climate change

New Haven artist chosen for 2021 CTSG Arts Support Award

Joseph Smolinski works on a sea coal mosaic in his New Haven studio. Photo: Jessica Smolinski
Joseph Smolinski works on a sea coal mosaic in his New Haven studio. Photo: Jessica Smolinski

Beachcombing with his wife and two children led New Haven artist Joseph Smolinski to the source of inspiration and raw materials for works he will create for Connecticut Sea Grant’s 2021 Arts Support Award Program that reflect on the human impacts of climate change.

His project, titled “Carbon Adrift: Sea Coal in the Long Island Sound” was chosen for the annual arts award program now in its 12th year. It awards $1,000 annually to artists to create works relevant to coastal and marine environments and Connecticut Sea Grant themes and who are expected to display their works widely.

“The older I get, the more I realize that creativity comes from things like leisure time, when you’re not trying to make art,” said Smolinski, chairman of the Department of Art and Design at the University of New Haven. “My family spends a lot of time on the shore exploring, and we started finding these dark rocks and I started wondering, ‘Are they natural or anthropogenic?’”

Those dark rocks turned out to be sea coal, both dislodged from coal deposits by natural forces and mined pieces that probably fell off barges and cargo ships.

“At every beach I’ve been to on Long Island Sound I’ve found them, from pieces as small as grains of sand to some as big as a hand, four to five inches across,” said Smolinski.

Joseph Smolinski holds one of the pieces of sea coal found on a Long Island Sound beach.
Joseph Smolinski holds one of the pieces of sea coal found on a Long Island Sound beach. Photo: Jessica Smolinski

He began reflecting on the processes that transformed plant matter into sea coal over millennium, and the use of coal as a fuel source by modern humans that contributes to climate change now threatening the planet. That evolved into the idea of using sea coal to make art that speaks both to its history in geological time scales, and to the impacts of the rapid consumption of fossil fuels by humans. The result will be mosaics of intricately patterned pieces of sea coal fixed to wood panels that Smolinski described as “images of the setting sun over Long Island Sound” that are intended to depict the sun as “the energy source that gives coal its anthropogenic value.”

In a complementary project that will be created for the project titled “Open Water,” Smolinski will use images of sunsets over the open waters of the Sound and the Atlantic Ocean onto which water is sprayed, then various pigments applied. By pairing the monochromatic mosaics with the “highly colorful and energetic nautical renderings” of the seascapes, Smolinski hopes to call attention to the future of the world ocean and its central role in human survival. He also hopes to develop a website for schools and environmental groups with information from his research about sea coal and the works created for his project. The various works will be created over the next year.

The independent review panel for the arts award said Smolinski’s project stood out for its “strong conceptual relationship between humans’ effect on the environment and artwork.” The panel also noted that the work addressed issues of materiality associated with environmental issues, eloquently evoking the transformation of materials such as coal through time.

“The submissions that we receive in response to the Connecticut Sea Grant Arts Support Awards program continue to amaze me with their varied aesthetic interpretations of Sea Grant’s mission,” said Syma Ebbin, CT Sea Grant research coordinator. “In addition to the creation of several art pieces, Joseph’s proposal will generate significant research and potentially will yield an educational website, gallery exhibitions, and a series of lectures to provide access to the art and science behind the art to local schools and the diverse communities within Connecticut.”

More information: Judy Benson, CT Sea Grant communications coordinator: judy.benson@uconn.edu; (860) 287-6426

One of the seascapes created for the "Open Water" series by Joseph Smolinski.
One of the seascapes created for the “Open Water” series by Joseph Smolinski. Photo: Jessica Smolinski

CT Sea Grant Post

1st marine economics fellow to focus on natural coastal resources

Ethan Addicott
Ethan Addicott

By Judy Benson

Oversimplified, shoreline beaches are where the sand meets the sea.
Too often, this two-dimensional view has become the foundation of efforts to restore storm and erosion-battered beaches on Long Island Sound and other coastal areas. These projects mainly seek to widen the flat open sand swathe to maintain maximum recreational worth and protect nearby areas from storm and flood damage. Dune grass, beach pea, and the dunes these and other plants inhabit along the shore have largely been left out of the equation.

