Author: jab10018

Coastal Certificate graduates learn Sound gardening practices

Janet McAllister, Kelly Vaughan and Dave Smith are all avid gardeners who wanted to take their skills and knowledge to the next level.

Graduates of the Coastal Certificate program gather at the Connecticut Audubon Center at Milford Point on Oct. 1.
Graduates of the Coastal Certificate program gather at the Connecticut Audubon Center at Milford Point on Oct. 1.

The three were among the latest group to complete the Coastal Certificate program, taught by Judy Preston, Sea Grant’s Long Island Sound outreach coordinator. The recent class received their certificates of completion at a ceremony on Oct. 1 at the Connecticut Audubon Center’s Coastal Center at Milford Point.
“This class has inspired me to do a lot more with native plants,” said McAllister, whose recent move to a shoreline property in Milford made her want to learn how to practice gardening that helps rather than hurts the water quality of the Sound.
For Vaughan, one of 37 master gardeners who completed the Coastal Certificate classes this spring, the program gave her the opportunity to work in several different outreach projects as part of the training. Along with 16 hours of classes, participants are required to complete 10 hours of outreach activities, which included shoreline cleanups, replanting of native species at a public garden and a pollinator fair, among others. Going back several weeks later to one of the public gardens she had helped plant, Vaughan recalled, she was gratified to find hundreds of bees there gathering nectar on the flowers.
“No matter how small a contribution you can make, it does make an impact,” said Vaughan, a resident of West Haven.
Smith said concern for protecting the water quality of a pond at his home in Clinton was one of his main motivations for taking the class. He’s now much more aware of issues such as polluted runoff and the importance of keeping buffers of native plants around waterways.
“Gardening is about much more than flowers,” he said.
Now in its fifth year, the class promotes coastal landscapes designed to be sustainable that also protect water quality in the estuary and create healthy habitats for wildlife.
“Gardening is not just about pretty plants anymore,” Preston told the class during the final session. “It’s a tangible way to address environmental degradation and climate change in our own backyards.”
Vaughan said she appreciated that the classes covered the history and biology of the Sound.
“There were a variety of interesting speakers,” she said. “We learned a lot about the Sound as well as way to protect it.”
For information on upcoming Coastal Certificate classes, contact Preston at:

Course focuses on helping communities with climate change impacts

Alex Da Silva and Tony Arreaga Jr., both juniors at the University of Connecticut majoring in environmental engineering, are looking to apply the technical skills they’ve learned to climate change problems.

Tony Arreaga Jr., left, and Alex Da Silva are among 15 students in the new climate corps class at UConn Storrs.
Tony Arreaga Jr., left, and Alex Da Silva, students in the new climate corps class, listen to a presentation about the EcoHusky group on Sept. 28.

They envision future careers working on low-impact development projects, helping shoreline towns to become more prepared for intense storms and other ways of making communities more resilient as sea levels rise and the planet warms.
“This is definitely something we need to be focused on,” said Arreaga, who came to UConn from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Added Da Silva, a student from New Haven: “In most of the other courses we took, climate change was more ancillary.”
But in the course they and 13 other students are taking this semester with Juliana Barrett of Connecticut Sea Grant and Bruce Hyde of CLEAR, climate change and its impacts in Connecticut and beyond are front and center. The new class, “Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning,” covers topics such as sea level rise, climate change science and policy, public health impacts and land use planning in the context of a changing environment. The class is supported by a grant from the UConn Provost’s Office.
“Some other courses I’ve taken focus on climate change as a problem, but not on solutions,” said another student, Casey Lambert, a junior from Branford majoring in environmental science. “But my goal is to work on the side of sustainable development.”
All three students said that one of the most enticing aspects of the new class is the chance it will give them in the spring semester to do field work directly with towns. As part of a “Climate Corps,” the students will be assigned service learning projects related to climate change adaptation issues in communities around the state.
“I thought it was really important for me to get some hands-on experience,” Arreaga said.
For the Sept. 28 class, students learned about the work of EcoHusky, a student group that works with the UConn Office of Environmental Policy on initiatives to make the campus more environmentally friendly. Eco-Husky co-presidents Adrianna Antigiovanni and Christen Bellucci, described how the group works to increase trash recycling, hosts clothing swaps and environmental fairs and sends delegates to international climate conferences.
After their presentation, Barrett, associate extension educator at Sea Grant, reminded students about the upcoming mid-term exam. Hyde, assistant extension educator at CLEAR, asked for a show of hands to learn how many students had taken courses in municipal planning as he prepared for classes about disaster preparedness and natural hazard mitigation.
“In other classes, we focused more on how technical systems work, but in this class, you get the human aspect,” said Da Silva.
To learn more about the class, visit:

