This issue includes articles about a teacher education program at Hammonasset; chemistry-physical oceanography research on Long Island Sound; seaweed and shellfish aquaculture; and mercury research on fish and shellfish.
Applications are being accepted at Connecticut Sea Grant through Jan. 18 for the 2018 Coastal Management and Digital Coast Fellowship, a program that provides on-the-job education and training opportunities in coastal resource management for postgraduate students.
This two-year opportunity offers a competitive salary, medical benefits and relocation and travel expense reimbursement. Selected candidates are matched with state coastal resource agencies and nonprofit organizations to work on projects proposed by hosts and selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Coastal Management.
Any student completing a master’s or other advanced degree in natural resource management or environmental-related studies from an accredited U.S. university between Jan. 1, 2017, and July 31, 2018, is eligible to apply.
Connecticut Sea Grant Director Sylvain De Guise has accepted an invitation to be on the Long Island Sound Advisory Council, a new group being formed by Sen. Christopher Murphy.
Twenty “leading stakeholders and advocates” will comprise the group, which will meet quarterly in Hartford to talk about “legislative ideas, the status of federal funding and creative ways we can work together on behalf of the Sound,” Sen. Murphy said in the invitation, sent on Nov. 13.
“It is an honor to be asked to serve on a group to advise Sen. Murphy,” De Guise said. “He is so active in promoting the protection of the resources of Long Island Sound, and in recognizing their importance to the communities that depend on them for economic, social and recreational purposes.”
In the invitation, Sen. Murphy noted that the health of the Sound has improved and progress has been made toward protecting the wildlife and communities that
depend on it. But many challenges remain, he said, particularly in reforming federal policies affecting the Sound and obtaining increased funding, “especially now.”
“Failing to support Long Island Sound would mean the destruction of an ecological treasure and risk the demise of a vibrant coastal business community,” he said.
Protecting the health of the Sound, he said, has been a “personal priority,” because of its importance to the state’s economy and cultural character.
“The needs of the Sound are multifaceted and our work has to be as well,” Murphy said in the invitation. “With your help, I believe we can make a real impact on Long Island Sound that will allow it to prosper and flourish.”
Sales of Connecticut shellfish increased nearly 100 percent from 2007 to 2015, and comprised 5 percent of the state’s total annual agricultural sales that year of $574 million.
That’s among the findings of a newly published report, “Economic impacts of Connecticut’s Agricultural Industry Update 2015,” which puts the value of direct sales of oysters and clams that year at just under $30 million.
The report also notes that the aquaculture industry has a significant multiplier effect on the economy in direct jobs on boats, aquaculture farms and in processing facilities, as well as indirect jobs in sales and distribution. More than 350 workers are employed in direct jobs at shellfish farms.
The report was written by three experts from the University of Connecticut’s Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics – Rigoberto A. Lopez, Rebecca Boehm and Marcela Pineda – as well as two from the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis – Peter Gunther and Fred Cartensen.
The significant growth reflects how the aquaculture industry rebounded after a major die-off of oysters that occurred in the late 1990s due to two diseases, said Tessa Getchis, aquaculture extension specialist at Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension. Supporting sustainable growth of shellfish aquaculture is one of the major initiatives of Sea Grant, based at the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut.
“There’s been a resurgence of the industry,” Getchis said Monday. “The production is even higher now, and farmers are also diversifying into new crops like kelp.”
Use of new types of equipment for growing shellfish as well as enhancement of natural oyster beds in Long Island Sound have fostered continued growth in the industry, she said. Areas farmed historically but not in recent decades are being reinvigorated, she added.
“We’ve seen an explosion of interest, with a number of new, small businesses,” she said. “They’re not producing huge volumes, but specializing in their own innovative brands and marketing their products locally.”
Once, most Connecticut-grown aquaculture products were shipped to out-of-state markets in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere.
“Now, more of the product is marketed locally here in Connecticut,” she said.
