CT Sea Grant

Foundations of Shellfish Farming Training Course 2023

Registration: http://s.uconn.edu/shellfish 

Cost: $300

Foundations of Shellfish Farming is a training course for new and prospective farmers and those who simply seek to learn more about aquaculture practices and techniques. Topics that will be covered include: how to establish and operate a shellfish business; leasing and permitting requirements; considerations for gear, vessels, and facilities, shellfish biology, aquaculture techniques and best practices, and risks involved in farming shellfish. Although the course will concentrate on Long Island Sound waters within the jurisdiction of Connecticut, the topics and practices covered are applicable in the Northeast United States and potentially beyond. 

 

When: Tuesdays, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, weekly from January 24th to April 11th 

Location: UConn Avery Point Campus, Groton, CT, Lowell P. Weicker Jr.  Building, Room 312

Outline: http://s.uconn.edu/course-schedule

Instructors: Michael Gilman and Tessa L. Getchis

Sponsors: Connecticut Sea Grant, UConn Extension, and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture

*This course meets the Connecticut Department of Agriculture eligibility requirement for the submission of a Joint Agency Application for Marine Aquaculture. 

Additional questions can be emailed to: shellfish@uconn.edu 

Novice or veteran, fishermen value safety & survival training

Participants in Safety at Sea training practice boarding a life raft.
Participants in Safety at Sea training practice boarding a life raft.

Story and photos by Judy Benson

Dan Russell and Abraham Powell are at opposite ends of their fishing careers.

While both work from vessels docked in New London, Russell is a boat captain who’s been fishing for 50 years. Powell is brand new, having been hired a month ago.

“I haven’t even been out on a boat yet,” he said.

Yet they agreed the Safety at Sea training Oct. 20 and 21 was time well spent regardless of whether they were seasoned or beginner in this ancient and perilous trade. Sponsored by Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Avery Point in collaboration with Fishing Partnership Support Services and the U.S. Coast Guard, the free training put 49 commercial fishermen, state marine agency staff and UConn Marine Science Department researchers and vessel crews through intensive hands-on and classroom lessons that could one day save their lives.

“I learned about some of the new flares and some of the new emergency gear,” said Russell, who first learned safety skills many years ago from the Coast Guard but had never been to the Sea Grant-sponsored training for a refresher.

Anthony Minteins, who fishes for scallops about the Invictus, wraps neoprene gloves around a leak during a flooding and damage control drill.
Anthony Mintiens, who fishes for scallops about the Invictus, wraps neoprene gloves around a leak during a flooding and damage control drill.

Sea Grant has been sponsoring the training with various partners about every two years since 2000 and teamed up with the Fishing Partnership in 2016.

“Hosting these training opportunities to build a culture of safety is one of the most important things I can do for those who work on the water for a living,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director and extension program leader for Connecticut Sea Grant. “It’s especially fitting that we held this training in October, National Seafood Month.”

The classroom portion of the program included an overview of MAYDAY call procedures, PFDs (personal flotation devices) and other safety equipment, interspersed with accounts of real-life tales of survival and tragedies at sea from the instructors, many of whom worked in the industry themselves. Shannon Eldredge, marine safety instructor and community health worker for Fishing Partnership, prefaced a segment on overdose response with a reminder about why fishermen need to be alert for opioid use among their colleagues.

“You don’t get sick time,” she said. “You’re working through pain, and you’re using prescription drugs. You’re going to be the first responders to an overdose.”

That segued into a presentation by Trish Rios, community health worker for the Alliance for Living in New London, about how to administer the overdose reversal drug NARCAN. She recommended every vessel have at least two doses in its first aid kit, and brought several dozen packages of the drug for each fishing vessel to take.

The training then moved outdoors, where groups moved between stations to practice how to deploy signal flares; don immersion suits and board life rafts; put out onboard fires; and repair flooding and vessel damage at sea.

