Natural Resources

STEM Education for Teens, Adults, and Teachers

nrca students in waterThe Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) is a group of three linked projects that focus on connecting STEM education for high school students with natural resource conservation at the local level. With over 130 land trusts in the state and each of its 169 municipalities having a Conservation Commission, Connecticut has a long history of local conservation. NRCA provides an assist to these efforts, while educating students and teachers about the science and issues surrounding natural resource protection. The TPL is joined by the foundational NRCA project, the Conservation Ambassador Program (CAP), and the Conservation Training Partnership (CTP). CAP brings high school students from around the state to campus for a week-long intensive field experience at the UConn main campus, from which they return home to partner with a community organization on a conservation project of their own design. CTP moves around the state for two-day training of adult-student teams that teaches them about smart phone mapping applications and their use in conservation. The teams then return and implement a conservation project. Together the three programs have educated 308 participants and resulted in 187 local conservation projects in 105 towns, involving 119 community partner organizations.

Article by Chet Arnold

Teacher Professional Learning: Professional Development Workshop

teachers during a workshopUConn Extension is leading a project that provides high school science teachers from across the state with a head start on a new way of teaching. Over the past two summers, 48 teachers from 38 school districts attended the 3-day Teacher Professional Learning (TPL) workshop, Land and Water.

The training, funded by a USDA/NIFA grant, was developed and is taught by Extension faculty from the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) and partners from the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, and the Neag School of Education. This formidable partnership conducts three inter-related STEM projects collectively known as the Natural Resources Conservation Academy.

Connecticut is one of 19 states to date that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), an ambitious new way
of teaching science that was developed by 
a consortium of states and nonprofit science organizations including the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Research Council. Connecticut school districts are still in the very early stages of adopting NGSS method- ologies, and many teachers are eager for educational units and techniques that fit NGSS standards.

The main focus of the UConn work- shop is the relationship of land use to water resource health, and the use of online mapping and other geospatial tools to help explore these relationships—particular strengths of the CLEAR team. The UConn campus and surrounding area provide an ideal outdoor laboratory to explore these concepts. Attendees sample three streams within about a mile of campus, all with very different characteristics based on the predominant land use of their respective watersheds—agriculture, urban, and forest. They then come back to the classroom, study their results, and compare notes to get a sense of the importance of land use in determining the health of a water body. Also used in the instruction is the campus itself, which has become a showcase of low impact development (LID) practices designed to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff on local streams. After learning about LID and touring the green roofs, rain gardens, and pervious pavements across campus, the participants visit a nearby campus build- ing and devise their own plan for LID installation. The workshop also introduces them to online mapping and watershed analysis tools that enable them to focus in on their own town, watershed or even high school campus, thus using their community waterways as a teaching tool.

Teachers leave the training with a wide variety of resources to help them in the classroom, not the least of which is their personal experience working through these topics with the Extension instructional team. In addition, the Neag members of the team have developed a 25-unit lesson plan that follows the educational progression of the workshop; teachers are encouraged to adapt all or part of the lesson plan for their use. Of the latest (summer 2018) class of 25 teachers, 100% said that the training was relevant to their classroom instruction, that the training was time well-invested, and that they would recommend the training to other teachers. Research is ongoing on how many teachers implemented all or part of the curriculum, and how it played out with their students. Although the project plan was for two workshops, they have been so well received that the team is holding a third TPL training in the summer of 2019 and is looking for resources that would enable them to continue this program for the foreseeable future.

Article by Chet Arnold

Connecticut Institute of Water Resources

photo of a stream taken by UConn student Molly Cunninghma
Photo: Molly Cunningham

What do taking a trip to the beach, testing a well, and planting a new garden have in common? You guessed it—water. UConn is home to a state-wide organization focused on providing Connecticut’s citizens with information and research about all the water resources we encounter in our daily lives.

As the state’s land grant university, UConn’s College of Agriculture Health and Natural Resources became the home of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources (CTIWR) in 1964. The institute seeks to resolve state and regional water related problems and provide a strong connection between water resource managers and the academic community. CTIWR also shares water-related research and other information with the general public to bridge the gap between scientists and the community.

The institute is currently expanding and focusing more attention on community outreach with the arrival of new center director, Michael Dietz.

“Our goal is to increase visibility of the water research in language that the general public can understand and use in their daily lives,” says Dietz. “We want to become a one-stop shop for information about all kinds of water-related issues. Where can you go to get your water tested, up to date information about drought or water quality around the state, in addition to research reports and funding opportunities for scientists.”

Recent projects explored leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous from lawns, relationships between metals and organic matter in soils, and quantifying the impact of road salts on wetlands in Eastern Connecticut.

“UConn has some really talented water researchers from different disciplines who can help citizens in our state better understand issues that affect our water resources. Through CTIWR, we’ll make sure that these experts and citizens can come together, speak the same language, and learn from one another.”

