Connecticut Sea Grant

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. 

Connecticut stays on guard against toxic algae blooms

Emily Van Gulick prepares a sample for examination under the microscope.
Emily Van Gulick prepares a sample for examination under the microscope. Photo: Judy Benson

Article by Judy Benson

If you’re a Connecticut shellfish farmer, your ears might perk up a bit when you hear the term HABs – harmful algal blooms.

Toxic HABs outbreaks, sometimes referred to as “red tide” or “brown tide” because of the discolored water that can occur along with it, have caused recent shellfish bed closures around the country, including states neighboring Connecticut.

Connecticut has remained relatively sheltered from HABs thus far, but there have been sporadic, rare closures in isolated portions of the state. So while shellfish farmers and regulators here keep watch for any warning signs just in case, the rest of us can keep enjoying fresh clams and oysters grown in local waters, either from a commercial farm or harvested from certified recreational municipal beds.

“People can eat shellfish from Long Island Sound with confidence,” said Gary Wikfors, director of the Milford lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That’s because of the well-coordinated early warning system in place in Connecticut to catch an outbreak of the particular kinds of algae that can sometimes emit toxins harmful to clams, oysters and mussels, and sicken the people who eat them.

Algae, which range from seaweeds to tiny single-celled microalgae (also called phytoplankton), form the basis of the aquatic food chain. Among the thousands of different species, about 100 can contain or emit toxins into marine and freshwater bodies that can cause illness and even death in humans, pets and wild animals. Of these 100, a handful of are of greatest concern in Connecticut waters.

The mere presence of these types of algae isn’t a danger – most of the time a bloom occurs with no release of the toxin. But thanks to constant monitoring, there’s a system in place to respond quickly if that were ever to change. It’s a crucial part of ensuring the continued success of the state’s $30 million shellfish industry.

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Discarded fabric, puppets are grist for marine-themed art

bull kelp in ocean looking up towards surfaceTwo artists using different mediums have been awarded 2020 Connecticut Sea Grant Arts Support Awards to create works conveying messages about human connections to the sea and the threats it faces.

The two artists were chosen to each receive a $1,000 award. The awards are funded by Connecticut Sea Grant and one is being matched by the Connecticut Department of Economic Development’s Office of the Arts.

Kathryn Frund of Cheshire and Felicia Cooper of Stafford Springs were both recommended for awards by an independent Review Panel as part of the competitive CTSG Arts Support Awards Program, now in its 11th year.

For her project, Frund will build a large contour map installation of Long Island Sound, using striped fabric culled from thrift stores. These will be laid out with curves and folds atop panels to convey the movement and dimensions of the marine waters in the estuary. By using discarded clothing to depict the shape of the Sound, Frund said, she hopes to raise awareness about excess consumption as well as the impacts of climate change. There may be opportunities as well for the public to donate cast-off clothing to help raise awareness of the impacts of our consumption and facilitating an extended conversation about sustainable consumer choices.

Cooper, for her part, will create a one-hour children’s puppet musical titled, “Ish,” based loosely on Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. The characters will travel in a submarine through the ocean, eventually encountering a great whale and becoming challenged to use their imaginations and resourcefulness to meet environmental challenges.

“The Review Panel was really impressed by the proposals of both artists on the basis of their aesthetic strength and relevance to CTSG’s mission,” said Syma Ebbin, CTSG’s research coordinator who initiated and leads the arts support program. “Frund’s work has the capacity to resonate with its audience and further our understanding of the impacts of our consumerism. Cooper’s work engages a young audience in a puppetry performance that aims to increase their awareness of ocean pollution problems and get them thinking about innovating creative solutions to these problems.”

The winning submissions were selected based on aesthetic quality, relevance to coastal and marine environments and Connecticut Sea Grant themes, as well as potential impact on non-traditional audiences. Artists who live in Connecticut or whose work is related to Connecticut’s coastal and marine environments or Long Island Sound are eligible.

Read more at: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/07/24/discarded-fabric-puppets-are-grist-for-marine-themed-art/

Meet Lindsey Kollmer: Connecticut River Estuary Aquatic Invasive Plant Steward Intern

Photo by: Dorothy R. Hart (www.ahartseyephotography.zenfolio.com

Hello! My name is Lindsey Kollmer and I am honored and excited to be the Connecticut River Estuary Aquatic Invasive Plant Steward Intern for the summer of 2020. I am a rising Junior at UConn currently pursuing a double major of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Molecular & Cellular Biology. I am a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society at UConn and enjoy crocheting comfort objects for babies in the NICU as a part of the Knit for NICU club.

As part of my internship this summer I am focusing on protecting the lower CT River from two aquatic invasive species in the CT River Estuary: Water Chestnut and Hydrilla. I am working to raise public awareness about these plants and how destructive they can be to the local ecology, public enjoyment, and economy of the river. After just a short time learning about these plants, I am alarmed at the destruction they bring (and their potential for a lot more!). This ignited even more motivation in me to help inform people about the simple ways they can prevent the spread of aquatic invasives to protect our valuable resources and favorite outdoor places.

