The Thames River Heritage Park and Connecticut Sea Grant are celebrating Connecticut Trails Day on June 5 by inviting people to visit one or more of the four park sites where they can enjoy a self-guided, educational activity and receive a complimentary harbor cruise ticket for the heritage park water taxi.
In the Thames River Quests, first offered on Trails Day in 2018, participants follow a set of clues to different locations at each site to solve a word puzzle and learn about the region’s history and ecology. The Quests take place at Fort Trumbull State Park and the downtown Waterfront Park in New London; and at Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park and Thames Street in Groton.
For the second year, the Quests are available as self-guided activities people can enjoy any time, but those who register and complete the Quests on Trails Day can receive a free harbor cruise ticket and will be eligible to enter a prize drawing for heritage park T-shirts. The tickets can be used on the park water taxi once it begins operating for the season on June 12.
“These Quests are a shining example of our communities and local organizations working together and taking advantage of the resources we have right here to provide family-friendly and fun park experience,” said Capt. Paul Whitescarver, TRHP board president.
Those who plan to do one or more of the Quests on Trails Day are asked to pre-register on the heritage park website beginning on May 20. Everyone planning to do the Quests should download and print the directions from their home computer at:thameriverheritagepark.org/quests.
“These Quests are a wonderful way to get outside and visit places perhaps you haven’t before, while learning about the rich maritime heritage and history of the Thames River region,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant.
At the end of each Quest, participants are asked to take a photo and post it to their Facebook or Instagram account with@ThamesRiverHeritagePark #TRHPQuest or email it to:firstname.lastname@example.org receive their complimentary ticket and to be entered into the prize 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 Quests are also sponsored by The Day Publishing Co.
Oyster habitat in Long Island Sound is a bit like sunny summer days at the seashore—generally speaking, the more the merrier.
These native bivalves help keep the Sound clean by filtering excess nutrients and shoring up shorelines with colonies that create structure and buffer wave action, while also creating habitat for juvenile fish and other marine life. Plus, they provide a nutritious human food source for commercial and recreational shellfishermen to harvest.
With the shared belief that more is better when it comes to oysters, diverse groups have come together to find areas to expand the presence of these shellfish in the Sound. While each group’s main motivations may differ—from habitat restoration to improving water quality to growing the state’s shellfish industry—the common goal of achieving a healthier Sound through oyster restoration projects has led to the creation of a new online tool to advance that aim.
Connecticut Sea Grant Aquaculture Extension Specialist Tessa Getchis will receive a Service Excellence Award in the University of Connecticut chapter of the American Association of University Professors’ 2021 UConn-AAUP Excellence Awards.
The awards have been given annually since 1997 in six categories, and this year focused specifically on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Getchis, who also holds the title of senior cooperative extension educator, is being recognized for her role in the various responses to the impact of pandemic shutdown on the state’s commercial shellfishing industry. This included a quick-turnaround survey done early in the shutdown to assess the economic fallout on shellfish farmers. That was followed by assistance programs that included: hiring commercial shellfish workers to rehabilitate the state’s natural shellfish beds; development of a website to share information about direct-to-consumer seafood markets; buybacks of oversized oysters; and assistance with applications for various government financial aid programs.
“We were able to provide some early relief to shellfishermen, and we’re really motivated to keep going, because this wasn’t a one-time impact,” Getchis said.
She stressed that the entire response would not have been possible without the contributions of colleagues at CT Sea Grant and the state Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture.
“It was and is a team effort,” she said.
CT Sea Grant Director Sylvain De Guise said the award is well deserved.
“It reflects on the recognition of her passion, teamwork, continued leadership and energy,” he said.
Her award will be given in a virtual ceremony on April 28. Also receiving a Service Excellence Award will be three assistant professors, Milagros Castillo-Montoya, Sharde Davis and David Embrick. Ten others will receive awards in teaching excellence, teaching innovation, research and creativity.
To read more about the pandemic response efforts, visit:
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 has announced a new internship opportunity for a graduate student in the Long Island Sound Mentor Teacher program. Applications are due byFeb. 26.
Connecticut Sea Grant (CTSG) based at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point, Groton, seeks a graduate student intern to research, plan, develop, record, and edit virtual programming with educators and scientists focused on Long Island Sound (LIS) topics. Working directly with CTSG Education Coordinator Diana Payne and in collaboration with New York Sea Grant (NYSG) staff, the CTSG intern will learn about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) from Payne and virtual recording techniques from NYSG. Specifically, the CTSG intern will seek potential speakers whose research aligns with NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas (content) and can showcase Crosscutting Concepts and/or Science and Engineering Practiceshttps://www.nextgenscience.org/three-dimensions. The CTSG intern may also assist in recruiting current and/or former LIS Mentor Teachers to share their expertise in teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given the unexpected consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual sessions have replaced in-person workshops and professional learning opportunities for educators, that the CTSG Intern will help facilitate. Since its inception in 2002, the Long Island Sound Mentor Teacher (LISMT) program in Connecticut has consistently recruited high quality, creative and respected teachers to assist their peers in incorporating LIS content into curricula within the scope of the newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). From 2002 through 2019, 39 LISMT and NGSS workshops in Connecticut have utilized 31 LIS mentor teachers to reach 511 formal and informal K-12 educators, and through them, a self-reported 32,317 students in 101 Connecticut cities, towns and regional school districts (60%). Of note, the LISMT program was selected as a Best Practice by the 2019 CTSG site review team.
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.
Connecticut Sea Grant will lead a three-year, multi-state initiative to create the economic and business framework needed to spur the fledgling domestic kelp industry into the mainstream.
Supported by a $766,650 federal grant announced today, the project will involve nine East and West Coast states where nascent seaweed aquaculture businesses are being impeded from further growth by the absence of comprehensive financial and management information resources. The economic analysis and business plans created by this project would be intended for use by different types of kelp farms as well as investors and lenders.
“There has been a real need for the information to be produced by this project to support the development of the kelp industry in Connecticut and the United States,” said project leader Robert Pomeroy, UConn professor emeritus, extension specialist and marine resource economist at Connecticut Sea Grant.
He will work with experts and colleagues in Sea Grant and university extension programs in New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Alaska, Washington, California, New York and Massachusetts to develop education and outreach programs needed for seaweed farmers, investors and lenders to make informed decisions. The grant funds will pay mainly for staff time required to research and analyze information on existing farms and markets as well as varying regulatory and environmental conditions in different states.
“The anticipated outcomes of this project include more access to capital, more informed business decisions by farmers, investors and lenders, increased employment, greater success of business and environmental improvements,” Pomeroy said.
Working as co-investigator on the project will be Tammy Warner, assistant professor of management at Keene State College in New Hampshire. She will lead the business planning aspects.
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.
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.”