Article by Jessica McBride, PhD

Reducing Winter Road Salt Use

snow plow on a street in Connecticut during winter stormExtension educator Mike Dietz focuses on protecting surface waters with green infrastructure techniques in his research and Extension work. Mike has been involved in the development of the Green Snow Pro program, and he is the Director of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources.

The scientific studies continue to pile up, and confirm the same thing: road salt is causing lots of problems in our streams and groundwater. The majority of salt applied is sodium chloride, also known as rock salt. In the absence of a new “miracle” deicer, salt will continue to be the most cost effective product for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the only way to reduce the impacts will be to reduce the amount that gets applied, while still keeping surfaces safe for travel.

New Hampshire began the “Green Snow Pro” voluntary salt applicator certification program to train municipal public works employees and private con- tractors. This training includes information about the science of salt, the downstream impacts of salt, how to properly apply given weather conditions, and how to calibrate equipment. An additional key component of the New Hampshire program is limited liability release: a property owner who hires a Green Snow Pro certified contracted has liability protection from slip and fall litigation.

Given the success of the program in New Hampshire, the Technology Transfer (T2) Center at UConn gathered professionals from UConn Extension, Connecticut Department of Transportation, Connecticut Department of Public Health, municipal public works, and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to adapt the program here in Connecticut. A pilot of the training was per- formed here at UConn in November 2017. UConn public works staff received a classroom and spreader calibration training. Mike Dietz maintains a monitoring station on Eagleville Brook downstream of campus. He was able to compare the amount of salt in runoff for the winter after the training, as compared to prior years (correcting for the number of storms). Substantial reductions were found: over 2,600 less tons of salt were used during the 2017- 2018 season, corrected for the number of storms. This resulted in a savings of over $313,000 in salt costs alone! A summary of these findings is currently under review at the Journal of Extension.

The statewide implementation of the Green Snow Pro program in Connecticut has begun: during the fall of 2018 the T2 center gave two separate trainings for municipal public works crews and more are being scheduled for this year. The group will continue to meet to work on the liability protection here in Connecticut, as well as expanding the offering to private contractors.

This effort has been a great collaboration of UConn educators, regulators, and public works professionals. The success of this program highlights the fact that education truly can have lasting environmental benefits.

Article by Mike Dietz

Living Shoreline Planted in Stonington

group working on living shoreline students planting in Stonington group from living shoreline living shoreline planting

 

The tidal marsh migration buffer at Dodge Paddock Beal Preserve in Stonington was planted on Friday May 3, 2019. With a stalwart group of dedicated volunteers, over 100 native plants were put in. This area borders a coastal wetland and the plants need to be able to withstand occasional salt spray as well as possible inundation during extreme storm events. This part of the preserve, owned by Avalonia Land Conservancy, was formally a cultivated garden. Garden plants were removed and the area was covered in black plastic last summer to kill any remaining roots and seeds. The area was seeded with native grasses in the fall of 2018 with a planned spring planting. As sea level rises, areas within the preserve are getting wetter and wetter, so native plants were carefully chosen to withstand wetland migration.

By Juliana Barrett

Job Opening: Visiting Assistant Extension Educator – Natural Resources

nrca students in waterWe have an opening for a UConn Natural Resources Conservation Academy coordinator with a tentative start date of July 5th. Applications are due June 17th. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions (laura.cisneros@uconn.eduor 860-486-4917).

UConn Visiting Assistant Extension Educator, National Resources Conservation Academy

The Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) at the University of Connecticut is seeking applicants for the position of Visiting Assistant Extension Educator of the NRCA. The NRCA is housed in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources’ Department of Natural Resources and the Environment and is a partnership including the Institute of the Environment, and the Department of Extension’s Center for Land use Education and Research (CLEAR). The NRCA’s (http://nrca.uconn.edu/) mission is to engage high school students from across Connecticut in natural resource science and to provide transformative learning opportunities for students to interact physically, intellectually, and creatively with local environments while contributing to environmental solutions in their own communities. The NRCA Conservation Ambassador Program comprises two linked parts: a weeklong summer field experience at the University of Connecticut (UConn) and a subsequent conservation project. Students complete the program when they present their conservation work at the Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources.

Primary Responsibilities:

The successful candidate will be responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating program services and activities; supervising the day–to-day operations of the program including developing and disseminating promotional materials as related to the NRCA; promoting the program through visits to CT high schools, education forums, workshops, etc.; coordinating recruitment and selection of students; providing assistance in the delivery of programming as needed; coordinating and managing all aspects of the summer field program; managing the hiring, training and supervision of summer program staff; recruiting community partners throughout the state to co-mentor students during conservation projects; tracking each students’ progress on community projects and assisting students as needed from project initiation to completion; preparing reports and additional administrative duties; exploring funding opportunities and writing proposals to public and private funding sources to enhance the NRCA. The successful candidate will work closely and under the supervision of Dr. Jason Vokoun, Professor and Head, and Dr. Laura Cisneros, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut, to coordinate efforts between the multiple programs within the NRCA.

