Speaker Bios

Patrick Phillips has been a hydrologist with the US Geological Survey for over 30 years, and started his career on the Delmarva Peninsula.  His research interests include understanding sources of emerging contaminants in urban and agricultural systems.  

Dr. Ronald MacGillivray is a Senior Environmental Toxicologist at the Delaware River Basin Commission (http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/). His work includes characterizing contaminants of emerging concern, monitoring ambient toxicity, establishing water quality criteria, designing field and laboratory studies for environmental assessment and developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) / Pollution Minimization Plans (PMPs) in the Delaware River.  Dr. MacGillivray is an Adjunct Faculty at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Prior to working at the DRBC, he was a Project Scientist in the Fate and Effects Laboratory of Roy F. Weston, Inc. (Weston Solutions, Inc.).  Dr. MacGillivray’s education consists of a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Massachusetts at Boston, a M.S. in Microbiology from Rutgers University and a B.S. in Biology from Northeastern University. He is past-president of the Hudson Delaware Chapter of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (http://www.hdcsetac.org/)

Kelly Smalling is a research hydrologist with the US Geological Survey’s New Jersey Water Science Center​ whose​ current research focuses on the ​exposure and effects of emerging contaminants​ on fish and wildlife.  Currently, she is the project lead for the Chesapeake Bay Endocrine Disruption Project and principle investigator for the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative. Kelly received her B.S. ​from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her M.S.P.H.​ ​​from the University of South Carolina.  

Dr. Tom Fikslin is the director of Science and Water Quality Management for the Delaware River Basin Commission.  There, his responsibilities include coordinating their monitoring activities and supporting the development of modeling tools, water quality standards, and TMDLs.

Keith Harrison has had an exciting career over the past three decades. He has worked as a wetland scientist, environmental educator, scientific illustrator, environmental scientist, and is now working as a trainer/educator for the Delaware Division of Public Health in the Office of Drinking Water.

Tom Schueler is the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network.   He also is the stormwater coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Program and has guided numerous expert panels to define removal rates for urban BMPs.  In addition, he has authored two reports examining whether or not stormwater BMPs in the ag and urban landscapes can remove toxic contaminants.

Danielle Dixson is an Assistant Professor at UD in the Marine Biosciences Program in the College of Earth, Ocean, and the Environment.  Her research focuses on the sensory behavior of marine organisms, and understanding how various anthropogenic induced changes to the environment will impact the resulting behavioral ecology at a species, community and ecosystem level.

Jonathan Cohen is an Assistant Professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware. Since coming to UD six years ago, Dr. Cohen and his students have been investigating the physiology and behavior of zooplankton in response to natural and anthropogenic stressors, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, elevated temperature and carbon dioxide, and more recently, microplastics.

Bill Ullman is a professor of Marine and Geological Sciences in the Oceanography Program in the College of Earth, Ocean, and the Environment.  His research focuses on estuarine processes.

Barnett Rattner is a research physiologist with the USGS. His current focus is on exposure and adverse effects of certain legacy and contemporary pollutants to wildlife and the environment.

Thomas Bean is a post-doctoral research associate with the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland.  His work has primarily focused on avian toxicology and has collaborated with scientists at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.


Poster & Oral Presentation Abstracts:

Poster Abstracts:

Farmer WTP for nutrient management practices: A field experiment

Kent D. Messer, University of Delaware; Paul J. Ferraro , Johns Hopkins University; William Allen III, The Conservation Fund; Nicholas R. Janusch, University of Delaware

Abstract: Nutrient run-off from agricultural production contributes to the emerging contaminants problem facing Delaware’s waterways. Efficiently promoting environmental quality and conservation by incentivizing farmers and ranchers to adopt best management practices (BMPs) or offering payments for environmental services (PESs) can be extremely difficult because of information asymmetry. This asymmetry can prevent Federal and State conservation incentive program administrators from allocating conservation contracts efficiently. This study estimates farmers’ willingness to pay (WTP) to implement BMPs (i.e., nutrient management practices that prevent nutrient run-off) to reduce water contamination and explores how behavioral economics can influence a farmer’s valuation of these practices. We conducted field experiments in 2014 and 2016 in which farmers from Texas, Delaware, and Maryland compete in a cost-share auction of conservation contracts that require them to adopt practices that reduce nutrient run-off. We randomized the farmers into four treatment arms in a 2×2 design that varied by (1) the presence or absence of social priming which consisted of information about producers’ desirability of each practice and (2) a default cost-share status quo of 0% or 100%. The results from the field experiment in 2014 suggest that bids under the 100%-cost-share status-quo default were substantially higher than (and statistically different from) bids under the 0% cost-share status-quo default. The social priming information did not significantly affect the value of bids made, but did influence the likelihood of placing a bid, especially the low desirability priming, which lowered the likelihood of placing a bid. Incorporating the data from 2016 will likely strengthen the results and demonstrate that inexpensive behavioral nudges can be effective in competitive environments that involve profit-maximizing producers. The study also demonstrates to Delaware policymakers and program administrators that large environmental benefits can potentially occur from using behavioral and experimental economics to inform policy and program design.

