climate change

Marsh migration research paved way for new NOAA fellow

Mary Schoell
Mary Schoell spent two years researching this stand of cedar trees at Hammonasset as part of her master’s degree program at Yale. Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

Most visitors to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn., probably drive by the small stand of cedar trees along the main road without noticing the stark differences.

One group presents healthy deep green funnels pointing skyward. Adjacent is another group partially bare of needles. A few feet away is a clump of standing dead wood, spiny gray branches fully exposed.

The contrasting conditions in this short wooded stretch may be easy for beachgoers to overlook, but Mary Schoell has given it countless hours of attention over the past two years. She’s examined nearly every angle of the health and environment of the same stand of trees, using techniques of dendrochronology to measure growth from tree cores, then assessing impacts of water stress, soil types and elevation. With this data she pieces together a story of how encroaching salt water from sea level rise is affecting tree growth. What she learned there helped pave the way for the next phase in her career, as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association digital coast fellow.

“I’ve been trying to understand the pace and the drivers that convert coastal forest into wetlands,” said Schoell, 27, who grew up in East Haddam and earned her undergraduate degree from UConn and her master’s from the Yale School of the Environment this spring. Between the degrees, she worked for three years for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atlantic Coastal Science Division in Rhode Island as a contractor on a living shoreline project.

Nominated by Connecticut Sea Grant for the digital coast fellowship, Schoell is one of nine candidates nationwide chosen in 2020 for the two-year program.

“The NOAA Digital Coast Fellowship is relatively new and Mary is the first candidate from a Connecticut institution to receive one,” said Syma Ebbin, research coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant. “We’re excited to see what she can do with this opportunity and how it contributes to her professional development as a coastal scientist.”

Schoell will begin her assignment in August, working out of the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. There she will work on projects that tap her wetlands expertise to refine and compare different modeling approaches used existing to predict how and where salt marshes will migrate inland as sea level continues to rise. One well recognized model is called SLAMM (Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model). By bringing together modelers from throughout the country, she hopes to assess the potential for a standardized, national mapping tool.

Read more: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/06/17/marsh-migration-research-paved-way-for-new-noaa-fellow/

Article by Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

Meet Sydney Collins: NRCA Intern

Sydney CollinsHello all! My name is Sydney Collins, and I am excited to announce my partnership with UConn Extension as a NRCA Intern for the Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) in Summer 2020. 

More about me, I am a rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut studying Environmental Science with a keen interest in Urban and Community Development. My love for the outdoors spawned from the beloved stream I regularly paddled around in growing up in the backwoods of Willington, CT. I was able to interact with a plethora of ecosystems right in my backyard and experience the beauty of the environment, that almost appears untouched by human influence.

This love soon turned into a passion when I uncovered the atrocities occurring to our planet, and thus the stream that I grew quite fond of. This was due to human dependence on fossil fuels to supply our ever growing energy demand and also the poor maintenance of our resources through dumping and pollution. I am fascinated by the intersection of social science and natural resources, particularly in the realm of environmental justice, to best curate human experiences founded on sustainable and accessible development. My engagement in organizations that address various local issues emphasize the importance of community-based initiatives, especially in reference to sustainability, hence my excitement to be involved in UConn NRCA. My interests are particularly focused on areas of food and energy production and how they influence the ever-dawning threat of climate change.

While I’m not interning at the office, I can also be found planting and plucking crops at a local farm in Coventry, where I work to better understand the farming practices that support the food we eat. I look forward to further engaging with my local communities at farmers markets to provide fresh grown vegetables, and thus decrease the carbon footprint of families shopping locally. When you’re not looking for a bite to eat, feel free to pop by the beautiful hiking trails of Vernon, where you can find me as a Trail Manager up-keeping the local landscape. 

I am so excited for all I have to learn at the “office” this summer through this distance internship, and all the wonderful workshops and community-initiated projects I have the pleasure to engage with. NRCA is a wonderful office, but we also would not be anything with the splendid engagement with local youth, volunteer adults, and professionals that bring great dedication to our programs. So here is to an amazing summer and all we have to learn!

Original Post: https://blog.nrca.uconn.edu/2020/06/11/meet-sydney-new-nrca-intern/

Green Farms Academy At UConn Environmental Action Day

Climate Change Challenge Winner Spotlight:
Greens Farms Academy

We were fortunate enough to have Greens Farms Academy’s Middle School Green Team attend our Environmental Action day event.

