Author: UConn Extension

Bug Week Photo Contest Accepting Entries

monarch butterfly on lilacUConn Extension, part of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR), is pleased to announce the 5th Annual Bug Week Photo Contest. Take your camera and find that special bug shot. All entries must be a photograph of a bug or insect in their natural habitat.

There are three categories – Junior Amateur (under 18 years old), Senior Amateur (18 years old or older) and Professional with prizes for first, second and third place. Submission deadline is August 7, 2020.

For entry guidelines and submission details go to https://bugs.uconn.edu/photo-contest, and if you have questions, please contact bugweek@uconn.edu.

Bug Week is an annual event for adults and youth to participate in educational outreach activities that showcase insects and their contributions to our environment. Bug Week is going virtual for 2020 and more details about our virtual programs are available at https://bugs.uconn.edu/.

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at http://www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

 

Educator Spotlight: Faye Griffiths-Smith

Financial Education Program Helps Participants Improve Their Lives

Managing family and personal finances well is a common challenge. Findings from recent studies show cause for concern regarding Americans’ financial practices. According to the 2018 FINRA Financial Capability Study, nationally:

  • 46% of individuals lack a rainy-day fund,
  • 34% of individuals can answer four or five questions on a basic five-question financial literacy quiz correctly,
  • 35% of individuals with credit cards paid only the minimum on their credit cards during some months in the last year, and
  • 19% of individuals reported that over the past year, their household spent more than their income.

UConn Extension’s financial education program provides workshops, professional development sessions, events, and resources to help Connecticut citizens improve their lives. Participants receive relevant, research-based information and tools to encourage them to adopt sound financial management practices.

Faye and colleagues from Connecticut Saves Week standing in front of banner
Faye Griffiths-Smith, third from right, and colleagues celebrate Connecticut Saves Week. Photo courtesy of Sydney Putnam.

“Shortly after I was hired, I conducted a needs assessment. Money management was the topic respondents indicated as most important to address,” says Faye Griffiths-Smith, UConn Extension’s family economics and resource management educator. “Today, there is increased recognition that financial capability has a strong impact on one’s ability to achieve economic stability and move toward financial security.”

The Extension Financial Education Program reaches adults and young people. One focus area is reaching people living on limited incomes, those making life transitions such as entering or returning to the workforce, or others experiencing financial challenges. Recent participants included veterans, senior center residents, adult education students, teens, summer youth employment students, and college students. “Reaching teens, college students, and other young adults at a point when they are likely to start facing important financial decisions is exciting because the information is highly relevant for them and many recognize it is important,” Faye says. “Engaging learning activities are a great way for them to experience their future financial lives.”

“As the incoming President of the Connecticut Jump$tart Coalition (www.jumpstart.org/connecticut) promoting financial literacy for youth, I look forward to working with teachers, other professionals, and volunteers from many organizations across the state on ways to increase the financial knowledge of our young people,” Faye says.

Strength in Numbers

The UConn Extension Financial Education Program collaborates with agencies and organizations to enhance the financial capability and economic security of Connecticut citizens. Collaborations are key to reaching diverse audiences that might otherwise be unaware of available resources. Complex financial products and services make it harder for people to be aware of all their options. Training agency and organization professionals is another way to expand the impact of Extension’s financial education and information. These staff reach their clients or students with information as financial topics and concerns arise.

Faye has provided financial empowerment training for hundreds of social service agency staff through Your Money, Your Goals, a program developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Through collaboration with United Way of Greater Waterbury, I’ve also had the opportunity to provide financial coaching training and technical assistance for volunteers who work with agency client  requesting this assistance,” Faye shares. Being a financial educator involves more than performing financial calculations and staying current on the myriad of products and services available as well as the impact of legislative changes on our finances. It gets to the heart of what people believe is important about how they live. It involves listening, learning about their situations, and guiding them in identifying their options while addressing financial decisions they face.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Meet Zachary Duda: Litchfield County 4-H Intern

Zachary DudaHello my name is Zachary Duda and I am excited to be an intern this summer with Litchfield County 4-H! I am currently a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut. At UConn I serve as the President of the UConn Agricultural Advocacy Club and am active with the UConn FFA Alumni. My agricultural experience is broad having jobs in areas such as nursery and landscaping, forage crop production, and dairy science. As a former FFA member I was able to learn the value of hands-on applications and want to bring agriculture to the younger generation of agriculturalists in Connecticut.