But thanks to a new marine and coastal economics fellowship created by Connecticut Sea Grant, a Yale University doctoral candidate will spend the next year and a half developing restoration tools that account for the real-world complexity and value of natural and manmade features beyond the sand. The fellowship is funded with $20,000 of the federal funds allocated to CT Sea Grant.

“I’ve been interested in coastal ecosystems since I was young, growing up in Miami,” said Ethan Addicott, 29, who is pursuing his doctorate in environmental and resource economics at Yale and was chosen for the fellowship post. “I’m working to quantify the relationship between healthy dune ecosystems and property values, to enhance the relationship between natural resources and management decision making.”

CT Sea Grant Director Sylvain De Guise said Addicott’s project will accomplish the two main goals of the new fellowship. It was created to help train a new generation of students in marine and coastal economics, and to give coastal communities new resources to draw on in making decisions about threatened coastal areas.

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‘Born Out of Crises’ Issue Looks at Responses to Pandemic, Disasters

Spring-Summer 2021 Wrack Lines issueThe Spring-Summer 2021 issue of Wrack Lines examines actions that grew from different crises, from the pandemic to sea level rise to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

The issue leads off with an article by Robert Klee, former commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, reflecting on the valuable lessons we can take from the pandemic to improve the environment and our communities. Other articles describe how Connecticut’s seafood growers, harvesters and sellers weathered the pandemic, and how their counterparts in Southeast Asia fared.

Two more articles examine the slower-moving crises of sea level rise in coastal and inland communities in Connecticut and North Carolina and the role of managed retreat or buyouts.  The final piece showcases the research of Connecticut Sea Grant Director Sylvain De Guise on dolphins experiencing long-term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The entire issue can be found here.

Articles in this issue:

Editor’s column

“Rebuilding a hopeful future after a year of loss”

“Tested by the pandemic, seafood businesses now poised to emerge stronger”

“Small-scale fisheries in Southeast Asia see harsh impacts of COVID-19”

“A tale of two coastal states as the world gets wetter”

“CTSG’s De Guise helped lead research into long-term effects of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on dolphins”

This issue continues the “Talk to Us” feature soliciting reader comments, many of which will be shared on the CTSG website. Share your feedback and questions with Wrack Lines Editor Judy Benson at: judy.benson@uconn.edu. We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

CTSG Post 

Earth Day to feature audiovisual exhibit, puppet show

Image of"Reading the Wrack Lines" digital video projection on the UConn Avery Point Lighthouse
Example of a “Reading the Wrack Lines” digital audio/video projection on the UConn Avery Point Lighthouse. Photo: Anna Terry

Several special events are planned for Earth Day (April 22) at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus, including audiovisual artwork projected on campus buildings and an original puppet show.

Events will begin at 6:30 p.m. with music recorded by the five-person Connecticut-based group Hitch and Giddyup sponsored by the Avery Point EcoHusky club. At 7 p.m., UConn Puppet Arts graduate student Felicia Cooper will perform ISH, an original one-woman puppet show for all ages inspired by Moby-Dick. UConn Dairy Bar Coastal Crunch ice cream will be served after the show.

From 8 to 9 p.m., there will be a performance of the audiovisual work, “Reading the Wrack Lines,” created by Connecticut College Professor Andrea Wollensak. This will feature creative writing responses to climate change by UConn Avery Point and Connecticut College students used as audiovisual source material within a generative multimedia artwork projected onto both the Branford House the Avery Point Lighthouse. Collaborators for “Reading the Wrack Lines” include software developer Bridget Baird and sound artist Brett Terry. The exhibit is being presented in cooperation with The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art.

The events are free and open to up to 200 attendees to comply with Gov. Lamont’s Executive Orders for outdoor gatherings during the pandemic. Attendees should bring their own chair or blanket, wear face masks and maintain 6-foot social distancing. Rain date will be Friday April 23 at the same times. No pre-registration is required to attend.

