Climate

Advancing Adaptation and Resilience in a Changing Climate

Connecticut stays on guard against toxic algae blooms

Emily Van Gulick prepares a sample for examination under the microscope.
Emily Van Gulick prepares a sample for examination under the microscope. Photo: Judy Benson

Article by Judy Benson

If you’re a Connecticut shellfish farmer, your ears might perk up a bit when you hear the term HABs – harmful algal blooms.

Toxic HABs outbreaks, sometimes referred to as “red tide” or “brown tide” because of the discolored water that can occur along with it, have caused recent shellfish bed closures around the country, including states neighboring Connecticut.

Connecticut has remained relatively sheltered from HABs thus far, but there have been sporadic, rare closures in isolated portions of the state. So while shellfish farmers and regulators here keep watch for any warning signs just in case, the rest of us can keep enjoying fresh clams and oysters grown in local waters, either from a commercial farm or harvested from certified recreational municipal beds.

“People can eat shellfish from Long Island Sound with confidence,” said Gary Wikfors, director of the Milford lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That’s because of the well-coordinated early warning system in place in Connecticut to catch an outbreak of the particular kinds of algae that can sometimes emit toxins harmful to clams, oysters and mussels, and sicken the people who eat them.

Algae, which range from seaweeds to tiny single-celled microalgae (also called phytoplankton), form the basis of the aquatic food chain. Among the thousands of different species, about 100 can contain or emit toxins into marine and freshwater bodies that can cause illness and even death in humans, pets and wild animals. Of these 100, a handful of are of greatest concern in Connecticut waters.

The mere presence of these types of algae isn’t a danger – most of the time a bloom occurs with no release of the toxin. But thanks to constant monitoring, there’s a system in place to respond quickly if that were ever to change. It’s a crucial part of ensuring the continued success of the state’s $30 million shellfish industry.

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Discarded fabric, puppets are grist for marine-themed art

bull kelp in ocean looking up towards surfaceTwo artists using different mediums have been awarded 2020 Connecticut Sea Grant Arts Support Awards to create works conveying messages about human connections to the sea and the threats it faces.

The two artists were chosen to each receive a $1,000 award. The awards are funded by Connecticut Sea Grant and one is being matched by the Connecticut Department of Economic Development’s Office of the Arts.

Kathryn Frund of Cheshire and Felicia Cooper of Stafford Springs were both recommended for awards by an independent Review Panel as part of the competitive CTSG Arts Support Awards Program, now in its 11th year.

For her project, Frund will build a large contour map installation of Long Island Sound, using striped fabric culled from thrift stores. These will be laid out with curves and folds atop panels to convey the movement and dimensions of the marine waters in the estuary. By using discarded clothing to depict the shape of the Sound, Frund said, she hopes to raise awareness about excess consumption as well as the impacts of climate change. There may be opportunities as well for the public to donate cast-off clothing to help raise awareness of the impacts of our consumption and facilitating an extended conversation about sustainable consumer choices.

Cooper, for her part, will create a one-hour children’s puppet musical titled, “Ish,” based loosely on Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. The characters will travel in a submarine through the ocean, eventually encountering a great whale and becoming challenged to use their imaginations and resourcefulness to meet environmental challenges.

“The Review Panel was really impressed by the proposals of both artists on the basis of their aesthetic strength and relevance to CTSG’s mission,” said Syma Ebbin, CTSG’s research coordinator who initiated and leads the arts support program. “Frund’s work has the capacity to resonate with its audience and further our understanding of the impacts of our consumerism. Cooper’s work engages a young audience in a puppetry performance that aims to increase their awareness of ocean pollution problems and get them thinking about innovating creative solutions to these problems.”

The winning submissions were selected based on aesthetic quality, relevance to coastal and marine environments and Connecticut Sea Grant themes, as well as potential impact on non-traditional audiences. Artists who live in Connecticut or whose work is related to Connecticut’s coastal and marine environments or Long Island Sound are eligible.

Read more at: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/07/24/discarded-fabric-puppets-are-grist-for-marine-themed-art/

USDA Non-insured Disaster Assistance Program

 

rows of vegetables with black plasticUSDA Non-insured Disaster Assistance Program or “NAP” is accepting applications until Sept 1, 2020. NAP provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops (such as shellfish) when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters. The annual fee is $325 and is free in some cases. Beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged and qualifying veterans farmers or ranchers are eligible for a waiver of the service fee and a 50 percent premium reduction. This is not a COVID-related program. It is a traditional program that is available each year.

Want to learn more? Click here to view a fact sheet
Full program details can be found on the agency’s website here.
If you have questions about this program, or are interested in applying please reach out to the state office (below) or to access the contact information for your county office, click here.
Farm Service Agency, Connecticut
344 Merrow Road, Suite B
Tolland, CT 06084-3917
Phone: (860) 871-4090
Fax: (855) 934-2463

Dealing with Wind and Storm Damaged Trees

tree down across road in Brookfield, Connecticut on May 15, 2018
Photo: Jeremy Petro

Article by Tom Worthley, UConn Extension

This week on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, a striking example of one of those “severe weather events” we hear about from time to time occurred in CT. Tropical Storm Isaias, is being compared in the media to Super Storm Sandy and other severe storms in 2011 and 2012 in terms of power outages and other impacts from tree failures. Severe winds, downpours and tornado threats all were part of the wicked conditions that ripped limbs from and uprooted trees, downed powerlines and damaged buildings and vehicles. Many parts of our state remain without electrical service while crews clean up downed limbs and restore the lines. 

For my part, because of the sudden and severe nature of the winds, and the near-continuous rain of leaves and branches falling, I was as nervous I ever remember being about a storm event and the potential for damage to my humble little house from trees and limbs. Sure enough, one large limb did get ripped off and came down about 20 feet from where my car was parked. While there remains, of course, a mess of smaller twigs, leaves and branches, there’s no real property damage, thank goodness, but it was close. The storm seemed to be over almost as quick as it began, and now, just like many folks around the state, I’m faced with a clean-up task. It’s not a real problem for me; that broken limb is at the edge of the woods and will make a nice neat little pile of firewood. I’ll be able to salvage the tree it came from and make even more firewood and a couple of decent oak saw-logs.

For many people, however, the task of cleaning up storm-damaged trees is not as straight-forward and simple. Storm-damaged trees are fraught with abundant problems, dangers, and risks. Cleaning up and salvaging downed, partially down or damaged trees can be among the most dangerous and risky activities an individual can undertake. It cannot be emphasized enough that without a thorough knowledge of equipment capabilities, safety procedures and methods for dealing with physically stressed trees, an individual should never undertake this type of work on their own. The very characteristics that make the wood from trees great structural material can turn leaning, hanging or down trees into dangerous “booby-traps”. Damaged trees can spring, snap, and move in mysterious ways when people cut them, and can cause serious and life threatening injuries. Just because your neighbor or relative owns a chain saw, it doesn’t make them qualified to tackle a large tree that is uprooted or broken. Contacting a Licensed Arborist, or Certified Forest Practitioner with the right equipment, training, and insurance, is the best alternative for addressing the cleanup and salvage of storm damaged trees, and avoiding potential injury, death, liability and financial loss.

That said, there are a few things a homeowner can do about trees that are damaged and/or causing other damage around a homesite:

  • First, from a safe distance note the location of any and all downed utility lines. Always assume that downed wires are charged and do not approach them. Notify the utility company of the situation and do nothing further until they have cleared the area. 
  • Don’t forget to LOOK UP! While you may be fascinated with examining a downed limb, there may be another one hanging up above by a splinter, ready to drop at any time.
  • Once you are confident that no electrocution or other physical danger exists, you can visually survey the scene and perhaps document it with written descriptions and photographs. This will be particularly helpful if a property insurance claim is to be filed. Proving auto or structure damage after a downed tree has been removed is easier if a photo record has been made.
  • Take steps to flag off the area or otherwise warn people that potential danger exists.
  • Remember that even if a downed tree or limb appears stable, it will be subject to many unnatural stresses and tensions. If you are not familiar with these conditions, do not attempt to cut the tree or limb yourself. Cutting even small branches can cause pieces to release tension and spring back, or cause weight and balance to shift unexpectedly with the potential for serious injury. Call a professional for assistance. 
  • Under no circumstances, even in the least potentially dangerous situation, ever operate, or allow anyone on your property to operate a chainsaw without thorough knowledge of safe procedures and proper safety equipment, including, at the minimum, hardhat, chaps, eye and hearing protection, safety-toe boots and gloves. A chainsaw injury is not something you put a band-aid on and go back to work. It will be a life-altering experience.

An assessment of the damage to individual trees, or more widespread damage in a forest setting is best undertaken by an individual with professional expertise. Homeowners should contact an arborist to examine trees in yards or near to structures, roads or power lines.  A Certified Forester is qualified to evaluate damage in the woods to trees and stands and advise landowners about the suitability of salvage or cleanup operations. The CT-DEEP Forestry Division can provide information about contacting a Certified Forester or Licensed Arborist. Check the DEEP website: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Forestry/Forestry or call 860-424-3630. The CT Tree Protective Association maintains a listing of licensed arborists at their web pages: www.ctpa.org .

While a nice tidy pile of firewood from a tree that was damaged in a storm may be the silver lining, it is not worth the risk of injury to yourself or someone else when tackling a very dangerous task without the proper knowledge, equipment or preparation.

Meet Lindsey Kollmer: Connecticut River Estuary Aquatic Invasive Plant Steward Intern

Photo by: Dorothy R. Hart (www.ahartseyephotography.zenfolio.com

Hello! My name is Lindsey Kollmer and I am honored and excited to be the Connecticut River Estuary Aquatic Invasive Plant Steward Intern for the summer of 2020. I am a rising Junior at UConn currently pursuing a double major of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Molecular & Cellular Biology. I am a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society at UConn and enjoy crocheting comfort objects for babies in the NICU as a part of the Knit for NICU club.

As part of my internship this summer I am focusing on protecting the lower CT River from two aquatic invasive species in the CT River Estuary: Water Chestnut and Hydrilla. I am working to raise public awareness about these plants and how destructive they can be to the local ecology, public enjoyment, and economy of the river. After just a short time learning about these plants, I am alarmed at the destruction they bring (and their potential for a lot more!). This ignited even more motivation in me to help inform people about the simple ways they can prevent the spread of aquatic invasives to protect our valuable resources and favorite outdoor places.

To enrich my internship experience, I am volunteering with the Friends of Whalebone Cove to “paddle and pull” or hand-pull Water Chestnut from local coves off the river. It is so rewarding to see the difference in a location before and after pulling Water Chestnut. (Catch me on the UConn Extension Instagram at a Water Chestnut pulling event!)

I am so lucky to be making a difference so close to home and to be working with such knowledgeable mentors from CT Sea Grant, Judy Preston, and Nancy Balcom. Every day I am learning something new and cannot wait to continue my internship journey!

Fellowship Supports Diversity in Marine, Coastal Research

scallop shells on a Connecticut beachThree undergraduate students helping pave the way for greater diversity in the sciences have been chosen as the first recipients of Connecticut Sea Grant’s new summer undergraduate research fellowships for underrepresented and underserved students in marine and coastal scientific research.

UConn students Andrew Tienken and Larissa Tabb and Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) student James Hannon each will receive a $5,000 stipend to conduct summer research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

“We are pleased to support more students in their pursuit of a career in the sciences and look forward to learning about the outcomes of their individual projects,” said Nancy Balcom, associate director of CT Sea Grant.

The program is designed to provide early career experience, training and mentorship to underrepresented minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged students as well as students of color, indigenous students, members of the LGBTQ community and students with disabilities.

“This fellowship is the result of several years of visioning efforts that I was involved in within the National Sea Grant program which focused on enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Syma Ebbin, who led the creation of the program as CT Sea Grant’s research coordinator “Funding was made available from the National Sea Grant program for state programs to push this visioning agenda forward. The motivating idea is that in order to have greater diversity in marine and coastal sciences, more efforts are needed to engage and mentor students earlier on in their academic careers. This effort is being made to prime the pipeline, so to speak, so in the future there will be a greater diversity of highly trained individuals working in marine research.“

Tienken, Hannon and Tabb, who are all rising juniors majoring in environmental science, biology and marine science, respectively, said they are grateful for the support Connecticut Sea Grant is providing to help increase diversity in their fields of interest.

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CT Sea Grant Sponsors Three in Prestigious Marine Policy Fellowship

Sea Grant logoTwo University of Connecticut graduate students and a third from Yale University have been chosen for the 2021 NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program, which places early career professionals with federal government offices for one year.

Halle Berger and Alec Shub, UConn marine science graduate students, and Emily Tucker, a Yale School of the Environment graduate student, were among 74 finalists selected nationwide for the fellowship. This year Connecticut Sea Grant is among 27 of the 34 Sea Grant programs sponsoring one or more Knauss fellows. Starting in 1974, 1,400 fellows have completed the program, successfully launching careers in science, policy and public administration.

“I became interested in applying science to policy, and how people are using the research scientists were doing to make policy,” said Shub, who expects to complete his master’s degree in paleoclimate oceanology – the study of the effects of climate variability on ancient ocean systems – next month. “The Knauss program seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my interests.”

Knauss fellows are chosen through a competitive process that includes several rounds of review at both the state Sea Grant program and national levels. To be eligible, students must be enrolled or have recently completed Masters, Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs with a focus on coastal science, policy or management and apply to one of the 34 Sea Grant programs. If successful at the state program level, their applications are then reviewed by a national review panel.

This fall, the finalists will participate in a virtual placement week to get to know each other and interview with potential host offices. Executive Agency Appointments for the Knauss fellows include placements throughout the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Navy, among others. Others receive legislative appointments in the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, the House Committee on Natural Resources, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the offices of Congressional and Senate legislators.

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Meet Ryan Morais: Vegetable Entomology Intern

Ryan MoraisI am a Senior undergrad environmental engineering major and ecology and evolutionary biology minor with a passion for entomology. This summer I will be working as a vegetable entomology intern through UConn’s Extension Internship Program. I work closely with Professor Legrand to develop an informational entomology website and outreach educational materials. Other than web development,  I am creating informational and fun content for Bug Week, developing a social media presence for the IPM entomology lab, as well as collecting and rearing various insects. Through this internship, I am excited to continue learning about entomology and the various aspects of integrated pest management.     

Public meeting about CT estuarine reserve set for Aug. 4

The CT-NERR (National Estuarine Research Reserve) is currently in a designation process that involves developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) and a management plan (MP).  When completed (estimated to be spring 2021), these documents will be submitted to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for review and approval.

As part of the EIS requirements, Connecticut will be hosting a virtual scoping meeting for the public on Aug. 4 between 7 and 9 p.m.  The purpose is to provide the public with information on the proposed reserve and to seek input on issues that the EIS should consider.   Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), together with steering team partners from University of Connecticut and NOAA, have worked hard to plan the meeting in such a way that it will be open and easy to access while still maintaining NOAA’s federal requirements for public comment meetings.

Members of the public and organizations are encouraged to attend this important meeting, which will be managed using the Webex virtual meeting application.

The meeting access details are as follows:

Public Scoping Meeting on Environmental Impact Statement for the CT National Estuarine Research Reserve:

Tuesday, Aug. 4, 7 to 9  p.m.

To join by computer:

https://uconn-cmr.webex.com/uconn-cmr/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=1200263550

To join by phone:

US Toll: +1-415-655-0002

Access code: 120 026 3550

To learn more about the CT NERR, visit: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/?p=6295

Original Post By Connecticut Sea Grant: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/07/21/public-meeting-about-ct-estuarine-reserve-set-for-aug-4/