Juliana Barrett, associate extension educator at Sea Grant, teaches a new class at the UConn Storrs campus called, "Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning."

Juliana Barrett, associate extension educator at Sea Grant, teaches a new class at the UConn Storrs campus called, "Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning."

New group of students trained in seafood safety

Before a bowl of clam chowder or a freshly grilled swordfish steak ends up on a restaurant diner’s plate, specially trained seafood handlers will have been working to eliminate any risk of contamination or hazards that could cause illness.
Many of those handlers will have learned their skills in training offered by Connecticut Sea Grant, including the most recent one from Sept. 12-14.
The three days of training took place at the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut. There, 22 seafood processors, wholesalers and dealers in products ranging from sushi to oysters to soups learned how to identify and control hazards associated with fish and shellfish to keep the public safe and their businesses running smoothly. Completion of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) classes are required by a 1997 federal Food & Drug Administration regulation.

Lori Pivarnik, coordinator of food safety outreach in the Food Safety Education Program at the University of Rhode Island, discusses safe seafood handling practices with students at a HACCP class on Sept. 13.

“Any seafood company has to have at least one HACCP-trained person,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant and co-teacher of the class with Lori Pivarnik, coordinator of food safety outreach and the food safety education program at the University of Rhode Island. While students in the recent class came from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York, previous classes have drawn from outside the Northeast.
After completing the nationally standardized course developed by the Seafood HACCP Alliance of seafood scientists, regulators and industry members, students receive a certificate of training completion from the Association of Food and Drug Officials. They then go back to their workplaces to write site-specific plans for potential seafood safety hazards for the products they handle, applying HACCP principles, Balcom said. She said HACCP plans are then implemented by each company to manage and minimize the risk of seafood-borne illnesses.
Training 75 to 100 seafood processors and regulators each year, Balcom said she and Pivarnik have trained more than 2,000 individuals in HACCP principles over the past 20 years. Sessions are offered alternately between Avery Point and URI in Narragansett. No exam is given to students at the end of the class, but they build experience developing plans for different seafood products as a group exercise to help them immediately apply what they learn once they return to their own businesses. That is in everyone’s best interest.
“The test comes when the FDA comes in and inspects them,” Balcom said.

For information about future HACCP classes, contact Balcom at:

Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant, talks to students in a HACCP class on Sept. 13.

Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant, talks to students in a HACCP class on Sept. 13.

