Natural Resources

Gregory Desautels: Reflection on my Extension Internship

Gregory Desautels interned with Dr. Mike Dietz of UConn Extension in the summer of 2019, working with Dr. Dietz on projects for UConn CLEAR. Gregory has continued working with Dr. Dietz on projects funded by Connecticut Sea Grant during the fall 2019 semester. In the article below, Gregory reflected on his summer internship.

Greg standing behind wooden tables during a summer project for his internship
Greg Desautels during his summer 2019 Extension internship. Photo: Mike Dietz

Through my summer as an Extension intern at the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), I learned skills and had experiences, which may shape my future.  I learned technical skills, working in GIS programs such as Arc Pro and AGOL, as well as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. I improved my organizational skills, learning how to manage multiple iterations and edits of data files so they could be referenced in the future.  I learned how to work independently and improved my problem solving while working on projects that were challenging, and sometimes over my head. Finally, I was able to practice communicating with coworkers and supervisors.

The technical skills that I developed this summer were one of the most valuable parts of this experience. Through projects such as the Shellfishing Atlas and Campus LID Map, I had to use many of the skills developed in my previous GIS classes. Furthermore, these projects required me to work outside the confines of my previous experiences and to learn new skills, often by reading tutorials and self-teaching. In programs such as Excel, which I had previously considered myself adept, I found that there was still a lot to learn, and hands on experience was the best way to do so. I consider these experiences valuable not only for the skills learned, but also in learning how to teach myself. In my career, I expect there will be times when I do not know how to solve a problem and I will need to use all the resources available to learn how to solve it.

Organizational skills, specifically in reference to managing files for GIS were one of the most practical skills that I developed. Through my own processes of trial and error, as well as through new iterations becoming available, I was often left with multiple seemingly identical files with small but vital differences. My previous nomenclature wasn’t sufficient to keep track of all these files, however several of my coworkers taught me how to build and manage file databases. This has allowed for a cleaner workflow and the ability to backtrack and reference previous steps, both important skills when working in GIS.

This internship was also a valuable experience in communication. In communicating with coworkers, supervisors

Greg using an electric screw driver to place legs on tables
Photo: Mike Dietz

and faculty members, I learned to adapt my communications to them. As someone who defaults to excessive formality, I often had to tone back and learn how to match someone else’s level. I found that the formal “Thank You, double space, sincerely, double space, signature” format lauded by schools is not always practical or necessary and that being overly formal can actually hinder clear communication.

In terms of my career goals, I don’t feel that this summer has wildly altered my trajectory, however I do feel that I have a better understanding of what to expect. Seeing the “behind the scenes” work related to securing grants and funding, as well as how this office fits into the larger body of UConn has been eye-opening. This internship was valuable in more ways that I can say, and I am confident that as I progress through my career, I will find many more instances where this experience has helped me.

Article by Gregory Desautels, CLEAR Intern Reflection

Charlie Tracy Recognized for Trail Work

Plaque recognizing Charlie Tracy for his work on the trails and collaborations in Massachusetts

This weekend at the Mass Trails Conference in Leominster Charlie Tracy, our new Connecticut Trail Census Coordinator, received an achievement award to recognize his over 30 years of dedication to trails work and building successful collaborative partnerships in Massachusetts and across the nation. Charlie is well loved in the trail community and we are so lucky that he has chosen the next stage of his career following retirement from the National Park Service, to include this work in Connecticut. Charlie and Laura Brown, our Community and Economic Development Extension Educator also presented a successful session on the Trail Census at the conference.

The Start of Something Big: UConn Environment Corps

A UConn partnership led by CLEAR has received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand and study a new public engagement program that combines teaching, service learning, and Extension outreach.

The program is called the Environment Corps and focuses on using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to address important environmental issues like climate adaptation, brownfields remediation, and stormwater management at the municipal level. Environment Corps combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and Extension’s work with communities in a unique way that allows students to develop STEM skills and get “real world” experience as preparation for the workforce, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.

The Environment Corps project is built on an extensive partnership at UConn. It includes faculty from four schools and colleges in five departments: Natural Resources and the Environment, Extension, Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Educational Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the project involves four university centers, all three environmental major programs, and the Office of the Provost.

