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Letter from Our Director re Sea Grant Budget

FY17 federal budget agreement would continue to support Sea Grant

Friends and colleagues,
As you may know, President Trump’s budget proposal included a $30M cut (out of a $73M total for the program) to Sea Grant for FY17, the current fiscal year that ends on September 30, and an elimination of the funding for Sea Grant altogether for FY18, which starts October 1, 2017. Thanks to the sustained efforts of our stakeholders expressing the value of Sea Grant to their organizations, and the support of members of Congress, the budget agreement for the rest of FY17 includes funding for Sea Grant at $72.5M, which represents only a manageable 0.7% cut, rather than the 41% cut proposed by the President. This is a clear reflection on the value of stakeholders mobilization and the democratic process in action, and I thank all of you for your continued support.

I want to also mention what’s coming for the FY18 budget. President’s request is to zero out Sea Grant was made public as part of the “skinny” budget request released in early March, which mobilized stakeholders in support of Sea Grant. As a result, both the House and Senate circulated letters of support for Sea Grant, with signatures from roughly a quarter of the members of Congress. The release of the more detailed version of the President’s budget is expected later this month, and we still expect Sea Grant zeroed out. This should not be considered a failure, it is just part of the process. The real influence of previous stakeholders engagement will likely be manifested through the budget mark ups taking place both in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. We may ask for your help again later this summer should there be signs that it would help secure reasonable funding to assure that Sea Grant can continue to address your needs.

Thank you all for your continued support!
Yours,
Sylvain De Guise
Director

Sea Grant Awards Three Research Grants Under Long Island Sound Study

Sea Grant Awards Three Research Grants Under the Long Island Sound Study

Long Island Sound viewed from Stratford Point, CT.
Sea Grant Awards Funds for Three New Research Projects for Long Island Sound photo of Stratford Point by Amy Mandelbaum

Contacts: Robert Burg, Long Island Sound Study, 203-977-1546
Barbara Branca, New York Sea Grant, 631-632-6956
Peg VanPatten, Connecticut Sea Grant, 860-405-9128

The Sea Grant programs of Connecticut and New York have awarded more than $676,000 in Long Island Sound Study research grants to three projects that will look into some of the most serious threats to the ecological health of Long Island Sound, a water body designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an Estuary of National Significance. The Long Island Sound Study, conducted under the EPA’s National Estuary Program, is a cooperative effort between the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York to restore and protect the Sound and its ecosystems.This suite of projects addresses the cycling of nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon through the Sound and its surrounding tributaries and wetlands.

Title: How will sea level rise-driven shifts in wetland vegetation alter ecosystem services?

University of Connecticut: Beth Lawrence, Ashley Helton, Chris Elphick

Total: $317,828 plus $79,458 in matching funds

Coastal marshes that fringe Long Island Sound are the dynamic ecosystems between land and sea that provide essential “ecosystem services” to surrounding communities such as improved water quality, carbon removal to the sediment, and protection from storm surge. However, as these valuable wetlands are increasingly altered by rising seas, invasive species and increased salinity, there are changes in carbon and nitrogen cycling as well as in plant species composition. Research conducted by Beth Lawrence and her team at the University of Connecticut will increase our understanding and improve coastal management by explicitly quantifying the direct and indirect effects of sea level rise on carbon and nitrogen cycling. The results will be extended to a broad audience by developing a series of questions and problems for high school students that integrates a case study of how sea level rise is altering coastal ecosystems associated with Long Island Sound.

Title: Nutrient and Carbon Fluxes through Long Island Sound, Linking River Sources to Impacted Areas

The University of Connecticut: Michael Whitney and Penny Vlahos

Total: $278,851

In Long Island Sound, the quality of its waters and health of its biological communities are strongly influenced by the concentration and movement of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the water.  Both nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as carbon enter the Sound through rivers and are consumed and transformed along the way. University of Connecticut marine scientists Michael Whitney and Penny Vlahos will study sources, movement, and fates of these materials, as well as their flow from wastewater treatment plants, to understand the input from river sources and impacted areas. This will help determine the nature of sources and whether certain locations can store carbon. The results will inform management decisions for the Sound.