Research explores marsh migration process

As rising seas push coastal marshes inland, the yards and woodlands next door are changing.
But not much is known about how this happens. That’s why Shimon Anisfeld and colleagues at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies began trying to tease out some of the details of the process by looking at marsh migration at two state parks, Sherwood Island in Westport and Hammonassett Beach in Madison.
On Sept. 12, he presented findings thus far from his research, which is being funded by Connecticut Sea Grant, to the Long Island Sound Habitat Restoration & Stewardship Work Group at Connecticut College in New London. The group is part of the Long Island Sound Study, a partnership of Connecticut, New York and the Environmental Protection Agency.
At Sherwood Island, Anisfeld and his team compared migration patterns at marshes bounded by lawns verses those next to forests that were getting flooded by high tides more frequently in recent years. Since lawn areas tended to be flatter than the woodlands, determining how much of the change was due to differences in the slope was tricky, he said. The research did, however, find differences in the mix of marsh vegetation migrating inland into lawns versus woodlands, probably a result of soil and salinity differences.
In another phase of the work still underway, Anisfeld and his team are using marsh core samples and the presence of single-celled marine organisms called foraminifera to measure how far the marshes at Sherwood Island and Hammonassett have moved vertically and horizontally since 1963.
Overall, the research will help inform management practices at areas with tidal marshes, as land use officials seek the best ways to preserve these critical habitats in the face of sea level rise.
Two other presentations at the workshop dealt with other aspects of changing marsh habitats. Scott Graves of Southern Connecticut State University and Mark Paine, director of public works for West Haven, described restoration efforts at Cove River Marsh. Ron Rozsa, retired coastal ecologist for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, shared his recent research into the long-term effects of ditches dug into the marshes at Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington that took place in Colonial times and in the 1930s.
After the presentations, the group toured the Mamacoke Island marsh in Waterford, which is owned by Connecticut College.
To read more about Anisfeld’s work, visit:

Special issue of journal highlights resilience symposium research

Research from a recent symposium supported by Connecticut Sea Grant, titled “Resilience and the Big Picture: Governing and Financing Innovations for Long Island Sound and Beyond,” has been published in a special issue of the Sea Grant Law and Policy Journal.
The six articles in the journal are based on the presentations and panels at the April 22, 2016, symposium at the University of Connecticut Law School in Hartford. They explore the challenges and opportunities of embedding resiliency principals into the planning, stewardship and economic viability of the Sound and other coastal areas.
Syma Ebbin, organizer of the symposium and research coordinator at Connecticut Sea Grant, wrote the introduction and co-wrote an article on emerging marine spatial planning efforts in the Sound with Nathaniel Trumbull, UConn geography professor. Ebbin is also a professor in the UConn Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics. Other articles discuss how to finance resilience, flood insurance reform and policies that encourage property owners to retreat from coastal areas.
The journal can be found at:

Sea Grant warns of dangerous rip currents in Long Island Sound

Connecticut Sea Grant warned residents on Sept. 6 that dangerous rip currents are expected in Long Island Sound through the coming weekend, posing hazards to swimmers, surfers and boaters.
The main risk for rip currents is in the eastern end of the Sound, and on Atlantic Ocean beaches on Long Island, according to Melanie Fewings, marine sciences professor at the University of Connecticut.
According to the National Weather Service office in Upton, N.Y., the rip currents are due to swells from Hurricane Irma building in the region. Both Connecticut Sea Grant and the National Weather Service are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is monitoring Hurricane Irma as well as tropical storms Jose and Katia through its National Hurricane Center.
Rip currents are channelized streams of water flowing away from shore. Even the strongest swimmers can be pulled into rip currents and away from shore. They account for 80 percent of rescues by lifeguards at coastal beaches, according to NOAA. Anyone caught in a rip current should not try to swim against it, but swim along the shoreline until free of the current, then swim at an angle away from the current toward shore. For more information about rip current safety, visit:
Residents are urged to keep up to date on the track of Hurricane Irma after it moves on its expected path through Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands and into Florida in the coming days, as well as on Tropical Storm Jose. The storm is currently about 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, heading west-northwest and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane later today, according to the National Hurricane Center. Tropical Storm Katia is currently in the Gulf of Mexico and is not posing a threat to the East Coast.
Residents are also advised to review hurricane preparation information available from NOAA and to take any advance steps possible so that their homes and families can best respond to a future weather emergency.
For information, visit NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation website at: and the Department of Homeland Security’s website at:
Connecticut Sea Grant, a partnership of the state and NOAA, is located at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus.

