As part of the Coastal Storm Awareness Program (CSAP) 10 social science research and related new technology projects were funded to improve public response to coastal storm hazard information. In one of these studies, Jennifer Marlon, of Yale University, and other collaborators in 2015 found that 70 percent of coastal Connecticut residents are either unsure or unaware if their home is in an evacuation zone as determined by flood maps developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Another 74 percent of coastal Connecticut residents have never seen an evacuation map for their community.
In order to provide information on evacuation zones, local evacuation routes and customized municipal preparedness, Extension faculty at Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research and a UConn student developed a Coastal Storm Story Map. A story map is a tool developed by the software company, Esri, that allows authoritative maps to be combined with text, images and videos to tell a story. This story map provides information on evacuation zones and local evacuation routes, as well as links to sign up for town emergency alerts. Piloted with four coastal towns, the project’s goal is to have information for all coastal and riverine communities throughout the state. Any town interested in providing evacuation route and shelter information for the story map, please contact Juliana Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connecticut is bear country. It may sound strange, but western Connecticut is home to a growing population of American black bears. While bears may at times look out of place in the fourth most densely populated state, black bears living around humans is becoming more and more common not only in Connecticut, but across North America. This new reality has instigated new research to understand how bears respond to development, and may require a shift in human perspective to coexist with bears.
Tracy Rittenhouse, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, focuses her research on how wildlife responds when habitat conditions change. Rittenhouse is interested in key questions about how wildlife interacts in their habitat and what happens as Connecticut becomes a more exurban landscape, defined as the area beyond urban and suburban development, but not rural.
Rittenhouse wants to see from a management perspective what species are overabundant and what are in decline in exurban landscapes. She is interested in looking at the elements of what is called “home” from the perspective of a given species.
In Connecticut, 70 percent of the forests are 60 to 100 years old. The wildlife species that live here are changing as the forest ages. Rittenhouse notes that mature forest is a perfect habitat for bears and other medium-sized mammals as well as small amphibians.
Black bears like this mature forest because they eat the acorns that drop from old oak trees. Forests are also a preferred environment for humans. Exurban landscapes that are a mixture of forest and city are becoming the fastest-growing type of development across the country. The mixture of the city on one hand and the natural environment on the other is positive for humans, but it is not yet clear if wild animals benefit from this mixture.
Exurban landscapes are ideal places for species that are omnivores and species that are able to avoid people by becoming more active at night. Species that shift their behavior to fit in with variations in their environment survive well in exurban locations.
Rittenhouse collaborates with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Wildlife Division on real life wildlife issues. “Working with DEEP is my way of making sure I am asking research questions that are applicable to real world situations,” she said. “I often try to identify actions that wildlife management professionals or urban planners can take that will allow a species to live in an area. The action is often simple, often a slight change, but we hope that a small change may keep a species from declining or becoming overabundant.”
“We studied black bears by collecting hair samples. Collecting black bear hair is not as difficult as it sounds, as bears will use their nose to find a new scent even if they need to cross a strand of barbed wire that snags a few hairs. The hair contains DNA and therefore the information that we used to identify individuals. For two summers we gathered information on which bear visited each of the hair corrals every week. In total we collected 935 black bear hair samples,” Tracy says.
As Connecticut residents revel in the open spaces of exurban lifestyles, Tracy Rittenhouse and her students keep watchful, caring eyes on the effects of human behavior on wild animals that have no voice. Home may be where the heart is or where one hangs one’s hat, but for the wild critters of Connecticut, home may be a precarious place as they adapt to change.
Did you know that the UConn Extension Master Gardener program has 9 locations statewide, and our trained volunteers are ready and able to help you answer garden questions. Find a location near you at http://mastergardener.uconn.edu.
* 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 email@example.com as soon as possible. Open until filled.
UConn CAHNR faculty member Tracy Rittenhouse was recently featured in the UConn Today article about bears in Connecticut. Tracy tells us: “We recently estimated the population size of black bears in the state at 427+/- 30 bears. We (with UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research) created this online story map that people can use to learn about bears in their neighborhood: http://clear3.uconn.edu/viewers/bears/“
Connecticut is not the first place that would likely come to mind if I asked you to come up with a part of the country that experiences drought; the desert southwest and California might typically be first on the list. However, southern New England has received less than normal amounts of precipitation for the past several years, and the impacts are being felt. Some homeowners with shallow wells are running out of water, a reservoir in Massachusetts got so low that it had to be taken off line, and water restrictions have been implemented in some areas. And for the first time ever, the governor has issued a drought watch for 6 of our 8 counties.
Figure 1. Annual precipitation in Connecticut, 1895 – 2015.
Let’s take a quick look at our annual precipitation totals over the last 120 years. As can be seen in Figure 1 (data from the interactive NOAA website), annual precipitation in Connecticut can be quite variable. Our “normal” annual precipitation is around 47 inches per year (horizontal line in graph). We have had many years with less than normal precipitation, and a prolonged drought in the 1960s. The last four years have all been below normal, and 2016 is looking to finish in that category as well.