Building on the foundations and questions generated by a previous workshop, “Legal Issues in the Age of Climate Adaptation II: Climate Adaptation Academy” will present four fact sheets addressing many of the issues raised. The Dec. 15 workshop is a follow-up to the “Legal Issues in the Age of Climate Adaptation” offered in November 2015. In the new workshop, the afternoon session will delve into two major climate adaptation issues with numerous legal ramifications: elevating structures and resilience of roadways.
The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Mercy by the Sea Retreat and Conference Center, 167 Great Neck Road, Madison, CT.
Applications for the National Marine Fisheries Service – Sea Grant Graduate Fellowship Program in Marine Resource Economics are due to Connecticut Sea Grant by 5 p.m. Jan. 26, 2018.
The Fellowships are available to U.S. citizens who are graduate students enrolled in PhD degree programs in academic institutions in the United States and its territories. Ph.D. students interested in careers related to the development and implementation of quantitative methods for assessing the economics of the conservation and management of living marine resources can receive two years of funding.
Sea Grant and NMFS, with required institutional matching funds, expect to support two new fellows in Marine Resource Economics in the amount of $46,000 per year, to commence Aug. 1, 2018. Fellows will work on thesis problems of public interest and relevance to NMFS under the guidance of NMFS mentors at participating NMFS science centers or laboratories. Fellows will have summer internships at these institutions and may work, as necessary, at the participating NMFS facility during some or all of the academic year at the mutual discretion of mentor, faculty adviser, and fellow.
Applications are due to the applicant’s local state Sea Grant program by 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 26, 2018. Those intending to apply should contact the Connecticut Sea Grant Research Coordinator, Dr. Syma Ebbin.
Download the RFP for the Fellowship in Marine Resource Economics
One male and two female royal gramma swim in a broodstock tank at the Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton. Photo: Haley Pratt
Swimming rainbows of purple, magenta, orange and yellow on Caribbean coral reefs, royal gramma are one of the most popular fish for home aquariums. But the journey from the reef to the pet shop is often fatal, both for the little fish and their marine habitats. “In some cases, some very destructive methods are used to catch the fish,” said Paul Anderson, research scientist at Mystic Aquarium leading the project. “Sometimes cyanide is released on the reef to stun the fish, or it will be dynamited. Then they change hands so many times along the way. We’re trying to improve the care of the fish all along the chain.” In a project funded by Connecticut Sea Grant, the aquarium has teamed up with the Marine Sciences Magnet High School in Groton to raise royal gramma through aquaculture, reducing pressure on those living in the wild and potentially reducing mortality rates for the fish taken home by hobbyists. Now in its third year, the project has expanded the school’s aquaculture projects from seafood production into ornamental fish husbandry, opening up a possible new career path for students. “More hobbyists are now asking for sustainably caught fish,” said Eric Litvinoff, director of aquaculture at the school. Two aquarium staff, Vince Vacco and Megan Armstrong, work regularly at the school with the students, and also oversee the care of the brood stock and labs where food for the project is grown. That includes several strains of algae fed to the tiny microscopic animals -- copepods, brine shrimp and rotifers – that are in turn fed to the royal gramma. During the first year, the project focused on raising clown fish, so students and the aquarium staff could learn the aquaculture methods using established protocols with a species that’s relatively easy to grow. The second year, the school took in its first batch of royal gramma, a more challenging species due to its aggressive behavior and cannibalistic tendencies. The first year, all of the larvae were eaten by the adults. “This year, we’ve developed a larvae collector, so that the eggs get sucked into an uplift tube and into a container that keeps the adults away,” Anderson said. Others have developed methods of raising royal gramma through aquaculture, he said, but they aren’t in widespread use because they are too costly and labor intensive to be practical. “We’re not the first ones to try to breed these guys, but what we’re trying to do is develop easy protocols that the industry can adopt,” Anderson said. There are two groups of royal gramma now at the school. In one lab, six tanks are lined up on shelves behind a black plastic curtain, each with different ratios of males to females. One might have one male to two females, while another has one male and one female, and a third, one male to three females. The purpose, Anderson said, is to determine which ratio proves to be the most effective at reducing aggression and producing the most eggs. Cameras are set up to record whether the male is successful at luring females into the nest. “We’re recording their courtship behaviors,” said Anderson. “The male builds and maintains the nest, and then does a couple of U-turns and sometimes quivers his tail in front of the female.”