Art, climate change challenges come together in new exhibit, UConn course

"Water Wars #2" mixed media work by Susan Hoffman Fishman, courtesy of the artist.
"Water Wars #2" is a mixed media work by Susan Hoffman Fishman depicting an imaginative interpretation of wars predicted to take place as temperatures rise and limited access to water becomes a threat to human survival. Image provided courtesy of the artist.

Vibrant paintings of the lower Connecticut River share space with images of polluted waterways in India and mixed-media works evoking future water wars and the power and physical properties of water in an exhibit that opened last week at The William Benton Museum of Art.
“Unfiltered” features the works of 11 contemporary and six 19th and early 20th century artists. But it is not only a vehicle for depicting water in disparate settings and significance for visitors to the University of Connecticut museum, located at the main campus in Storrs. As a collaboration of the museum with numerous UConn departments and programs, “Unfiltered” is also being incorporated into a climate change adaptation class new this semester that is a joint effort of Connecticut Sea Grant, located at the Avery Point campus in Groton, with the Center for Land Use, Education and Research (CLEAR), and programs in environmental studies, environmental sciences and engineering.
“One of the extra-credit assignments for the class is for the students to pick three of the paintings that are relatable to climate change issues, and identify those issues,” said Juliana Barrett, associate extension educator at Connecticut Sea Grant. “It could be anything from sea level rise to environmental justice. This is just another medium to open the discussion about climate change and learn about it.”
Barrett is teaching the class at the Storrs campus with Bruce Hyde, assistant extension educator with CLEAR, to 15 graduate and undergraduate students. Titled “Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning,” it will teach students about the local, practical impacts of climate change in Connecticut and assign them service learning projects in coastal communities. After class work this fall, the “Climate Corps,” field work component will happen in the spring. The course is supported by a grant from the UConn Provost’s Office.
“The first lecture we talked about climate change as part of their entire life, no matter what field they’re going into,” said Barrett, adding that the course is bringing together students from a variety of majors, including environment studies, environmental sciences, environmental engineering and landscape architecture.
For the exhibit, Barrett recommended several of the works displayed there and contributed to the interpretive text to highlight the relevance of the images to climate change.
“I don’t think any of the works were created to say something about climate change, but we can draw things out of them,” she said.
Five of the largest paintings on display are by Chester artist Leif Nilsson. His vibrant scenes of the lower Connecticut River, including Griswold Point in Old Lyme, Selden Creek in Lyme and North Cove in Essex show rare and fragile habitats that face significant challenges from sea level rise and warming temperatures.
Nancy Stula, executive director of The Benton, said “Unfiltered” is the latest of several exhibits since she came to the museum in 2013 connecting the arts and sciences as a way of making the museum more relevant to students.
“This is something we’re trying to make a habit of doing,” she said. “One of our goals is to integrate the museum in with the rest of the community by collaborating with as many departments as possible.”
Collaborators with The Benton on “Unfiltered” include the UConn departments of Natural Resources and the Environment; Civil and Environmental Engineering and Marine Sciences; as well as these UConn programs: the Institute of Water Resources; CLEAR, Connecticut Sea Grant and Connecticut NEMO.
It will be on display through Dec. 17. A portion of the exhibit is expected to travel to Avery Point and the UConn Stamford campus.
The Benton is located at 245 Glenbrook Road on the main UConn campus in Storrs. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on weekends from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.
For information, visit:

"Ornament," photograph of icicles on a branch, by Diana Barker Price.

Ornament, photograph by Diana Barker Price.

Project creating chemical, physical profile of Long Island Sound

Marine sciences graduate student Yan Ji lowers a CTD profiler into the waters of Long Island Sound during an Aug. 24 research cruise.
Marine sciences graduate student Yan Jia lowers a CTD profiler into the waters of Long Island Sound during an Aug. 24 research cruise.

