CT Seagrant

Earth Day to feature audiovisual exhibit, puppet show

Image of"Reading the Wrack Lines" digital video projection on the UConn Avery Point Lighthouse
Example of a “Reading the Wrack Lines” digital audio/video projection on the UConn Avery Point Lighthouse. Photo: Anna Terry

Several special events are planned for Earth Day (April 22) at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus, including audiovisual artwork projected on campus buildings and an original puppet show.

Events will begin at 6:30 p.m. with music recorded by the five-person Connecticut-based group Hitch and Giddyup sponsored by the Avery Point EcoHusky club. At 7 p.m., UConn Puppet Arts graduate student Felicia Cooper will perform ISH, an original one-woman puppet show for all ages inspired by Moby-Dick. UConn Dairy Bar Coastal Crunch ice cream will be served after the show.

From 8 to 9 p.m., there will be a performance of the audiovisual work, “Reading the Wrack Lines,” created by Connecticut College Professor Andrea Wollensak. This will feature creative writing responses to climate change by UConn Avery Point and Connecticut College students used as audiovisual source material within a generative multimedia artwork projected onto both the Branford House the Avery Point Lighthouse. Collaborators for “Reading the Wrack Lines” include software developer Bridget Baird and sound artist Brett Terry. The exhibit is being presented in cooperation with The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art.

The events are free and open to up to 200 attendees to comply with Gov. Lamont’s Executive Orders for outdoor gatherings during the pandemic. Attendees should bring their own chair or blanket, wear face masks and maintain 6-foot social distancing. Rain date will be Friday April 23 at the same times. No pre-registration is required to attend.

Both “Reading the Wrack Lines” and ISH are supported by funding from Connecticut Sea Grant. UConn Reads and the Avery Point Global Café are co-sponsors.

“As a professor and CT Sea Grant research coordinator, I’m excited to be involved in this project,” said Syma Ebbin, who teaches courses in environmental and marine science and policy. “It seeks to integrate the personal creative reflections of students focused on coastal environments and the

Image of a "Reading the Wrack Lines" digital audio/video projection on the Branford House at UConn Avery Point.
Example of a “Reading the Wrack Lines” digital audio/video projection on the Branford House at UConn Avery Point. Photo: Anna Terry

human footprint—encompassing climate change, marine debris and plastics, among other topics they’ve explored this semester—within a generative and interactive video.

“I think the project themes resonate with and amplify the meaning of Earth Day and will generate deeper understandings in both students and the larger audience,” Ebbin said.

About the artists and their work:

Andrea Wollensak is a professor of art at Connecticut College whose work spans media from traditional to digital fabrication, to generative-interactive systems. She has collaborated with computer scientists, musicians, poets and scientists on works that explore themes of place-based narratives on environment and community. To learn more about her work, visit: https://www.andreawollensak.com/.

Felicia Cooper created ISH as part of her Master of Fine Arts in the UConn Puppet Arts program and performed it for audiences in downtown Storrs three times in March. Based loosely on Moby-Dick, it retells the story as if Ishmael were an 11-year-old girl and the whale were friendlier. She uses shadow puppets, object performance in a suitcase and original music composed by Juliana Carr in the show.

Image of Felicia Cooper using object performance in a suitcase during portions of her puppet show ISH.
Felicia Cooper uses object performance in a suitcase during portions of ISH. Photo courtesy of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.
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Sea Grant, DOE, NOAA Fisheries partner to invest $1M+ to support research for the co-existence of ocean energy with Northeast fishing and coastal communities

The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office, and NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, announces a research funding opportunity to improve understanding of offshore renewable energy interactions with fishing and coastal communities to optimize ocean co-use.

This unique funding partnership will support objective, community-focused research on ocean renewable energy—including offshore wind and hydrokinetic current, tidal, and wave energies—in the U.S. Northeast for the benefit of a diversity of communities and stakeholders.

With a focus on advancing community and economic resilience, the funding opportunity aims to catalyze proactive socio-economic and technology research for offshore renewable energy planning in the Northeast. Over $1 million will be available to support research projects across three innovative areas:

  • Fisheries and Fishing Community Resilience
  • Coastal Community and Economic Resilience
  • Co-Location Management of Ocean Renewable Energy with Other Marine Activities

The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium and federal partners seek collaborative, multidisciplinary, and innovative proposals with results that will be valuable to a variety of stakeholders, from the fishing industry to resource managers, as the U.S. ocean energy landscape evolves.

The funding competition is accepting pre-proposals from eligible Northeast researchers through May 14, 2021. Read more about the Request for Proposals here.

The initiative was announced as part of a Biden Administration fact sheet on wind energy, issued from the White House briefing room on March 29: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/29/fact-sheet-biden-administration-jumpstarts-offshore-wind-energy-projects-to-create-jobs/.

Graphic for Ocean Renewable Energies research initiativeThe Northeast Sea Grant Consortium consists of the Connecticut, Maine, MIT, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Woods Hole Sea Grant Programs. Sea Grant’s mission is to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment.

NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center works with the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office to ensure informed management decisions based on sound science, promoting sustainability of marine life, supporting fisheries and coastal communities, and generating economic opportunities and benefits from the use of these resources.

DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office are committed to developing and deploying innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from natural renewable resources such as wind, hydropower, waves, and tides. The mission is to enable energy science research, development, and testing of new technologies to advance innovative energy systems in the United States.

Original Post 

Amid pandemic challenges, recreational shellfishing thrived

By Judy Benson

Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

While the pandemic curtailed many favorite activities, recreational shellfishing remained popular and even surged in many shoreline towns last year.