Both “Reading the Wrack Lines” and ISH are supported by funding from Connecticut Sea Grant. UConn Reads and the Avery Point Global Café are co-sponsors.

“As a professor and CT Sea Grant research coordinator, I’m excited to be involved in this project,” said Syma Ebbin, who teaches courses in environmental and marine science and policy. “It seeks to integrate the personal creative reflections of students focused on coastal environments and the

Image of a "Reading the Wrack Lines" digital audio/video projection on the Branford House at UConn Avery Point.
Example of a “Reading the Wrack Lines” digital audio/video projection on the Branford House at UConn Avery Point. Photo: Anna Terry

human footprint—encompassing climate change, marine debris and plastics, among other topics they’ve explored this semester—within a generative and interactive video.

“I think the project themes resonate with and amplify the meaning of Earth Day and will generate deeper understandings in both students and the larger audience,” Ebbin said.

About the artists and their work:

Andrea Wollensak is a professor of art at Connecticut College whose work spans media from traditional to digital fabrication, to generative-interactive systems. She has collaborated with computer scientists, musicians, poets and scientists on works that explore themes of place-based narratives on environment and community. To learn more about her work, visit: https://www.andreawollensak.com/.

Felicia Cooper created ISH as part of her Master of Fine Arts in the UConn Puppet Arts program and performed it for audiences in downtown Storrs three times in March. Based loosely on Moby-Dick, it retells the story as if Ishmael were an 11-year-old girl and the whale were friendlier. She uses shadow puppets, object performance in a suitcase and original music composed by Juliana Carr in the show.

Image of Felicia Cooper using object performance in a suitcase during portions of her puppet show ISH.
Felicia Cooper uses object performance in a suitcase during portions of ISH. Photo courtesy of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.
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‘Right Trees for the Right Time’ series begins March 10

Connecticut Sea Grant is joining with the Avalonia Land Conservancy and UConn CLEAR in presenting, “Finding the Right Trees for the Right Time,” a series of four talks about planning and planting for a resilient coastal forest in southeastern Connecticut. The series begins March 10, culminating in a June 9 presentation by Juliana Barrett, coastal habitat specialist for CT Sea Grant, titled, “Brave New Worlds for Trees: Assisted Migration and the Study of Hoffman Preserve.”

The series is part of a larger project focusing on Avalonia’s Hoffman Preserve, a 200-acre forest in Stonington.

Download the series flyer here.

To register for the series, visit: https://clear.uconn.edu/webinars/schedule.htm

words over a lake background

CTSG, Avalonia project looks to prepare forest for the future

By Judy Benson

A sign marks the entrance to the Hoffman Evergreen Preserve in Stonington.
The Hoffman Evergreen Preserve is off Route 201 in Stonington, near the North Stonington town line. Photo: Beth Sullivan

Stonington – Battered by coastal storms and infestations of wooly adelgids, gypsy moth, winter moth and emerald ash borer, sections of the 200-acre Hoffman Evergreen Preserve will now serve as a living lab and demonstration site for how land managers can help forests adapt to climate change.

“We want to increase the resilience of the forest and maintain the water quality filtration services it provides to Long Island Sound,” said Juliana Barrett, coastal habitat specialist for Connecticut Sea Grant. “We’re trying to plant the right trees for the right time.”

Owned by the Avalonia Land Conservancy and popular with hikers and bird watchers, sections of the forest became unsafe over the last decade due to large numbers of diseased and storm-damaged trees. That prompted the land trust to contract with Hull Forest Products to do selective logging in 2019 that left open areas that will now be the subject of a joint project between Avalonia and CT Sea Grant.

“This is about helping to restore a healthy forest,” said Beth Sullivan, Stonington chairperson for Avalonia. “It’s something we’ve been working towards for the last five to six years.”

A grant of $57,144 from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, announced last week, will provide funds for the development of a unique forward-looking forest management plan for the cleared areas, along with a series of public education programs. Barrett said the project is one of the first of its kind in Connecticut that incorporates climate change projections and assisted migration techniques for plants better adapted to future conditions. Some seedlings and seeds will be planted as part of the yearlong project, chosen both for their ability to regenerate under future climate conditions and their value as food sources for wildlife. Robert Ricard, a forester and senior extension educator with UConn, will help develop the plan and planting list, and provide guidance on the best locations for particular species.