Minimum Qualifications:

A Master’s degree or higher in a natural resource science, environmental science, environmental education or closely related field by the time of hire; experience working with youth and environmental education programming; proven ability to manage a team of co-workers, staff and volunteers; willingness to occasionally work nonstandard hours, including nights and weekends; excellent written and oral communication skills; excellent work ethic; good organization skills; ability to set and meet deadlines; ability to work independently; and proficiency with Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point.

Preferred Qualifications:

PhD in scientific discipline; demonstrated experience in developing and delivering educational programs; proven ability to mentor students on community projects; experience in research or experimental design; and grant writing experience.

Appointment Terms:

This is an 80%, part-time, 11-month non-tenure track position with full benefits. The anticipated start date is July 5, 2019. The position is subject to annual renewal, based on performance and availability of funding. Applicants will be subject to a background screening.

To Apply:

Please visit https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/13841. Applicants must submit a cover letter and curriculum vitae. Applicants should also request three (3) professional reference letters. Evaluation of applicants will begin immediately. For full consideration, applications should be received no later than June 17, 2019. Employment of the successful candidate will be contingent upon the successful completion of a pre-employment criminal background check. (Search # 2019576) 

For more information regarding the Natural Resources Conservation Academy, please visit the program website at http://nrca.uconn.edu/.

CT ECO: Growing with UConn Extension

CT ECO logoCT ECO is a website that provides access to many of Connecticut’s statewide geospatial data layers in different formats including over 9000 pdf maps, 10 map viewers (and counting), 138 data services and in some cases, data download. The website contains 18 aerial imagery datasets, the most recent having 3 inch pixels (wow!), statewide elevation with 1 foot contours (wow again!) and much more. Over 25,000 people use CT ECO each year and some days, over 150,000 data requests are made. A recent survey was conducted about the value of CT ECO to its users. The results are currently being analyzed but in a nutshell, a lot of people from different backgrounds including private business, state and local government, nonprofits, education, and citizens use CT ECO and it saves them a lot of time and money. CT ECO is a partnership between the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). The principal architect, builder and maintainer of CT ECO is Extension Educator Emily Wilson.

Article by Emily Wilson

Personal Safety on the Trail

Equestrians riding out onto the trail at Bluff Point State Park in Groton, Connecticut
Photo: Stacey Stearns

All trail users should follow basic tips for personal safety. These tips can also be adapted to other situations.

1. Be aware of your surroundings and other people on the trails and in parking lots. Do not wear head- phones or earbuds.

2. Park in well-lit areas and lock the doors of your vehicle, and trailer for equestrians.

3. If possible, don’t go alone. Walk or ride with a friend. If you think someone is following you, go towards public areas.

4. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Share your route with them.

5. Carry your cell phone, but be aware that you might not have cell phone service in all areas.

6. Carry a map. Know your route, and carry the map anyway.

7. Carry pepper spray for protection if it makes you feel more comfortable.

8. Wear blaze orange or reflective material during hunting season.

9. Carry water and sunscreen.
10.
Pay attention to trail markers so you can identify your location.

Download our brochure for more information on trail etiquette.

This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We 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.

Extension Educators Recognized

Last week we recognized several of our educators for their contributions to Extension.

Tom Worthley and Mike O'Neill
Tom Worthley receives the Arland Meade Communications Award from Associate Dean Mike O’Neill. Photo: Bonnie Burr
Diane Wright Hirsch and Mike O'Neill
Diane Wright Hirsch receives a longevity award from Associate Dean Mike O’Neill. Photo: Bonnie Burr
Richard Meinert and Mike O'Neill
Richard Meinert receives a longevity award from Associate Dean Mike O’Neill. Photo: Bonnie Burr
Umekia Taylor and Mike O'Neill
Umekia Taylor receives a longevity award from Associate Dean Mike O’Neill. Photo: Bonnie Burr
Mike O'Neill and Pam Gray
Pamela Gray receives a longevity award from Associate Dean Mike O’Neill. Photo: Bonnie Burr
Sarah Bailey and Mike O'Neill
Sarah Bailey receives the Doris Lane Award from Associate Dean Mike O’Neill. Photo: Bonnie Burr

Sarah Bailey received the Doris Lane Award.

Tom Worthley received the Arland Meade Communications Award.

Longevity Awards: Diane Wright Hirsch, Richard Meinert, Umekia Taylor and Pamela Gray.

Thank you all for your service to Extension!

Trail Use: Leave No Trace

trail users on a trail in Connecticut, people walking way into the woods
Photo: Virginia Raff

Connecticut has a wealth of trails for us to enjoy, from state parks and forests to local land trusts. As you’re out there enjoying the trails, it’s key to practice the principles of Leave No Trace.

The seven principles of the Leave No Trace program are:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

For more information on these principles and other resources visit LNT.org.

For more information on trail etiquette, download our brochure.

This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We 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.