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Climate Corps, Harnessing the Power of Students

Article by Chet Arnold

Tom Martella

Tom Martella. Photo: Juliana Barrett.

Extension faculty is leading a collaborative new program focused on the impact of climate change on Connecticut communities. The UConn Climate Corps will bring together undergraduates enrolled in the environmental majors with town officials, to the benefit of both groups. The program is supported for three years by a competitive grant from the UConn Provost’s Office, in support of the Academic Plan goals of Excellence in Undergraduate Education and Public Engagement.

Students at the University are increasingly interested in the topic of climate change, which many feel is the environmental issue of our time. At the same time, many communities across Connecticut are struggling with how to adapt to climate change, and how to marshal the resources needed to do so. To address these complementary needs, Extension faculty associated with the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) have developed the Climate Corps, a new multi-departmental collaboration at UConn that will combine classroom instruction and service learning to create a unique assistance program for Connecticut communities. Students in the Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, and Environmental Engineering majors will be recruited for the program, which consists of a class during the fall semester and in-the-field work with town officials during the following spring semester.

The class, Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning, will first be offered in the fall semester of 2017-2018 academic year and will focus on local, practical issues and impacts arising from climate change. Extension’s Juliana Barrett will lead the course but will be team-taught by Climate Corps team members and outside experts. “This course is not so much about the physical science of climate change as it is about local policy responses,” says Barrett. “In order for the students to really understand how climate change can affect local policies and operations, they have to have a firm grasp on how decisions are made at the town level, so there will be a focus on local decision making and on the federal and state legal frameworks in which towns operate.”

Students who complete the fall course are then eligible for the spring practicum course, led by Extension’s Bruce Hyde. The practicum builds upon the ongoing work of Hyde and Barrett, who form the CLEAR/Sea Grant climate team and have been working with towns for several years, including organizing a series of workshops called the Climate Adaptation Academy (see tools and training at right). Students will break up into teams of 3 or 4, each working with Hyde and other Extension faculty to engage selected towns on climate adaptation needs. Towns will have to apply to be included in the program, and several towns have already expressed interest before the application form has been issued. After meeting with town officials the students will embark on one or more projects designed to support the town’s adaptations efforts. These projects could include vulnerability assessments, evaluation of adaptation options, outreach strategies and products for educating the citizens, or other options.

A land use planner with over 30 years of experience working at the municipal level, Hyde is in tune with the world of local government. “Most towns understand that planning for climate adaptation is critical, yet many are unable to find the resources to begin the process,” says Hyde. “Our experience with our Extension undergraduate interns over the past several years has taught us that these students can do very high quality, sophisticated work, and we want to harness that work to the benefit of the towns. And at the same time, it provides a great ‘real world’ service learning experience for the students.” He notes that through their undergraduate training and simply by the technology-friendly nature of their generation, the students have the capacity to perform research, mapping and other tasks that are beyond the reach of busy local planners.

The Climate Corps is a unique multi-department collaboration between CLEAR, Connecticut Sea Grant, and the three Environmental majors, which in turn involve the departments of Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Natural Resources and the Environment. The project team, which includes the Directors of all of these programs in addition to Barrett and Hyde, feels strongly that the Corps can become a model program that eventually can be expanded in scope, expanded in topical focus, and perhaps adapted by other universities and other states. Class starts in September!

Spring Compost Sales

compost facility

Gardeners! UConn CAHNR spring compost sales will begin on Friday, May 12th. The cost will remain $25 per yard and no upper or lower limits to what one can buy. The hours will be Fridays from 1:00pm to 4:30pm and Saturdays from 10:00am until 4:30pm until they sell out.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day 2017

MLK 2017

Join UConn this afternoon to celebrate Martin Luther King Day 2017 with a presentation by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill at 4 pm in the Jorgensen Center.

4-H National Youth Science Day

STEM day projectEach fall, UConn 4-H members in every county across Connecticut participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), which is the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. The hands-on experiment incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Motion Commotion, the 2015 experiment, taught 4-H youth members about physics and speed, while addressing the serious public safety threat posed by texting while driving. By tying real life problems and their solutions to STEM, 4-H youth are engaged as problem solvers and gain hands-on experience in STEM, learn life skills needed to succeed today as well as career readiness for the future. State 4-H Program Leader Maryann Fusco-Rollins and Joy Erickson from UConn’s School of Engineering had collaborated on a science experiment proposal for NYSD making it to the semi-finals. This collaborative experiment, Helping Hands Transforming Lives, challenges young scientists to become biomedical engineers for the day and design an Articulated Hand Prosthetic. It has been featured at 4-H Science Saturdays and was featured at the Adventures in STEM workshop in November 2016. UConn Engineering students are mentors at Adventures in STEM.

Soil Test Prices Have Increased

soil on shovelStarting July 1, 2016, the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab increased some of our fees as well as our offerings. The price of the standard nutrient analysis increased from $8 to $12. This is the test that is performed when a sample is submitted using those pre-paid soil test collection kits sold by some county offices. The standard nutrient analysis will now include sulfur, an estimated cation exchange capacity measurement and percent base saturation. A new interpretation sheet will be posted on our website. We are also increasing the costs of pH only and soluble salts tests from $3 to $4. The pH test is included in our standard nutrient analysis but sometimes a client just wants pH and not nutrients.

