Sustainable Landscapes

Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces

CT Trail Finder and GIS with Courtney Andreozzi

Courtney AndreozziGreetings! My name is Courtney Andreozzi and I am honored to be the GIS intern for CT Trailfinder for Summer 2022. I am a rising senior at UConn studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) with a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

During this previous school year I worked in conjunction with UConn’s CLEAR and Joshua’s Land Trust to add local trails to CT Trailfinder, and am excited to continue and expand my work through UConn Extension. In addition to using ArcGIS Pro to edit and analyze trails to be added to the website, the GIS work I am doing is assisting in building Connecticut’s first statewide layer of trails that are collected from a variety of land managers. Besides my interests in conservation, GIS, and finding local opportunities to get outside (especially since being affected by Covid), I am passionate about mental health visibility and advocacy, being active in the UConn chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

CT Trailfinder itself provides accurate, trail manager approved information on publicly accessible trail systems that can be quickly updated; increasing awareness and access to outdoor resources to all audiences, especially those that are not traditional trail users. With more than 200 postings and more than 1000 miles of trails already mapped on the website, this opportunity has opened my eyes to just how many opportunities there are across the state for both traditional and nontraditional trail uses (e.g. cross country skiing, bicycling, equestrian, paddling, etc.). I hope to also contribute to the site’s development of trailside services that will help connect the trail resources to the local communities. I am delighted to be able to contribute my skills in GIS to encourage others in Connecticut to find trail systems appropriate for their interests and explore all of the beautiful publicly accessible land around them.

Learn more about CT Trailfinder at https://www.cttrailfinder.com/

Are you a land manager? Learn how you can add your trails at https://cttrails.uconn.edu/trailfinder_add/

Job Openings with UConn Extension

UConn Extension is hiring! We have several positions open. Please visit the individual position links for full descriptions and information on how to apply:

Green Snow Pro: Best Practices for Salt Application

snow removal on the UConn Campus in Storrs
Snow and snow removal begins outside the South Campus Residences on Feb. 1, 2021. (Peter Morenus/UConn photo)

The scientific studies continue to pile up, and confirm the same thing: road salt is causing lots of problems in our streams, lakes and groundwater. The majority of salt applied is sodium chloride, also known as rock salt. In the absence of a new “miracle” deicer, salt will continue to be the most cost-effective product for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the only way to reduce the impacts will be to reduce the amount applied, while still keeping surfaces safe for travel.

Salt washes off the streets and into our soil and waterways. In the soil, it percolates down and changes the soil structure. Too much salt in the soil means plants are unable to grow. We often see dead grass along the roads or sidewalks. High salt content in the soil is often the cause of the dead grass. Salt also enters our water systems and increases salinity levels in our water, even during the summer months. This has detrimental effects on human, animal, and environmental health.

The Green Snow Pro program started at UConn during the fall of 2018. Green Snow Pro is a voluntary salt applicator certification program. Program staff trains municipal public works employees and private contractors. This training includes information about the science of salt, the downstream impacts of salt, how to properly apply salt given weather conditions, and how to calibrate equipment. The program is modeled after the University of New Hampshire’s Green Snow Pro program.

The Connecticut Training and Technical Assistance Center (T2 Center) is the primary leader. They lead the one-day trainings as part of their Road Scholar program. The Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) collaborates with the T2 Center on other state salt initiatives with UConn educators, regulators, and public works professionals. The class focuses on best practices for salt application and maintenance of public works facilities and equipment. Demonstrations and case studies illustrate the positive impact these strategies can have on communities and operations. 

T2 Center staff trained UConn’s facilities staff, and there were substantial reductions in salt use in the first season alone. Green Snow Pro applicators at UConn used over 2,600 less tons of salt, corrected for the number of storms. This resulted in a savings of over $313,000 in salt costs alone. Green Snow Pro’s success highlights education’s lasting environmental benefits. Already, professionals in more than 58 towns statewide have participated in the voluntary training. 

We developed a guide, CT Green Snow Pro Best Practices for Municipalities that all municipalities and employees can use. Case studies highlighting the programs success in Ellington, South Windsor, and Manchester were also created and are used in training sessions. Other resources are available on the program website. 

“We learned the ways to salt roads versus bridges. It gave us a greater knowledge of salting the road, rather than just going out and thinking it’s good enough,” says Andrew Menard, a course participant from the Town of Manchester Highway Department. “We have mathematical equations now for how many pounds per lane mile to use and that’s really helpful. We now know if the salt we’re applying is doing what we think it’s supposed to be doing.” 

Although we cannot fix our salt problem overnight, programs like this offer the best hope to tackle this very serious problem. Visit s.uconn.edu/GreenSnowPro for more information.

Article by Mike Dietz

UConn Forest Providing Educational, Environmental Benefits

Jose Ayala '22 (CAHNR), left, and Alexandra Pouliot '23 (CAHNR) position a log on a portable sawmill in the Fenton Tract of the UConn Forest near Horsebarn Hill Road
Jose Ayala ’22 (CAHNR), left, and Alexandra Pouliot ’23 (CAHNR) position a log on a portable sawmill in the Fenton Tract of the UConn Forest near Horsebarn Hill Road on Aug. 2, 2021. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The UConn Forest is vital for teaching, research, and extension work. It also provides wildlife habitat, watershed protection and popular recreational hiking trails. The Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) manages the forest. 

Proactive management sustains and enhances the many benefits the forest provides. Thomas Worthley is an Associate Extension Professor with joint appointments in Extension and NRE. He uses the forest for his undergraduate and extension education activities. Worthley also helps facilitate research projects. He and the UConn Forest crew, a group of undergraduate students, attend to day-to-day management tasks. 