“We’re going to try some species at the edge of their limits in Connecticut that, based on climate change projections, we think will do well,” Barrett said.

Many trees and large branches were felled by a series of coastal storms, disease and insect infestations, causing the hiking trails to become unsafe.
Many trees and large branches in the preserve were felled by a series of coastal storms, disease and insect infestations, causing the hiking trails to become unsafe. Photo: Beth Sullivan

Instead of replanting the same species of hemlocks, oaks and ash shown to be vulnerable to the pests and weather disruptions brought by climate change, the plan will identify tree and shrub species likely to be more resilient in warmer temperatures. These could include loblolly pine, tulip poplar, sweetgum and others more common in the mid-Atlantic region. About a dozen loblolly pine seedlings planted last spring, in fact, have already become well established despite last summer’s drought, Sullivan said.

The preserve, located at the north end of town several miles from the shoreline, nonetheless provides important services to Long Island Sound by absorbing runoff and filtering pollutants that would end up in the estuary, Barrett noted.

The public education component was developed with Avalonia project collaborator Sharon Lynch, George Washington University professor emerita in the School of Education and Human Development. An expert in science teacher education, Lynch currently works on education initiatives with the National Science Foundation. The education component will consist of a series of four webinars on topics relevant to the project, including the history of New England forests and the carbon sequestration services they provide. The series is intended for municipal officials, land trust officials, forest landowners and the general public. In addition, a two-day workshop on guiding principles for coastal forest resilience in the Long Island Sound region will be offered specifically for municipal officials, resource managers, land trust officials, forest landowners and students. An accompanying fact sheet will be developed and published.

Nancy Balcom, CT Sea Grant associate director of CT Sea Grant, said she hopes the project will provide valuable information for land managers throughout the region.

“Given the devastation our local forests have suffered which threatens their ability to provide critical ecosystem and recreational services, it’s important to not only test the ability of new species to survive and thrive in our changing climate but to also share the progress and results widely so other land trusts and organizations can pursue similar paths,” she said.

Areas cleared of diseased and dead trees will be replanted with species of seeds and seedlings chosen to adapt to changing climate conditions.
Areas cleared of diseased and dead trees will be replanted with species of seeds and seedlings chosen to adapt to changing climate conditions. Photo: Beth Sullivan

Barrett said the lessons learned at the Hoffman preserve will be shared with other land trusts and land managers, and hopes that tours of the site can be offered in the future to show how different plant species are adapting. The project, she said, will be an opportunity “to educate and engage land trust stewards, resource managers, municipal officials and neighbors in understanding coastal forest ecosystem services, impacts of climate change on these systems and guiding principles for management under changing conditions.”

The grant for the Hoffman Preserve, which will be matched with $33,600 in in-kind services from Avalonia volunteers, is one of 38 awarded in this year’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund program. The 15-year-old program combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support projects that improve the water quality and restore habitat in the Long Island Sound watershed. This year, $3.8 million in funding will support 15 projects in Connecticut, 14 in New York, three in Massachusetts, three in Vermont, one in New Hampshire and two in multiple states.

“It is heartwarming to see innovation at work, people and organizations getting together, planning and acting now for what the world will look like in decades,” said Sylvain De Guise, director of CT Sea Grant. “At the same time, it is encouraging that grant programs are open enough to recognize and fund innovation, even if riskier than sticking with old habits.

“I think we are heading in the right direction,” he concluded.

Judy Benson is the communications coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant.

Original Post

As seas rise, communities can turn retreat into opportunity

Kristin Walker, project engineer for the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, explains how the former home site is now being planted with native species to create a flood plain habitat.
Kristin Walker, project engineer for the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, explains on Oct. 22 how the former home site is now being planted with native species to create a flood plain habitat.

Story and photos by Judy Benson

Retreat isn’t defeat.

It’s deliberately stepping back to make a better future.

