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.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced on June 3 that he is leading an effort to secure $100 million over four years in federal funding for a multistate effort to control hydrilla in the Connecticut River watershed.
In an event at Harbor Park in Middletown, Blumenthal said he is seeking an urgent fiscal year 2022 appropriation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Aquatic Nuisance Research Program and the Aquatic Plant Control Program to create a task force to controlHydrilla verticillata.
The invasive plant has spread exponentially throughout the Connecticut River, from Agawam, MA., to Essex, CT. The hydrilla in the Connecticut River has been shown through genetic testing to be a type not previously found in the United States. Hydrilla poses a great risk to the wetland ecosystems, public drinking water supplies and recreational and tourism industries in New England and New York state, according to information from Blumenthal’s office.
The task force would be centered in Connecticut and led by the Army Corps, the Aquatic Invasive Species Program of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. It would create and implement a strategic Plan of Action that would:
prevent further spread
mitigate hydrilla’s affects
eradicate where feasible
monitor to ensure rapid response to future occurrences
Connecticut Sea Grant has joined 14 other government agencies, environmental and community groups thus far in support of Blumenthal’s efforts. Connecticut Sea Grant’s letter of support can be foundhere. An informational article from Sen. Blumenthal’s office can be foundhere.
This year’s Coastal Certificate Program will take place virtually over four days in mid-May. Led by Judy Preston, CT Sea Grant’s Long Island Sound outreach coordinator, this year’s classes will emphasize healthy soils at the root of healthy gardens, landscapes, and ultimately the watersheds that are essential to clean waters and a healthy Sound.
The classes will also look at how soils fuel diverse gardens that sustain wildlife, including pollinators. Co-sponsored by Maggie Redfern, assistant director of the Connecticut College Arboretum, it will also feature guest speakers.
The classes will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on May 11, 13, 18 and 20. Class is limited to 35 students.
The Long Island Sound Blue Plan, a marine spatial plan for what many consider the state’s most valuable natural resource, has been voted out of the state Legislature’s Environment Committee and awaits a vote in the full House and Senate. Read about the plan and why many believe it should be approved in articles by CT Sea Grant Communications Coordinator Judy Benson published March 5 in Connecticut Hearst Media newspapers, March 7 inThe Dayof New London and March 10 in theConnecticut Mirror.
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.”
Connecticut Sea Grant’s Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report is now available. With photos, graphics, and summaries of many projects and initiatives, it’s a great way to get a quick overview of Connecticut Sea Grant‘s programs. It is available here.
The 25th season of the Coastal Perspectives Lectures will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 with a presentation by author and historian Skip Finley titled, “A Voyage of Discovery with Skip Finley.”
This annual lecture series spans the breadth of human interactions with coastal waters, including speakers from the natural and social sciences as well as arts and humanities. It is sponsored by Connecticut Sea Grant, the UConn Department of Marine Sciences, the UConn Maritime Studies program and the UConn Avery Point Director’s Office.
Author of the recently published book,Whaling Captains of Color – America’s First Meritocracy, Finley will tell the story of how whaling was the first American industry to exhibit any diversity, where a man could rise to the ranks of captain based on skill, not skin color. His book features stories from the lives of over 50 whaling captains of color. Join Skip as he shares some of the stories he uncovered during his ‘voyage of discovery’ and paints a picture of the career paths of whalers.
The lectures, which are free and open to the public, will take place virtually for spring 2021 at 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays through April 20. Log-information will be available at:https://marinesciences.uconn.edu/lectures/. Guidance on using WebEx (our online platform) can be found at:JPGPDF
If organizers are able to move to in-person lectures, they will be held in the UConn Avery Point Auditorium, 1084 Shennecossett Road, Groton, CT. Please emailCoastalPerspectives@uconn.eduif you have questions about accommodations. [campus map]
For more information on “A Voyage of Discovery with Skip Finley,” can be foundhere.
The rest of the series will include:
Feb. 23, Andrew Kahrl, professor of history and African American Studies, University of Virginia,“The Struggle toReclaim Connecticut’s Coastal Commons.”Kahrl will discuss his book “Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline, which recounts the history of coastal development, beach privatization, and racial segregation in twentieth-century Connecticut and the struggle to restore public access to the state’s shoreline from the 1970s to the present. He will also discuss the social and environmental impact of exclusionarypublic policies on the state’s coastline and its future implications. More information about his presentation can be foundhere.
March 9, Chris Bowser, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program and the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve,“The Hudson River
Eel Project: Fish Conservation through Community Engagement.”Learn more about the mysterious American eel (glass eel). Bowser will introduce the world of glass eels, touch on the international cultural aspects of eels, as well as dive deep into the community science work characterizing glass eel populations on the Hudson River and how that community science-based data are applied to conservation efforts. More information on his presentation can be foundhere.