“Clamming is a very COVID-friendly activity,” said Peter Harris, chairman of the Waterford-East Lyme Shellfish Commission. “You’re outside, you have a nice long rake so you stay socially distanced, and you get a nice food source.”

More than 500 shellfishing permits sold in 2020 for the WELSCO beds in the Niantic River – about the same number as in 2019, but COVID concerns did have an impact. One of the most popular areas had to be closed because too many boats were congregating there, creating a “party atmosphere” that wasn’t safe, he said. Finding a way to safely sell permits also proved challenging.

Similar stories of strong interest in shellfishing in 2020 along with unique challenges presented by the pandemic were heard from representatives of the 12 commissions that attended the Annual Meeting of Shellfish Commissions on Feb. 13. Usually conducted in-person, this year’s virtual meeting brought together about 35 of the volunteers who serve on municipal commissions along with scientists, regulators and extension specialists from the state Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture and Connecticut Sea Grant.

The experts presented updates on monitoring programs for the various pathogens that can cause illnesses and force shellfish bed closures, a review of water sampling protocols and in-person inspections of areas being considered for new bed openings.

“We can now assess mooring areas differently, and we may be able to create opportunities in some new areas,” said Alissa Dragan, environmental analyst at the Bureau of Aquaculture. “Our goal is to have one or two new areas opened in the next year.”

Before inviting each of the commissions to report on the past year, Tessa Getchis, aquaculture extension specialist at Connecticut Sea Grant, shared some of the projects underway or being considered to advance awareness and collaboration about recreational shellfishing. Those include the possible creation of an association of shellfish commissions and a shared online platform where members of different commissions could share information. An analysis of the impact of economic impact of recreational shellfishing is in the works, she added.

“We want to show how important the sector is and how important your work is,” she said.

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Diverse perspectives explored in new issue of Wrack Lines

Learn about bringing more diversity to the sciences, environmental justice, the Shoreline Greenway Trail, a new diversity fellowship and the unique career of Bob Pomeroy with fish and fishermen across the globe in the Fall-Winter 2020-21 issue of Wrack Lines magazine.

With the theme of “Diverse Perspectives in the Environment We Share,” the issue highlights the contributions of writers and photographers from diverse backgrounds delving into topics that are local, statewide, national and international in scope.

This issue also launches the “Talk to Us” feature soliciting reader comments, many of which  will be shared on the CTSG website. Comments should be sent to Wrack Lines editor Judy Benson at: judy.benson@uconn.edu.

The entire issue can be found here.

Individual articles:

Editor’s column, contents and contributors

Bringing more diversity to the sciences starts in the classroom

Getting to know environmental justice scholar Gerald Torres

Bob Pomeroy: dedicated to improving the lives of fishermen and marine ecosystems around the world

Mile by mile, shoreline trail pieces together expanded coastal access for a variety of uses

Fellowship supports diversity in marine, coastal research

Original Post

Shellfish farmers stay afloat with innovation, financial aid

Story and photos by Judy Benson

A G&B Shellfish Farm crewman sorts oysters from clams aboard the Stasie Frances on June 10. The vessel was working natural shellfish beds offshore from Fairfield as part of the natural shellfish bed restoration project led by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture.
A G&B Shellfish Farm crewman sorts oysters from clams aboard the Stasie Frances on June 10. The vessel was working natural shellfish beds offshore from Fairfield as part of the natural shellfish bed restoration project led by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture.
Connecticut shellfish farmers endured the precipitous sales losses that nearly shut their businesses down during the early days of the pandemic last spring.

Now, as their normally slow winter season approaches, oyster growers like Dave Hopp, Steve Plant and Larry Fernandez are preparing to weather what could be even tougher months ahead, with fresh influxes of federal and state funding coming just when they’re going to be needing it most.

“We’ve got to get through this,” said Hopp of Bell’s Shellfish, a company he owns with his two grandsons that harvests oysters and clams from the waters of Long Island Sound offshore from Norwalk and Bridgeport.

For the first time this summer, Bell’s Shellfish and several other companies sold their oysters and clams directly to customers at outdoor markets and breweries. As colder temperatures descend, Hopp’s grandson Robert Norrholm is looking to do home deliveries of shellfish for the holidays.
“As of right now, we’re just keeping our heads above water,” he said. State and federal assistance they received has been critical.

Connecticut Cultured Oysters owner Steve Plant survived the near total loss of his restaurant sales by shucking and selling fresh oysters himself seven days a week at Ford’s Lobsters, a seasonal outdoor eatery next door to the Noank docks where he keeps his boats, along with income from his wife Jill’s farmers market sales.  While Jill Plant can continue selling at the indoor winter farmers market, the end of the outdoor dining season has Steve Plant hoping the modest rebound of wholesale restaurant orders he’s been seeing will continue. But he’s keenly aware a further surge in COVID cases could shut indoor dining again.

“Nobody knows whether we’re going to find ourselves back in the same situation we were in last spring,” he said.

He already dipped into his savings and “tightened his belt” to get through the spring and summer. Now, he and other shellfishermen are awaiting financial assistance from new federal and state programs from the SBA, USDA, NOAA and Connecticut CARES small business grants.

“Those programs weren’t available during the worst of the crisis in the spring,” he said. “But they may be coming along now when it’ll be beneficial for us going into the winter.”

Tessa Getchis, aquaculture extension specialist for Connecticut Sea Grant, said that the state’s $30 million shellfish industry wouldn’t have been able to survive without the various state and federal assistance programs that many – but not all – shellfishermen have tapped so far. These ranged from the Paycheck Protection Program and others broadly available, to those that specifically targeting shellfish farmers. CT Sea Grant worked with the state Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture to facilitate direct market sales, make shellfishermen aware of financial assistance and identified innovative ways for the farmers to earn income while markets were closed.

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