Photos by Mark Jolly-Van Bodegraven
August 29, 2022
UD showcases possibilities throughout the state for students from Wilmington program
As climate change and extreme weather events continue to threaten the planet, a slew of green job opportunities have sprung up to help combat these world-threatening issues.
Fourteen students from the City of Wilmington got a firsthand look at green career opportunities for six weeks over the summer as part of the 2022 Wilmington Green Jobs program, which is coordinated by Martha Narvaez, a policy scientist in the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Center ( UDWRC), and led by the City of Wilmington’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
The students were selected from a group of applicants and worked 25 hours a week in the program, earning minimum wage while accomplishing projects or learning about the work being performed by the nonprofits, academic institutions and a private firm that hosted the students throughout the summer.
This year, the students were welcomed by 21 different host organizations—including those from UD, Delaware Sea Grant (DESG) and Delaware Cooperative Extension.
Delaware Sea Grant/Lewes Campus
For the first time since the program started 12 years ago, the students got the chance to stay overnight on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. As part of an orientation to kick off the program, the students went to the James Farm Ecological Preserve, a preserve overseen by the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, and then stayed overnight at the Virden Center.
Narvaez said it was great to resume the City of Wilmington Green Jobs program in-person and couldn’t think of a better way to start it than with the overnight orientation.
“It was great to kick off the program in the Inland Bays observing and holding horseshoe crabs and exploring on the UD Research Vessel Joanne Daiber with Delaware Sea Grant,” Narvaez said. “This year, the new and seasoned hosts gave the youth numerous unique educational experiences over the six weeks. These organizations, along with the City of Wilmington Department of Parks and Recreation, make this program the great experience that it is each year. I always enjoy getting to know each intern and watching them learn about the environmental field while also learning professional skills and forming friendships along the way.”
While in Lewes, the students were given a tour of the Robotics Discovery Laboratory by Matt Oliver, the Patricia and Charles Robertson Distinguished Professor of Marine Science and Policy in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment. Oliver showed the students some of the state-of-the-art equipment in the lab, such as the Remotely Operated Vehicles and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, as well as told them about some of the job opportunities available to students with the skills to pilot the equipment.
In the afternoon, the students went out on the Research Vessel Joanne Daiber where they participated in a trawl and looked at water quality at several sites.
David Christopher, marine education specialist with DESG, said that it was great to be able to take the students out on the R/V Daiber.
“They were able to see a variety of marine organisms, and we hope that by providing these experiences, we will encourage the students to consider careers in marine science in the future,” said Christopher.
In addition to spending time in Lewes with DESG, the students also worked with the organization in their home city, where they joined in using a large net to catch fish on the Brandywine River with Ed Hale, DESG fisheries and aquaculture specialist and an assistant professor in UD’s School of Marine Science and Policy.
While it was early in the season and the group didn’t catch any American Shad like they had hoped, Hale said the students had a great time getting in the water.
“I would say they enjoyed just wading around more than the actual fish survey work,” said Hale. “I think they enjoyed being able to connect with the water.”
Later in the program, the students traveled to UD’s Newark Campus where they visited the demonstration gardens at Delaware Cooperative Extension’s office on Wyoming Road.
The gardens have been designed and are maintained by Master Gardener volunteers and feature a variety of low-maintenance native tree, shrub, and perennial plant species. The gardens also provide food and feature sustainable gardening practices where Cooperative Extension raises approximately 1,200 pounds of vegetables over three seasons of the year in raised beds, in-ground plantings, container gardens and self-watering gardens. The gardens also feature several types of berries, a pollinator garden, and other plantings that utilize insects to pollinate and assist in protecting the garden from pests.
Carrie Murphy, Extension Agent and the Lawn and Garden Program Leader, and Master Gardener volunteers met the Wilmington Green Jobs students at the Extension office and introduced them to the Cooperative Extension Lawn and Garden program as well as the Master Gardener program.
“Cooperative Extension is an interesting career path for individuals who might be interested in working in agriculture and with communities,” said Murphy. “It’s empowering to work with others to show them how to plant and grow successful gardens for whatever intended purpose, but especially to produce food.”
Murphy and the Master Gardeners then took the students out to tour the garden.
“In the area of the garden that features plants, the students asked questions about sustainability, plant choice and care, and pollinators,” said Murphy. “In the food garden they were so excited to discover that beets grow underground—one participant was thrilled to be able to pull a beet from the soil and then she asked if she could bag it and take it home with her, which she did. “
In addition, Murphy said the students enjoyed tasting the berries that were growing in the garden.
“They were amazed that blueberries grow on shrubs and they remarked that the blueberries and raspberries they tried in the garden were delicious, sweeter than ones they had tried in the past,” said Murphy.
UD Botanic Gardens
After the visit to the Cooperative Extension Office, the students toured the UD Botanic Gardens (UDBG) where they learned about invasive plants and helped UDBG staff members remove English ivy, one of the invasive plants they had learned about earlier in the day.
Valann Budischak, acting director of the UDBG, said the day gave the UDBG staff an opportunity to educate the future homeowners on the problems with invasive plants, why they should no longer be sold and how to remove the plants from the landscape.
“The students seemed quite surprised to see how the English ivy spread in our garden and the challenges of hand removal,” said Budischak. “The day also gave us the chance to expose the students to potential career paths in an industry with unlimited opportunity and growth potential.”
UD Water Resources Center
During the program, the students also spent several days with the UD Water Resources Center (UDWRC). Narvaez and graduate students Hayley Rost, a Master’s student studying Public Administration, and Liz Shields, a Masters student studying public policy, organized and co-hosted the events.
Among the events was a day-long session on professional development where the students learned about various topics such as resumes, interview skills, and cover letters. The interactive session included presentations and group exercises.
UDWRC also hosted the youth with a panel discussion with UD faculty and alumni where the panelists talked about their career paths and research as well as job opportunities in their respective fields. Following the panel, Rost and Shields led the students on a day-in-the-life type tour of the UD campus.
Finally, UDWRC assisted them with the development of the program capstone which was a presentation to program hosts, friends, family and City of Wilmington staff at the event’s closing ceremony. The presentations were based on an electric school bus ride and related topic content presented by Interfaith Power and Light. At the closing event, the students presented the benefits of electric school buses and the reasons why the City of Wilmington and the State of Delaware should convert to electric school buses.