Dana Collyer, one of the instructors, urged all those who make their living on the water to buy their own immersion suits and make sure they fit properly, rather than using one supplied by their vessel.

“This is the most important piece of safety gear you have,” he said.

Another instructor, Mark Bisnette, emphasized the importance of inspecting the suits regularly to ensure they haven’t deteriorated from dry rot. Both he and Collyer are marine surveyors with Marine Safety Consultants Inc.

“You’ve got to maintain it,” Bisnette said. “This is your parachute.”

At the onboard damage control station, Kyra Dwyer, Coast Guard fishing vessel examiner, led groups in practicing how to repair leaks using rope, duct tape, wood wedges, neoprene strips and other equipment they would have onboard. On a facsimile boat deck, teams worked furiously as Dwyer opened valves to send water spraying out from pipes and various seams.

After one crew successfully plugged a series of leaks, she congratulated them.

“You guys had some success,” she said. “You’re going home. You saved the ship.”

A demonstration of how to deploy a life raft concluded the first day.

Fishermen and state agency marine agency staff deploy emergency flares on the beach at UConn Avery Point.
Fishermen and state agency marine agency staff deploy emergency flares on the beach at UConn Avery Point.

Anthony Mintiens, who’s been fishing for scallops on the Stonington-based vessel Invictus for the past eight years, said he’s taken the training before but was grateful for the chance to hone his skills.

“It was totally worth it,” he said. “I don’t want to go down with the ship in the freezing cold.”

The second day was geared to a smaller group of 14 training for certification to conduct monthly safety drills for crew members. It covered such topics as cold-water survival, helicopter rescues and emergency station bills. The day ended with a test of whether participants could put on their immersion suits in 60 seconds or less, followed by simulation of man-overboard and abandon ship drills on board the Emma & Maria, a fishing vessel owned by Michael Theiler, who worked with Sea Grant to organize the training.

Theiler, New London-based commercial fisherman and member of Sea Grant’s Senior Advisory Board, said the hands-on aspect of the training is especially valuable because of the changing makeup of fishing crews.

“We have a pretty high turnover, so it’s especially important to have these trainings,” he said. “For the new guys especially, it’s very helpful to give them familiarity with the safety equipment and a chance to learn the procedures. And it’s a chance for the crew and the captain to work together on a team on these various scenarios.”

 

 

Community climate planning projects underway in four CT cities

Doreen Abubaker, of the Community Placement Engagement Network and West River Watershed Partnership, talks to a group at the New Haven Folk Festival about climate change impacts in New Haven and the upcoming Climathon
Doreen Abubaker, of the Community Placement Engagement Network and West River Watershed Partnership, talks to a group at the New Haven Folk Festival about climate change impacts in New Haven and the upcoming Climathon. Photo: Steve Hamm.

Four Connecticut cities have joined a pilot project to boost community participation in climate change planning.

Community activities in Bridgeport, New Haven, New London and Norwich are being led by Connecticut Sea Grant with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will focus on climate risk communication and planning for community resilience. The pilot project received a $75,000 NOAA investment in Fiscal Year 2022, which will be administered by Connecticut Sea Grant.

“Equity is central to how we conduct business at the Department of Commerce — and how we plan for the future,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. “By developing and refining techniques for engaging vulnerable populations, this project will help ensure that communities in Connecticut are in charge of their climate future.”

In New Haven, Connecticut Sea Grant has hosted two information booths and workshops at community events—all leading up to a “Climathon” on Oct. 29 to engage residents in understanding and reducing climate vulnerabilities in their neighborhoods. Steve Hamm, one of the founders of Reimagining New Haven, a grassroots group working on the Climathon, describes the Fair Haven neighborhood where the Climathon will be held as “ground zero” for climate change in New Haven.

“We hope to make New Haven more resilient, equitable and just by engaging with a diverse set of people from our communities to catalyze action—drawing on scientific expertise, local voices and the arts,” Hamm said. “We welcome everyone to come to the Climathon and to help make changes.”

