Environment

New Training! Intro to ArcGIS Online & Storymaps

The CLEAR Geospatial Training Program (GTP) has just launched a brand new workshop! It is called Introduction to ArcGIS Online and Esri Story Maps and includes presentations, demos, hands-on exploration and hands-on exercises. The morning of the day-long workshop covers ArcGIS Online and the web map in particular. Topics include:

  • Introduction to GIS and ArcGIS Online
  • The ArcGIS Online Web Map
    • Getting started
    • Adding and working with data in the web map
    • Sharing and printing

The afternoon of the workshop is all about Story Maps. Topics include:

  • What is a Story Map
  • How Story Maps work
  • Building a Story Map Journal
  • Building a Story Map Tour

By the end of the day, students create a Story Map Journal called The Connecticut Valley Railroad: Then and Now. It is about the history of the railroad whose tracks and historic stations exist in the backyard of the Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam where the workshop is held. The Story Map Tour, Stations of the Historic Connecticut Valley Railway, is a tour of a few of the historic stations along the railroad. Read more…

‘New normal’ of flooded roads presents complex challenges

Story and photos by Judy Benson

climate adaptation workshopWith frequent downpours flooding many of the state’s coastal roads throughout the fall and into January – including the previous day – the workshop could hardly have had more relevance and timeliness.

“I spent yesterday dealing with countless calls to my office from people saying they couldn’t get to their houses because of flooding,” said Steve Johnson, acting assistant public works director, open space and natural resource agent for Milford. “This is getting to be the new normal. Yesterday I also watched a school bus drive through two feet of water to get the kids home.”

Johnson was one of the speakers at the Climate Adaptation Academyworkshop on Jan. 25 on road flooding. A capacity crowd of more than 80 municipal public works, planning and engineering officials from throughout coastal Connecticut came to the Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam to spend the day learning about legal, environmental and practical approaches and challenges to “a problem with no easy answers,” said Juliana Barrett, coastal habitat specialist at Connecticut Sea Grant, during opening remarks. Co-sponsored by Sea Grant, UConn CLEAR and UConn Extension, the workshop is the third in a series focusing on the local ramifications of climate change and how towns can learn to cope.

Caught between the encroaching waters and dry land are salt marshes and roadways through low-lying coastal communities. Finding ways so that both can continue to exist on the Connecticut shoreline will be one of the main tasks of coastal town officials for the coming decades, Kozak said.Setting the stage for the issue at hand was David Kozak, senior coastal planner in the Land and Water Resources Division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Ocean waters have been creeping onto land at accelerating rates over the past 50 years, and sea levels are projected to rise another 20 inches by 2050 and about four feet by 2100, he said. “Sunny day flooding,” when roads become submerged by high tides rather than heavy rains and storm surge, is becoming more common, he added.

Read more…

CT Trail Census Receives Grant

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

Our Connecticut Trail Census program recently received $206,049.50 in grant funding from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) Trails & Greenways Program and the Connecticut Greenways Council. UConn Extension’s Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program implemented as a pilot from 2016-2018 on 16 multi-use (bicycle, pedestrian, equestrian) trail sites across the state.

School of Business Partnership Strengthens Extension

School of Business marketing students on an educational hike in the UConn Forest with Dr. Mike Dietz

Extension brings the research of the land-grant university to communities statewide. Other departments at UConn are helping Extension grow and impact new audiences with the research and resources they produce. We have built a partnership with the Department of Marketing in the School of Business that has transformed the marketing initiatives of UConn Extension, and strengthened our brand.

Our partnership started with a branding workshop presented by Robin Coulter, Professor and Head of the Department of Marketing. Jane Gu, Associate Professor of Marketing conducted a follow up workshop on digital marketing.

Extension educators completed an exercise on the importance of their programs prior to the fall 2017 Extension meeting. Responses were used to create a new mission statement for UConn Extension: UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems. Join us.

Summer interns in 2017 and 2018 have expanded our marketing capacity by developing initiatives and campaigns to increase awareness of Extension, building off of the previous work. Groups of digital marketing students in the School of Business chose Extension as their class project for the spring 2018 semester. Students in the undergraduate class focused on marketing UConn 4-H. The MBA students created a lifelong learning campaign for Extension that ties multiple program areas together.

The scope of work accomplished in a one semester course can be limited. Faculty in the Department of Marketing shifted the honors thesis for senior marketing students into a yearlong project with Extension. The class conducted research in the fall 2018 semester, and is currently developing and implementing a campaign to market Extension to UConn students.

Our partnership with the Department of Marketing has allowed us to increase the impact of UConn Extension, and raise awareness of the programs and opportunities available. Audiences that we are reaching were previously unfamiliar with Extension. We appreciate the opportunities that our partners in the School of Business provide to market Extension and grow our impact across Connecticut.