To enrich my internship experience, I am volunteering with the Friends of Whalebone Cove to “paddle and pull” or hand-pull Water Chestnut from local coves off the river. It is so rewarding to see the difference in a location before and after pulling Water Chestnut. (Catch me on the UConn Extension Instagram at a Water Chestnut pulling event!)

I am so lucky to be making a difference so close to home and to be working with such knowledgeable mentors from CT Sea Grant, Judy Preston, and Nancy Balcom. Every day I am learning something new and cannot wait to continue my internship journey!

Fellowship Supports Diversity in Marine, Coastal Research

scallop shells on a Connecticut beachThree undergraduate students helping pave the way for greater diversity in the sciences have been chosen as the first recipients of Connecticut Sea Grant’s new summer undergraduate research fellowships for underrepresented and underserved students in marine and coastal scientific research.

UConn students Andrew Tienken and Larissa Tabb and Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) student James Hannon each will receive a $5,000 stipend to conduct summer research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

“We are pleased to support more students in their pursuit of a career in the sciences and look forward to learning about the outcomes of their individual projects,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director of CT Sea Grant.

The program is designed to provide early career experience, training and mentorship to underrepresented minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged students as well as students of color, indigenous students, members of the LGBTQ community and students with disabilities.

“This fellowship is the result of several years of visioning efforts that I was involved in within the National Sea Grant program which focused on enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Syma Ebbin, who led the creation of the program as CT Sea Grant’s research coordinator “Funding was made available from the National Sea Grant program for state programs to push this visioning agenda forward. The motivating idea is that in order to have greater diversity in marine and coastal sciences, more efforts are needed to engage and mentor students earlier on in their academic careers. This effort is being made to prime the pipeline, so to speak, so in the future there will be a greater diversity of highly trained individuals working in marine research.“

Tienken, Hannon and Tabb, who are all rising juniors majoring in environmental science, biology and marine science, respectively, said they are grateful for the support Connecticut Sea Grant is providing to help increase diversity in their fields of interest.

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In a Paradise Threatened, Teaching Girls to Be the Change They Want to See

sky and land view from Dominican Republic
Photo: Tessa Getchis

Tessa L. Getchis, aquaculture extension educator and aquaculture extension specialist for Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension for the last 20 years, spent last August through December in the Dominican Republic with her husband Ryan and their two school-aged daughters. While past trips to this island nation had been vacation-length recreational time, this was an extended stay with a decidedly challenging mission. She would be teaching marine science to middle-school aged girls from impoverished families, taking on some big problems while imparting hope and empowerment. The University of Connecticut and Connecticut Sea Grant supported her project there, and this story was originally published in the Spring-Summer 2020 issue of Wrack Lines, the magazine of the Connecticut Sea Grant College Program, located at UConn Avery Point.

 

This past fall I had the incredible opportunity to move my family to a Caribbean island, take on a new job as a middle school marine science teacher and be part of an organization that’s cultivating future female leaders in environmental activism.

My family has been traveling to the north shore of the Dominican Republic for more than a decade. This country, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with its neighbor Haiti, is a place of unimaginable beauty. Palm trees sway over wind-swept beaches, coral reefs span turquoise waters, waterfalls tumble over jagged green mountains and narrow streams meander through grasslands. Its diverse landscapes make it perfect for ecotourism including hiking, diving, surfing, windsurfing, whale watching and more.

Life is also a lot slower. (It’s a stark contrast to living here in the Northeast.) Dominicans are known for their friendly nature, and always greet you with a smile. When they say hello and ask about your day, they really want to know!

We immediately fell in love with the country and its people, but while we were enjoying the sand and sun, we realized they have been dealing with some serious challenges. Most people in this part of the Dominican Republic live in poverty, without sufficient food or clean drinking water.

They lack access to a quality education and some children are forced to sell items on the street or beg for money to support their families. The majority of children attend public schools that are only offered for a half day, and fewer than 20 percent of girls make it past the eighth grade. A rapidly changing climate with extreme flooding followed by drought, and relentlessly rising seas further threaten their personal safety and food and water security.

And then there is the garbage. The country is grappling with the amount of trash, especially plastic, entering its waterways and the looming threat of the microscopic pieces that it will continue to break into for hundreds of years. This plastic problem is so particularly grave here that a documentary Isla de Plastico (Cacique Films, 2019) was recently produced to draw attention to the widespread impacts.

It is still paradise – just paradise threatened.

