UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research

N-Sink Online Tool

A New Way of Looking at Nitrogen Pollution

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.

map with a lot of red areas on it where there is nitrogen pollution
The particle tracking tool (shown here is the lower Pawcatuck River) allows users to click on a point within a watershed and, within seconds, generate its flow path to the coast and get an estimate of how much N (relatively speaking) will be delivered.

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.

Article by Chet Arnold

UConn Environment Corps

Connecting Students to Communities

group of people in orange vests and masks looking at landscapeRiverfront climate resilience. Low impact development practices to reduce stormwater runoff. Brownfields redevelopment grant proposals. Forest resilience planning. The impact of sea level rise on marinas. What do all these things have in common? They are all the focus of projects conducted for Connecticut communities by undergraduates enrolled in the Environment Corps, a new educational model gaining momentum at UConn.

in this ambitious project that combines undergraduate classroom instruction, service learning, and Extension outreach to the benefit of both the students and the communities of Connecticut. The UConn Environment Corps (“E-Corps”), funded by a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, is designed to get students real world experience in tackling some of today’s most thorny environmental problems as they conduct projects in partnership with town and cities across the state. The project involves an impressive coalition within UConn that includes four schools/colleges, five academic departments, four University centers, and the Provost’s Office.

E-Corps is an outgrowth of the success of the Climate Corps, a three-year pilot project that began in 2016 and is focused on the local impacts of, and responses to, climate change. The Climate Corps is taught by a team of two Extension educators, Juliana Barrett from the Connecticut Sea Grant College Program and Bruce Hyde from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). With the Climate Corps, Juliana, Bruce and the extended project team pioneered the E-Corps approach, that combines a semester of interactive classroom work with a second semester of independent study where student teams work on projects designed to assist Connecticut communities.

The Climate Corps was joined by the Brownfield Corps in 2018, developed and taught by Maria Chrysochoou and Nefeli Bompoti of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). The Brownfields Corps is a key part of the new Connecticut Brownfields Initiative, also led by CEE. Then, with the spring semester of 2020 came the debut of the Stormwater Corps, taught by Extension educators Mike Dietz, Dave Dickson and Chet Arnold from CLEAR. The success of all three courses depends heavily on the relationships built between these faculty members and the communities of Connecticut, enabling the development of student projects that bring real value to the towns and cities partnering with UConn.

The NSF grant has resulted in the expansion of the original team to include other players at UConn. Experts from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) now assist the course instructors on teaching techniques, and researchers from the Neag School of Education are conducting studies on the impact of the E-Corps model on students, faculty, communities, and the University itself. With 244 students and 53 community projects to date, there is already evidence that the project is having impact. In the case of students, the impact may be broader than the team originally conceived. E-Corps was originally designed to target students majoring in Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Engineering, but has already attracted students from 15 other majors, including both STEM (e.g., Biological Sciences, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering) and non-STEM (e.g., Economics, English, Political Science, Urban and Community Studies) fields.

One goal of the overall project is to extend the reach of the E-Corps model by making it adaptable to other disciplines at UConn, and eventually to peers at other universities. Much of this will depend upon the team’s ability to fashion a faculty and student support system at UConn that can ensure the sustainability of the model beyond the end of the grant. So, stay tuned!

Article by Chet Arnold

Environmental Conditions Online

Your One Stop Shop for Maps and Geographic Information cteco.uconn.edu

CT ECO website on a computer screenTechnology has expanded the mapping world. No longer are maps static and flat. They are now interactive, zoom able and clickable. They allow focus on a location or a question and enable us to explore our backyard, town, state and world.

The Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online (CT ECO) website has become the de facto place in Connecticut to access statewide interactive maps. Anyone can browse natural resource layers, aerial imagery, elevation and more. In 2019, over 30,000 people explored Connecticut by visiting CT ECO, which is a partnership between Extension faculty from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) and the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Because not all (or probably even most) of those 30,000 people are Geographic Information System (GIS) experts, CT ECO is designed to meet the needs of visitors with varying levels of technical expertise. Alongside all of the maps is an extensive amount of complementary information in the form of Data Guides, Help documents and How-to explanations.

The simplest map access is through the Map Catalog, that contains over 9000 pdf maps that cover every town in Connecticut. These same maps can be purchased at the CT DEEP store in Hartford.

There are currently 12 interactive Map Viewers on CT ECO and the list is growing. Popular Viewers include the Simple and Advanced Map Viewers, both of which contain a long list of map layers mostly maintained by CT DEEP. The Elevation Viewer hosts the state’s elevation information in the form of highly detailed ground topography including elevation values as well as hillshade, slope, aspect and 1-foot contours. Also incredibly useful is the Aerial imagery Viewer that contains 12 statewide sets of aerial imagery between 1990 and 2019 along with six coastal and regional datasets.