By Stacey Stearns

Job Openings with UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagram

We have jobs open at Jobs.UConn.edu – an Assistant Extension Educator with UConn 4-H based in Torrington, an Assistant Extension Educator in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, and a Research Assistant 2 – Connecticut Farm To School Specialist based in Vernon. All positions will have statewide responsibilities. Apply today, applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis.

Tackling the climate change challenge, one place at a time

climate corps students in classClimate change is perhaps the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced, and just thinking about it can make someone feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

How can the next generation of environmental professionals be prepared to deal a problem that big?

One answer could be found this fall in the Climate Corps class taught at the University of Connecticut by Sea Grant’s Juliana Barrett and Bruce Hyde, land use academy director at UConn CLEAR (Center for Land Use Education & Research). Now in its second year, the course invites students to tackle this global challenge on local scales, methodically breaking it down into more manageable parts.

Read more….

Story and photos by Judy Benson

Stormwater Corps: Looking for Green Stormwater Opportunities

stormwater corps collage
If you were out and about in the towns of North Haven, Milford, Hamden, West Haven or Cheshire this summer, you may have seen a team of four young adults writing on clipboards, snapping pictures of parking lots, laying their phones down on the sidewalk, and peering down into storm drains. These four intrepid UConn undergrads, nicknamed the Stormwater Corps, were evaluating opportunities for “disconnecting” stormwater through the use of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) practices such as rain gardens, bioswales, and pervious pavements. Such practices help to infiltrate stormwater runoff into the ground, reducing flooding and water pollution. The students, trained by CLEAR’s water (NEMO) team, were tasked with using a combination of online mapping technology and good old-fashioned field work to look for “low-hanging fruit”­­-sites in each town where green stormwater practices were likely to be most feasible, have the greatest impact, and be cost-effective. Their findings were compiled into town reports complete with aerial photos and stormwater reduction estimates, and presented by the team to key municipal staff in each town with an emphasis on the “top five” potential sites. The Stormwater Corps project, supported by a grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund of theNational Fish and Wildlife Foundation, includes funds for each of the five towns to put toward construction of their top priority GSI practice. CLEAR’s long-range goal is to combine a semester-long stormwater/GSI class with the work with the towns, forming a fully realized third “Corps” program to add to the Climate Corps and Brownfields Corps.
Questions should be directed to:
Michael Dietz
NEMO Program Co-Director 

michael.dietz@uconn.edu  or (860) 345-5225

Soil pH – The Master Variable

The UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab tests for and analyzes multiple soil parameters; but none as critical, and as often overlooked, as pH. Soil pH plays a crucial role in the growth of vegetation planted, as well as ground water quality. Before we start talking about soil pH, I think it is a good idea to try to define what exactly pH is, and how it is determined.

When most of us think of pH, a pool probably comes to mind. I remember growing up, watching my mother apply different chemicals to our pool, and impatiently wondering why I had to wait to go swimming. She would tell me that she was adjusting the pH of the water to ensure it was safe to swim in. The basic understanding is that pH is tells us how acidic, neutral, or alkaline something is. To get a little more technical, pH is the measurement of the activity of Hydrogen Ions (H+) in an aqueous solution. The equation for determining and quantifying pH is:

pH = -log10 (aH+)

(aH+= Hydrogen Ion Activity in Moles/L)

We express pH on a logarithmic scale of 0-14, where 0-6 is considered “acidic”, 7 is “neutral”, and 8-14 is “basic”.

soil pH scale
Image from: http://www.edu.pe.ca/gulfshore/Archives/ACIDSBAS/scipage.htm

Mineral soil pH values generally range from 3.0 – 10.0. There are numerous factors that determine soil pH including climate, parent material, weathering, relief, and time. Texture and organic matter content also influence soil pH. Most Connecticut soils are naturally acidic. Nutrient availability is directly influenced by pH with most plants (with some exceptions) thriving at pH values between 6 and 7. A majority of nutrients are available within this range.

Our lab measures pH using an 1:1 soil-to-DI water ratio. The saturated soil paste is mixed, then is analyzed using a glass electrode and a pH meter. We calibrate our meter using 2 solutions with known pH values, 4 and 7. We use these values because we expect most Connecticut soils to fall within this range. Once the initial pH value is obtained, a buffering agent is added. In our lab we use the Modified Mehlich Buffer. A second pH reading is obtained, and from these two values plus crop information, we are able to make limestone and/or sulfur recommendations.

The Buffering Capacity of a soil is the resistance it has to change in pH. Soil buffering is controlled by its Cation-Exchange-Capacity, Aluminum content (in acidic soils), organic matter content, and texture. A soil with a lot of organic matter and clay will have a higher buffering capacity than one with little organic matter that is mostly sandy.

If the soil pH is lower than the target range for a particular plant, limestone would be recommended. Whether you use pelletized, ground or granular limestone, the application rate would be the same. Once the target pH is reached, a maintenance application of 50 lbs/1000 sq ft would be applied every other year to maintain it.