Groton - A major two-year research project to profile the water chemistry on Long Island Sound as it changes with seasons and tidal flows completed its first phase in the eastern Sound this summer.
Project leaders Penny Vlahos and Michael Whitney, both marine sciences professors at UConn Avery Point, in May 2016 began the series of research cruises to collect water samples from five locations in the eastern Sound across

Prof. Penny Vlahos fills a sample bottle with water from Long Island Sound.
Prof. Penny Vlahos fills a sample bottle with water from Long Island Sound.

different tidal cycles in the spring, summer and fall. The process will be repeated in the central and western Sound. The information will be used to create a complete profile that will inform efforts to improve water quality and establish a baseline for conditions in the Sound that can be used to monitor how it is being affected by climate change and other factors, Vlahos said. Their research is funded by Connecticut Sea Grant.
Samples collected for the project will be analysed to quantify the nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon levels and learn about pathways by which nutrients and carbon are transported across the estuary.

Measurements of the physical characteristics of the waterway through the tides are being taken in tandem with the water samples, so the two data sets can be paired.
"We're basically trying to figure out what goes in and out of Long Island Sound," Vlahos said. "These are the dynamics we don't yet understand."
A full-length article about the project will be published in the upcoming Fall/Winter issue of Wrack Lines.

A rosette holder for Niskin bottles is lowered into Long Island Sound to collect water samples.

Chris Mills, a UConn undergraduate student and crew member aboard the RV Lowell Weicker, lowers a rosette holder filled with Niskin bottles to collect water sampels from Long Island Sound while marine technician Dave Cohen looks on during an Aug. 24 research cruise.

Marine sciences students fill sample bottles with water from Long Island Sound collected during an Aug. 24 research cruise.

Allison Byrd, left, and Allie Staniec, both marine sciences graduate students, fill sample bottles with water from Long Island Sound during an Aug. 24 research cruise.

Long Island Sound restoration funds advance in federal budget plan, Sen. Murphy says

Greenwich – Sen. Chris Murphy delivered good news on Aug. 24 about prospects for federal funding for Long Island Sound programs including Connecticut Sea Grant to an audience of conservation group representatives, local and state government officials and the public.

Sen. Chirs Murphy speaks to audience in Greenwich on Aug. 24 about Long Island Sound funding.
Sen. Chris Murphy tells an audience in Greenwich about promising prospects for Long Island Sound funding.

While funding for cleanup and habitat restoration programs for the Sound and other waterways was eliminated in Pres. Trump’s budget plan, Congress’ current proposed version of fiscal 2018 federal budget includes $8 million for the Sound, Murphy said.  The fiscal 2017 budget funded $4 million worth of restoration programs in the estuary, which is shared by Connecticut and New York.

“The final appropriations bill doubled funding for Long Island Sound,” Murphy told an audience of about 50 people gathered at the Bruce Museum’s Seaside Center overlooking a public beach. “This will double the number of projects we can fund.”

Also in the proposed budget is $3 million in new funding for aquaculture research, said Murphy, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He noted that much of that will be spent at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s aquaculture lab in Milford.

“This will be used for research on how to restore shellfish beds,” he said, noting that shellfish farming has both economic and environmental benefits because shellfish filter nutrients and enhance water quality.

Funding for National Sea Grant programs, run as federal-state partnerships, was also eliminated in the Trump budget plan, but was restored to $65 million for base programs and $11.5 million for Sea Grant aquaculture. Connecticut Sea Grant is one of 33 programs in coastal and Great Lakes states.

“These were programs slated for big cuts that we were able to preserve,” Murphy said. He noted that while water quality has improved in the Sound in recent decades, continued investment is needed to continue progress.

While there is bipartisan disagreement on many federal environmental initiatives, Murphy said both parties agree that support for “backyard environmental protection” such as restoration of waterways should be maintained.

UConn Prof. Charles Yarish gives book about Long Island Sound to Sen. Murphy.

UConn Prof. Charles Yarish gives Sen. Murphy a copy of the 2014 book he co-authored, \"Long Island
Sound: Prospects for an Urban Sea.\" (photos by Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant)