CT Sea Grant

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

Seafood survey could help further increase in demand

cover of Connecticut seafood survey publicationWith national data showing Americans have been eating more fish and shellfish during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report on a survey of Connecticut residents’ seafood consumption habits and preferences offers timely information seafood dealers can use to help make the increase permanent.

The final report on the Connecticut Seafood Survey, a project to better understand current eating habits and how best to get more seafood into residents’ diets — especially shellfish, fish and seaweed from local waters — was released earlier this month to the Connecticut seafood industry. Key findings, based on anonymous surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018 of a cross-section of 1,756 residents, include:

  • About 50% of residents eat at least one meal of seafood per week.
  • About 15% of residents eat two or more meals of seafood per week.
  • Seventy-nine percent (79%) of residents eat shellfish.
  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of residents are interested in trying seaweed products.

Learn more about the CT Seafood Survey Report at:

https://seagrant.uconn.edu/?p=6361

Safety Training Helps Fishermen Survive in a Dangerous Job

By Judy Benson

Originally posted by Connecticut Sea Grant

Groton – Chris Fowler knows the perils of his occupation as a commercial fisherman, consistently ranked one of nation’s the most dangerous jobs.

So a year after he began catching skate, whiting, squid, flounder and fluke from a vessel docked in New London, he took a day off from fishing to equip himself with the skills he needs to survive an accident at sea.

fire training for fishermen with CT Sea Grant
Fishermen practice lighting emergency flares during safety and survival training May 10. Photo: Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

“This is my first training since I started as a fisherman,” said Fowler, his face wet after a drill that involved getting into an bright orange immersion suit, jumping into 50-degree water off the docks at UConn’s Avery Point campus and climbing onto a four-man life raft.

Fowler was one of 36 commercial fishermen and state agency personnel who took part in a daylong safety and survival training course on May 10 sponsored by Connecticut Sea Grant, Fishing Partnership Support Services, the U.S. Coast Guard and UConn-Avery Point. The training began with classroom lessons on first aid, use of life jackets and opioid awareness. Then the fishermen and agency staff headed to the waterfront for training in firefighting, making emergency vessel repairs, using immersion suits and life rafts and use of flares to signal for help.

The Fishing Partnership, based in Burlington, Mass., provided the Coast Guard-accepted marine safety instructors for the training, several of whom are former commercial fishermen or served in the Coast Guard.  On its website, the Fishing Partnership notes that “fishermen are 37 times more likely to die on the job than policemen. And on top of that, New England’s waters are the most dangerous in the country.”

“Fishing is the most dangerous occupation, so our focus is to give hands-on training so they know what equipment to use and how to use it,” said Ed Dennehy, director of safety training for the Fishing Partnership.

Commercial fishermen aren’t required to take safety and survival training courses, he said.

“The only requirement is that they run man overboard, fire, flooding and abandon-ship drills once a month while they’re fishing,” he said.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, however, recommends fishermen take formal training classes like this one at least every five years. Connecticut Sea Grant has been sponsoring them with various partners about every two years since 2000, and teamed up with the Fishing Partnership in 2016, said Nancy Balcom, associate director of Sea Grant and lead organizer of the training.

Fishermen climb into a life raft in their immersion suits during safety & survival training. Photo: Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant
Fishermen climb into a life raft in their immersion suits during safety & survival training. Photo: Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

“There’s always turnover in the industry, and they need refresher courses,” Balcom said. “This is one of the services we can help facilitate for our fishermen to practice their skills so that if they ever have to act quickly they’ll be prepared.”

About 80 percent of those at the May 10 class were first-timers, Dennehy said, and the rest were getting refresher lessons.  Just last February, four fishermen survived the sinking of their vessel off Martha’s Vineyard using skills they had learned in a training course, he said. But two years earlier, he added, another group of New Bedford fishermen died because they were unable to get their immersion suits on in time.

“They should do this training every two to three years,” he said, “because there’s always something you didn’t pick up the first time. Sea Grant has been a really great partner with us on this, and this is an outstanding facility.”

On May 11, 13 fishermen and state agency staff returned to Avery Point for a second day of training to become certified as drill conductors – those who run the monthly on-board safety drills. Michael Theiler, a commercial fisherman out of New London, brought his vessel Emma & Maria across the river to Avery Point for the day so his fellow fishermen could practice their drill conductor skills in an authentic setting.

Fisher Harris, one of the fishermen in the safety and survival training, said the experience was both fun and a sobering reminder of how quickly small accidents can turn into disasters without proper preparation. Harris fishes on the vessel Ad Hoc, which docks in Guilford.

“I’m definitely more confident now that if I ever needed to put out a fire, I could do it,” he said, after learning the most effective way of directing a fire extinguisher onto a blaze.

Judy Benson is the communications coordinator at Connecticut Sea Grant.

CT Sea Grant Awarded Grant to Grow Aquaculture and Shellfisheries

Tessa on boat
Tessa Getchis of UConn Extension

Tessa Getchis, Connecticut Sea Grant/UConn Extension aquaculture educator at the University of Connecticut, has been awarded a grant totaling $315,240 to enhance the growth of Connecticut aquaculture and shellfisheries. The project, titled “Listening, Learning and Leading to Support Shellfish Aquaculture Growth in Connecticut and the Nation” is funded by the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program’s Aquaculture Technology Transfer Initiative.

The effort will allow Connecticut Sea Grant, UConn Extension staff and key partners including the Connecticut Bureau of Aquaculture and the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Milford Laboratory to carry out activities meant to enhance public awareness of Connecticut’s shellfish resources. The work will support the ongoing Connecticut Shellfish Initiative. The Initiative, a multi-year effort, brings together local interests, including commercial and recreational shellfishermen, municipal shellfish commissioners, academics, NGOs and state and federal resource managers to work together to grow the shellfish industry, increase recreational shellfishing opportunities and enhance natural shellfish populations in Connecticut.

Among the grant activities to be implemented is a public perception survey to help inform a new outreach and education campaign on Connecticut shellfish resources. Community interaction on shellfish topics will also be enhanced by events such as Ag Day at the Capitol, seminars, booths at shellfish festivals and clam digs and use of social media. Another key aspect of the effort will be an economic assessment of Connecticut’s shellfish aquaculture industry and a report on the results.

Finally, the shellfish aquaculture team will collaborate with other states and regions that are developing shellfish initiatives and promote the NOAA National Shellfish Initiative. The goal of the national initiative is to increase populations of bivalve shellfish in our nation’s coastal waters—including oysters, clams, abalone, and mussels—through both sustainable commercial production and restoration activities.