If the soil pH is higher than desired, sulfur recommendations are made. Typically only powdered sulfur is available locally but granular sulfur could be mail ordered. Aluminum sulfate can be substituted for sulfur and used at a higher rate. Check out this listof preferred pH ranges for many common plants.

Monitoring your soil pH is essential to ensure that it is falling within the range best suited for the vegetation you are growing. The Standard Nutrient Analysis performed at our lab gives you a pH value, a buffer pH value, a lime/sulfur recommendation, available micro & macro nutrient levels, and a fertilizer recommendation. For more information on pH, you can contact Dawn or myself (Joe) at the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab (www.soiltest.uconn.edu). Test, don’t guess!

By Joe C.

CT’s First Stormwater Utility

Earlier this summer, New London became the first municipality in Connecticut to establish a stormwater utility which goes into effect January 1, 2019.  This means they will begin charging all property owners a fee for their contribution to the city’s stormwater runoff.  Previously, New London relied on property taxes to fund maintenance of their stormwater infrastructure which includes all the storm drains and underground pipes that carry runoff from buildings, streets, and parking lots into nearby waterbodies.  This model has left much of the city’s stormwater management efforts significantly underfunded.  By charging stormwater fees, New London, a small city with many tax-exempt properties, is securing a dedicated funding source to pay for maintaining their stormwater infrastructure and complying with other management efforts, like public outreach, removing illegal discharges from the stormwater system and sampling stormwater discharge for pollutants.

New London may be the only stormwater utility in Connecticut but not in New England. According to a 2016 survey of U.S. stormwater utilities by Western Kentucky University, 3 New England states were home to established stormwater utilities: Maine (5), Vermont (3), and Massachusetts (7).  But outside our region, these utilities have become much more common.  Overall, the U.S. had nearly 1,600 stormwater utilities led by Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin each having more than 100 a piece.  Clearly, there are many states (including some with reputations of having less stringent regulatory environments than CT) that have already embraced stormwater utilities as a practical way to pay for strong municipal stormwater management programs.

stormwater utilities map
Number of Stormwater Utilities in every state. From Western Kentucky University Stormwater Utility Survey 2016.

By Amanda Ryan

 

A Marsh Migration Buffer Takes Shape

Dodge Paddock Beal Preserve is a small oasis in Stonington Borough and is owned by Avalonia Land Conservancy. With tidal wetlands, coastal grassland and a rocky intertidal area, the area has much to offer visitors. The preserve has been the focus of many efforts involving the land trust, CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection, Mystic Aquarium and Connecticut Sea Grant. Superstorm Sandy (2012) had significant impacts to the site with both physical (seawall damage) and ecological impacts. Work by Avalonia, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Mystic Aquarium have focused on restoration and management of the tidal wetland with extensive regrading, Phragmites australiscontrol work and planting of native marsh vegetation. Other significant site work includes grassland management to control invasive plants in upland areas.

Landward of the tidal wetland, numerous questions have arisen with the upland habitats. The Beal Family maintained several beautiful, large gardens as a condition of their land donation. Mrs. Beal recently passed away, so Avalonia needed to determine how to manage a large area of the property bordering the wetlands. Given the proximity of the formal gardens to the marsh, projections of sea level rise of approximately 20 inches by 2050, and observations indicating that the marsh is migrating landward in parts of the Preserve, the creation of a marsh migration buffer seems to be the most prudent approach. With a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Long Island Sound Futures Fund, we are moving forward with the creation of such a buffer.

Land Trust Steward, Beth Sullivan, led the clearing of the formal gardens by having local garden clubs, neighbors and friends come in and remove plants which included everything from fennel to canna lilies. More volunteers pulled roots and cleared as much as possible. Then we covered the gardens with black plastic, letting it “solarize” over the summer months. After much planning and determining what plants would work best, we planted the new buffer on Oct 19th. A hardy crew of volunteers rolled up the plastic, raked and leveled the gardens and then sowed seeds with a mix of native coastal grass species. We were also fortunate to obtain seeds for several native species that had been collected several years ago by the New England Wildflower Society as part of their Seeds of Successprogram. Seeds of native species that were collected locally include switch grass and little bluestem as well as herbaceous perennials such as tall goldenrod. Other donations included milkweed seeds and root balls of joe pye weed from local gardens.

people walking with plastic uncovering ground
Removal of the plastic sheeting that was used to solarize the area over the summer months. Photo by J. Benson Oct 19, 2018

spreading mulch over dirt and seed
Seeded area is covered with a thin layer of straw for the winter months. Photo by J. Benson Oct 19, 2018

 

So now we can wait out the winter months and hope for a fruitful spring. While marsh migration with sea level rise is very slow, we are hoping to develop a coastal grassland/meadow that will be an ecologically productive habitat.

By Juliana Barrett