Land Use

Gypsy Moth Update

gypsy moths on tree
Photo: Tom Worthley

Gypsy Moth Update from Extension Educator Tom Worthley: “On Friday, I observed these live adult female gypsy moths laying eggs along Chaffeeville Road in Mansfield. Obviously some caterpillars managed to survive the fungus and other predators and develop to maturity in some spots. If people are so inclined they could kill moths they can reach, (squirting the moths and egg masses with a bit of canola oil or very soapy water would work) but I’m inclined to think that a few adult gypsy moths are the exception rather than the rule.”

Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Update

From Extension Educator Tom Worthley:
dead caterpillars on tree
Photo: Tom Worthley

“The attached photo is of a 26-inch diameter oak near my home with lots of caterpillars on it, and all of the caterpillars are dead. They exhibit symptoms of the fungus that attacks gypsy moth caterpillars, particularly when populations are high. So while I cannot say it with absolute certainty, I am of the opinion that the Entomophaga maimaiga fungus is at work (finally). Dry spring seasons the last couple years had a depressing effect on the fungal activity, leading to the caterpillar outbreaks we are seeing this year, but we’ve had a wetter spring and while the defoliation ‘damage has been done’ in many areas (almost total defoliation in my area, Higganum) we are now seeing increased fugal activity killing off the caterpillars.

Most trees will re-foliate. This requires some drawing upon stored reserves of carbohydrates by the individual tree, in order to send out new leaves and the evidence of gypsy moth activity will likely appear as reduced diameter growth. Some trees that have been stressed by repeated defoliations in multiple years and perhaps by drought or other issues, might not survive. We will know in the next few weeks.
We will also know later this summer whether many gypsy moth caterpillars have survived to maturity. Non-flying, mostly white females will take up positions in sheltered spots on the bark of trees, and males (more tan, or buff-colored) will by flying around seemingly at random.”
Extension Educator Donna Ellis adds: “As the caterpillars decompose, the fungus reproduces inside the cadavers and on the ground around the trees.  Entomophaga will further spread in the area and can persist in the soil for many years. We recommend that property owners leave the caterpillars in place on the trees to allow the fungus to continue to develop and spread naturally. It remains to be seen how successful the fungus will be in reducing future gypsy moth populations, but hopefully it will have an impact.”

Tree Wardens Celebrate 25th Anniversary

tree wardensOn April 28, 2017, the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut, Inc., celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding with a gala event at the Omni Hotel in New Haven.

The organization was founded by Bob Ricard, Senior Extension Educator, as a result of his findings in a statewide needs assessment he conducted in 1991, the year he started working for UConn Extension. The results suggested that tree wardens (each municipality must have a tree warden based on state law passed in 1901) were not organized, received very little educational support, and didn’t know other towns had the position. Bob conducted a field workshop then the first organizational meeting at the Haddam Extension Center March 3, 1992. He was assisted by the late Dr. Dave Schroeder and Fred Borman, CT-DEEP, with the workshop.

Today the organization has around 200 members and an active board (including having recently completing a facilitate strategic plan to map out its next 25 years. Bob conducts the annual Tree Warden School (since 1998) with over 300 tree wardens, deputy tree wardens, and others passing the final exam. The organization hosts two workshops and an annual dinner meeting, advocates concerning laws pertaining to tree wardens, and sponsors tree planting events.

At the gala, Dr. Mike O’Neill, congratulated the organization for its success. Senator Blumenthal did the same and presented Bob with a Certificate of Recognition for founding and facilitation of the organization through its 25 years. At the end of the gala, attendees were talking of the next 25 years and getting together for the 50th anniversary.

UConn EDEN

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.

UConn EDEN is part of the nationwide EDEN system located at all the land-grant institutions, and is based-on four strategic goals:

(1) Enhance the abilities of individuals, families, organizations, agencies, businesses, and institutions prepare for, prevent, mitigate, and recover from disasters and emergencies.

