Oversimplified, shoreline beaches are where the sand meets the sea.
Too often, this two-dimensional view has become the foundation of efforts to restore storm and erosion-battered beaches on Long Island Sound and other coastal areas. These projects mainly seek to widen the flat open sand swathe to maintain maximum recreational worth and protect nearby areas from storm and flood damage. Dune grass, beach pea, and the dunes these and other plants inhabit along the shore have largely been left out of the equation.
But thanks to a new marine and coastal economics fellowship created by Connecticut Sea Grant, a Yale University doctoral candidate will spend the next year and a half developing restoration tools that account for the real-world complexity and value of natural and manmade features beyond the sand. The fellowship is funded with $20,000 of the federal funds allocated to CT Sea Grant.
“I’ve been interested in coastal ecosystems since I was young, growing up in Miami,” said Ethan Addicott, 29, who is pursuing his doctorate in environmental and resource economics at Yale and was chosen for the fellowship post. “I’m working to quantify the relationship between healthy dune ecosystems and property values, to enhance the relationship between natural resources and management decision making.”
CT Sea Grant Director Sylvain De Guise said Addicott’s project will accomplish the two main goals of the new fellowship. It was created to help train a new generation of students in marine and coastal economics, and to give coastal communities new resources to draw on in making decisions about threatened coastal areas.
Extension educators from the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) and their partners have developed an online tool that helps land owners and land use decision makers better understand the direct connection between their land and nitrogen (N) pollution in coastal waters.
The tool, called “N-Sink,” is the result of a multi-year collaboration of CLEAR with the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute and the EPA Atlantic Coastal Environmental Sciences Division Laboratory in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
Nitrogen (N) pollution is a big threat to water quality, especially in coastal areas like Long Island Sound. Excess nutrients like N can fuel algal blooms that rob the waters of oxygen, directly harm marine life, and damage habitat. As a result, much attention has been paid to N pollution by the scientific community, including the development of many models designed to explore the transport and fate of N in our coastal watersheds. Most of these models focus on N “loadings,” i.e., estimating the amount of N being put into the system from sources like agricultural and lawn practices, septic systems, and atmospheric deposition from acid rain. Thus the focus is on what the total load of N is to the receiving water body, and what the impacts to that water body might be.
N-Sink uses a different approach that shifts the focus to the land within the watershed, rather than the receiving waters. The end result is a series of maps that help to provide specific geographic focus on which areas in the watershed are at the most risk for sending N to the coast (see maps, right). To do this, N-Sink uses particle tracking technology in concert with stream network data that includes information on nitrogen “sinks”—areas in the landscape that help to remove N from the system, like wetlands, riparian areas, lakes, and ponds. Depending on the sinks that it encounters along its journey to the coast, a unit of N could have very different fates, and thus very different impacts on water quality. For instance, a pound of N in one area of the watershed could be transported almost entirely to the coast, while another pound of N, applied just a short distance away, could take a different pathway through the stream network that results in the removal of a significant amount of N via sinks.
“One contribution of N-Sink is that it focuses on critical sink areas like wetlands and riparian corridors, which will hopefully lead to intensified efforts to protect or even restore these areas,”
says Extension Educator Chet Arnold. “Also, since the geographic specificity of N-Sink ties any location in the watershed to its likelihood of contributing N pollution, we think it can be useful both for land use planners when determining future uses, and land owners when discussing management practices on land already in use.”
The CLEAR team has created a state-of-the-art interactive N-Sink application where you can explore the maps for the entire Long Island Sound coast of Connecticut.
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.
This year’s Coastal Certificate Program will take place virtually over four days in mid-May. Led by Judy Preston, CT Sea Grant’s Long Island Sound outreach coordinator, this year’s classes will emphasize healthy soils at the root of healthy gardens, landscapes, and ultimately the watersheds that are essential to clean waters and a healthy Sound.
The classes will also look at how soils fuel diverse gardens that sustain wildlife, including pollinators. Co-sponsored by Maggie Redfern, assistant director of the Connecticut College Arboretum, it will also feature guest speakers.
The classes will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on May 11, 13, 18 and 20. Class is limited to 35 students.
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’s Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report is now available. With photos, graphics, and summaries of many projects and initiatives, it’s a great way to get a quick overview of Connecticut Sea Grant‘s programs. It is available here.
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.
Registration is open for all three February webinars!
Wednesday, February 10, 1:00 – 1:30 PM
Long Island Sound Report Card: Grading the Urban Sea
Peter Linderoth, Save the Sound
What is this map telling us? Join Peter Linderoth from Save the Sound as he discusses the latest release of the Long Island Sound Report Card. The Report Card grades the ecological health of the open waters of the Sound in addition to numerous embayments. Peter will present an overview of the water quality data sources, grading process, and then dive into the grades and general findings.
Using the New CT Zoning Atlas to Envision CT’s Transit-Oriented Development Potential
Sara Bronin, UConn Law School & Cary Chadwick, UConn CLEAR
In January,Desegregate CT, a coalition of over 60 organizations focused on land use and zoning reform, released its groundbreaking interactive map, the Connecticut Zoning Atlas. This first-in-the-nation planning tool allows the public to easily explore zoning regulations that govern housing in each of the state’s 2,618 zoning districts and two subdivision districts without having to sift through and decode thousands of pages of written code. This webinar will focus on one particular aspect of the Zoning Atlas: the areas within a half-mile of train stations and CT fastrak stations. It will start with a broad overview of Desegregate CT and its platform as it relates to TOD, and it will show how you can use the Atlas to assess how your community already permits TOD. The webinar will conclude with some information about the Desegregate CT’s TOD proposals and how they have worked in other states, including neighboring Massachusetts.
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.
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.