A similar series of community climate events is being planned for Bridgeport in the spring.

Connecticut Sea Grant is also partnering with leaders from local NAACP chapters, Indigenous and tribal communities, racial justice and arts organizations on events planned this fall in Norwich and New London. Participants will consider climate change impacts in the context of other community challenges such as housing, education, mental health, racial justice and food security, and develop actions to address them.

Key components of activities in all four communities include practical incentives for participation, such as offering transportation and gift cards, scheduling events at optimal times for working families and using locally owned businesses to provide food and refreshments.

“Connecticut Sea Grant is well-positioned to support this pilot project because we work alongside communities every day to connect NOAA’s climate products and services to those who need them,” said Sylvain De Guise, Connecticut Sea Grant director. “But, we’ve got to get better at working with the communities who need these services the most. Populations that are most impacted by climate-related hazards like flooding and storm surge need to be at the table if we are going to be successful.”

The pilot project aligns with efforts at the state level to develop policy recommendations through an equity lens. Connecticut’s Equity & Environmental Justice Working Group, part of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, was instrumental in organizing officials and environmental justice experts for a 2021 NOAA roundtable where participants shared their lived experience with climate planning and the barriers and challenges associated with getting a seat at the policy table. Activities to involve vulnerable communities in climate and resilience planning were a primary recommendation of the listening session that informed the pilot project.

“I am so pleased to see this pilot provide the resources needed to break down those barriers and try some of the approaches highlighted in the Council process,” said Rebecca French, director of the Office of Climate Planning in the Office of the Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “I look forward to learning how the state can continue to improve our work in this space.”

“Climate hazards such as flooding and storm surge threaten communities across Connecticut,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “This pilot project will help give vulnerable communities the tools they need to meaningfully inform climate planning, and allow people to take an active role in becoming climate-ready and resilient.”

This pilot project builds on NOAA’s commitment to sustained engagement with underserved communities, and is part of an investment in seven pilot projects happening across the country. Each regional pilot is responding directly to feedback received from partners during climate and equity roundtable discussions that NOAA conducted in 2021. Pilots are taking a unique, place-based approach to helping vulnerable communities better understand, prepare for and respond to climate change.

Learn more about upcoming pilot project announcements and NOAA’s ongoing environmental justice efforts.

UPCOMING EVENT:

Climathon
October 29, 1-6 p.m.
Martinez School
100 James Street
Fair Haven, CT
Contact: https://reimaginingnewhaven.org/contact-us
Register for this free event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/new-haven-climathon-tickets-434198518457
Climathon information: https://reimaginingnewhaven.org/our-projects/f/our-design-charrette

2022 Long Island Sound Research Conference Announced

  • Clean waters and healthy watershed
  • Thriving habitats and abundant wildlife
  • Sustainable and resilient communities
  • Sound science and inclusive management

Deadline for abstract submissions is April 8, 2022. Registration deadline is May 6, 2022.

Download the flier here. Information: syma.ebbin@uconn.edu

Watch for more details!

#DoOneThing theme of 2021 #DontTrashLISound campaign

The Connecticut Sea Grant program, joined by volunteers from Save the Sound, the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and other groups, will launch the fifth annual #DontTrashLISound

campaign with a cleanup at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Aug. 16.

This year’s campaign, run by the Connecticut and New York Sea Grant programs with support from the Long Island Sound Study, will run through International Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 18. It will consist of cleanup events in both states, social media posts and giveaways of “Protect Our Wildlife” stickers for reusable water bottles and travel mugs.

The theme of this year’s campaign, #DoOneThing, encourages people to take at least one action to reduce litter on streets, parks and beaches before it gets carried into waterways and ultimately Long Island Sound. Social media posts will emphasize positive steps people are taking to address the problem.

“Campaigns like this one help keep people aware of the larger marine debris problem affecting Long Island Sound,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant. “They also help people focus on doable actions that we can all undertake with as much or as little effort as we have time to commit.”