The “E-Corps” came out of a three-year pilot project originally funded by the UConn Provost’s Office in 2016. That project developed the Climate Corps, an undergraduate instructional effort focused on local, town-level impacts of, and responses to, climate change. Designed to draw students from the Environmental Studies, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Engineering majors, the Climate Corps debuted in the fall of 2017. The program consists of a class in the fall with a strong focus on local challenges and issues, followed by a “practicum” spring semester during which students are formed into teams and matched with towns work on projects. Partnerships with the towns are built on the long-term relationships that have developed between local officials and Extension educators from CLEAR and the Connecticut Sea Grant program.

Climate Corps was a hit with both students and towns, and in 2018 spun off a second STEM offering, this one focusing on brownfields (contaminated sites) redevelopment. The Brownfields Corps, taught by the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, debuted in the fall of 2018. With the NSF funding, there will now be a third “Corps,” the Stormwater Corps, which is under development and will help towns deal with the many requirements of the state’s newly strengthened general stormwater permit. A Stormwater Corps pilot program, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, is just finishing up and has been a great success.

The NSF-funded project involves expansion and coordination of the three programs, but also has a major focus on studying the impact of the E-Corps approach on students, faculty, participating towns, and the UConn community. The research will be conducted by faculty from the Neag School of Education. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning will take the lead in working with university administrators and faculty to promote further expansion of the model.

The local, real-world focus of the E-Corps model is getting an enthusiastic response from students. One student wrote: “Climate Corps had a huge influence on me, and for a while I wasn’t super excited about the sorts of jobs I’d be qualified to do…but having this experience opened so many doors for me and exposed me to so many different things I could do. I’m really excited to start my new job because I’ve been able to combine a career with something I find super interesting.” Fall classes are filled to capacity for the Climate and Brownfields Corps, and Stormwater Corps begins in the spring.

Posted on September 24, 2019 by Chet Arnold

Originally published by the UConn Center for Land use Education And Research

Have your Soil Tested for Macro & Micro Nutrients

cup of soil being held in Soil Nutrient analysis lab at UConn

Send your soil sample in for testing now. Our standard nutrient analysis includes pH, macro- and micro nutrients, a lead scan and as long as we know what you are growing, the results will contain limestone and fertilizer recommendations. The cost is $12/sample. You are welcome to come to the lab with your ‘one cup of soil’ but most people are content to simply place their sample in a zippered bag and mail it in. For details on submitting a sample, go to UConn Soil and Nutrient Laboratory.

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.

Land Use Academy Advanced Training

Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy
Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy.

The Land Use Academy is offering an Advanced Training session on October 26, 2019. Registration at 8:30. Training from 9:00 AM-3:30 PM at the Middlesex County Extension Office in Haddam, CT.  The  topics covered are listed below. Cost is $45 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and course materials. 

Follow the registration link at the bottom to register online or to obtain a registration form.  We hope to see you in October!
Advanced Training
In response to feedback from both professional planners and land use commissioners, we are offering an all-day advanced training covering three topics in-depth.

For more information visit the Academy website.
ADVANCED TRAINING TOPICS COVERED:
  
Bias, Predisposition and Conflicts
Atty Richard Roberts, Halloran and Sage
Implementing and Enforcing Land Use Decisions
Atty Kenneth Slater, Halloran and Sage
Running a Meeting and Making the Decision
Atty Mark Branse, Halloran and Sage
4.5 AICP CM Credits Pending
For More Information click on the Academy link to the left.
 Click the below to register

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

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

SLAMM (Sea Level Rise Model) Map Viewer & Webinar

sea level rise map viewerSea Level Affecting Marsh Migration (SLAMM) is a mathematical model developed by NOAA that uses digital elevation data and other information to simulate potential impacts of long-term sea level rise on wetlands and shorelines. CT DEEP recently completed a project to run the SLAMM model for the Connecticut coastline, to better understand how Connecticut’s 21 largest coastal marshes and coastal area roads may respond to sea level rise (SLR).
  
The model results have been turned into a new viewer on CT ECO, and there will be a webinar on October 16 to review the results (see below). 

 

Webinar
Sea Level Rise Affecting Road Flooding & Marsh Migration along the Connecticut Coast 
Wednesday, October 16, 2:00 to 3:00 pm
Get an overview of SLAMM and its results, and a live demo of how to use the Viewer on CT ECO.
Presenters
   –  David Kozak, CT DEEP
   –  Emily Wilson, UConn CLEAR 

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.