(2) Serve as a statewide resource for university research-based disaster outreach education.

(3) Strengthen Extension’s capacity and commitment to address disaster and emergency preparedness issues.

(4) Strengthen Extension’s capacity to provide research-based disaster education and scholarship.

 

 

UConn Extension Educators from diverse disciplines respond to four program areas:

  • agricultural disasters and security
  • human health and emergency preparedness
  • community preparedness and resiliency
  • workplace emergency preparedness

Connecting with Emergency Preparedness Resources

Article by Mary Ellen Welch

beach houseEmergency preparedness is an issue for an increasing number of people and families. No matter the season, take steps in advance, and be ready for storms or other natural disasters. Personal experiences with storms – Tropical Storm Irene (2011), Sandy (2012) – and conditions that produce snow, winds, flooding and storm surge, serve as reminders. Weather events can impair your health and safety, limit access to roads, cause property and tree damage and loss of electricity.

At the Universities of Connecticut and Rhode Island, a team of Extension and Sea Grant educators is addressing coastal preparedness through a USDA-NIFA Special Needs grant. UConn Extension has created a preparedness education program to help people, including those with pets and livestock, prepare for storm emergencies. UConn Extension’s EDEN (Extension Disaster Education Network) website contains a compilation of emergency preparedness resources designed by experts.

The collaborative team includes Mary Ellen Welch, disaster preparedness team leader; Robert Ricard, UConn EDEN team leader; Juliana Barrett, coastal preparedness; Karen Filchak, family and community development; Diane Wright Hirsch, food safety; Joyce Meader, dairy and livestock; Jenifer Nadeau, equine specialist; Faye Griffiths-Smith, family economics and resource management; and Pamela Rubinoff, University of Rhode Island, coastal resilience specialist.

Pamela Rubinoff is developing Rapid PACE (rapid Property Assessment of Coastal Exposure), a storm mapping, assessment and planning tool, so municipal officials, coastal communities and residents can assess potential storm hazards. The tool aggregates existing high resolution map data from multiple sources and will generate user friendly reports that summarize the potential impacts of storms upon specific parcels of land in coastal Rhode Island.

In Connecticut, focus groups met in four coastal communities – East Lyme, Old Lyme, Groton and Stonington. A diverse group of community representatives participated – fire marshals, emergency/health managers, social services, school and library personnel, housing/senior center directors and beach association members. Their knowledge about local residents and resources is guiding the team to reach audiences with functional needs; people living alone without family nearby; people with limited English proficiency; part-time residents or visitors; the large and mobile military service population; seniors and families.

Juliana Barrett is assisting communities with finding new ways to reach both their year round residents and transient populations who might be on vacation for a weekend or a couple of weeks. By developing flyers for rental units with pertinent information, she hopes to engage people in what to do and where to go should an emergency occur.

“Prepare your family now so they will feel in control when severe weather arises,” affirms Faye Griffiths-Smith. “Have emergency kits as well as a plan for communicating if you are separated. A pre-determined place you will go can make dealing with a stressful situation more manageable. Review these plans and your emergency supplies periodically.”

Karen Filchak recommends, “Think about and prepare for situations where property may be damaged, lost or destroyed. Do you have insurance information for repairs, records to prove ownership of a vehicle that floated away or documents to prove the value of the contents of your home? Having the appropriate documents and financial information will help in recovery from the impacts of a destructive event.”

Food and water safety/provisions is a health issue during and after storms. The UConn Extension Food Safety website has publications on: pre-storm shopping, whether you should keep or discard food during a power outage and what to do if garden produce becomes flooded. Interior and exterior household preparation may limit loss and can impact your health and comfort during storms.

The UConn EDEN website contains pet friendly advice about necessary pet provisions whether staying at home or away. “Livestock typically are housed in their barns during storms,” indicates Joyce Meader. “Keep barns in good structural condition so they will protect animals and keep them safe.”