Project-based viewers are topically focused. The Long Island Sound Blue Plan Viewer is one of the most recent, providing access to the long list of data layers that are part of the Long Island Sound Blue Plan. Other Viewers include Sea Level Rise and Coastal Road Flooding Viewer, the Aquaculture Mapping Atlas, the CT MS4 Viewer that focuses on stormwater and the DEEP Inland Waters Fish Community Data Viewer.

Finally, mapping professionals and enthusiasts can connect to CT ECO map and image “services” within their desktop or online GIS. The Map and Image Services page lists the over 100 available services.

Users, Uses, and Benefits

Responses to a survey conducted regarding the value of CT ECO revealed the breadth of users. They come from private business, state agencies (like Department of Transportation, Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Safety and Public Protection, Department of Labor, CT DEEP and even the Office of Film, TV & Digital Media), regional and local government, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, utilities, citizens and more.

CT ECO is also used by hikers, landscape architects, land trusts and metal detectorist clubs (who knew?). The wide audience reflects the broad uses of CT ECO, such as preparing site assessments, permit applications and permit review, engineering projects, traffic plans, wetlands applications like identifying vernal pools, review of site conditions, identifying zoning violations, locating addresses, habitat suitability models, trail maps, forestry, coastal resilience, mining archaeology, appraisals, school projects and more.

It is difficult to put a dollar value on the services provided by CT ECO. Certainly having a central, statewide repository for mapping data, limited as it might be, reduces redundancy and increases efficiency. Many respondents from the survey report saving significant amounts of both money and time. Several users estimate saving over $100,000, with others stating that the time saved is “immeasurable.”

A State of Connecticut GIS professional said, “CT ECO has become the default location for accessing GIS data within the State of Connecticut. The work that the CT ECO staff has done to provide this data to the public has been nothing short of extraordinary.” It is exciting that UConn Extension is filling the critical need for so many different users and uses of Connecticut’s geospatial information.

Article by Emily Wilson

Connecting Towns and UConn Students

LID tour on UConn Campus
Climate Corps students tour low impact development on the UConn Storrs campus. Photo: Chet Arnold

UConn received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand and study a new public engagement program that combines teaching, service learning, and Extension outreach. The program is called the Environment Corps and focuses on using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to address important environmental issues like climate adaptation, brownfields remediation, and stormwater management at the municipal level.

Environment Corps combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and UConn Extension’s work with communities in a unique way that allows students to develop STEM skills and get “real world” experience as preparation for the work force, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.

The Environment Corps project is built on an extensive partnership at UConn. It includes faculty from four schools and colleges in five departments: Natural Resources and the Environment, Extension, Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Educational Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the project involves four university centers, all three environmental major programs, and the Office of the Provost. Learn more about the Environment Corps at clear.uconn.edu.

Article by Chet Arnold

Grant Will Fund Creation of Climate Impacts Video

beach houseAdapt CT, an outreach partnership of Connecticut Sea Grant and the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), has been awarded a $2,978 grant to fund a student intern to work on a video about climate change in Connecticut. The video is intended primarily for municipal commission members.

The grant is one of 14 awarded to non-profit organizations for environmental projects and programs this month by the Middletown-based Rockfall Foundation. It will fund student salary and mileage costs for the project, set to begin in May and continue for one year.

Part of a new resilience training series created in partnership with PREP-RI, the video will provide current climate change information to help municipal board and commission members as they make decisions at the local level. Both coastal and inland towns as well as areas in and around the Connecticut River will be highlighted in the video to show climate change impacts on local natural resources and infrastructure, according to the Rockfall Foundation.

Read more…

CLEAR Mini-webinar Series

In a small attempt at lessening the pain of social distancing, CLEAR has been hosting a “mini-webinar” series since late March. There are two 30-minute webinars per week, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. So far, we’ve held 5 and had almost 500 people in attendance. The webinars are also taped and posted on the website.

We have just announced the second wave of webinars, bringing the total to 12 and taking the series through the end of April. And, while our first set was conducted primarily by CLEAR faculty, our second set is comprised of a wide variety of topics from a diverse set of partners.

