Guest Commentary: If you love the Delaware Estuary, you’re in good company


Kate Layton is the communications coordinator for the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a native-born Delawarean or a transplant. The Delaware River and Bay are part of your life.

Chances are you’ve boated on or driven past the winding passages of the St. Jones, Mispillion or Leipsic rivers. You might have strolled along the Wilmington Riverwalk on your lunch break to clear your head or visited Slaughter Beach to see horseshoe crabs lining the shore, while migratory birds soared above the waves. Even for a second, did the wild, natural beauty of these waterways make your heart swell?

Maybe you’ve gone to Broadkill Beach and noticed how pebbles in the sand seem more colorful after the waves wash over them. How many times have you marveled at the elegant beauty of a great blue heron? How often have you laughed with friends and family over a platter of blue crabs or oysters caught in the Delaware Bay, or finally found peace and quiet from fishing off the pier at Woodland Beach?

If any of this is familiar, you’re in good company. You might not know that this company includes professionals from environmental groups, government agencies, universities and others who work daily to plumb the mysteries of the Delaware River Watershed. Many of these professionals are Delaware residents who cherish the watershed as much as you do. They want to preserve and protect the watershed for the next generation of Delawareans.

This year, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, an environmental nonprofit organization and the host of the Delaware Estuary Program, will bring scientists, environmental researchers, leaders and thinkers together in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the Delaware Estuary Science & Environmental Summit. Even though we’ll be in New Jersey, the topics and discussions will represent work that goes on in Delaware and surrounding states. We’ll have speakers from Wilmington to the Delaware beaches, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states. The work they’ll talk about reflects work going on to help the ecology in Delaware and throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

“PDE’s biennial summit provides a fantastic opportunity for scientists, environmental professionals and students to share research, incubate ideas and make connections to benefit clean waters, healthy habitats and strong communities on behalf of the Delaware River and Bay,” said PDE executive director Kathy Klein. “We are especially excited to have a cohort of community leaders from Camden, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Chester, Pennsylvania; and Wilmington joining us, as we work in partnership to build capacity to improve the environmental health in their neighborhoods.”

The summit will kick off with keynote speaker Raymond Najjar, Ph.D., from The Pennsylvania State University. Other speakers will include Philippe Hensel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Geodetic Survey and Catrin Einhorn, biodiversity reporter for The New York Times. We’ll have more than 80 poster and in-person presentations about environmental topics ranging from microplastic pollution and the 2022 Technical Report for the Delaware Estuary and Basin to a University of Delaware study about blue crabs.

On day two of the summit, the Delaware River Basin Commission’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change will host a forum. The Climate Forum will feature a conversation among government leaders discussing their respective planning and adaptation strategies throughout the basin. Panelists include Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; Shawn M. Garvin, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Rohit T. “Rit” Aggarwala, commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection; and Adam Ortiz, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 3.

“The DRBC’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change is thrilled to bring distinguished leaders across science and policy together to address climate change in the Delaware River Basin,” said Howard Neukrug, executive director of The Water Center at the University of Pennsylvania and current chair of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change. “We recognize that confronting a changing climate will take collaboration and innovation more than ever before, and we look forward to convening these critical conversations. We also appreciate PDE for giving the forum a home at the summit.”

Registration is now closed for the summit, but we’ll share photos and highlights through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Flickr. Our handle for each of these platforms is @DelawareEstuary. Go to our website in February, and we’ll have summit presentations available to read and download.

More importantly, the conversations that start at the summit won’t end there, and the hard work that goes into preserving what makes Delaware’s environment beautiful and worth protecting will definitely continue. So the next time you look at a river or watch a shorebird fly across the horizon, remember how much you love these things and that people are working behind the scenes to preserve them.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary gives a huge thanks to the following benefactor and patron sponsors for making the 2023 summit possible: American Water, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Delaware River Basin Commission, the Energy Transfer/Sunoco Foundation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Orsted. Additional support is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Visit the partnership’s website at for more information.

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