“It is never too early to begin planning for the possibility of a disaster,” advocates Jenifer Nadeau. “Hopefully you never have to experience one, but being prepared is half the battle.” A microchipping clinic is being offered this fall as an additional way to help identify horses.

Extension’s Climate Adaptation Academy Explores Legal Issues

living shoreline
Living shoreline in Stonington. Photo: Juliana Barrett.

The Climate Corps is in part a response to the ongoing work of Juliana Barrett and Bruce Hyde, two Extension educators who form the CLEAR/Sea Grant climate team. The Climate Adaptation Academy (CAA) created by the two has been engaging community officials, citizens and others for over four years, in a series of iterative workshops designed to gather input as much as to dispense information. The CAA’s latest focus is on the many legal issues that can arise at the local level as a result of climate change. A workshop in the fall of 2015 on this topic, Legal Issues in the Age of Climate Adaptation, was a sell-out and ended with a long Q&A session between workshop participants and a panel of six prominent land use attorneys. Faced with a long list of complex legal questions, only a few of which could be addressed at the workshop, Barrett and Hyde decided to pursue the matter by contacting the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program (one of only four Sea Grant legal and policy centers in the nation). The result is a new series of fact sheets on high priority climate-related legal issues, which are being widely distributed and will be the basis for follow-up workshops. “We feel that we’re exploring some very important issues that have not been addressed to date, likely because they are relatively new and complex,” says Hyde. “I think this proves that the iterative nature of the CAA works, because these issues surfaced at the workshop and came straight from the towns.”

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!

Connecticut’s New Marine Crop

By: Anoushka Concepcion, Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension

kelp
Photo credit: Nancy Balcom

Connecticut has an extensive agricultural industry that extends far beyond land. Hidden under its coast, lies more than 70,000 acres where one of the best protein sources is produced – shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops). The shellfish aquaculture industry is over 150 years old and expanding in numbers of producers, and additional products. But shellfish are not the only crops that grow underwater. Seaweed, or sea vegetables, is a highly valued commodity at $8-10 billion in the global market. Seaweeds are consumed for their nutritional benefits and are a staple in Asian diets. Their components are in a wide range of products including fertilizers, animal feeds, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, and biofuels. Seaweeds also provide ecosystem services; they can be used to clean up waterways by extracting excess nutrients from urban runoff.

Although the majority of production occurs in Asia, interest in seaweed production is increasing in the United States. For many years, seaweed has been harvested from the wild. However, the cultivation (or aquaculture) of domestic seaweed is increasing. Current producers of seaweed include shellfish producers and displaced lobstermen looking to diversify products and income. There is also an interest from municipalities who are looking at seaweed for ecosystem services. Currently in Connecticut, there are two types of seaweed cultivated and approved for food: the sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima and Gracilaria tikvahiae. The kelp grows in the winter season while the Gracilaria grows in the summer. There are four commercial farms growing sugar kelp. These farms are small-scale and mostly grow shellfish.

Connecticut Sea Grant has been involved in seaweed aquaculture for almost 30 years, funding extensive foundational and applied research of Dr. Charles Yarish in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. More recently, Sea Grant and UConn Extension have been helping transfer aspects of the research to industry and market, along with Yarish and other collaborators. Sea Grant has been addressing several bottlenecks hindering further expansion of this new industry. The major bottleneck is lack of federal guidelines on the public health aspect of domestic seaweed production and processing. Since the majority of seaweed domestically produced is from wild-harvest, it has been unregulated. There are guidelines ensuring seafood, meat, dairy, and other agricultural commodities are safe for human consumption. However, we don’t have similar guidelines for cultivated seaweed. This presents a problem for state regulatory agencies that are trying to ensure the seaweed grown in Connecticut is safe. Sea Grant and UConn Extension partnered with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Aquaculture to develop guidelines that allow locally produced seaweed to be grown and sold in the state. This guide contains handling, storage, and processing guidelines for both species of seaweed grown in Connecticut.