Folks can check out the series at:

http://clear.uconn.edu/webinars/schedule.htm

Free Environmental Webinar Series from UConn CLEAR

social distancing
The UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research is offering free webinars. Here is the schedule for the next three weeks:
 
WEDNESDAY MARCH 25, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
UConn Environment Corps: Harnessing Student Power to Help Towns
Chet Arnold, CLEAR Director
THURSDAY MARCH 26, 2020 11:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Emergency Changes to the Land Use Process in the COVID-19 Era
Sara C. Bronin
Thomas F. Gallivan Chair of Real Property Law, UConn Law School
Chair, Hartford Planning Commission
 
MONDAY MARCH 30, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Collaboratives & Utilities: New Options for Municipal Stormwater Management
Amanda Ryan, CLEAR MS4 Extension Educator
 
WEDNESDAY APRIL 1, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Moving with the Marshes
Juliana Barrett, Coastal Resources Extension Educator, CT Sea Grant
 
MONDAY APRIL 6, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
From Maps to Apps: Accessible Tech for field scientists and citizen scientists alike
Cary Chadwick, CLEAR Geospatial Extension Educator
 
WEDNESDAY APRIL 8, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Statewide Lidar Elevation Points in Interactive, Color 3D!!
Emily Wilson, CLEAR Geospatial Extension Educator
 
Registration:
 
 
 
 

MS4 Work from UConn CLEAR Featured

February cover of Interstate Waters newsletter

The latest issue of Interstate Waters from New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) arrived, and the MS4 support program for communities from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research are the cover story. Read the full issue: http://bit.ly/InterstateWaters

#UConnImpact #UConnExtension

Gregory Desautels: Reflection on my Extension Internship

Gregory Desautels interned with Dr. Mike Dietz of UConn Extension in the summer of 2019, working with Dr. Dietz on projects for UConn CLEAR. Gregory has continued working with Dr. Dietz on projects funded by Connecticut Sea Grant during the fall 2019 semester. In the article below, Gregory reflected on his summer internship.

Greg standing behind wooden tables during a summer project for his internship
Greg Desautels during his summer 2019 Extension internship. Photo: Mike Dietz

Through my summer as an Extension intern at the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), I learned skills and had experiences, which may shape my future.  I learned technical skills, working in GIS programs such as Arc Pro and AGOL, as well as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. I improved my organizational skills, learning how to manage multiple iterations and edits of data files so they could be referenced in the future.  I learned how to work independently and improved my problem solving while working on projects that were challenging, and sometimes over my head. Finally, I was able to practice communicating with coworkers and supervisors.

The technical skills that I developed this summer were one of the most valuable parts of this experience. Through projects such as the Shellfishing Atlas and Campus LID Map, I had to use many of the skills developed in my previous GIS classes. Furthermore, these projects required me to work outside the confines of my previous experiences and to learn new skills, often by reading tutorials and self-teaching. In programs such as Excel, which I had previously considered myself adept, I found that there was still a lot to learn, and hands on experience was the best way to do so. I consider these experiences valuable not only for the skills learned, but also in learning how to teach myself. In my career, I expect there will be times when I do not know how to solve a problem and I will need to use all the resources available to learn how to solve it.

Organizational skills, specifically in reference to managing files for GIS were one of the most practical skills that I developed. Through my own processes of trial and error, as well as through new iterations becoming available, I was often left with multiple seemingly identical files with small but vital differences. My previous nomenclature wasn’t sufficient to keep track of all these files, however several of my coworkers taught me how to build and manage file databases. This has allowed for a cleaner workflow and the ability to backtrack and reference previous steps, both important skills when working in GIS.

This internship was also a valuable experience in communication. In communicating with coworkers, supervisors

Greg using an electric screw driver to place legs on tables
Photo: Mike Dietz

and faculty members, I learned to adapt my communications to them. As someone who defaults to excessive formality, I often had to tone back and learn how to match someone else’s level. I found that the formal “Thank You, double space, sincerely, double space, signature” format lauded by schools is not always practical or necessary and that being overly formal can actually hinder clear communication.

In terms of my career goals, I don’t feel that this summer has wildly altered my trajectory, however I do feel that I have a better understanding of what to expect. Seeing the “behind the scenes” work related to securing grants and funding, as well as how this office fits into the larger body of UConn has been eye-opening. This internship was valuable in more ways that I can say, and I am confident that as I progress through my career, I will find many more instances where this experience has helped me.

Article by Gregory Desautels, CLEAR Intern Reflection

Land Use Academy Advanced Training

Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy
Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy.

The Land Use Academy is offering an Advanced Training session on October 26, 2019. Registration at 8:30. Training from 9:00 AM-3:30 PM at the Middlesex County Extension Office in Haddam, CT.  The  topics covered are listed below. Cost is $45 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and course materials. 

Follow the registration link at the bottom to register online or to obtain a registration form.  We hope to see you in October!
Advanced Training
In response to feedback from both professional planners and land use commissioners, we are offering an all-day advanced training covering three topics in-depth.

For more information visit the Academy website.
ADVANCED TRAINING TOPICS COVERED:
  
Bias, Predisposition and Conflicts
Atty Richard Roberts, Halloran and Sage
Implementing and Enforcing Land Use Decisions
Atty Kenneth Slater, Halloran and Sage
Running a Meeting and Making the Decision
Atty Mark Branse, Halloran and Sage
4.5 AICP CM Credits Pending
For More Information click on the Academy link to the left.
 Click the below to register