It was difficult to witness such adversity in the midst of what for us was paradise (and what we considered our second “home”). As my husband and I thought about how difficult it would be if our two young daughters had to grow up in these conditions, our hearts sank. They’ve never had an empty belly. They drink from a faucet, never thinking that there might be a limited supply or that the water could make them sick. Our biggest trash problem is when collection day falls on a holiday and we have to store bags in the garage for one extra day. We felt motivated to do something to contribute, but these were huge problems and we were just visitors.

Read more at:  https://today.uconn.edu/2020/06/paradise-threatened-teaching-girls-change-want-see/

CT Sea Grant Sponsors Three in Prestigious Marine Policy Fellowship

Sea Grant logoTwo University of Connecticut graduate students and a third from Yale University have been chosen for the 2021 NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program, which places early career professionals with federal government offices for one year.

Halle Berger and Alec Shub, UConn marine science graduate students, and Emily Tucker, a Yale School of the Environment graduate student, were among 74 finalists selected nationwide for the fellowship. This year Connecticut Sea Grant is among 27 of the 34 Sea Grant programs sponsoring one or more Knauss fellows. Starting in 1974, 1,400 fellows have completed the program, successfully launching careers in science, policy and public administration.

“I became interested in applying science to policy, and how people are using the research scientists were doing to make policy,” said Shub, who expects to complete his master’s degree in paleoclimate oceanology – the study of the effects of climate variability on ancient ocean systems – next month. “The Knauss program seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my interests.”

Knauss fellows are chosen through a competitive process that includes several rounds of review at both the state Sea Grant program and national levels. To be eligible, students must be enrolled or have recently completed Masters, Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs with a focus on coastal science, policy or management and apply to one of the 34 Sea Grant programs. If successful at the state program level, their applications are then reviewed by a national review panel.

This fall, the finalists will participate in a virtual placement week to get to know each other and interview with potential host offices. Executive Agency Appointments for the Knauss fellows include placements throughout the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Navy, among others. Others receive legislative appointments in the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, the House Committee on Natural Resources, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the offices of Congressional and Senate legislators.

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Climate Change and Aquaculture in Connecticut’s Long Island Sound

Workers at Briarpatch Enterprises in Milford, CT, load and unload clams onto a machine that sorts and bags the shellfish according to size.Tessa Getchis, one of our Connecticut Sea Grant Extension educators, and David Carey of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture look at the challenges that climate change is creating for Connecticut aquaculture producers in this new report available from the USDA Climate Hubs. 

Seafood Consumption is Increasing

cover of Connecticut seafood survey publicationHuman demand for seafood is rising, but the world ocean can only provide a limited share of what we consume. Over the last 50 years, the average annual growth in seafood production exceeded that of all other types of terrestrial animal production. In 2018, global seafood production was estimated at an all-time high of 178.8 million metric tons, with farmed seafood representing nearly half of the total of all seafood produced.

With capture fisheries production nearly stagnant, aquaculture has been rapidly expanding to meet the needs of a growing population. A new report includes findings from a survey of Connecticut residents about their seafood related consumption, knowledge, behaviors and preferences.

The purpose of the study was to collect data to inform the development of public engagement programs on Connecticut wild and farmed seafood industries and seafood products. Further, the study generated new data useful to seafood producers on consumer willingness to pay for locally farmed products. The report is available at seagrant.uconn.edu.

Article by Tessa Getchis

Thames River Quests are fun for anytime this summer

Developing buds on bloodroot with its first flowerThe Thames River Heritage Park and Connecticut Sea Grant are inviting people to solve a word puzzle while exploring historic sites in New London and Groton by completing one or more of the four Thames River Quests any time this summer.

Those who complete the quests can enter a prize drawing for heritage park T-shirts and water taxi tickets.

The quests have been offered as part of Connecticut Trails Day events on the first weekend in June in 2018 and 2019. This year, instead of group gatherings, Trails Day hosts are promoting activities that can be done at any time.

“The quests offer families a safe and affordable opportunity to enjoy being outdoors on a pursuit that is both fun and educational,” said Marian Galbraith, president of the Thames River Heritage Park Board of Directors.

The Thames River Quests are treasure-hunt style tours of four park sites: Fort Trumbull State Park and the downtown Waterfront Park in New London; and Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park and Thames Street in Groton.

Participants follow clues to solve a word puzzle that leads to a special location where the quest ends. At the ending spot, people are asked to take a photo and email it to: info@thamesriverheritagepark.org to be entered into the drawing. Winners will be randomly selected throughout the summer.

Photos of the winners will be posted on the Thames River Heritage Park’s Facebook page. In addition to the Thames River Heritage Park and Connecticut Sea Grant, the Thames River Quest is also sponsored by The Day Publishing Co.

Directions for the four quests can be found at: https://www.thamesriverheritagepark.org/quests/

“We enjoy partnering with the Thames River Heritage Park and The Day to highlight the maritime heritage and history of the Thames River region through this interactive quest,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant.

Original Post:

https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/05/21/thames-river-quests-are-fun-for-anytime-this-summer/