Seaweed can grow quickly and in large volumes, requiring harvesting be done all at once. Since seaweed has a short shelf life – it starts to degrade within hours, it must be used right away or processed into a form that will last. Local chefs desire raw kelp since it is fresh and unprocessed, but it has a very short shelf life. Kelp has also been processed into noodles and sold to a limited number of restaurants and retailers in the region. In 2013, Sea Grant assisted the Bureau of Aquaculture in approving the first commercial seaweed grower to sell fresh kelp and kelp noodles as food. This involved providing development funds testing the safety of both forms of kelp and seafood safety knowledge to determine appropriate handling, storage, and processing guidelines. The seaweed grower has now expanded to a large-scale commercial kelp processing facility in New Haven, Sea Greens Farms; that can accommodate seaweed produced by other growers in the region. Although guidelines have been developed for raw and kelp noodles, they have not been developed for dehydrated or dried seaweed. Sea Grant is working with a local food manufacturer to conduct drying experiments to determine if there are any potential hazards associated with dehydrating seaweed. Although experiments are ongoing, preliminary results indicate that as long as the seaweed is stored and handled properly, it should be safe to eat.

Additional experiments are being conducted to determine if the summer seaweed, Gracilaria, is suitable for human consumption when cultivated in Connecticut’s coastal waterways. Gracilaria can remove heavy metals and other chemicals from the water, making it a great candidate for nutrient bioextraction to clean up waterways. However, there is no data showing that it is safe for human consumption.   Currently, only Gracilaria cultivated in indoor tanks can be sold as food, since growing conditions can be controlled ensuring product safety. Experiments analyzing Gracilaria grown in Connecticut waters are underway to determine its feasibility as a food product. Additional barriers under investigation include expanding markets for local product and the successful transition of kelp seed-string production from research labs to commercial-scale. Although the production of seed-string has begun to shift into the hands of commercial seaweed operations, it is not fully independent and at the same level as the shellfish aquaculture industry. An extensive seafood marketing survey this summer will assess awareness and consumption of Connecticut seafood and seaweed among residents.

Although the potential for seaweed aquaculture in Connecticut is huge, there are constraints to rapid expansion. The domestic seaweed aquaculture industry is still in its infancy and it is yet to be determined if it will become more than a niche commodity. Overcoming these constraints will take time, as with any new product. However, this new crop may contribute to sustaining and creating new jobs as well as providing additional ecosystem services for Connecticut’s coastline.

Job Opportunity

trail icon

* JOB OPPORTUNITY * 2017- 2018 Part-Time Coordinator Position with the Connecticut Trail Census

The Connecticut Trail Census CTTC) is seeking a dynamic multi-use trail (bike-pedestrian) enthusiast to serve as the point person and part-time coordinator for project (~17 hours/week).  The CTTC is a new study and volunteer based data collection program on 15 multi-use trail sites throughout the state involving partnership with many local and statewide trail advocacy groups and hundreds of volunteers.  Duties will include responding to informational inquiries from volunteers and the public, collecting data from and maintaining infrared trail counters, coordinating logistics for and co-teaching volunteer trainings, compiling funding reports and maintaining contact databases, convening partner meetings, and creating communications including media releases, e-newsletters, and website updates.  The successful candidate will be  an excellent written and verbal communicator, proficient with Word and Excel, have demonstrated program management skills and/or experience, and a passion for supporting trails and the people that use them.  Desirable skills include experience with data management and analysis (including data visualization tools), WordPress, MailChimp or other e-newsletter platforms, and volunteer management.  This position is funded at $23/hour and is currently funded through January 2018. Location is flexible but candidate must have a vehicle, internet access and be willing to use their own computer. More information about the program can be found at http://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu  Please send a short cover letter describing your interest and qualifications, three reference contacts, and resume to laura.brown@uconn.edu as soon as possible.  Open until filled.