April 20,Margaret Gibson, Connecticut state poet laureate and UConn professor emerita; andDavid K. Leff, poet, lecturer and former deputy commissioner of CT DEEP,“Rousing the Ecological Imagination through Poetry.”Poetry is a means by which people can deeply connect with the world around them. Ecology is a science of connection. As we rush headlong into the Anthropocene, earth’s complex systems are increasingly lashed to and influenced by human activity. If the delicate balances among the planet’s organisms and habitats are to survive, humanity has to be roused to good stewardship. Poetry’s fresh images and concise, musical language has the voltage to strike that emotional chord supporting science and public policy by rousing consciousness, amplifying compassion. More information about this presentation can be foundhere.
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.
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.
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’sLong Island Sound Futures Fundprogram. 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 Bensonis the communications coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant.
Most visitors to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn., probably drive by the small stand of cedar trees along the main road without noticing the stark differences.
One group presents healthy deep green funnels pointing skyward. Adjacent is another group partially bare of needles. A few feet away is a clump of standing dead wood, spiny gray branches fully exposed.
The contrasting conditions in this short wooded stretch may be easy for beachgoers to overlook, but Mary Schoell has given it countless hours of attention over the past two years. She’s examined nearly every angle of the health and environment of the same stand of trees, using techniques of dendrochronology to measure growth from tree cores, then assessing impacts of water stress, soil types and elevation. With this data she pieces together a story of how encroaching salt water from sea level rise is affecting tree growth. What she learned there helped pave the way for the next phase in her career, as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association digital coast fellow.
“I’ve been trying to understand the pace and the drivers that convert coastal forest into wetlands,” said Schoell, 27, who grew up in East Haddam and earned her undergraduate degree from UConn and her master’s from the Yale School of the Environment this spring. Between the degrees, she worked for three years for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atlantic Coastal Science Division in Rhode Island as a contractor on a living shoreline project.
Nominated by Connecticut Sea Grant for the digital coast fellowship, Schoell is one of nine candidates nationwide chosen in 2020 for the two-year program.
“The NOAA Digital Coast Fellowship is relatively new and Mary is the first candidate from a Connecticut institution to receive one,” said Syma Ebbin, research coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant. “We’re excited to see what she can do with this opportunity and how it contributes to her professional development as a coastal scientist.”
Schoell will begin her assignment in August, working out of the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. There she will work on projects that tap her wetlands expertise to refine and compare different modeling approaches used existing to predict how and where salt marshes will migrate inland as sea level continues to rise. One well recognized model is called SLAMM (Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model). By bringing together modelers from throughout the country, she hopes to assess the potential for a standardized, national mapping tool.
Connecticut shellfish farmers who endured severe sales losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic are being offered the chance to earn income by working on a unique project to rehabilitate the state’s natural shellfish beds.
The project, developed by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, will employ shellfish farmers with vessels normally used to harvest oysters to instead raise and relocate oyster shell buried in silt and other materials off the bottom of the beds. The exposed oyster shell would then provide the preferred habitat for oyster larvae. The shellfish farmers would be compensated for a portion of their hours worked.
The project is the second phase of a three-part initiative to support shellfish farmers hurt by sales losses to restaurants and other key customers. At the same time farmers are being assisted, the natural shellfish beds that are the main source of oyster seed for Connecticut’s commercial and recreational beds will be restored to greater productivity. The natural beds span about 7,000 acres offshore in areas mainly from West Haven to Greenwich.
“We are pleased to have been able to secure new funds to support the aquaculture industry, using innovative avenues to provide some short-term cash flow for work that will enhance the productivity of natural beds in the future, with associated economic and ecological benefits,” said Sylvan De Guise, director of Connecticut Sea Grant.
Connecticut Sea Grant and the state Department of Agriculture collaboratively received $74,999 in federal funds from the National Sea Grant Office to fund the project, which is being supplemented with $50,474 worth of in-kind services. During the first phase of the project that began on May 6, shellfish farmers have been working on different areas of the natural beds than are being targeted in the second phase.
A third phase of the project, which would begin pending approval of additional federal funding, would compensate farmers for shellfish that have grown too large for consumer markets. Those shellfish would then be planted on closed portions of state and town shellfish beds across the state to repopulate those areas.
“Over the past four weeks, more than one dozen shellfish companies have actively rehabilitated the state’s public shellfish beds during phase one of this project plan,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “The implementation of phase two within the next week will enable continuation of this critical work in shallower areas and provide producers with compensation through our collaboration with Connecticut Sea Grant.
“These efforts are crucial to ensuring the future sustainability of the state’s shellfish industry through enhanced management of Connecticut’s public seed beds and facilitating availability of oyster seed to the entire industry,” Hurlburt said.
The Department of Agriculture will continue to document the enhancement achieved through the rehabilitation efforts using a combination of vessel monitoring system data, landings reporting and via the deployment of an underwater video camera. The camera footage would document bottom conditions of those areas that have been worked versus baseline conditions in areas of the beds that remain untouched. Staff intend to document long-term recovery of beds by assessing conditions and oyster recruitment levels on project areas in subsequent seasons. The information will be used to develop best management practices for the natural oyster seed beds to achieve maximum production of oyster seed there in the future.
Shellfish companies interested in participating in the program should submit their request via email to David Carey, director of the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture, at:David.Carey@ct.gov.