointed dean of the college and has continued in the position.

“I told you it would be a wild, wet and windy story; well here’s the windy part,” Epifanio said, highlighting a photo of the university’s 2-megawatt wind turbine.

The university partnered with turbine manufacturer Gamesa Technologies Inc., based in Madrid, Spain, to acquire the $5 million turbine, which produces electricity for the college campus. It also serves as an experimental platform for wind-power technology.

In 2009, the university had to decide what to do with the College of Marine Studies, which had been a standalone college.

“We formed a brand-new School of Marine Science and Policy. It’s a school within the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment. I was appointed interim director. People ask me why a school and not a department?” Epifanio said.

He explained with 44 faculty, it’s much bigger than a typical department; it has four discrete academic programs, each requiring a leader and internal governance.

“It is the direct descendant of the original program established in 1950,” he said, showing an illustration of seven figures depicting man’s evolution – first an ape, then a couple men standing upright carrying spears, and ending with a man sitting at a computer.

Epifanio said, “There is a contrarian’s view and it’s this one,” he then showed a drawing of a fully clothed man and as the images move backward in evolution, one says, ‘Go back!! They screwed up everything!!’”

Epifanio served as interim director of the marine science and policy school through last year. After a national search, Mark Moline, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, was appointed director in July 2012.

The winner of the World Series in 2012 was the San Francisco Giants shutting Detroit out 4-0. “Argo,” starring Ben Stiller, won Academy Award Best Picture. Sussex County’s population grew to 201,000, three and a half times its 1950 count of 61,000. Delaware Bay sea level is now 7.5 inches above the .06-inch benchmark of 1950.

“I could stop here, but there’s something about me you should know. I like epic movies and I liked ‘Tombstone,’” Epifanio said, going on to explain how the cowboy movie used an epilogue to tell what happened to the characters after the story.

“If you would indulge me for five minutes, this is the epilogue for the ‘History of Marine Science at the University of Delaware.”

Eugene Cronin, the school’s first dean, left UD in 1955 and became director of Chesapeake Biological Lab and later Chesapeake Research Consortium. He retired in 1984 and in 1994 he received a Mathias Medal, an award given to outstanding environmental researchers whose work contributed to informed environmental policy in the Chesapeake Bay region. Cronin died at age 81 in 1998.

Carl Shuster left the university in 1962 and became an international expert on horseshoe crab biology and ecology. In 2001, a horseshoe crab sanctuary off Delaware’s coast was named in his honor. Now in his 90s, Shuster remains active in horseshoe crab issues.

Charles Wilbur, a dean whose tenure was mysterious as he spent most of his time at the university’s Newark campus and was rarely seen in Lewes, took a position at Colorado State. “Not much else is known. He’s rumored to have joined the circus,” Epifanio joked.

Franklin C. Daiber remained on faculty after the College of Marine Science formed in 1970. In 1986, the Franklin C. Daiber Residence Complex on the Lewes Campus was named in his honor. Daiber retired in 1987. He died in 2003 at age 83.

Arthur Trabant, University of Delaware president, 1968-1986, and again 1988-89, was the linchpin, Epifanio said, by setting up the committee that advised establishing the marine science program and going big to compete with other top-rated colleges. Trabant died last year at age 92.

Founding dean of the College of Marine Science, William S. Gaither, left the university in 1984 when he was appointed president of Drexel University. Gaither resigned under pressure from Drexel in 1987. He died at age 76 in 2009.

Kent S. Price retired from UD after 33 years of service as assistant dean, associate dean and director of outreach activities. He remained active in local environmental issues. Price died last year. He was 75.

Carolyn A. Thoroughgood was College of Marine Science dean for 21 years, 1985-2005. She served as UD vice provost 2005-11, and is now a faculty member at the School of Marine Science and Policy.

Nancy M. Targett is the present dean of the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, and is director of Delaware Sea Grant College Program.

Epifanio served as interim director of the School of Marine Science and Policy, and is now the school’s Harrington professor.

Mark Moline is the current director of the School of Marine Science and Policy. He is former director of the Center for Coastal Marine Science at California Polytechnic State University.

During questions and answers, Epifanio’s earlier quip about seeing fact-checkers in the audience who might challenge him looked liked it was about to happen when Hazel Brittingham raised her hand.

Brittingham is considered by many to be the Cape Region’s foremost amateur historian: she knows more than most people about the history of Lewes, Milton and Rehoboth Beach.

“When the windmill went up, I named it Grace, because Mrs. Brittingham’s [her mother-in-law] name was Grace and it’s so graceful; I just love it,” Brittingham said.

“When you stood up my heart was in my throat because you’re the primary fact-checker here,” Epifanio said, sparking laughter.

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