Water in the Changing Coastal Environment of Delaware (Project WiCCED)

Project Status
Project Contact(s)

Water in the Changing Coastal Environment of Delaware (Project WiCCED) is a multi-year National Science Foundation EPSCoR – funded effort that includes a consortium of scientists and educators from University of Delaware (UD), Delaware State University, Wesley College, and Delaware Technical and Community College. Information about Project WiCCED is located at https:\\projectwicced.org. DGS is a co-leading two research experiments as part of Project WiCCED.

One experiment, with Dr. Holly Michael, Scott Andres doctoral student Mary Hingst, and post-doctoral researcher Chelsea Peters of the UD Department of Geological Sciences is studying salinization of groundwater in the area east of Dover through direct monitoring and numerical simulation. This experiment builds on a previous DGS study (https://www.dgs.udel.edu/projects/east-dover-groundwater-flow-model) and resultant publication (https://www.dgs.udel.edu/publications/ofr52-results-groundwater-flow-si…) that document increased risks for saltwater intrusion and loss of aquifer yield. More than 30 water level-salinity sensors are being operated in wells, streams, and ponds. Data are being used to design and calibrate a density-dependent groundwater flow simulator that will quantify the links between groundwater pumping and saltwater intrusion.

The second experiment, Scott Andres of DGS with Dr. Andrew Wozniak and Dr. Wei-Jun Cai, of the UD School of Marine Science and Policy, and Dr. Deb Jaisi of the UD Department of Plant and Soil Science is studying sources and impacts of plant nutrients and acidification of the Murderkill River estuary. This team, along with staff of the Center for the Inland Bays are also doing a parallel study of the Delaware Inland Bays. This experiment builds on experiences and successes of the NEWRNet study of Coursey Pond (https://www.dgs.udel.edu/projects/newrnet-north-east-water-resources-ne…) and resultant publication (https://www.dgs.udel.edu/news/new-article-cyanobacterial-blooms-coursey…). Year one efforts included operation of multi-parameter water quality sensors and sampling for pond chemistry and flow and genomics of phytoplankton in the pond.

DGS efforts are now focused on high frequency monitoring of the Inland Bays at multiple locations. This work is investigating the duration and frequency of eutrophication-driven hypoxia (low DO), and the relationships to phytoplankton, hydrology, and other biogeochemical factors. Work in 2020 found the upper Indian River has frequent episodes of hypoxia that persist for more than 6 hours. Hypoxic events are not only harmful to animals, but also are suspected to cause the release of nutrients from the sediment into the water column and thus promote phytoplankton growth. The data and scientific analysis will inform State of Delaware and CIB efforts to improve water quality and protect aquatic habitats.