This summer I will be working on a series of virtual lessons on all aspects of the agricultural industry as well as some leadership skills and techniques. The topics include tractor safety, weaning cattle, nutrition labels and food packaging, potting plants, quick cooking recipes, and many more. I hope that these lessons will provide younger learners with a platform to build off of so that they may enter the field of agriculture with ample knowledge and a set of skills that will benefit them for years to come.

I am eager to learn more about 4-H and the extension system as I believe it serves the state well in multiple aspects of community and overall well being. I look forward to being part of the great things 4-H has done for countless individuals over the years.

Connecticut Trails Day 2020 Is..Every Day!

If gorgeous weather isn’t enough incentive to get you outdoors, gear up for a DIY Trails Day Experience – any day!  Check out the over 200 trails and properties you can visit around the state, coordinated by the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association. Click HERE for info on enjoying the outdoors safely and responsibly during this health crisis. New to hiking, click HERE for tips on hike safety and planning.

This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and SustainabilityWe are an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.

Marsh migration research paved way for new NOAA fellow

Mary Schoell
Mary Schoell spent two years researching this stand of cedar trees at Hammonasset as part of her master’s degree program at Yale. Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

Most visitors to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn., probably drive by the small stand of cedar trees along the main road without noticing the stark differences.

One group presents healthy deep green funnels pointing skyward. Adjacent is another group partially bare of needles. A few feet away is a clump of standing dead wood, spiny gray branches fully exposed.

The contrasting conditions in this short wooded stretch may be easy for beachgoers to overlook, but Mary Schoell has given it countless hours of attention over the past two years. She’s examined nearly every angle of the health and environment of the same stand of trees, using techniques of dendrochronology to measure growth from tree cores, then assessing impacts of water stress, soil types and elevation. With this data she pieces together a story of how encroaching salt water from sea level rise is affecting tree growth. What she learned there helped pave the way for the next phase in her career, as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association digital coast fellow.

“I’ve been trying to understand the pace and the drivers that convert coastal forest into wetlands,” said Schoell, 27, who grew up in East Haddam and earned her undergraduate degree from UConn and her master’s from the Yale School of the Environment this spring. Between the degrees, she worked for three years for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atlantic Coastal Science Division in Rhode Island as a contractor on a living shoreline project.

Nominated by Connecticut Sea Grant for the digital coast fellowship, Schoell is one of nine candidates nationwide chosen in 2020 for the two-year program.

“The NOAA Digital Coast Fellowship is relatively new and Mary is the first candidate from a Connecticut institution to receive one,” said Syma Ebbin, research coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant. “We’re excited to see what she can do with this opportunity and how it contributes to her professional development as a coastal scientist.”

Schoell will begin her assignment in August, working out of the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. There she will work on projects that tap her wetlands expertise to refine and compare different modeling approaches used existing to predict how and where salt marshes will migrate inland as sea level continues to rise. One well recognized model is called SLAMM (Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model). By bringing together modelers from throughout the country, she hopes to assess the potential for a standardized, national mapping tool.

Read more: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/06/17/marsh-migration-research-paved-way-for-new-noaa-fellow/

Article by Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

High-Value Greenhouse Production

greenhouse flowers
Photo: Leanne Pundt

High technology greenhouses across Connecticut provide cover for many types of plants. Bedding plants, edibles (vegetable and herb transplants, greenhouse vegetables grown for production), ornamental herbaceous perennials, hemp and poinsettias all grow in greenhouses.

