Connecticut Sea Grant

Meet Mike Gilman

Mike GilmanMike Gilman of Branford recently joined us as an Assistant Extension Educator with Connecticut Sea Grant, where he works with our aquaculture program. Mike received his bachelor of science from Albertus Magnus College and a master of science from Southern Connecticut State University.

What is your area of interest?

My main areas of interest are shellfish aquaculture, marine ecology, and education.  I got into shellfish aquaculture by co-starting an oyster farm with a family friend/commercial fisherman.

What will your role be with UConn Extension?

My main roles will include teaching a shellfish aquaculture training course called, Foundations of Shellfish Farming. I’m also the state shell recycling coordinator where my focus is being a resource and liaison for all interested parties and stakeholders in the shell recycling world.

What excites you the most about working with UConn Extension?

I am very excited about the opportunity to work with UConn Extension. I have spent most of my professional life in shellfish aquaculture and teaching and this seems like a great opportunity to take all of the things that I have learned and tie them together. Everyone at UConn Extension and Connecticut Sea Grant that I have worked with so far has been incredible to work alongside and learn from and I look forward to that continuing.

What is one thing you hope people will learn from you and your work?

One thing that I hope people will learn from my work is that farming an oyster or clam is equal parts difficult and rewarding. And to really appreciate all that has gone into that plate of shucked shellfish getting served at a restaurant or raw bar.

What is your favorite thing to do in Connecticut?

My favorite thing to do in Connecticut is hike and explore different state parks with my family and dog Redwood.

What is the most unusual job you’ve had?

Probably all of the little fine details of oyster farming. One day you’re removing hundreds of pounds of sea grapes or tunicates from oyster cages and the next you might be fighting with a blue crab or oyster toadfish that wants to call your oyster cages home.

What are some of your hobbies and other interests?

Being outdoors with family and friends and chasing my kids around to all of their different events.

Seaweed growers urged to pursue markets in plant-based foods

Story and photos by Judy Benson

Carl Jorgensen, consultant to the Plant Based Foods Association and the Plant Based Foods Institute, talks about the potential of kelp in the plant-based food industry during the 8th Annual Connecticut Seaweed Stakeholders Meeting.Carl Jorgensen, consultant to the Plant Based Foods Association and the Plant Based Foods Institute, talks about the potential of kelp in the plant-based food industry during the 8th Annual Connecticut Seaweed Stakeholders Meeting. Plant-based alternatives to meat, milk and other foods derived from animal products are the fastest growing sector of the food industry, as more consumers identify as “flexitarians” who want to eat in a healthier, more environmentally friendly way.

That means the time is ripe for Long Island Sound kelp growers to actively seek out food product companies to purchase their harvest. So said Carl Jorgensen, consultant for the Plant Based Foods Association and its sister nonprofit, the Plant Based Foods Institute, to an audience of kelp growers and regulators at the 8th Annual Connecticut Seaweed Stakeholders Workshop. Carl Jorgensen, consultant to the Plant Based Foods Association and the Plant Based Foods Institute, talks about the potential of kelp in the plant-based food industry during the 8th Annual Connecticut Seaweed Stakeholders Meeting.

“I believe the plant-based food industry represents a potential market for the seaweed industry,” said Jorgensen, speaking at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven on Sept. 27. “It’s really a matter of getting this industry familiar with seaweed.”

He recommended growers attend plant-based food expos and offer seaweed samples to exhibitors to use as an ingredient in processed foods and as a standalone product.

Kelp grower D.J. King of Branford asks a question during the stakeholders meeting.
Kelp grower D.J. King of Branford asks a question during the stakeholders meeting.

“You could very well come away with some customers,” he said, “but you have to get out there and get yourself known.”

The biggest challenge for plant-based food companies, he said, is creating products that with an appealing “umami” taste that mimics the savor of meat products. Seaweed, he said, has a rich, complex flavor that could be a key ingredient in achieving that goal.

“As a part-time vegan and a full-time vegetarian,” he said, “I’d eat a kelp burger.”

The workshop, hosted by Connecticut Sea Grant, brought together growers and regulators to share updates and challenges the nascent industry is facing, and share ideas about how to unleash its potential. After Jorgensen’s talk, the meeting moved to another location in New Haven, the nursery run by GreenWave, a nonprofit working to advance the seaweed industry. The nursery produces the seeded string needed to grow kelp.

Toby Sheppard Bloch, director of infrastructure at GreenWave, led a tour of the nursery, which was expanded and renovated in 2021 to be able to produce 74,000 feet of seeded string per growing season, double its previous capacity. The seeded string is then sold to farmers for planting in the Sound for $200 per spool.

“Everything in this system is affordable and readily available,” Sheppard Bloch said.

He took the group from the large tanks where seawater is sterilized before being used as the growing medium. An adjacent room holds eight 65-gallon seawater-filled tubs packed with PVC pipe spools. The spools are wound with string saturated with a solution containing the kelp reproductive material that develops into seed.

In another room, Michelle Stephens, hatchery manager, and Maggie Aydlett, kelp seed production manager, used large artist brushes to paint the reproductive material onto the spools of string.