Forest crew members are all professionally trained on chainsaw use and safety, as well as with other woods-work equipment. They harvest wood from trees lost to damage and disease. Utilizing wood and creating durable products is a way of storing sequestered carbon from these trees. Active forest management retains the environmental benefits and promotes growth of more trees. 

Multi-Faceted Approach to Nitrogen Management

aerial map of field spreading in agriculture
Photo: Rich Meinert

We have a multi-faceted approach to nitrogen management in Connecticut that addresses land use issues, agricultural production, and water quality. 

Extension faculty from the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) are working on several applied research projects in support of better nitrogen (N) management. They are collaborating with the University of Rhode Island and EPA to create an online tool, “N-Sink,” to track the movement of N in coastal watersheds (Highlights, 2020). In a project funded by the Long Island Sound Study (LISS), they are using cutting-edge high resolution land cover data to explore the relationship of land use to N export for the over 4,300 small watershed basins in Connecticut. Finally, the CLEAR geospatial team is part of another LISS study, led by Dr. Ashley Helton of the 

Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, that is looking at “legacy” N loadings that are derived from past land uses that are no longer apparent but that continue to export N to our waters. 

Rich Meinert is working with three farms on developing accurate as applied maps for farm applications. Current as applied maps provided by GPS systems are inaccurate on smaller New England farms. Our small irregularly shaped fields require spreaders to negotiate tight turns. Current generation software does not calculate the differences in as applied rates between the inside and the outside of a turn. Preliminary measurements using equipment on one of the farms has resulted in a 30% decrease in application rate on the outside of a turn versus the inside of the turn. 

Another challenge in our smaller fields is overlap. Current spreaders have a fixed operating width. They throw lime, fertilizer, or manure with a set amount of force, across a fixed width, or they spray manure, or pesticides from a single point or a set of nozzles with a certain pressure and spray pattern, like a paint sprayer. Having a fixed application width and a varying field shape inevitably results in overlap. Certain sprayers can shut off nozzles to prevent overlap, but fertilizer and manure spreaders cannot vary their discharge. This research is currently collecting data to develop a computer algorithm to show where the nutrients are actually going so that future nutrient applications can target areas of fields that need it, and avoid areas that have had excess nutrients applied previously.

Visit CLEAR.uconn.edu and s.uconn.edu/nutrientmanagement for more information.

Article by Chet Arnold and Rich Meinert

CLEAR Online Training Portal

man sitting at an Apple computer

The Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) is the new home to a suite of online certificate trainings. The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) offers online certificate courses for new and existing land use officials charged with protecting our environment. DEEP asked CLEAR to host them to expand reach and access. 

DEEP issues a Certificate of Achievement upon successful course completion. The courses are not limited to municipal officials. DEEP encourages participation by anyone interested in learning about land use in Connecticut—all courses are free. 

Online training modules from CLEAR’s Land Use Academy and Adapt CT, as well as links to training schedules for the New Farms and Farmers and the Geospatial Training programs are also available. 

DEEP Certificate Trainings 

  • Aquifer Protection Program Technical Training 
  • Municipal Inland Wetlands Agency Comprehensive Training Program 
  • Hazardous Waste Management Training 
  • The 21st Century Resilient Business: How Managing Chemicals Can Help You Weather the Storm (in development) 

Visit clear.uconn.edu/training for more details.

Fenwick Living Shoreline

Connecticut shoreline and living shoreline
Photo: Juliana Barrett

The Hepburn Preserve is a 4-acre beach, dune and brackish tidal wetland habitat owned by the Lynde Point Land Trust, located in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook. Storm events have caused serious erosion of the area when strong winds and waves hit the shoreline, compounded by shoreline changes due to nearby seawalls and groins. Several major coastal storms overtopped or breached the dunes including Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. A permanent breach, compounded by sea level rise, would cause long term changes to this marsh system. 

As a solution, an innovative hybrid living shoreline was proposed, designed and implemented at the site to decrease erosion of the beach/dune habitat, create marsh habitat along the shoreline, and aid in the protection of the dune system. Living shorelines are a green infrastructure technique to aid in shoreline stabilization using native marsh vegetation. Sometimes low sills (such as rock or oyster reefs) are incorporated into living shoreline designs, hence the term, “hybrid” living shoreline. The purpose of a sill is to break and slow wave energy. Sills are placed parallel to the shoreline with the length and height dependent on site requirements. When multiple sills are used, large enough spaces between sills is required to allow for movement of marine organisms. 

This project supports the “It Takes a Village” theme. The land trust, Borough of Fenwick officials and local residents had started to meet years before this living shoreline was implemented to educate each other and to research and discuss various options. They spoke with many different groups, including Connecticut Sea Grant/UConn Extension, on how they might best proceed and what their options for a living shoreline might be. Many partners were brought together with the Connecticut River Conservancy taking the lead on a Long Island Sound Study Futures Fund grant that funded part of the implementation. Visit climate.uconn.edu for more information.

Article by Juliana Barrett

Calling All Citizen Scientists: Mallard Duck Research

mallard duck eggs in a nest

Have you found a Mallard duck nest this spring? Please support the research project of Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment by letting us know. We have several students searching for nests all day, every day, but CT is full of people who are outside observing wildlife. We would greatly appreciate your help in finding nests.

More info here:

https://tracyrittenhouse.weebly.com/mallard-project.html

Direct link to reporting form:

https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/76b0075092fb4c1190326f36b1428fc0