“Retreat is very difficult, but it’s going to happen,” said A.R. Siders, assistant professor in the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware. “Wouldn’t it be better to have a managed process? It can be an opportunity to do something more exciting than elevating a few houses, and there are resources available.”

A national expert and keynote speaker at the “Managed Retreat in the Age of Climate Change” virtual workshop on Nov. 13, Siders challenged the audience of about 130 municipal and state land-use officials and others to rethink notions of what’s possible. Rising seas and more frequent flooding of coastal and riverine areas means getting people out of harm’s way is necessary, she said. But can also be a chance to improve our waterfronts for everyone.

Siders said she began focusing on how retreat can be done in an orderly, methodical way—rather than as a haphazard reaction to a disaster—after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. It’s the better alternative to the other options: avoidance, fortifying shorelines with concrete or accommodating rising seas by elevating properties, she said.

To begin the hard conversation with communities, Siders urged land use professionals to pose it as challenge to realize a positive vision for the future: “What do you want your city or community or coast to look like in 30 years? 100 years?

“I don’t want to see a coast that’s armored with sea walls, but I would love to see open beaches all the way from Maine to Texas, so everyone can access them. It won’t happen if we don’t plan for retreat,” she said.

The workshop was the latest in a series hosted by the Climate Adaptation Academy, a partnership of Connecticut Sea Grant and The Center for Land Use Education & Research (UConn CLEAR). Juliana Barrett, CT Sea Grant coastal habitat specialist, and fellow organizer Bruce Hyde, extension educator with CLEAR, emphasized that this workshop is considered the first in a series on managed retreat that will delve into this complex and important issue.

“We see this as just getting the conversation going,” said Barrett.

Hyde set the stage for the presentations with a story and slides from Connecticut’s past. After the 1938 hurricane destroyed a beachfront community in New London, the city acquired the property, razed what remained of the homes and turned it into a large public beach. Today Ocean Beach Park is one of the city’s jewels.

“This is an example of using managed retreat 60 years ago and it has been very successful,” he said.

Siders also noted that there have been more recent examples of successful managed retreat projects across the country, including 12 in Connecticut. Most of these have been small scale, however. At the same time, though, new homes are still being built in vulnerable areas. In Connecticut alone, she said, 478 new homes were built from 2010 to 2017 in a 10-year flood plain.

In the second half of her talk, Siders outlined the multiple issues that arise and kinds of expertise needed to carry out managed retreat. Planners must be mindful of income equity issues—not favoring high income over low income properties, for example—the layers of regulatory and financial considerations/ Also critical, she said, is keeping the process transparent and communication lines open between residents and government. Offering financial incentives, help with finding new homes and working through nonprofit groups to build trust are some of the strategies that might be used, she said.

After Siders, Attorney Marjorie Shansky addressed the legal issues of managed retreat. “Can we adapt policies and regulations to promote managed retreat?” she asked.

These could include mechanisms that favor living shorelines over shoreline hardening, enacting stricter coastal setbacks and buffers and limiting and prohibiting coastal development altogether. She noted that the Florida Keys will no longer issue new building permits after 2023.

Starting the discussion about reimaging a local coastline where people aren’t constantly in a futile fight with rising waters is a good first step, she said. But communities need to start doing more.

“We must move from planning to action,” Shansky said.

Two examples of that kind of action offered inspiration for what can be accomplished. In downtown Meriden, a $13 million project funded by various state and federal agencies has transformed a blighted, flood-prone area into a municipal park. Public Works Director Howard Weissberg, City Engineer Brian Ennis and Assistant Planning Director Paul Dickson took turns describing various aspects of what one of them described as “a flood control site first, a park second, and an economic development parcel third.”

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Virtual Managed Retreat in the Age of Climate Change Workshop

salt marsh
Image by Judy Benson, Connecticut Sea Grant

When talking about community response to climate change issues, retreat is the “R” word. But it is already happening in coastal states throughout the country, including here in Connecticut. Is it a good or bad idea? Will we be forced to retreat due to sea level rise in 30 years or 50 years? What does it mean to a community and how do we manage it?