Meeting organizer Anoushka Concepcion, Connecticut Sea Grant associate extension educator, said the annual stakeholders gathering provides important opportunities for growers and regulators to network, share ideas and learn about possible new markets.

“Connecticut Sea Grant, in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture, has been organizing this workshop since 2015,” she said. “It is the one time of year all the regulatory agencies, industry and other supporting sectors convene to tackle challenges preventing the industry from expanding. It is wonderful to see the progress being made through collaboration.”


Long Island Sound School network applications sought

salt marsh

Interested in joining like-minded educators in protecting the Long Island Sound watershed and inspiring the next generation of stewards?

Funded by EPA Long Island Sound Study and facilitated by Connecticut Sea Grant and Mercy University, the Long Island Sound (LIS) School network compels schools to make a commitment to the protection and conservation of local watersheds, Long Island Sound, and our one global ocean. A school makes this commitment by proposing and implementing a school or community-based project and creating a plan to increase ocean literacy in their school community by engaging students, families, and community members.

The LIS Schools network is modeled on the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Ocean Guardian Schools and the international Blue Schools network.

Applications are due November 30th, 2023

Interested about learning more and applying, checkout the Sea Grant Website.


Where Can I Purchase Sugar Kelp?

Sugar kelp is an excellent dietary source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, calcium, and more. With the start of the harvesting season, there will be an abundant supply of kelp ready for purchase. Where can you purchase locally grown sugar kelp?
See below!

sugar kelp and boxes with text and logos

Learn more:

Seaweed is on the Menu with Connecticut’s Sugar Kelp Industry 

Deploying Sugar Kelp Seed String

Deploying Sugar Kelp Seed String

The collapse of the lobster fishery in the late 1990s forced many lobstering families to find alternative ways to make a living on the water. While many transitioned into shellfish aquaculture, one lobsterman was interested in adding a new crop into his business: sugar kelp. DJ King (King Lobsters) cultivates shellfish and sugar kelp on his underwater leases. Anoushka Concepcion and Connecticut Sea Grant staff have been working with Mr. King, and others, to find successful ways to expand kelp farming in Long Island Sound. In this video, Mr. King briefly explains why he made the transition into kelp farming, what he most enjoys about farming kelp and some of the challenges he faces. 

Fall-Winter 2022-2023 Wrack Lines

windmill on CTSG Wrack Lines issue over

The Fall-Winter 2022-2023 issue of Wrack Lines is filled with articles and images telling stories around the theme of “Looking Ahead: people and projects shaping the future.”

The magazine leads with the first in what will be a series of articles about offshore wind development impacting Connecticut, followed by the inspiring story of how a dying forest was replanted for climate resilience. Next, a profile of longtime marine educator Tim Visel tells about his lasting impact on Connecticut schools and students. Lastly, the complex challenge of dealing with Contaminants of Emerging Concern is examined, with descriptions of how Sea Grant is involved and the particularly troublesome group of substances called PFAS.

Access the the entire issue here.


Individual articles can be found below:


Editor’s column

Contents and Contributors

Winds of Change: Connecticut starts to see signs of offshore turbine development

sTo Len reflects of the journey that led him to the CT Sea Grant art project

Hoffman Evergreen Preserve: a forest for now and the future

Tim Visel worked to bring aquaculture to the forefront in CT education

Contaminants of Emerging Concern: a knotty challenge that needs unraveling

PFAS: ‘forever chemicals’ now pervasive in the environment

Back Cover



Original Publication by CT Sea Grant:


CT Sea Grant Fall-Winter Magazine

Wrack Lines cover

Connecticut Sea Grant has published their Fall-Winter 2021-2022 issue of Wrack Lines magazine. The theme is “Discovery, Rediscovery and Rebirth”. It can be found in print and online here

The lead article package describes the Connecticut Estuarine Research Reserve (CT NERR), a collection of the waters and lands at the lower Connecticut River and the lower Thames River, along with Bluff Point and Haley Farm State Parks, and its expected designation in early 2022.

Additional articles tell the story of researchers’ work to pinpoint the cause of the invasive seaweed problem plaguing Little Narragansett Bay in Stonington, and of the top-to-bottom redesign underway at one of Connecticut’s storied educational institutions, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven.

CT Sea Grant publishes guidebook on Long Island Sound

In the early 1990s Connecticut Sea Grant published popular guidebooks of Long Island Sound called Living Treasures: The Plants and Animals of Long Island Sound and Tesoros Vivientes: Las plantas y animales del Long Island Sound. Accompanying the books, the Sea Grant educators also developed slide presentations, which provide a great overview of the plants and animals that live in the underwater and shoreline habitats of the Sound. These photo tours, produced by Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant, has been recently updated with new slides and photos. 

The Living Treasures PowerPoint in Spanish and English along with StoryMap of the undersea life of Long Island Sound can be found here.

For information on obtaining the Living Treasures: The Plants and Animals of Long Island Sound and Tesoros Vivientes: Las plantas y animales del Long Island Sound booklets, visit:


Published by Connecticut Sea Grant

Cover image of "Living Treasures: The Plants and Animals of Long Island Sound" PowerPointTesoros Vivientes title slide

Celebrate CT Trails Day June 5 with Thames River Quests

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:

“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: to 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.