Title: Sources and fluxes of excess nitrogen supplied by fresh submarine groundwater discharge (FSGD) to Long Island Sound (LIS)

Stony Brook University: Troy Rasbury, Kirk Cochran and Henry Bokuniewicz

Total: $119,776 plus $39,775 in matching funds

Fresh submarine groundwater discharge along Long Island’s north shore is an important source of nitrogen loading into the Sound. In some locations this discharge supplies as much nitrogen to bays as a local river and about 10 to 40 times as much as a local wastewater treatment plant. However, identifying whether the nitrogen source is natural or from a synthetic source (such as fertilizer) is difficult. Researchers from Stony Brook University will use a unique combination of isotope tracers to fingerprint the sources of nitrogen to groundwater as well as processes that affect nitrogen concentrations. The team will be able to quantify atmospheric, septic, animal waste, and fertilizer sources of new nitrogen entering the Sound via groundwater discharge in three “hot spots” with varying land use: a residential area/ golf course, a park near a sewage treatment plant, and an agricultural area. Such source information is critical in developing management strategies to reduce nitrogen loadings.

“These three projects will increase our understanding of Long Island Sound and directly support wise protection and restoration of its valuable resources” said Mark Tedesco, director of the U.S. EPA Long Island Sound Office, which manages the Long Island Sound Study partnership, and which provided the majority of funds for the Sea Grant-administered research projects. Since 2000, the Long Island Sound grant program has awarded more than 30 grants to scientists whose work helps meet the needs of decision-makers to improve the management of Long Island Sound.

“With these awards, the Connecticut and New York Sea Grant programs continue their partnership with EPA and universities in the region to document and better understand how Long Island Sound works, and how its workings will likely to be affected by a variety of factors, from attempts to reduce human nutrient inputs to the Sound to rising sea levels,” said Bill Wise, director of the New York Sea Grant Program.

“It is exciting to see different researchers using complementary approaches that, together, lead to an overall better understanding of the sources and sinks of nutrients. There is a lot of creativity in the academic communities that can contribute to a healthy Long Island Sound.” said Sylvain De Guise, director of the Connecticut Sea Grant program.

A portion of the research funding comes from the two Sea Grant programs. Connecticut Sea Grant, based at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, and New York Sea Grant, based at Stony Brook University (SUNY), belong to the National Sea Grant College Program network, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To arrange an interview with a researcher, please use one of the contacts listed.  For descriptions of each research project, visit any of these web sites:

www.longislandsoundstudy.net

www.seagrant.sunysb.edu

http://seagrant.uconn.edu

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Quahog Bowl 2017 – The Results Are In!

quahog_bowlSaturday Feb. 4, 2017 at UConn Avery Point
Hosted by Connecticut Sea Grant

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) is an academic competition for high school students focusing on ocean-related topics. The competition combines a Jeapordy-style question and answer round with Team Challenge Questions, requiring analysis and synthesis of scientific data and/or concepts. The Quahog Bowl is a regional competition of the NOSB is composed of 16 Connecticut and Rhode Island teams and is held annually at the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut. Connecticut Sea Grant organizes and sponsors the competition. This year’s competition was a huge success and came down to a buzzer-beater question with only seconds remaining.

Congratulations to all of the winners and a big thank you to all who participated!

The Ledyard team will go on to compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in Corvallis, OR. This year’s theme for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl: Blue Energy: Powering the Planet with our Ocean.

Check out their feature story in The Day (http://www.theday.com/local/20170214/lhs-team-takes-first-place-at-quahog-bowl)!

 

Collaborative Research to Improve Coastal Literacy in Connecticut

Collaborative research on teaching and learning practices in high schools could pay off by improving coastal literacy in Connecticut.

“All residents of the state of Connecticut are intimately linked with the coastal ecosystem. Our state’s coastal resources provide food, jobs, and recreational activities” says Michael Finiguerra, a coastal scientist at the University of Connecticut. Yet, he notes, these coasts, like others, are faced with threats from pollution, altered land use, and environmental changes.  A thorough knowledge about the processes that shape and change the coasts is necessary for making good decisions and policies, as well as for voter support.  Finiguerra is a believer in teaching practices that both enrich the teaching experience and keep students interested.  In the ecology classes he teaches, he’s taken students snorkeling, on numerous field trips, including a two-day camping trip to New Hampshire. “I love showing students that what they learn about in the textbooks surrounds them in their everyday lives.” In fact, some students have lamented that Finiguerra’s courses have transformed the outdoors from recreational to educational activities.

