University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Posts Tagged ‘Center for Land Use Education and Research’

Major New CLEAR Programs Underway in 2017

By Chet Arnold

Originally posted on http://blog.clear.uconn.edu

As 2017 gets underway, CLEAR folks are working hard on the early stages of major new projects that cover all three of CLEAR’s traditional program areas, and actually add a fourth! Each one of these projects will no doubt be the fodder for many blogs to come, but for now, here’s a quick summary of new CLEAR initiatives.

The Water Team is a few months into a five-year effort to support the 121 towns covered under the newly enhanced “MS4” state stormwater regulation. MS4 is a part of the Clean Water Act and stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. Although only 8 of the 121 towns are entirely new to this regulation, there are important new additions to the requirements and our new program is focused on helping towns navigate these changes. Stormwater management has been a major focus of CLEAR since before there was a CLEAR, dating back to the advent of the NEMO Program in 1991, so we are very excited to have the chance to tackle this issue in new and expanded ways.

The Geospatial Team is working hard on a redesign and expansion of Connecticut Conditions Online, or CT ECO, a partnership with CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that is the state’s flagship/go-to/one-stop-shopping/cutting-edge online site for natural resource maps and data. First of all, the website is being upgraded with new hardware and software. Second, it’s getting a design facelift, not only to look pretty but also to be more mobile-friendly. Third, in early 2017 CT ECO will be adding new high resolution statewide imagery (3-inch pixel resolution!!!) and elevation (lidar) data, both obtained in the Spring of 2016 (project description here).   This amazing stuff is suitable for any number of tasks. Blogs will no doubt be flying off of Emily Wilson’s desk on these topics in future.

Bruce and students

Student teams led by Bruce Hyde and other CLEAR faculty will work with Connecticut towns as part of the UConn Climate Corps.

Student teams led by Bruce Hyde and other CLEAR faculty will work with Connecticut towns as part of the UConn Climate Corps.

The Land Use and Climate Adaptation Team is working on the launch of the new UConn Climate Corps, a program focused on undergraduates from the Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Engineering majors. In concert with the directors of those three majors, we are developing a fall semester class that will focus on local issues and problems associated with climate change; during the following spring semester “practicum,” student teams will work with CLEAR faculty to provide on-the-ground assistance to towns by conducting vulnerability assessments and other studies, developing educational materials, or performing any number of other tasks. We are hoping that this combination of classroom and service learning will become a model that can be adapted to other issues, and possibly other universities.

Lastly, CLEAR now has a fourth Program Area, secondary school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. This is a very recent development built upon the Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) run out of one of the Center’s parent departments, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. The NRCA, now in its fifth year, is a program for high school students that combines on-campus natural resources education with community service projects, and CLEAR folks make up much of its teaching faculty. This past fall, a multi-departmental team from CAHNR and the Neag School of Education received two grants to expand the NRCA concept in several ways. The first project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will bring together high school students and adult conservation volunteers (from land trusts, conservation commissions, etc.) in two-day workshops focused on local natural resource management. The second will be a three-day teacher professional development class held on campus, focusing on water resource management and the use of online geospatial tools for teaching within the framework of the Next Generation Science Standards. CLEAR is the home of this new triad of interwoven projects. MUCH more later!

Exploring the Results of Low Impact Development (LID)

ct mapIn addition to reviewing the land use regulations of towns, the NEMO team created an interactive online “Story Map” allowing users to explore the data further (http://s.uconn.edu/stateoflid). The story map combines interactive maps, text, graphics, photos and other media to tell a more compelling story than could otherwise be done by a publication or website. Through the story map you can review the recommend changes to local land use regulations and explore which of those are most (and least) common in CT. It also serves as a database of LID regulations in the state, al-lowing towns to search for where LID-friendly regulations have been adopted and link directly to the actual text and page number. Which makes stealing from your neighbors easy, productive and encouraged. So steal away. Visit the Story Map at http://s.uconn.edu/stateoflid.

CLEAR Story Maps

bearsExtension faculty at CLEAR are creating Story Maps for their projects, inspired by the successful maps of Emily Wilson. Dave Dickson has created one, called the State of Low Impact Development in Connecticut, which describes the results of research done over the summer of 2015 by CLEAR’s NEMO Project on the use of “low impact development” practices in Connecticut towns. The Story Map not only tells a compelling story, but also can be used as a research tool by town planners and others, since the interactive maps provide direct links to various town documents that pertain to low impact development. Cary Chadwick worked with CAHNR graduate student Mike Evans to create The Bears are Back, a Story Map on his research investigating the growing population and distribution of black bears in Connecticut (photo here, wildlife camera traps were set up at several sites to catch digital photographs of visitors to the site). Emily has created another Story Map with Extension Educator Joel Stocker, called Explore Connecticut’s Changing Shoreline, which looks at historical changes to Connecticut’s coastline from 1934 to the present by carefully comparing historic and current aerial imagery. CLEAR’s Extension crew are confident that this new technology will help them to bring their research and outreach efforts to an ever-growing audience. View all of the Story Maps at: clear.uconn.edu/storymaps.