Contact information:  302-831-1188  njanusch@udel.edu 

Distribution and Availability of Trace Metal(loid)s Within the Plant-Soil-Water Nexus in a Delaware Estuary

Kristy Northrup, Dr. Angelia L. Seyfferth

University of Delaware, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences

The presence of toxic metals and metalloids such as copper, chromium, and arsenic in soils may pose toxicological risks to biota even at low (i.e., “trace”) concentrations, which may compromise ecosystem health and water quality. In preliminary analyses, the Seyfferth Research Group has observed elevated concentrations of arsenic (0.4 – 27 ug/L) in sediment pore waters and sediments (as high as 47mg/kg) at the St. Jones Reserve that may impact its ecosystem service as a nutrient buffer between the terrestrial and oceanic environments. We hypothesize that the elevated concentrations are due to the use of pressure treated lumber for boardwalk materials. Trace metal(loid) concentrations and partitioning among the soil, pore water, and vegetation pools were monitored to assess the potential chronic toxicity to salt marsh biota as well as the source and fate of arsenic. Expanding water inundation from projected sea level rise will influence the redox chemistry and therefore the mobility and toxicity of trace metal(loid) contaminants. This study aims to determine whether the influence of redox potential or salinity is the dominant control over the availability of trace metal(loid)s in the St. Jones salt marsh.

Contact information:  knorthru@udel.edu (609)287-4497

Policy Routes for Marine Debris Management in the United States

Julie Steinberg

University of Delaware

Marine debris, particularly marine plastic pollution, is a growing pervasive global problem. A 2015 study found that the US is ranked 20 on a list of coastal countries which contribute the most amount of ocean debris. By looking at the literature on marine pollution, surveying experts on patterns and opinions related to marine debris, and quantifying marine debris output from US states to the sea, this paper identifies optimal policy structure for marine debris management in the United States and notes improvement areas. Expert opinions advise major concerns and threats, indicating which policies are needed pertaining to marine debris and how this can be achieved by the US. The results indicate a lack of organization in response to policy implementation stemming from competing environmental priorities, and variances between how to best respond to marine debris. We found policy management levels are dependent on initiatives, but most policies should be investigated and implemented at the state level. There is some correlation between states with higher marine debris output and policy. In particular, states which prioritize marine debris funding over the next five years are among the top ten contributors to marine debris. There is also a marked difference between state-employed policies to address marine debris for ocean-based states versus Great Lakes-based states. Overall, more transparency should be requested from coastal states on their self-assessments to adequately determine patterns of correlation.  

Contact information:  609-287-7370  julies@udel.edu


Megan Cain, Paul Leingang, Danielle Dixson1

1Deparment of Marine Science, University of Delaware, 700 Pilottown Rd. Lewes, De 19958

Anthropogenic derived environmental impacts are prevalent and increasing rapidly, one of greatest concern is the release of pollutants into the air, water, and sediment.  Anthropogenic activity causes increased stress on sensitive coastal environments, sometimes with unintentional consequences to the resident organisms.  The Atlantic horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus is a prehistoric keystone species native to the East Coast, with the densest population found within Delaware Bay.  L. polyphemus eggs are a dietary necessity to many bird, fish, and reptile species.  Additionally, due to their unique physiological characteristics, L. polyphemus blood is vital to the medical industry.  Annually, between May-July on the new and full moon during high tide, L. polyphemus engage in a mass spawning event where eggs are deposited into the sand along the swash zone.  During the same time, Delaware beaches experience a population influx of human activity due to beach tourism. Recent evidence from coral reef ecosystems has found pollution due to excess sunscreen negatively impacts resident species.  In this study, we tested the effects of sunscreen on the survivorship and development of egg, larval and juvenile stages of L. polyphemus.  Egg clutches were collected and split into four groups, each of which were exposed to different sunscreen concentrations (0ml/L, 0.5 ml/L, 1.0 ml/L, 1.5 ml/L) dissolved in seawater from the Delaware Bay.  Horseshoe crabs exposed to sunscreen at even the lowest concentration tested did not move through the appropriate stages of development.  In comparison, the control group developed into 1st instar juveniles within a 7-week period. Individuals exposed to all sunscreen concentrations had a higher mortality rate than controls when transitioning from the egg to free-swimming larval stage. This study identifies an important pollutant impacting a keystone species within the temperate coastal ecosystem.  Impacts to the L. polyphemus population could have drastic effects on the ecosystem as well as future medical advances.

Lane Johnston (5 min talk)

Oral Presentations:

The Ins and Outs of Estuarine Acidification: Proton (H+T) Fluxes in the Murderkill Estuary (Delaware)

Stephen F. Gonski*, Daniel T. Pettay, Wei Jun Cai, and William J. Ullman

School of Marine Science and Policy

University of Delaware

Lewes and Newark, Delaware

(*Present address:  Department of Geography, University of Calgary)

Ocean acidification due to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a recognized stressor in aquatic, estuarine, and marine environments. The atmosphere, however, is not the only source of protons to the environment and these alternative sources and potential natural sinks are poorly quantified in the coastal zone. pH data was obtained at the confluence of the Murderkill Estuary and Delaware Bay using a novel automated high-frequency sensor (SeapHOxTM), developed by Todd Martz at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, that is now available commercially from Seabird Scientific. This sensor uses an ion-sensitive field-effect transistor, was calibrated with appropriate marine buffers, and reports pH on the marine total hydrogen ion concentration scale from which H+T can be easily calculated. Using the H+T data and discharge determined at the sampling site by the US Geological Survey, proton fluxes to and from the Murderkill Estuary were determined for two months in the summer of 2016. Our results show that the fresher waters of Delaware Bay and the Murderkill Watershed are both sources of protons to the Murderkill Estuary. Our approach may be useful for determining the impact of coastal watersheds on estuarine and marine acidification and for managing proton fluxes to and from the coastal zone to minimize the long term impacts of environmental acidification.

This work made possible by support from the Kent County Board of Public Works, the University of Delaware, the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and Delaware Sea Grant.

Contact Information:  William Ullman: ullman@udel.edu