Community

NRCA Student Identifies New Bat Species

Aiden photographing the batUConn’s Conservation Training Partnership (CTP) program within the Natural Resources Conservation Academy pairs teen and adult volunteers together to conduct local community conservation projects throughout the state.
 
One of our current teams is working on a project to help raise awareness about bats in the northwest corner of Connecticut for the Kent Land Trust and Marvelwood School. CTP participants Laurie Doss and Aiden Cherniske recently took an exciting detour from their project to help state wildlife rehabilitators, Linda Bowen and Maureen Heidtmann, photograph a bat to determine its species identification.
 
Using macrophotography techniques, Aiden was able to capture an image of the bat’s tragus – a piece of skin in front of the ear canal and an important feature in identifying bats to species.
 
The photographs were sent to state and federal wildlife officials, and used to help confirm that the bat raised in rehabilitation was indeed a federally threatened Northern Long Eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis). Fortunately, the bat survived the rehabilitation efforts and was able to be released back into its natural environment.

Job Openings

Extension banner

Join us! We have two part-time positions open, both located in our Hartford County Extension Center in Farmington. We are seeking a part-time program aide, and a part-time Extension eLearning developer. Apply online at https://hr.uconn.edu/jobs/ – click on staff, and search Job IDs 2020125 and 2020126.

Master Gardeners Help Community with Peoples Harvest Garden

  • vegetables in a row in the garden

The Peoples Harvest Garden in Pomfret is just one of the tremendous projects that UConn Extension Master Gardeners and UConn Extension support and participate in. The garden was started by the Windham County Master Gardeners in 2005, is still going strong, and all produce grown is donated to local kitchens that serve those in need. Typical totals for the season are between three and four thousand pounds of fresh produce. The garden serves as a demonstration project for food security an a destination for local schools to volunteer. Using natural practices, shoestring budget, and a lot of effort- the garden also demonstrates effective use of pollinator pathways and proper cultural practices for vegetable crops. 

 

Water Testing in Connecticut

water being put into test tubes with a dropper in a water test situation

Water is part of everything that we do. We are frequently asked about water testing, septic system maintenance, and fertilizing lawns. The Connecticut Institute of Water Resources, a project with Natural Resources & the Environment, has resources for homeowners: http://ctiwr.uconn.edu/residential/

#AskUConnExtension

UConn Extension is Growing Food and Health with the Mashantucket Tribe

“The mission statement of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) states they will ‘…establish a social, cultural and economic foundation that can never be undermined or destroyed…,’” says Tribal Councilor Daniel Menihan, Jr. MPTN was facing challenges growing their fruits and vegetables at a scale to meet the tribe’s needs on their land in Ledyard, and some members were struggling with diabetes.

UConn has enjoyed a long history of engagement with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal community. Many members have graduated from UConn and served on the UConn Foundation Board, among others. Despite the fact that there is an Extension office only 10 miles from the reservation, MPTN has rarely participated in any educational outreach or training offered by UConn Extension.

UConn Extension received the four-year Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) grant from USDA-NIFA with the goal of having the tribe share their ideas for growing food and health, and help them learn about the Extension resources that are available. As a result of the grant, the relationship between MPTN and UConn is strengthening, and there is growth in agricultural production, food security, and health for the tribal people.

heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes grown by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Photo: Noah Cudd

“MPTN is still learning, but they are now able to grow their own food, in what looks like a commercial setting,” states Shuresh Ghimire, PhD, Vegetable Crops Extension educator and principal investigator on the grant. “They have high tunnels, a rototiller, a plastic mulch layer, and cold storage, which are common tools for a commercial farm.”

Extension provides expertise through one-on-one consultation, and classroom and hands-on training on-site in a collaborative setting. Educational outreach addresses the following critical areas identified by the MPTN Council:

  1. Improve food security
  2. Improve economic viability
  3. Improve youth engagement and communications
  4. Improve nutrition and diabetes awareness through collaborative education

An Extension program involving several specialists in fruit and vegetable production, farm business management, marketing, 4-H youth development, health and nutrition, communications, evaluation and assessment is working with the MPTN on their goals. Tribal members are participating in other Extension programs, beyond the scope of the grant. A 4-H club is being established at MPTN to increase opportunities for youth.

“Once this grant came, we started working with UConn Extension Educators. There has been a substantial gain in the knowledge and skills regarding growing food, writing a business plan, nutrition, and health,” says Jeremy Whipple, a MPTN member.

Growing with MPTN

Extension provides education for MPTN in state-of-the-art sustainable vegetable and fruit production techniques, and through

people in the greenhouse at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
UConn Extension educators work with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in a high tunnel. Photo: Shuresh Ghimire

collaboration with MPTN, is melded with traditional and historical tribal farming methods. This provides MPTN with a means to continue the richness of their history while moving into modern sustainable farming economically.

Tribal youth are included in all aspects of the agricultural venture with the tribe’s expectation that several youth will develop major roles in the business venture. Two tribal youth are being paid by the grant to work in vegetable production at MPTN.

“Learning how to grow tomatoes, including pest management, is one of the many things I enjoy working with on this grant” Ernest Pompey, one of the tribal youths working on this grant says. “I am excited to share what I learned about growing and eating healthy food to other youth in my community.”

“The tribe also established a community garden where they bring other youth from the community to teach them about growing. The knowledge is expanding within their own community, and they are teaching each other now,” Shuresh says.

making the three sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket tribe
Extension educators make the Three Sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

UConn Extension’s nutrition team is working with the tribal community health providers to deliver educational programming in healthy eating and diabetes prevention using classroom education, and hands-on learning in the selection and preparing of healthy food, and exercise through gardening. The goal is to reduce the risk and incidence of diabetes in the tribal community.

“The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) utilizes a hands-on approach to nutrition education, combining nutrition knowledge with enhancement of skills to apply this knowledge to prepare healthy foods that are convenient, affordable and culturally appropriate,” says Mike Puglisi PhD, RD, state EFNEP director. “Erica Benvenuti, New London County nutrition educator, taught children in the MPTN High 5 Program the importance of food safety and increasing vegetable intake, and enhanced learning through getting the children involved in preparation of a traditional recipe prepared by the MPTN, the Three Sisters Rice recipe.”

The grant is starting its third year, and another Extension educator is working with tribal youth and adults in developing a business plan for the agricultural venture to increase their success rate. Youth and adults are also learning about their agricultural history and how it can successfully be integrated into today’s modern sustainable agriculture by combining classes with in-field learning experience.

“Ultimately, after the grant ends, MPTN’s farm will operate as a commercial vegetable farm would in terms of production and reaching out to Extension when they do need help. They will be independent, and continue growing their operation to support the goals of the tribal nation,” Shuresh states.

Article by Stacey Stearns and Shuresh Ghimire

Break Your Bad Water Habits

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

When it comes to household water use, the average American uses about 82 gallons of water per day. To cut back on your water use around the house, an easy first step starts with fixing any leaks. (They can drip away gallons a day—in extreme cases, up to 90 gallons/day!) Also, try to reduce your water usage in everyday tasks, such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, taking a shower instead of a bath, and watering your yard in the morning instead of the heat of the afternoon.  Finally, consider installingWaterSense’s water-efficient products (such as shower heads, toilets, and bathroom faucets) around your home to help your wallet and the environment.

Source: National Environmental Education Foundation

Washing Raw Poultry: Food Safety Choices

washing hands in the kitchenA study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that individuals are putting themselves at risk of illness when they wash or rinse raw poultry.
“Cooking and mealtime is a special occasion for all of us as we come together with our families and friends,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “However, the public health implications of these findings should be of concern to everyone. Even when consumers think they are effectively cleaning after washing poultry, this study shows that bacteria can easily spread to other surfaces and foods. The best practice is not to wash poultry.”
The results of the observational study showed how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized. The USDA is recommending three easy options to help prevent illness when preparing poultry, or meat, in your home.
1. Significantly decrease your risk by preparing foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads, BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
  • Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink.
  • 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce.
2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices.
  • Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, 31 percent still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce.
  • This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils.
  • Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a sanitizer.
  • Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry. Wet your hands with water, lather with soap and then scrub your hands for 20 seconds.
3. Destroy any illness causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.
  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) are safe to eat at 145°F.
  • Ground meats (burgers) are safe to eat at 160°F.
  • Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.
  • Washing, rinsing, or brining meat and poultry in salt water, vinegar or lemon juice does not destroy bacteria. If there is anything on your raw poultry that you want to remove, pat the area with a damp paper towel and immediately wash your hands.
“Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food,” said Administrator Carmen Rottenberg of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “Please keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
More information about this study is available in an executive summary.
Have questions? Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP-HOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). Live food safety experts are available Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Expert advice is also available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov.

Pesticide Law Primer Developed for Schools

school athletic fieldPesticide Law Primer Developed by UConn Extension for Connecticut School Grounds Managers, Superintendents, Teachers, and Members of the School Community

UConn Extension, with the CT Department of Energy and Environment (CT DEEP), has developed a series that explains and clarifies Connecticut’s pesticide restrictions on school grounds.

In 2010, Connecticut state legislation banned the application of all pesticides registered with EPA, and labeled for use on lawn, garden, and ornamental sites, on the grounds of public or private daycares and schools with grades K-8. The law was amended in 2015 to allow the use of horticultural oils and microbial and biochemical pesticides.

Since enactment of this legislation, weed control on school ground properties has been a significant challenge for school grounds managers. Although the law is nearly 10 years old, widespread understanding and awareness of the law remains elusive. UConn Extension’s primers aim to break down the most essential details of the law for grounds managers, administrators, parents, guardians, teachers, and other members of the school community.

Vickie Wallace and Alyssa Siegel-Miles, of UConn Extension, with the assistance of Diane Jorsey, of CT DEEP, created three string trimming on school groundsversions of the primer: a brochure for the school community; a more detailed primer for school administrators, and longer primer that includes management information for school grounds managers.

The primers answer the most frequently asked questions, such as:

  • Which school locations are affected by this law?
  • Which pesticides are banned?
  • Who can apply minimum risk pesticides on school properties?
  • Are exemptions to the law permitted for emergencies?
  • Are there pesticide products that are permitted for use on K-8 school properties?
  • How must a school notify the school community, including parents, of pesticide applications, whether minimum risk or emergency?
  • Can playing fields, grounds, and lawns be managed without the use of pesticides?

 

Read and download the primers:

A Superintendents’ Primer on Connecticut’s School Grounds Pesticide Regulations:

http://ipm.uconn.edu/documents/view.php?id=1451

A School Grounds Manager’s Primer on Connecticut’s School Grounds Pesticide Regulations: http://ipm.uconn.edu/documents/view.php?id=1450

School Grounds Pesticide Regulations for the School Community (brochure):

http://ipm.uconn.edu/documents/view.php?id=1452

UConn Offers Master Composter Program and Worm Day

Enroll Now in the UConn 2019 Master Composter Program

Almost 25% of household waste can be recycled through composting. The purpose of the UConn Master Composter program is to educate and train residents about the basics of small-scale composting and in exchange for the training, volunteers will pass on their knowledge to others through outreach activitiessuch as talks, demonstrations, tabling at events, providing promotional activities, working with schools or community gardens etc. Master Composter classes will be held at the New London County Extension Center in Norwich. There will be four weeknight lectures (October 15, 17, 22 & 24), Worm Day (Oct 19) and two Saturday field trips with only one being mandatory. The cost of the program is $100. The Master Composter brochure with registration information is available at www.ladybug.uconn.edu or www.soiltest.uconn.edu or call (860) 486-4274 for more information.

 

worm in the soilWORM DAY

Saturday, October 19, 2019 at the Middlesex County Extension Center from 10 am to 2 pm.

Want to learn more about invasive earthworms in Connecticut? Ever thought about making a worm bin to recycle kitchen scraps into rich vermicompost? Join us for Worm Day! It is free and open to the public. Following presentations on beneficial and invasive earthworms, and how to make and care for a worm bin, folks are invited to make their own worm bins. Attendees supply the materials and we will supply the worms. A $5 donation is suggested to cover the cost of the worms. Go to www.ladybug.uconn.edu orwww.soiltest.uconn.edu for more information. Please RSVP to Dawn.Pettinelli@uconn.edu as we need to know how many worms to bring! Limited to 40 participants.

New Team to Lead CT Trail Census Data & Education Program

NEW TEAM TO LEAD CONNECTICUT TRAIL CENSUS DATA COLLECTION AND EDUCATION PROGRAM

The University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension is pleased to welcome Charles Tracy as the new Coordinator, and Ryan Faulkner as the new Project Specialist of the Connecticut Trail Census Program. The Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program that operates on trails across the state. The program collects information about trail use through trail use counts recorded by infrared pedestrian counters and trail user intercept surveys administered by trained volunteers, and disseminates trail use information through public education programs.

Charles Tracy
Charles Tracy

“Connecticut’s diverse trail networks are among the state’s most scenic, valuable and enduring assets,” said Tracy. “Connecticut’s trails support public health, promote community, provide alternative transportation, encourage tourism, and strengthen the economy. I’m looking forward to developing an accurate and compelling picture of who uses trails in Connecticut, and then finding creative ways to share that picture to advance and inform new trail design and construction throughout the state.”

“We’re thrilled to have such an amazing team on board to continue and grow this work,” said Census team member Laura Brown with UConn Extension. “The new staff will focus on developing new partnerships with public and private organizations in areas such as economic development, health, and transportation who have an interest in trails but might not have engaged with the trail user community before. We’ll also be increasing our educational programs to help communities and leaders make better use of this valuable data.”

The Trail Census encourages data informed decision-making and promotes active citizen participation in multi-use trail monitoring and advocacy. It has operated since 2017 and in 2018 the Census documented an estimated 1,449,220 uses on the 16 participating sites. The program has since grown to over 20 participating data collection sites across the state. The program received $206,043 in funding from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program to continue work through 2019.

Charles Tracy has been leading community and regional trail development and landscape conservation initiatives throughout New England since 1988 and will be retiring from his current position as a National Park Service landscape architect. Tracy has been superintendent of the New England National Scenic Trail and national lead for NPS art partnerships. He holds master’s degrees in landscape architecture from the University of Massachusetts and in classics from the University of Texas. 

Ryan Faulkner joins the Census after nearly two years of contributions as a project intern while completing his BA in

Ryan Faulkner
Ryan Faulkner

Economics from UConn in 2017. He is currently a Master’s Degree Candidate in Geography at Central Connecticut State University.

“I look forward to forming closer relationships with our volunteers and partners,” Ryan said. “It’s exciting to now have the resources and staff to take the Trail Census to the next level. Trails are a keystone to building a prosperous and healthy Connecticut, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish this coming year.” 

The Trail Census is statewide and serves community leaders and decision makers including local elected officials, planners, economic development professionals, trail advocates, trail maintenance professionals, environmental, health and outdoor activity advocates, as well as the general public. The program was developed as a partnership program between UConn Extension, the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, the Connecticut Greenways Council, and local trail advocacy organizations. The project is advised by a volunteer steering committee. For more information or to get involved visitcttrailcensus.uconn.edu.