Here is a short video about their experience at the summit:

Find more at:

https://www.gfacademy.org/about/gfa-blog/single-post-gfa-blog/~board/sustainability-2019/post/cross-divisional-climate-action-planning

Summer Environmental Education Academy

man sitting at an Apple computerConnecticut educators are invited to participate in FE3: Facilitating Excellence in Environmental Education, Climate Simulation Workshop and Resources professional development program from July 14 to 16.

To meet changing health directives this workshop will be offered electronically from a.m. to 3 p.m. A flier for the Summer Environmental Education Academy can be found here.

This series for secondary, upper elementary, and university education professionals will focus on bringing understanding of climate change action to students through interactive model simulation using the EN-ROADS Simulator from MIT.

The three-day training will provide educators with integration of environmental resources into curriculum.  Participants will:

  • Receive a $100 stipend for your participation
  • Run climate action policy simulations for application with students.
  • Work with state scientists to understand local climate actions
  • Introduction to participation in the Climate Youth Summit for 2021
  • Support NGSS applications to weather, climate and system understanding for data use, argumentation and presentation aspects.
  • Obtain a library of resources to support your curriculum, including new climate materials & lessons

This series is open to all educators in the state of Connecticut.  Registration is required and can be completed electronically using this link.  For more information or to answer any questions please contact any of these state coordinators:

  • Susan Quincy: susan.quincy@ct.gov
  • Susan Robinson: susan.d.robinson@ct.gov
  • Beth Bernard: bbernard@ctwoodlands.org
  • Kristen Bellantuono: kristen.bellantuono@ct.gov.

The workshop is sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; the Connecticut Forest and Park Associationthe Connecticut Department of EducationProject WildProject WETConnecticut Sea Grant; and EN-ROADS.

Original Post by Connecticut Sea Grant: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/06/04/summer-environmental-education-academy-announced/

Grant Will Fund Creation of Climate Impacts Video

beach houseAdapt CT, an outreach partnership of Connecticut Sea Grant and the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), has been awarded a $2,978 grant to fund a student intern to work on a video about climate change in Connecticut. The video is intended primarily for municipal commission members.

The grant is one of 14 awarded to non-profit organizations for environmental projects and programs this month by the Middletown-based Rockfall Foundation. It will fund student salary and mileage costs for the project, set to begin in May and continue for one year.

Part of a new resilience training series created in partnership with PREP-RI, the video will provide current climate change information to help municipal board and commission members as they make decisions at the local level. Both coastal and inland towns as well as areas in and around the Connecticut River will be highlighted in the video to show climate change impacts on local natural resources and infrastructure, according to the Rockfall Foundation.

Read more…

‘Birds and Bees’ landscaping symposium offered in March

Connecticut Sea Grant and the Rockfall Foundation are co-sponsoring the 2020 Symposium titled “The Birds and The Bees: What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You,” from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 26.

The workshop, at the deKoven House at 27 Washington St., Middletown, will focus on landscaping practices for a sustainable future. Landscape choices, whether for a commercial site plan or a backyard garden, as well as what we plant for pollinators, can influence the viability of our farms and help mitigate climate change impacts.

Sessions include:

  • Landscaping for Birds and Pollinators: the importance of creating a friendly place for nesting and migratory birds (it’s not just for birdwatchers) – Patrick Comins, executive director, Connecticut Audubon Society
  • Planting for Bees: the importance and benefits of bees and of public and private land rich with native plants and nutrition – Dr. Kimberly Stoner, agricultural scientist, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • Beyond the Birds & Bees: landscape practices that encourage sustainable habitats of all types – Judy Preston, Long Island Sound outreach coordinator, Connecticut Sea Grant
  • Panel – The three speakers will be joined by Mary Ellen Mateleska, director, education & conservation, Mystic Aquarium with a perspective on the role of Citizen Scientists.

The symposium is intended for land use planners, landscape architects, gardeners, land trusts, conservation commissions, birders and butterfly enthusiasts, horticulturalists, engineers, beekeepers and all concerned with plant selection for a sustainable future.

AICP and CAZEO continuing education credits pending.

Registration Information:

Registration fee: $45 / $15 Students
Optional lunch: $15 / Rockfall Members $5

Registration for lunch must be received by March 24.

To register, visit: https://www.rockfallfoundation.org/event/2020-symposium/

Journey of A Climate Corps Student

Posted on January 24, 2020 by Juliana Barrett

By Sarah Schechter

Major Choices

I entered UConn as a Natural Resources Major, knowing I wanted to focus on the environment, but unsure of the exact path I wanted to follow. When choosing classes during my orientation session in Summer 2017, it was recommended that I take ANTH 1010: Global Climate Change and Human Societies, taught by Eleanor Ouimet. This was the class that helped me focus on what I wanted to continue doing here at UConn. We spent the class learning about anthropogenic climate change and how that was impacting the world. This became my passion and by the end of the semester, I had declared myself an Anthropology and Environmental Studies double major student.