What does it actually mean to be in drought condition? For Connecticut, there are several criteria used to make this decision, which can be seen on the State of Connecticut water status page:
Precipitation: three or more cumulative months below 65% of normal
Groundwater: five or more consecutive months below normal
The State Drought Preparedness Plan is also available on this page (did you know we had one of these? I didn’t…). The criteria used to determine our drought status cover a wide range of areas; it is not just about how much rain we have had recently. It becomes clear after looking at this list just how much we depend on rainfall to support our existence in this region. Our drinking water supplies and agricultural production in the state are heavily dependent on regular precipitation. This is quite different from the Western U.S. where winter snowpack or large river systems provide irrigation and municipal water.
The U.S. Drought Monitor provides information on national drought conditions. A number of different indices are used to determine the classifications from “Abnormally Dry” to “Exceptional Drought”. Parts of Connecticut are currently classified as being in Extreme Drought, where major crop losses and water shortages/restrictions are possible. Agricultural producers can be extremely vulnerable to drought, as many in this area are dependent on natural precipitation to water their crops. UConn Extension is currently working with agricultural producers in the Connecticut to help them become more resilient to drought. More information on this project can be found at http://water.extension.uconn.edu.
What can you do? If you are on a public water system, your supplier may have already sent you information on how to reduce your consumption to ensure adequate supplies for all. The Regional Water Authority has tips on their website. If you have a shallow well, you will want to pay close attention to your water system, and contact a well contractor if you believe you are running out of water. Any of the tips on the website above will help to reduce your consumption and ensure that you have adequate water for your home.
It is uncertain at this point when this drought will end. Changing climate may be exacerbating this problem; both more extreme precipitation totals and extended periods of drought are expected for southern New England. For now, I will watch hopefully out the window to see if today’s rain will bring some much needed relief.
The obscure mealybug (Pseudococcus viburni) has been confirmed for the first time in Connecticut. High populations were present on numerous host plants in a Connecticut nursery in the fall of 2015. Samples were submitted to the UConn Plant Diagnostic Lab for identification by Donna Ellis, UConn Nursery IPM. Specimens were sent to entomologists at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. to be identified.
The obscure mealybug has a broad host range that includes both woody and herbaceous plants and is an important pest in some grape growing areas in California. It is thought to be native to South America and, according to some reports, Australia. The first report in California was as early as the late 1800s. The obscure mealybug has been reported from Vermont as a greenhouse pest so it may have been overlooked or unreported previously in Connecticut and other New England states. Mealybugs can easily be moved to new areas on infested plant material.
The adult females are similar in appearance to the citrus mealybug (Planocccus citri) but lack the faint stripe on the back and have longer ‘tail’ filaments. The longer tails can make some people confuse this mealybug with the longtailed mealybug (Pseudococcus longispinus) but in that species the tails are much longer than the body. In addition, the citrus and obscure mealybugs both lay eggs in cottony sacs, but the longtailed mealybug produces live young. Crawlers (nymphs) can be dispersed throughout a greenhouse on air currents, workers, water, and ants. Ants feed on honeydew produced by the mealybugs and may defend them from enemies as they sometimes do with aphids. The obscure mealybug is present throughout the year in all life stages and outdoors will overwinter in protected places such as under bark scales.
Mealybugs can be difficult to control. Because they prefer to congregate in plant nooks and crannies they can be protected from applications of contact insecticides. Biological control agents including parasitic wasps, some lady beetles, and lacewings can play an important role in control but not all are commercially available. The obscure mealybug has the ability to encapsulate the eggs of some potential parasites. Biorational options include oils (Suffoil X, horticultural oil) and insecticidal soap. High pressure water sprays can be used on sturdy plants. Neonicotinoids (category 4A) are effective for some mealybugs but can be slow acting. Safari is more water soluble than others and will be faster acting. Mealybugs can develop resistance to insecticides so avoid repeated use of products in the same category.
Sanitation is important in mealybug management. Inspect incoming plant material to avoid introducing pests. In the greenhouse, infestations can be cleaned up by keeping the house free of plants for at least 60 days (the life cycle of some mealybugs). If infestations are light, spot treat with oil or soap products. Some growers have success with spraying first with insecticidal soap to break down the waxy filaments and then follow up with an oil spray the next day. Phytotoxicity may occur on some plant species and at certain temperature and/or humidity conditions. Do a spot test application and observe for injury after 48 hours. Heavily infested plants should be discarded.
More information on obscure mealybugs and mealybugs in general:
Add a touch of fall to your home and landscape with hardy mums, asters and fall pansies.
If rain is lacking, continue to thoroughly water trees, shrubs, planting beds and lawn areas and recently planted evergreens. Plants should go into the winter well-watered.
As tomatoes end their production cut down plants and pick up any debris and put in the trash or take to a landfill. Many diseases will over-winter on old infected leaves and stems so these are best removed from the property.
Several UConn Extension educators worked at the Envirothon Event on May 21st. It’s a great event and well worth all the effort that goes into it. UConn Extension’s Donna Ellis made a presentation at the teacher’s workshop (as the technical expert) during the event on invasive species which is next year’s current issue challenge. This year’s current issue was urban forestry and Chris Donnelly was the technical expert.