Previously Funded Research

CTSG funds research through our omnibus project selection process, as well as regional competitions, national awards, development projects and external grants. The NOAA Central Library’s Sea Grant Collection began archiving research and publications supported by Connecticut Sea Grant and the other 33 Sea Grant Programs in January 2022.

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Prior to 2022, the National Sea Grant Library archived research and publications supported by Connecticut Sea Grant and the other 33 Sea Grant programs.

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Previously Funded Research (2020-2022)

One of the sturgeon sampled for the research project
One of the sturgeon sampled for the research project. Photo courtesy of Hannes Baumann

Project Title: “A Re-emergent Spawning Population of Atlantic Sturgeon in the Connecticut River? Combined Age Analyses and Telemetry Data Will Provide New Insights”


Lead PI: Hannes Baumann, Dept. of UConn Marine Sciences

Co-PIs: Thomas F. Savoy; Jacqueline Benway Roberts; Deborah J. Pacileo, CT Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection

Summary: Age analysis was performed on 197 sectioned pectoral fin rays of Atlantic sturgeon sampled in 2020 and several previous years from the Connecticut River, where evidence of a possibly re-emergent population of the endangered fish has been found. The purpose of the analysis was to determine growth distributions and whether potentially older maturing sturgeon are occurring in the river. Preliminary analysis indicates that most of the Atlantic sturgeon sampled are fast growing subadults that are immigrants from other sturgeon subpopulations rather than part of a nascent spawning population in the Connecticut River. A small sample of mature large adults, however, could have spawned in the Connecticut River. In a second part of the project, acoustic receivers were set up to receive telemetry data which is being analyzed to determine movement patterns of tagged sturgeon. This will potentially be used that to identify areas where they consistently congregate. Additionally, researchers took preliminary steps to identify likely areas in the Connecticut River where Atlantic sturgeon are spawning land laying eggs.

Project Title: “The East River: Historic and Future Impacts on Long Island Sound”


Lead PI: James O’Donnell, UConn Dept. of Marine Sciences

Co-PI: Grant McCardell, UConn Dept. of Marine Sciences

Summary: The potential impact of a storm surge barrier proposed for the East River at the western end of Long Island Sound is being assessed. The analysis is based on historical data as well as new high-resolution bathymetry of the East River integrated into existing ocean circulation models, tidal amplitude observations and sea level rise scenarios. The research indicates that the changes to the geometry of the East River may impact tidal dynamics of the Sound, both in the westernmost area and throughout the entire estuary. The investigation is being refined with additional simulations, comparisons of tidal current velocities and acoustic Doppler current profiler observations from three buoy locations. Researchers are collaborating with colleagues in New York, New Jersey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on their findings, and public education materials are planned to explain the impact of potential flood risk reduction structures on Long Island Sound.

Project Title:Stormwater Treatment Trains: From BMPs to Floodplains”

PIs: Timothy Vadas, Baikun Li, UConn Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Ashley Helton, UConn Dept. of Natural Resources and the Environment

Summary: This project is studying the capacity for riparian floodplains to act as secondary treatment systems for stormwater runoff that has already passed through initial treatment, particularly at removing metals and nitrogen. To determine the effectiveness of discharging stormwater runoff to a riparian floodplain instead of directly into a stream, researchers established field plots with pumps, stormwater reservoirs, drip irrigation tubing and equipment for shallow groundwater and surface water sampling. Test runs were completed. Stormwater sampling and analysis is continuing.

A researcher prepares a sample for the microplastics-shellfish project
A researcher prepares a sample for the microplastics-shellfish project. Photo courtesy of Evan Ward

Project Title:Determining Uptake and Elimination of Microplastics by Cultured Oysters in Connecticut”


PIs: Evan Ward, Sandra Shumway, UConn Dept. of Marine Sciences; Tessa Getchis, CT Sea Grant/UConn Extension

Summary: This research is investigating the extent to which aquaculture practices contribute to the type and concentrations of microplastics in Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) produced by the CT aquaculture industry. Oyster tissue and water samples were collected from a natural bed and an aquaculture farm and used to compare and contrast the types and quantities of microplastics found. Field experiments were conducted to determine if the types and quantities of microplastics in oysters grown on an aquaculture farm changed when bivalves were transplanted to a site away from the farm, and vice versa. Further analysis is underway to determine which sizes and shapes of microplastics, particularly polymer types typically used on aquaculture farms, are most likely ingested by oysters or rejected in pseudofeces. Research in the laboratory is being conducted to quantify accumulation and depuration of the two most commonly ingested microplastics by oysters.