For information on cleanup events, visit: https://www.savethesound.org/2021cleanup/

For information on the #DontTrashLISound campaign and how to obtain “Protect Our Wildlife” stickers, email CT Sea Grant Communications Coordinator Judy Benson at: judy.benson@uconn.edu

Teacher Webinar Offered on Long Island Sound Habitats

Sarah Crosby, director of Harbor Watch at Earth Place, collects data on grasses at a salt marsh in Groton in July as part of Connecticut Sea Grant-funded research project.
Sarah Crosby, director of Harbor Watch at Earth Place, collects data on grasses at a salt marsh in Groton in July as part of Connecticut Sea Grant-funded research project. Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

A new educational tool for teachers will be showcased in an Aug. 19 webinar sponsored by the Long Island Sound Study national estuary program and its partners Connecticut Sea Grant (CTSG) and New York Sea Grant (NYSG).

Titled “A Spotlight on Long Island Sound Habitats,” the webinar will showcase a Next Generation Science Standards-based StoryMap focused on highlighting habitats within the Long Island Sound watershed and some of the ‘phenomena’ observed or work done in those regions.

This webinar will feature:

  • A walkthrough of the StoryMap by NYSG and CTSG
  • A Q&A panel with expert Long Island Sound researchers and resource managers
  • A break-out session for teachers to explore the resource with each other and exchange ideas about how to incorporate the tool into the classroom

This educator webinar is suitable for anyone interested in learning about LIS habitats and this new educational tool showcasing them for students. Teachers and educators in New York and Connecticut are especially encouraged to join in!

It will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. on Aug. 19 via Zoom. Attendance is free, but registration is required.

Register at: https://cornell.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEsc-msqzktHNEI–kS11fyDH_5AwjwdDiE

**Certificates of attendance will be provided upon request.**

For more information, contact Diana Payne, CT Sea Grant education coordinator, at: diana.payne@uconn.edu; or Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, N.Y. Sea Grant Long Island Sound outreach coordinator, at:  jbp255@cornell.edu.

Job Openings – CT Sea Grant

Sea Grant logoCT Sea Grant is now accepting applications for the following positions:

  • Regional Aquaculture Liaison Assistant Extension Educator
  • Sustainable and Resilient Communities Assistant Extension Educator

Apply Today!

 

Regional Aquaculture Liaison Assistant Extension Educator

Connecticut Sea Grant, the Department of Extension, College of Agriculture Health and Natural Resources, University of Connecticut, and the NOAA Milford Lab invite applications for a Regional Aquaculture Liaison Assistant Extension Educator. The position is a grant-funded, four-year initiative to enable, augment, and accelerate the exchange of ideas and information between NOAA NEFSC Milford Lab researchers and end users, including the latest research results and tools and how they address existing and emerging needs. The full advertisement, job description and link for applications can be found at https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/19063.

Sustainable and Resilient Communities Assistant Extension Educator

Connecticut Sea Grant invites applications for two Sustainable and Resilient Communities Assistant Extension Educators. The positions are part of an initiative to implement a five-year work plan on Sustainable and Resilient Communities, under the umbrella of the Sustainable and Resilient Communities work group of the EPA-funded Long Island Sound Study (LISS). The full advertisement, job description and link for applications can be found at https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/19070.  

Gov. Lamont Signs Legislation Supporting Continued Growth of CT’s Shellfish Industry

Gov. Lamont signs the Shellfish Restoration Bill on July 23 as legislators and industry members look on
Gov. Lamont signs the Shellfish Restoration Bill on July 23 as legislators and industry members look on. Tessa Getchis / Connecticut Sea Grant.

Stratford – Gov. Ned Lamont  joined legislators, state officials, agricultural advocates and business representatives on July 23 for a bill signing ceremony near the shore of the Long Island Sound to commemorate the enactment of legislation implementing policies that will support continued growth of Connecticut’s shellfish industry in an effort to increase the populations of oysters along the state’s shoreline and protect the sustainability of this vibrant sector of the economy.