In another room, 35 younger fish swim in a large tank divided into cubicles to keep them apart. On Oct. 25, Vacco, Armstrong and two students at the high school – seniors Johann Heupel and Matthew Parizo – worked together on measuring and recording the size of each fish, then injecting an elastomer white tag into the males. “I want to do marine science as a major in college, so it’s awesome to get such close access to this kind of active work,” said Heupel. In addition to Sea Grant, Anderson noted that support from the project also came from the Joint Aquaculture Research Laboratory, a member of Rising Tide Conservation. That is an association of research labs, public aquaria, and commercial members working to bring more ornamental fish raised through aquaculture to market. A third partner is the Marine Sciences Department of the University of Connecticut, which was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to provide a research experience for an undergraduate student in conducting a behavioral analysis on the fish.
Fairfield Beach Road was one of many streets flooded by Superstorm Sandy. Photo: CT DEEP.
By the time Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Connecticut coast on Oct. 29, 2012, its winds had weakened to just below the hurricane force speeds that had already torn through New Jersey and New York. But it still brought flooding rains and storm surge that coincided with high tide and gusts strong enough to topple trees and knock out power both on the coast and inland.
As the five-year anniversary of Sandy approaches near the end of what has seemed like a relentless hurricane season, no one should become complacent. Connecticut escaped the punishing onslaught of Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria this year, but that luck won’t hold out forever.
Has the experience of Sandy left the state in better shape to deal with hurricanes and superstorms to come? Read the answers from 5 experts, including Sea Grant's Juliana Barrett and Jennifer Marlon of Yale University, whose social science research on storm communications was funded by Sea Grant, in this Connecticut Mirror article.
Crowning her 30 years of distinguished service to Connecticut Sea Grant, Margaret “Peg” Van Patten received the first-ever Communications Service Award in October during the 2017 Sea Grant Extension Assembly and Communicator Conference in Astoria, OR.
“Peg is not only a communicator but also a scientist,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director of Connecticut Sea Grant, in announcing the award. “She earned her master’s degree studying kelp, a native brown seaweed. Her work contributed to the development of culture techniques for kelp, which has become a new aquaculture industry in the Northeast.”
When Van Patten’s career began, her office was equipped with just a typewriter and a telephone. By the time she retired, she was developing websites and editing video.
“There were always opportunities to learn and grow,” she said. “Sea Grant is all about bringing people and science together in a way that solves coastal problems. I loved being part of that – that’s why I now call myself a Sea Grant volunteer.”
Van Patten served as a one-woman communications program, overseeing media relations, print and electronic publications and was the creator and editor of the award-winning Wrack Lines magazine. She described that part of her job as “a dream come true.”
Drawing on a broad scope of talents, Van Patten also taught public relations classes at the University of Connecticut, mentored students in science writing, coordinated the International Beach Cleanup efforts in the state for more than a decade and worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in organizing and training volunteers for the national Phytoplankton Monitoring Network in Connecticut. She also developed a draft crisis management plan for the national Sea Grant Network and still found time to give workshops to various audiences about seaweed identification and uses, which she continues to do in retirement. She is also the author of a 2006 guidebook still in wide use, “Seaweeds of Long Island Sound.” Her enthusiasm for sharing her seaweed expertise was evident during a lesson she gave to teachers in September at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.
“There were many challenges in my work but it has been tremendously rewarding,” she said. “I’m tremendously honored to be selected to receive this new award from my peers, who are a group of exceptionally talented professionals.”
Janet McAllister, Kelly Vaughan and Dave Smith are all avid gardeners who wanted to take their skills and knowledge to the next level.
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: email@example.com.