Researcher Shimon Anisfeld works on a Long Island Sound salt marsh.
Researcher Shimon Anisfeld works on a Long Island Sound salt marsh. Photo courtesy of Shimon Anisfeld

Project Title: “Sea-Level Rise, Storm Surge, and Salt Marsh Migration”


PIs: Shimon Anisfeld, Craig Brodersen, Yale University

Summary: To better understand marsh migration into forests, this study focuses on four inter-related issues that have recently been identified as critical:  (a) the presence of “invisible migration” that is undetectable by aerial imagery because it consists of marsh plants moving upslope under the tree canopy; (b) the role of large storms (such as Superstorm Sandy) in initiating migration by damaging coastal forests (both physically and through salt inputs); (c) the ecological character of the marsh-forest ecotone, which the researchers hypothesize is composed of different zones corresponding to different stages in forest-to-marsh conversion; and (d) the dependence of migration rates on characteristics of the upland being invaded, such as tree species and soil type.

Researcher Sarah Crosby collects data on Long Island Sound salt marsh.
Researcher Sarah Crosby collects data on Long Island Sound salt marsh. Judy Benson / Connecticut sea Grant

Project Title: “Role of Plant Source Population in Salt Marsh Restoration Success”


PIs: Sarah Crosby, Earthplace Inc.; David Hudson, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk/Remote Ecologist Inc.; A. Randall Hughes, Northeastern University

Summary:  Genetic differences in source plants of Spartina alterniflora used for salt marsh restoration projects were quantified to assess the impacts on successful establishment of the plants and the ecological diversity of species of gastropods, bivalves, crustaceans and others. By understanding the impacts, the long-term success of restoration efforts can be improved. Six restored marshes were compared with nearby natural marshes, and a common garden study was also conducted. The results are being shared through public presentations to lay audiences, by engaging student researchers in the work and through direct and targeted outreach to restoration practitioners at NGOs, government agencies and academia.

Previously Funded Research (2018-2020)

Long Island Sound’s marine life and water quality was be the focus of five two-year research projects Connecticut Sea Grant will support starting in 2018. Proposals by four research teams from the University of Connecticut and one from Yale University School were chosen for the awards. The projects were slated to begin in the spring of 2018. Each will leverage matching funds of at least $75,000, bringing the total value of the research investment to over $1.1 million.

  • Researchers Julie Granger and Jamie Vaudrey, both in the Department of Marine Sciences at UConn, will investigate the extent to which nutrients in the effluent from the Westerly and Pawcatuck wastewater treatment plants are fueling invasive macroalgae in Little Narragansett Bay. They will analyze nitrogen flowing into the Pawcatuck River to assess its source, comparing effluent from the two plants with naturally occurring levels of nitrogen and oxygen in the river, which flows into the bay. They hope to determine whether nitrogen from these treatment plants is a substantial contributor to the overgrowth of an invasive green algae, Cladophora. They plan to continue their collaboration with the organization Clean Up Sound and Harbors, also known as CUSH, and share their results with the community.

  • Patterns of methylmercury accumulation in copepods, a type of zooplankton that is a critical part of the Long Island Sound food web, will be assessed by Zofia Baumann and Hans Dam, both in the Marine Sciences Department at UConn. Methylmercury is an organic form of heavy metal mercury that is neurotoxic and can lead to human health impairments.

  • UConn Professor Hans Dam will examine whether red tide algal blooms will become more common and more toxic in the sound as water temperatures and carbon dioxide levels in the estuary increase as a result of climate change. The findings will help managers better understand the dynamics of red tide blooms and minimize human health impacts.

  • Gaboury Benoit, at Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, seeks to understand the extent that heavy metal contaminants (lead, mercury, copper and cadmium) are captured in sediments that become trapped in tributary estuaries flowing into Long Island Sound. The West River in New Haven, which until recently had restricted flows due to a tide gate that has been removed, will be the focus of the research. Flows from the West River will be measured and compared with those from New Haven’s Mill River, which continues to have tide gates. The research will also examine how sea level rise might change these functions.