 Climate Corps

When picking classes for sophomore year, EVST 3100 was brought to my attention as a major elective. This class is titled: Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning, also known as the Climate Corps. This class was co-taught by Juliana Barrett and Bruce Hyde, both of whom further increased my knowledge of climate change. Throughout the class, we took some time to look at the concepts, but focused more on applying them to real-world-based problems. One project in particular was called the “Cost of Sea Level Rise” and was an exercise in which each group was given a coastal location and the scenario of four feet of sea level rise. My group was assigned Miami Beach-Central and we decided to shift the entire population of the area to another section of Florida that would not be flooded in the same scenario. We created an entirely new layout using “Tempohousing”, which is a company that converts storage containers into stackable apartments. We also accounted for green initiatives such as solar panels, bike stations, and rooftop gardens. By having free reign with regard to our choices, we were able to formulate a radical solution and discuss concepts that we had never approached before. This allowed us to gain a better understanding of how to deal with these big issues and provided us with the opportunity to implement our own solutions. Throughout this class I learned the skills based on theoretical issues that I would later apply to actual scenarios.

Cost of Sea Level Rise Project

CRS

EVST 3100 came with the option of working on an independent study in the Spring 2018, and I decided that I wanted to continue developing the skills I learned in the class. I continued my work with Barrett and Hyde, working on a project with Diane Ifkovic. Ifkovic is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) State Coordinator with CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). I completed the independent study with her guidance about the Community Rating System (CRS). CRS allows towns to gain points for completing acts such as implementing stormwater management and having higher regulatory standards. Completing these actions gains points that then lead to lower flood insurance premiums for community members. Throughout this independent study I learned how to correspond with state officials and gather research for a real environmental project.

 Internship

After completing the independent study, I learned about an opportunity for an internship with UConn Extension and Connecticut Sea Grant. I applied and was chosen to work on the project with Juliana Barrett and Robert Ricard. I then spent the summer working on two major tasks. The first involved traveling to different locations around Connecticut and Rhode Island including: Davidson, Putnam, Stonington, Groton, and Westerly. I took pictures of flooding and areas that would be susceptible to flooding. I also visited historical societies and gathered images of historic flood events in Connecticut such as the “Flood of ‘55”. These photos were then put together in a photo bank for reference of flood conditions throughout the state. The second task was to create a video, similar to one from a Rhode Island series, about coastal and inland flooding in Connecticut. This assignment provided me with skills in communication with city officials and allowed me to interact with people from my field of interest. The video has been shown to many city officials and the governor of Connecticut; it has been well received. I was also able to attend a Sea Grant Conference and discuss my involvement with them, which was an amazing opportunity!

Sarah Schechter – Evacuation Route Sign in Stonington, CT

 

 Fall 2019

I went into Fall 2019 with the intention of working on a new video, but after talking with Barrett and Ricard, we were unsure of what the next film in the series would be. First, we were looking at making a video about legal aspects of resilience in Connecticut, but that proved to be more complicated than originally thought and has currently been put on the backburner. Instead I have been working on another video about Climate Change in Connecticut, which will be added to the series. Throughout the semester I have been creating an outline by looking at the Rhode Island version, researching climate change impacts in Connecticut, and sorting through a variety of sources. At this point I have a solid outline and will be able to move forward with the next film.

What’s Next?

In the Spring of 2020,

I plan to continue working with Barrett on the climate change script and finalize it by the end of the semester. I will then be able to create the climate change video during Summer 2020. This video will involve a similar process to that of the flooding video, as I will need to travel around Connecticut for pictures and to meet with city officials. I also plan to expand upon this project and base my thesis on my work with the Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension. I am still in the planning process, but I know that I will be sending out a survey to city officials and community members to gather information regarding the content of the videos I’ve made. I will continue to develop this plan with Barrett over the course of the next semester.

 

CT Sea Grant: Re-Thinking Relationships with the Places We Love

Wrack Lines cover

The Fall-Winter 2019-20 issue of Wrack Lines, a publication of Connecticut Sea Grant is now posted at:

https://seagrant.uconn.edu/?p=5770. In this issue we’re re-thinking relationships with the places we love.

‘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…

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