Controlling Oriental Bittersweet

Controlling Oriental Bittersweet

By Donna Ellis, Senior Extension Educator

This article was originally published in a longer format in the Eastern CT Forest Landowners Assn. Newsletter 39(1):1-3; 5.

 

Connecticut’s fields, forests, suburban backyards, and urban parks are under threat, imperiled by non-native plants from the faraway continents of Europe and Asia or in some cases from other regions of the U.S. Invasive plants are a problem because they establish easily and grow aggressively, disperse over wide areas, displace native species, and reduce biological diversity. These plants invade not only terrestrial habitats but water bodies as well, where they can grow and proliferate undetected for many years. Some invasive plants are more newsworthy because of their beauty (purple loosestrife), their poisonous traits (giant hogweed), or homeowner frustrations trying to control them (Japanese knotweed).

bittersweet vine
Bittersweet vine wrapped around a tree. Photo: Donna Ellis

How do we reduce the harmful environmental impacts of woodland invasive plant species? Let’s talk about one of the most troublesome woodland invaders, Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), also known as Asiatic bittersweet. Oriental bittersweet was first confirmed in Connecticut in 1916 and today can be found in all towns statewide. Originally from Eastern Asia, this species was first introduced in the US in the 1860’s as an ornamental.

The woody vines of Oriental bittersweet, with reddish-orange roots begin as small, sometimes unnoticeable seedlings in the forest understory. Within several years, if their growth is undetected the young vines will develop from a tangled mass growing along the forest floor to wrap around desirable vegetation: trees and shrubs, or any other vertical structure they encounter. The alternate leaves of Oriental bittersweet are rounded (orbicular; as described by the genus), with fine teeth or serrations along the edges. Clusters of small greenish flowers are produced on female vines in May, followed by the development of red, succulent fruits (ovaries) enclosed in a yellow covering (the ovary wall) that splits open when fruits mature. The fruits consist of three fleshy arils encasing several seeds each. Oriental bittersweet fruits are fed upon by birds and other wildlife in the fall and winter, and the seeds disperse to new locations with the movement of wildlife.

How can Oriental bittersweet be successfully controlled? There are several options for management of this invasive, with the greatest successes occurring when

bittersweet seedling
Bittersweet seedling. Photo: Donna Ellis

control begins early and woodlands are monitored for several years. Learn to recognize what young seedlings look like, and they can be easily hand pulled during the first year or two of growth. I make a point of walking through the wooded sections of my property several times during the summer and fall and pull up Oriental bittersweet seedlings, which I typically find under conifers and other trees where birds roost. If vines have been growing undetected for many years and you have dense, woody vines wrapped around desirable vegetation, cut out a section of the vine (several inches in length) in late summer to early fall, separating the top growth from the crown and roots. This mechanical control method will stress the vines and force the plants to use up food reserves in the roots to develop more shoots, and the top growth will die and slowly break down. You will need to continue to cut any regrowth that forms from the crown for several years, but if this method is practiced diligently it can be successful.

A chemical control option is the “Cut and Paint” method, which should also be done in late summer to early fall. Make a similar cut in the vine as described above, and within 20 to 30 minutes, carefully apply a concentrated herbicide (triclopyr products are most effective with woody invasives) to the lower cut surface with a paint brush or other applicator, reading and following all directions on the herbicide label. Avoid making herbicide applications on rainy or windy days, and be sure to avoid herbicide runoff onto the forest floor or onto non-target vegetation. Monitor control sites the following year, and if necessary, repeat the Cut and Paint procedure.

Visit the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) website (www.cipwg.uconn.edu) for information on invasive plant topics that include identification, management, the Connecticut state list of invasive plants, a photo notebook with a gallery of invasives, non-invasive alternative plants, legislative updates, and a calendar listing invasive plant management events and other outreach activities. CIPWG is a consortium of individuals, members of environmental organizations, and affiliates of municipal and state agencies whose mission is to promote awareness of invasive plants and their non-invasive alternatives.