The shellfish industry is a significant sector of the Connecticut shoreline’s economy, generating more than $30 million in sales annually and supporting 300 jobs statewide. There are currently more than 70,000 acres of shellfish farms under cultivation in Connecticut.

The legislation:

  • extends Public Act 490 protections – which were adopted more than 50 years ago and allow landowners to have their qualifying lands classified as farms and thereby subject to reduced property tax rates – to include aquaculture operations;
  • allows more flexibility to actively manage the natural oyster beds in Long Island Sound, ensuring that Connecticut oysters will be available for future generations through better management of the natural beds; and
  • reconstitutes and expands the Connecticut Seafood Council with new membership to drive the industry forward.

It received overwhelming support from business and agriculture organizations across the state, including the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, the Connecticut chapter of the National Audubon Society, the Connecticut Restaurant Association, and numerous small business leaders that depend on the sustainability of Connecticut’s aquaculture to support their operations.

Connecticut Sea Grant Associate Director Nancy Balcom highlights the program’s collaborative restoration efforts with the Department of Agricultures during the bill signing ceremony.
Connecticut Sea Grant Associate Director Nancy Balcom highlights the program’s collaborative restoration efforts with the Department of Agricultures during the bill signing ceremony. Tessa Getchis / Connecticut Sea Grant

“Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing sectors in Connecticut, and this legislation continues to move the dial on this industry receiving some of the same protections and support that land farmers receive,” Gov. Lamont said. “My administration will continue focusing on commonsense changes like these that business owners in Connecticut deserve. I look forward to seeing this already great industry continue to grow. Let’s spread the word far and wide, Connecticut has some of the best oysters around.”

“This law ensures that the future for the industry is prosperous and encompassing of all the types of aquaculture industry in our state, including seaweed and indoor production,” Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt said. “The law also establishes parity and access to the property tax relief program, Public Act 490, to include aquaculture production, further ingraining this industry as a facet of Connecticut agriculture. Many thanks to the industry, the Connecticut Farm Bureau, and UConn Sea Grant for their partnership and commitment to this proposal and the future of the aquaculture in our state.”

“On behalf of its members and aquaculture farmers, the Connecticut Farm Bureau thanks Gov. Lamont and the legislature for their support of this very important legislation,” Connecticut Farm Bureau President Paul Larson and Executive Director Joan Nichols said in a joint statement. “This legislation provides both financial relief and equity in taxation for aquaculture farmers across Connecticut by expanding Public Act 490 to include aquaculture into the state’s definition of farmland.”

The governor noted that shellfish aquaculture also provides a number of environmental benefits, including by improving sediment quality through the harvesting process, stabilizing sediments and helping to protect the shoreline from erosion, and providing critical ecosystem functions by creating structure and habitat for other species that provide a food source for fish and other marine species.

The legislation is Public Act 21-24An Act Concerning Connecticut’s Shellfish Restoration Program, The Connecticut Seafood Council and the Taxation of Certain Underwater Farmlands.

Updated App, New Rules & Soggy Summer: Time For a Rain Garden

rain garden
Coneflower and blazing star are in bloom in the rain garden behind the baseball field at East Lyme High School.

Story and photos by Judy Benson

July’s wet weather may have dampened plans for beach days and barbeques, but it’s also a reminder of an environmental problem homeowners can help solve in their own yards.

The excess of rainfall—about twice the amount normally seen so far this month—means more stormwater tainted with lawn chemicals, oil and gas residues and other pollutants has been entering our streams, rivers and Long Island Sound. The polluted runoff flows off roads, driveways, roofs and parking lots into storm drains that carry it directly into our waterways, untreated, sometimes resulting in high bacteria counts that recently closed swimming areas at Ocean Beach in New London and Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic for a few days.