  • A multidisciplinary team of UConn scientists led by Pengfei Liu of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Stephen Swallow of the same department and Eric Schultz of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology will investigate how fishermen’s behavior changes in response to new regulations on size limits, season length and numbers of fish that can be caught. The researchers will engage focus groups and survey anglers to learn how fishermen respond to restrictions on tautog (black fish). Ultimately, they hope to determine the effectiveness of different management strategies intended to rebuild depleted fish populations.

The competitive grant process is open biennially and utilizes federal funding administered by Connecticut Sea Grant for projects to improve the health of marine and coastal ecosystems and benefit the public. 

Previously Funded Research (2016-2018)

The Connecticut Sea Grant College Program funded six research projects with a total value of $879,091 for the period of 2016 to 2018. The suite of competitively-selected projects was chosen to benefit both Long Island Sound and the coastal Connecticut communities that surround it. These projects together helped achieve objectives set out in the program’s four thematic focus areas: Healthy Coasts and Oceans, Safe Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies, and Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development.Previously Funded Research Projects (2016-2018)

coastal resilienceResilient Coastal Communities under Wind & Flood Hazards

Wei Zhang and Christine Kirchhoff of UConn’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, aimed to reduce coastal community vulnerabilities by evaluating and comparing trade-offs in residential home building designs for both wind and flood factors. New GIS-based resilience maps were produced to show multi-hazard effects to help communities plan and build appropriately to reduce vulnerabilities to extreme weather events and sea level rise. The towns of Fairfield and Milford, CT participated in the study. Click here for more info.


Public Support for Adaptation to Sea Level Rise

Coastal storm damageStephen Swallow of the UConn Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, led a multi-disciplinary team of investigators who surveyed Connecticut coastal residents to examine their preferences and values with respect to various measures to preserve coastal areas and resources in the face of sea level rise. They wanted to find out whether residents are more likely to support environmentally protective measures if they understand the value of ecosystem functions for public benefit. Results provided managers with insight into the alternatives and tradeoffs which are preferred, and how much residents are willing to pay for adaptation measures in coastal area to make communities stronger. Associate Investigators include James O’Donnell and Jennifer O’Donnell, UConn Marine Sciences, and Christopher Elphick and Eric Schultz, UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Click here for more info.

Nutrients and Bioaccumulation of Methyl Mercury

Picture of students with seine netRobert P. Mason and Zofia Baumann of the UConn Department of Marine Sciences, examined mercury concentrations and methylation in water and sediments, and how it accumulates into marine fish and shellfish. They sampled multiple locations along the Connecticut coast that differ in mercury sediment concentration levels in an effort to explain how the nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in coastal water bodies influence mercury methylation and accumulation in marine life.


LIS Mass Balance

Nutrient & Carbon Fluxes through Long Island Sound

Penny Vlahos and Michael Whitney, UConn Department of Marine Sciences, determined chemical budgets and fluxes of carbon and nitrogen in Long Island Sound; in other words, how much goes into the Sound and back out to the ocean, by what routes, and how fast. This information is essential to effectively manage water quality in the Sound. Future modeling of ecosystems that incorporates these data will inform water quality, restoration and preservation strategies.

Acartia tonsa, credit Univ. of Del.Effects of Global Warming/Ocean Acidification
on Marine Plankton

Hans G. Dam, Hannes Bauman, and Michael Finiguerra. UConn Department of Marine Sciences, investigated the combined effects of warming waters and ocean acidification on a key species of copepod, Acartia tonsa. Copepods, small zooplankton, are the most abundant animals in the ocean and Long Island Sound, and are a primary food source for larger animals such as fish. Click here for more info.

coastal literacy
Credit: C. Sziabowski, UConn Today

Coastal Literacy in CT Schools

Michael Finiguerra, UConn Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Rachel Gabriel, UConn Neag School of Education, brought together an educational researcher, a coastal scientist and high school teachers to develop and test a variety of education strategies to increase coastal literacy. Innovative teaching practices and factors found to be successful were used in historically low-performing schools to gauge their effectiveness in improving student learning outcomes. For more info, please visit