NEMO Program to Help Communities Navigate the New Stormwater Permit

By Dave Dickson
tmdl mapCLEAR’s venerable, award-winning NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) Program is embarking on a five-year program to assist Connecticut communities in complying with the state’s revised “General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems,” or the MS4 permit. Stormwater runoff is a major source of flooding, erosion and water pollution in Connecticut’s waterways, and is expected to become even more of a problem as climate change progresses.
After much negotiation between CT DEEP, Connecticut municipalities and the environmental community, the MS4 underwent a significant expansion and enhancement this July. Eight new towns have been brought into the program, making a total of 121 (almost ¾ of all the municipalities in the state), and for the first time most state and federal institutions are also included. And, while the program remains organized according to its six “Minimum Control Measures,” there are important new aspects and requirements involving monitoring, maintenance of town properties, and “disconnecting” impervious areas through Low Impact Development (LID).
In the current economic environment Connecticut communities are struggling with a host of needs, and navigating the various aspects of the MS4 will be a challenge. In recognition of this, CT DEEP is funding NEMO to develop and implement a multifaceted support program that includes outreach, technical assistance, web tools and other resources. To list just a few:
  • MS4 “Circuit Rider”: a NEMO Extension Educator dedicated to the MS4 support program will conduct workshops, trainings and consultations with towns.
  • MS4 website: a website far above and beyond the typical regulation website is being developed, as an authoritative and detailed (but not wordy!) guide to MS4 implementation and home for special technical and mapping tools.
  • Webinar series: CLEAR’s webinar series will spin off a special NEMO/MS4 series highlighting different requirements of the regulation and approaches to meet them.
  • Mapping training: CLEAR’s Geospatial Training Program will provide training and tools to help communities meet the new mapping requirements of the permit.
  • Impervious Cover data: NEMO is working with an outside contractor to obtain high resolution impervious cover data, which will be an enormous asset to conducting the drainage area and impervious area analyses required in the permit.

The CLEAR Water Team (aka NEMO Team) is looking forward to this challenge, and in the process developing a whole new generation of stormwater outreach tools and resources. NEMO will be working with DEEP, regional Councils of Government, and both public and private sector organizations to tackle this issue so important to the health and welfare of the citizens of Connecticut.

Look for an announcement of the website soon. In the meantime you can view the CT DEEP MS4 Fact Sheet online (s.uconn.edu/ms4). Questions should be directed to Dave Dickson (david.dickson@uconn.edu) or Mike Dietz (michael.dietz@uconn.edu).

Low Impact Development in Connecticut

green roof at UConnConnecticut towns are increasingly recognizing the impact of stormwater runoff on water quality. Low impact development (LID), also called green stormwater infrastructure, is a major strategy to address these issues. The Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program at the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) has been working with towns on these issues since 1991. With NEMO’s 25th anniversary looming and a major revision of Connecticut’s stormwater regulations in the process of being finalized, NEMO, with the help of a UConn Extension intern, recently completed a 9-month study on the status of LID adoption in towns across the state.

LID is a broad strategy involving a number of stormwater practices designed to infiltrate runoff back into the ground, reducing flooding, erosion, and water pollution problems. These strategies include permeable pavements, green roofs, bio retention areas, and other practices designed to reduce impervious cover. Some towns have updated their regulations to allow for or even require the use of these practices where feasible. Others however have lagged behind and actually have regulations that discourage or prohibit developers, often inadvertently, from pursuing them. NEMO’s study sought to get a better handle on the progress made on this front.

The NEMO study had two phases. In Phase One, NEMO research assistant Manon LeFevre conducted exhaustive (and exhausting) internet research on the land use plans and regulations of 85 of CT’s 169 towns (the number of towns was dictated by available resources and is not a scientifically random sample). Towns were “scored” for the number of LID strategies that appeared in these documents, based on the 14 specific practices suggested in the 2009 NEMO guide Developing a Sustainable Community. A guide to Help Connecticut Communities Craft Plans and Regulations that Protect Water Quality.

In Phase Two, follow-up phone interviews were conducted for the vast majority (78) of these towns by Low Impact Development in Connecticut Manon and Kerrin Kinnear, an Extension Intern in the UConn Environmental Studies program. Kerrin and Manon doggedly pursued town planners and other municipal staff to ascertain the reasons why their town did or did not pursue LID, the greatest barriers they face related to this type of development, and if they had any recommendations for us.

As NEMO educators have long thought, the greatest driver of LID regulations at the local level are local champions—either staff or land use commissioners. Thus efforts to educate and empower those audiences are still the most effective way of making LID commonplace (table, lower left).

On the barriers side, cost and lack of educational opportunities about LID were the top vote getters (table, lower right). However, many of the barriers can also be viewed as education issues. The cost category also encompasses perceptions that LID is more expensive, although that is not always the case and education about the true costs could help that. Reluctant town staff were also among the top vote getters for barriers, but education directed at those audiences may also help allay some of their concerns. Finally, long-term maintenance was often cited as an area of concern and more could be done through education and assistance to help address that.