“A lot of people think stormwater goes to a treatment facility, but most of it just drains directly into a water body,” said David Dickson, faculty member and extension educator for UConn CLEAR (Center for Land Use Education and Research).  “Runoff is one of the top water quality problems, especially here in Connecticut.”

But it’s also a problem where small-scale efforts with muscle and a shovel can make a big difference. And thanks to a recently updated, user-friendly app and the added motivation of new state requirements for stormwater—set against all the recent rainfall—there’s no better time for individual action than right now.

Dickson and his colleagues at UConn CLEAR are proponents of rain gardens, an elegantly simple, relatively inexpensive solution that can also enhance outdoor spaces for both people and wildlife. This is basically a bowl-shaped area planted with native grasses, shrubs and flowers tolerant of both extreme wet and dry conditions where runoff is channeled and absorbed into the soil, filtering out pollutants along the way.

Over the past four years, more than 45 rain gardens have been installed at schools, town halls, museums and other public spaces throughout New London and Windham counties, led by the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District. Judy Rondeau, assistant director of the ECCD, quickly ticked off some examples: gardens at East Lyme High School, the Mystic Art Association, Whalen’s Wharf in Stonington, the Groton Social Services Building and the Lebanon Historical Society among them, all collecting runoff from adjacent roofs and pavement.

Sue Augustyniak built this rain garden on the property of of the William A. Buckingham Memorial as her service project for the Coastal Certificate Program.
Sue Augustyniak built this rain garden on the property of of the William A. Buckingham Memorial as her service project for the Coastal Certificate Program.

One of the newest rain gardens in the region can be found at the William A. Buckingham Memorial in Norwich. It was built by Master Gardener Sue Augustyniak as a service project for the Coastal Certificate program, a joint offering of Connecticut Sea Grant, the UConn Master Gardener Program and the Long Island Sound Study. The garden collects water that had been running off the historic home property onto the road, with pussy willow, sweet pepperbush and other plants gracing the shoulders.

“It’s helping keep the Thames watershed clean,” she said. “It’s a great way to help my own community.”

Rondeau encourages people to visit one of the local gardens.

“Seeing them can give people an immediate understanding of where the water’s coming from,” she said, adding that plans are in the works for another 20 rain gardens over the next year.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get some in this summer, if it ever stops raining,” she joked.

But rain gardens in public places are only part of the solution. Rondeau and Dickson are hoping to spur interest among homeowners to build rain gardens in their own yards. The gardens would not only help solve water issues on their own properties but would also help the cities and towns where they live. Starting this year, all but the most rural towns in the state are required to divert 1% of runoff away from pavement and out of storm drains each year.

“A very easy way to do that is to push rain gardens,” said Rondeau. “It’s a way individual homeowners can make a bit of a difference and beautify a corner at the same time. But even if you don’t like gardening, you can just put in a grass garden. It functions the same.”

So how do you build a rain garden?

David Dickson spots a skipper butterfly and several bees pollinating on the flowers in the rain garden at East Lyme High School on July 12.
David Dickson spots a skipper butterfly and several bees pollinating on the flowers in the rain garden at East Lyme High School on July 12.

That’s where the newly refurbished rain garden app, co-created by Dickson and his CLEAR colleague Michael Dietz, comes in. Launched nine years ago with funding from Connecticut Sea Grant, the updated app is now a web-based tool usable on mobile phones, desktop computers and everything in between. It gives step-by-step guidance on choosing a site, calculating the size, testing the soil, choosing plants and digging the hole the right way to the right depth.

“Especially with some of the heavy, flashy rains we’ve been getting, it’s important to divert as much of that water as possible,” said Rondeau. “It will relieve stress on the storm drain system and direct the water to where it will infiltrate into the soil.”

The free rain garden app can be found at: https://nemo.uconn.edu/tools/app/raingarden.htm.

Judy Benson is the communications coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant. 

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