 

Survival Training for Commercial Fishermen

entering life raft

Fishermen practice climbing into the life raft from the water in their immersion suits. The strongest person enters first, to help the rest of the crew into the raft. Photo: Nancy Balcom.

immersion suits

Trainer Ed Dennehy from Fishing Partnership Support Services watches as fishermen practice entering the water in their immersion suits properly. Photo: Nancy Balcom.

fire suppression

A fisherman practices fire suppression with a crew member providing backup.; Trainer Jake Cabral from Fishing Partnership Support Services looks on. Photo: Nancy Balcom.

chain swim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Balcom, Associate Director and Program Leader, Connecticut Sea Grant, and Senior Extension Educator, UConn Extension, organized and facilitated safety and survival training for 49 commercial fishermen. The training was sponsored by Connecticut Sea Grant, US Coast Guard, University of Connecticut and the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association on May 4, 2016 at the University of Connecticut – Avery Point. Drill instructor certification for 24 fishermen was conducted on May 5, 2016. Training was provided by Fishing Partnership Support Services (MA) and by Coast Guard F/V Examiners from New Haven CT and Coram (Long Island) NY.

2016 Turfgrass Field Day

turf flyer
 The 2016 Turfgrass Field Day at the University of Connecticut offers exciting educational opportunities for turfgrass professionals of all levels.

The date of the Field Day has been selected in order to provide the best opportunity to view the research plots when they are under the greatest summer stress. Cutting edge research in the areas of lawn care, sports and golf turf management will be presented. Attendees will have an opportunity to discuss ongoing research and management concerns with the UConn turf team.

In addition to seeing the latest research results, turfgrass professionals have the opportunity to interact with exhibitors and discuss the latest developments and challenges in the industry.

Ricard Receives Provost Award in Public Engagement

Bob Ricard(small)

Bob Ricard with Jonathan the Husky at UConn. Photo: Kevin Noonan.

UConn Extension is pleased to announce that Dr. Robert M. Ricard, Senior Extension Educator; has been selected by UConn for the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement in the Non-Tenure Track Faculty category.

Bob has acquired a distinguished state, regional, and national reputation for his scholarship, teaching (formal and informal), and service. All three elements contribute to his excellence in public engagement.

One example of his public engagement is his Tree Warden Program. Bob began working for UConn Extension in 1991 and immediately conducted a statewide needs assessment of urban forestry that included all Connecticut cities and towns with tree wardens and chief elected officials as the specific target audience. Bob discovered that the vast majority of Connecticut communities were not prepared to deal with their responsibility of caring for their public trees. Such care includes protecting the public from high-risk trees. As a result of this, Bob initiated several programs to different target audiences. For example, his tree warden program was developed and incorporated as a 501(c)(3). A volunteer board of directors that Bob guides governs the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut, Inc. The organization is approaching its 25th anniversary demonstrating it will survive past Bob’s professional career.

In collaboration with this organization, Bob created the Tree Wardens School and Certification Program. The 1991 needs assessment pointed out tree wardens had little to no qualifications for performing their duties. To date, 350 people have gone through this voluntary program, and in 2013, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a law requiring all 169 cities and towns to have a qualified tree warden (or deputy tree warden) by attending and passing this school program. Bob has published three refereed, peer-reviewed articles assessing the 25 years of his tree warden program outcomes and impacts. He is currently surveying tree wardens and deputy tree wardens to obtain 25-year data and comparing the state of Connecticut urban forestry since he started in 1991.

This is just one example of the work Bob has done with UConn Extension throughout his career. His work fits well UConn’s commitment to Public Engagement to provide for the needs of Connecticut citizens while meeting university needs to attain world-class standards. Award recipients will be recognized at the Excellence in Public Engagement Reception on Thursday, November 5th at the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts on the UConn-Storrs campus.

For more information on UConn Extension, please visit http://extension.uconn.edu

International Experience at Auerfarm

UConn Students from UConn’s Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders on Social Entrepreneurship and participants from either North or Sub-Saharan Africa came out to 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm camp in July. After a morning in the garden, everyone ended up in the shade sharing information about themselves and showing the campers where they came from on the map. The campers took the students to see the farm animals, as well. This is the eighth year the Institute folks have volunteered at the garden.

group students with map feeding alpaca in garden

feeding alpacas

Photos: Sarah Bailey

 

Extension App Challenge

uconn-app-challenge-icon2

The UConn Extension App Challenge is a contest to develop innovative apps that tie UConn’s research to real life. Students are invited to work with a UConn Extension faculty member to develop software applications for smartphones, tablets, or web browsers that create greater community access to UConn science, research, and information. Students developing the most innovative and effective apps

Student Prizes:

1st Place: $1500

2nd Place: $1000

3rd Place: $500

Winners of the UConn Challenge will also be entered into a regional Extension App Challenge with the possibility of additional cash prizes.

Contest Details:

The contest will be conducted in 3 Phases.

Phase 1 – Idea Submission (October – November 2014)

UConn faculty will submit app ideas for inclusion in the Challenge. The applications will be evaluated by a panel of judges for potential innovation, impact, and value to extension programming. The panel will then select the top 5 to 10 app ideas for students to work on. Students interested in joining the challenge can then choose which App they would like to help develop. To submit an idea go here.(link to idea submission page)

Phase II – App Development (November 2014 – April 2015)

Students will work closely with faculty to develop a working prototype of the App. Apps can be created on any platform or for any browser.

Phase III – App Presentation and Selection (May – June 2015)

Challenge Teams will submit a working prototype of the App and a brief 1-3 minute video demonstrating the App to the Judges for review. Judges will review the submission and select winners based on the evaluation criteria.

Eligibility:

All current, full-time UConn undergraduate and graduate students are able to participate.

For more information, contact extension@uconn.edu.