In sum, the results of the NEMO LID study provide some useful information to help guide the future municipal assistance efforts of CLEAR, CT DEEP, and others. Most towns in Connecticut seem to have at least some language related to low impact development (LID) in their plans and regulations, largely due to the work of dedicated local proponents. However, not all of this this leads to regulations outlining specific LID practices, and additional resources are needed, with incentive funding and education leading the list of needs. This project was partially funded by UConn Extension and CT DEEP.

Telling Stories With Maps

screen shot of story mapMost people like to look at maps. How many times have you looked at a map just to figure out where you’re going, and then become distracted by towns, rivers and mountains off to the side? And in this day and age, maps—including satellite imagery—are all around us, on our phones and in our cars. This past year, Extension faculty at UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) have concentrated on using maps in a new way—and done so well that they’ve won an international award for their efforts.

CLEAR’s Extension faculty has long used maps to educate land use decision makers and the public about Connecticut’s landscape and natural resources. The foundational research and Extension project of CLEAR is called Connecticut’s Changing Landscape (CCL), which uses remotely sensed imagery to measure changes to our landscape over time. Currently, the project covers the 25-year period from 1985 to 2010 (a 2015 update is underway). The landscape is characterized into land cover classes, which denote what the satellite imagery actually sees on the ground; for instance, development, turf, agricultural field, and forest.

The CCL website created by Extension faculty has graphs and data tables, but most of the website is devoted to maps, making them easily accessible and available for the user in a number of formats, from the static to the highly interactive. Recently, though, new technology has upped the ante on the term “highly interactive.” Mapping technology industry leader Esri Corporation has created a web format called “Story Maps.” Story Maps allow the developer to combine interactive map windows with explanatory text, photos, videos, and just about any other type of information that can be put on the web. This has proved ideal for many CLEAR projects, especially CCL. The project’s complex combinations of land cover categories, time intervals, derivatives and different scales (from statewide to town to watershed to local) can be confusing, and a Story Map format allows the creators to, quite literally, tell the story of in what way, how much, and where our landscape is changing. For instance, the figure shows a screen capture from the “Turf and Grass” page of the Story Map, showing the map on the left and text and graphics on the right. The map is “live” and interactive and the user can pan, zoom, and click on various features for more information.

Story Maps are a new and constantly evolving format. In 2015, Esri held an international storytelling with maps contest. Emily Wilson, a Geospatial Technology Extension Educator, decided that the CCL Story Map, called Tracking Land Cover Change in Connecticut, was worthy of an entry due to its unique analysis and display of complex CCL data. Helping her to plan the story, including the component videos, photos and graphics, was Extension Water Quality Educator Chet Arnold, who also serves as CLEAR’s Director of Outreach.

The result: Connecticut’s Changing Landscape Story Map was named the Best Science/Technology/Education Story Map in the 2015 Esri Storytelling with Maps contest—one of only four first place winners from over 400 entries from around the globe. The story map was featured at the Esri User Conference, held each year in San Diego, CA and attracting over 16,000 attendees. Emily presented in two sessions, conducted an on-camera interview and received the award directly from Esri President and Founder Jack Dangermond (photo, page 6).

Since its inception in 2004, the Changing Landscape project has become a valuable resource for the planning and natural resource management sectors of Connecticut, used in a wide variety of ways by academia, state and local government, and nonprofit organizations. With the addition of the Story Map, which has had thousands of individual viewers in just the past 8 months since it was posted, Extension hopes to bring the story of Connecticut’s Changing Landscape to an even broader audience.

Telling Stories with Maps

map imageEmily Wilson wrote a blog post for Map@Syst on the story maps being created by UConn Extension:

CLEAR’s Extension faculty have long used maps to educate land use decision makers and the public about Connecticut’s landscape and natural resources.  The Connecticut’s Changing Landscape (CCL) research project has been the foundation of the education.  CCL is a series of satellite-derived land cover maps for six dates between 1985 and 2010 (2105 is coming soon) that includes 12 classes such as development, turf, agricultural field and forest.

Although the CCL website has evolved with time and technology, it has always strived to integrate the graphic, quantitative and geospatial information in easy to access ways – virtually the same MO of the Story Map.  Story maps easily integrate text, multi-media like photos and video, graphics and of course, interactive maps in one, contained interface.

CLEAR’s extension faculty were energized and began to implement loads of CCL information into CLEAR’s first Story Map – Connecticut’s Changing Landscape.  It is an ideal way to boil down the inherently complex information including combinations of land cover categories, time intervals, derivatives and scales.

Read more…

A CLEAR Approach to Land Use

NRME19

In this revealing article in the magazine International Innovation, UConn Extension’s Chet Arnold reviews the importance of instilling knowledge in land use decision makers and outlines the contributions that the Center for Land Use Education and Research is making in this area.

Click here to read the full article…