field tripFiniguerra and Rachael Gabriel, an educational researcher also from UConn, want to improve Connecticut’s level of coastal literacy–the ability to understand, communicate and make informed decisions based on coastal sciences.  But what factors most influence success in this task?  We really don’t know.  So, working with high school biology teachers, Finiguerra and Gabriel are implementing a Connecticut Sea Grant-funded educational research project designed to find out what factors are correlated with coastal literacy. They are focusing their efforts on high school biology classes, because classes at the high school level offer a broad opportunity to affect the overall future coastal literacy rates for the state.  They also plan on testing their hypotheses to determine if including certain factors in curriculum can increase coastal literacy. “We want to create a roadmap of how schools can maximize their resources to improve coastal literacy values among their students. More informed students are, after all, more likely to protect our valuable coastal resources,” Finiguerra says.

thumbnail_Finiguerra FlyerSo far the team has contacted many STEM teachers through a variety of ways and also set up a booth at the Connecticut High School Teachers 2016 meeting.  They want to attract science teachers interested in participating in the project and networking with peers. It is important that they get a wide range of participating schools, not just those that have marine science programs. Students in science classes taught by those teachers will be assessed on their knowledge of coastal processes. The teaching practices used and other information from surveys will be analyzed with the student assessment results to identify factors involved and approaches that may work best in the classroom. The project has another year to go, and the researchers expect to expand their efforts in 2017.  A web site for this project has been created, at which teachers can find out more and sign on to participate: http://coastalliteracy.uconn.edu

Cranston Herald features veteran high school team returning to 2017 Quahog Bowl

With 13 years experience, Cranston East will head to the 2017 Quahog Bowl, a regional competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl that is in its 16th year. The theme this year is “Blue Energy: Powering the Planet with Our Oceans” and Cranston East will be facing fifteen other teams from across Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Read more about this returning high school team in the Cranston Herald (http://cranstononline.com/stories/veteran-crew-on-hand-east-heads-back-to-quahog-bowl,121584).

Modeling Vibrio Window of Concern Can Benefit Shellfish Industry and Consumers

vibrio_sem_cdc

Mike_Whitney_web Mike Whitney, a marine scientist at the University of Connecticut, is working to help control or prevent possible outbreaks of illness from Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria normally present in sea water. When Vibrio concentrations rise during warm summer conditions, the harmful bacteria can accumulate in shellfish and cause illness for human consumers.  Whitney leads a team that has been examining Vibrio samples taken in Connecticut oyster-growing locations, and incorporating their observations into a hydrodynamic computer model. Combining these observations with data on the physical properties of Long Island Sound waters, such as variations of temperature, salinity and flow, provides a good estimation of exactly when and where Vibrio might concentrate enough to become a threat.  UConn marine scientist, Evan Ward and Kristin DeRosia-Banick from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Aquaculture are also part of the project team.

vibrio_estimates

Long Island Sound Mentor Teacher (LISMT) Program

LISSMT Program
Long Island Sound Mentor Teachers (LISMT) assist their peers in incorporating Long Island Sound content into curricula within the scope of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Connecticut educators are strongly influenced by standards in multiple subjects in terms of curriculum, instruction and assessment. With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), there is a significant change in the way science is taught and assessed. Since the release, states across the country are considering adoption, in whole or in part, of the NGSS. Connecticut officially adopted NGSS on November 4, 2015 with a unanimous vote of the Connecticut State Board of Education. A four year implementation plan to transition to NGSS is in development. An online short course (Next-Gen Science CT) has been developed to assist Connecticut educators with the transition.

Since its inception in FY02, 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 Long Island Sound content into curricula within the scope of the NGSS.

To date, 33 LISMT workshops in Connecticut have utilized 27 LIS mentor teachers to reach 445 formal and informal K-12 educators, and through them, a self-reported 24,992 students in 96 Connecticut cities, towns and regional school districts. With the release of the NGSS, the successful LISMT program is even more relevant. Educators are incorporating Earth systems science, which includes ocean, coastal and climate change topics, into the K-12 curriculum. The LISMT program will ensure that current science-based content will be utilized by mentor teachers and participants during the transition to the new standards. To help with this transition and with LISS support, Sea Grant hosted a three-day summer institute for middle and high school educators in 2014. The institute reached 22 teachers and through them, 2,749 students. The format of the institute was scientific presentations and related hands-on activities that linked current and relevant Long Island Sound science to NGSS Frameworks. The total number of Connecticut cities, towns and regional school districts reached through 2016 via both these programs is 96 or 57%.

Partnered with

Long Island Sound Study

Project number: ET-11

For more information, contact:

Diana Payne, CTSG Education Coordinator

Mentor Teacher Program