UConn Extension supports the Connecticut greenhouse industry with information and educational programming on sustainable production methods. In Connecticut, the greenhouse industry is a significant part of agriculture. Greenhouse and nursery products are Connecticut’s leading source of agricultural income.

Approximately 300 commercial greenhouse businesses have eight million square feet of production space under cover. In addition, many Connecticut farmers have added greenhouse crops to their businesses to increase income.

UConn Extension offered 111 training sessions to Connecticut wholesale and retail greenhouses with 1,566,088 square feet of intensive greenhouse production and 1,021,000 square feet of outdoor container production in 2019. Diagnostic trouble shooting, grower visits, phone calls, emails and text messages helped growers not participating in the intensive program offered by our UConn Integrated Pest Management (IPM) educators.

One grower stated, “I would like thank you for all the guidance and information that you provided the interns and me this year. I always receive a new piece of information that helps me keep the crops on track for that excellent product.”

Greenhouse production continues to be one of the largest segments of Connecticut agriculture, and the success of the industry helps build the infrastructure that other operations depend on.

Article by Leanne Pundt

Meet Jade Hardrick: CEDAS & Best Practices in Economic Development Program Intern

Jade HardrickJade Hardrick is a rising junior at the University of Connecticut and is from South Windsor, CT. She is currently double majoring in economics and urban & community studies. Her interests include urban planning, business, and law. She plans to obtain an advanced degree in at least one of those listed fields. On campus, she is the vice president of the organization Women & Minorities in Economics which encourages more women and minorities to enter the field of economics and has in-depth economic discussions about racial and gender inequality, income inequality, and climate change. Hardrick enjoys running and reading books in her free time.

Invasive Crabs Threaten Connecticut’s Shores

Chinese mitten crabHave you seen this crab before?

This is a Chinese Mitten Crab – named for its fury, mitten-like claws.  These crabs have started to appear in Connecticut’s shores raising concerns as they are an invasive species that can cause a lot of costly environmental damage.

Want to learn more? Check out this article: Invasive Crabs Threaten Connecticut’s Shores

Seafood Consumption is Increasing

cover of Connecticut seafood survey publicationHuman demand for seafood is rising, but the world ocean can only provide a limited share of what we consume. Over the last 50 years, the average annual growth in seafood production exceeded that of all other types of terrestrial animal production. In 2018, global seafood production was estimated at an all-time high of 178.8 million metric tons, with farmed seafood representing nearly half of the total of all seafood produced.

With capture fisheries production nearly stagnant, aquaculture has been rapidly expanding to meet the needs of a growing population. A new report includes findings from a survey of Connecticut residents about their seafood related consumption, knowledge, behaviors and preferences.

The purpose of the study was to collect data to inform the development of public engagement programs on Connecticut wild and farmed seafood industries and seafood products. Further, the study generated new data useful to seafood producers on consumer willingness to pay for locally farmed products. The report is available at seagrant.uconn.edu.

Article by Tessa Getchis

Connecting Towns and UConn Students

LID tour on UConn Campus
Climate Corps students tour low impact development on the UConn Storrs campus. Photo: Chet Arnold

UConn received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand and study a new public engagement program that combines teaching, service learning, and Extension outreach. The program is called the Environment Corps and focuses on using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to address important environmental issues like climate adaptation, brownfields remediation, and stormwater management at the municipal level.

Environment Corps combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and UConn Extension’s work with communities in a unique way that allows students to develop STEM skills and get “real world” experience as preparation for the work force, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.

The Environment Corps project is built on an extensive partnership at UConn. It includes faculty from four schools and colleges in five departments: Natural Resources and the Environment, Extension, Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Educational Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the project involves four university centers, all three environmental major programs, and the Office of the Provost. Learn more about the Environment Corps at clear.uconn.edu.

Article by Chet Arnold