On a bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved funding for the National Sea Grant program at $65 million for base programs and $11.5 million for Sea Grant aquaculture. Part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency budget, the funding for National Sea Grant supports Sea Grant programs in 33 states, including Connecticut Sea Grant. This follows similar action in the House of Representatives and bodes well for the future of Sea Grant, which had been slated for termination under the President’s budget proposal. Connecticut Sea Grant is grateful for the support that Congress has demonstrated for the program, and the services it provides to communities and the maritime economy. While changes could still be made before passage of a final budget, the prospects for Sea Grant are promising.
Registration information on basic HACCP training class Sept. 12 -14 at UConn Avery Point:
Clinging jellyfish, a small, potentially toxic, gelatinous species that tends to live in or near eelgrass beds, are increasing in Mumford Cove and have been sighted in other places in Groton, Connecticut, according to researcher Annette Govindarajan of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Supported by an award from Connecticut Sea Grant, Govindarajan is studying the local population of these jellies. If you encounter clinging jellyfish, avoid contact and if you are stung and experience a reaction, you may want to consider seeking medical treatment. Download Clinging Jelly FAQ sheet - June2017
Read more about it in The Day
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!
Sylvain De Guise
Sea Grant Awards Three Research Grants Under the Long Island Sound Study
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
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:
Saturday Feb. 4, 2017 at UConn Avery Point
Hosted by Connecticut Sea Grant
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 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.
Finiguerra 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.
So 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
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).
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.