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.

New guide to decapod larvae available

“Keys to the Larvae of Common Decapod Crustaceans in Long Island Sound,” a 48-page guide to the early life stages of lobsters, crabs and shrimp, was published this spring by Connecticut Sea Grant and Project Oceanology. Written by Howard “Mickey” Weiss, Project O founder and senior scientist, it includes black-and-white drawings identifying the main parts of the anatomies of various decapods, as well as color photos of more than a dozen species. For a free download of 21 MB copy, go to: Weiss Decapod Crustacean larvae book_Web
To purchase a print copy for $8 plus shipping, contact Andrea Kelly at: Please reference the title and publication number CTSC-17-09.