This workshop is intended to begin the discussion about managed retreat in the face of climate change. Dr. AR Siders, a national expert in managed retreat, will provide a national perspective. Attorney Marjorie Shansky will speak on legal issues. Other speakers will focus on issues and examples related to retreat in Connecticut.
 We would like to hear what you think and what questions you have about managed retreat.
LOCATION: ONLINE
DATE: November 13, 2020
COST: Free
Program runs from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm
To register click here.

Lesson on climate change and marshes created for high schools

salt marsh
Image by Judy Benson, Connecticut Sea Grant

UConn Professor Beth Lawrence collaborated with two high school teachers to create a salt marsh-climate change teaching module for high school students.

In the “Impacts of Climate Change on Long Island Sound Salt Marshes” module, students learn about the natural and anthropogenic impacts of climate change on salt marshes, delve into how scientists are studying the various impacts on salt marsh habitat, and gain a overview of different techniques for climate change research.

The module is suitable for ninth and tenth-grade biology or general science students as well as upper-level elective courses such as environmental science or marine science.

Connecticut Sea Grant support enabled Lawrence to collaborate with the high school educators to develop the inquiry- and evidence-based instructional materials about local climate issues.  Leveraging an ongoing Long Island Sound Study research project, they developed an interactive climate change module for high school students that integrates “Mystery Scientist” activities to highlight different avenues of inquiry and a case study on how sea level rise is altering coastal ecosystems associated with Long Island Sound communities.

The module is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, providing evidence-based, student-centered instructional materials highlighting how global issues impact local environmental issues. The module is being made broadly available through various platforms to encourage adoption by high school teachers throughout the region.

Module materials can be downloaded here.

Original Post

Another Summer Chapter for a Climate Corps Student

By Sarah Schechter, UConn Class of 2021

In the fall of my sophomore year at UConn, I enrolled in EVST 3100 – “Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning.” This is a course about climate change that allows students to look at real world problems and learn how to solve them in a classroom setting. This course was followed by an independent study for the Climate Corps in the spring. Developing this background and experience with climate change, I was hired for a summer internship with UConn Extension and Connecticut Sea Grant. During the summer of 2019, I worked with Juliana Barrett on a video titled “Rising Waters: Planning for Flooding in Connecticut”. This video explains coastal and inland flooding and the impacts of climate change. Municipal officials and commission members viewing the video can use this information in planning for flooding in their communities. I traveled to sites on and around the Connecticut River as well as locations on the coast of Connecticut, and I visited historical societies in order to create a photobank of past floods as well as vulnerable areas and adaptations that are being made. This project allowed me to apply what I had learned about sea level rise and flooding through the Climate Corps, as well as expand my knowledge on the subject, which I will apply to future projects. 

Rising waters -Planning for flooding in CT video thumbnail

During the summer of 2020, I have been working with Juliana Barrett again, this time to complete a video about climate change, which will also be shown to municipal officials so that they can better convey the subject to their citizens. This summer internship was funded by The Rockfall Foundation and Connecticut Sea Grant. The video explains the science behind climate change. It discusses ways to adapt and mitigate issues associated with climate change as well. I have enjoyed working on this project as it has allowed me to learn more about how the climate emergency is impacting Connecticut, and I am excited to share this information with town officials and citizens within my home state. Throughout this internship, I also visited some sites along the Connecticut River, this time to take pictures of salt marshes, which are valuable, but fragile, ecosystems. The final product of this project is titled “Climate Change in Connecticut”.

 

Founders Memorial Park, Old Saybrook, CT
Founders Memorial Park, Old Saybrook, CT

As the summer of 2020 comes to a close, I have been contemplating what I can do next. I plan to utilize at least one of the videos I created throughout my internships as I write my honors thesis, which I will complete during the coming spring semester. My goal is to attend various town meetings and show one or both of the videos I created. I will survey the officials before and after viewing the videos, to gauge how understandable and useful the material is, and to find out how city officials plan to respond to climate change and/or sea level rise. I look forward to working on this project and continuing to expand my knowledge on the subject, while also educating others on the effects of climate change.