UConn 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 UConn 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 work force, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.
“The entire team is excited and gratified that NSF has selected us for funding. This will allow us to expand and better coordinate our efforts, and create something that will hopefully be part of the University’s public engagement portfolio for a long time,” says Extension Educator Chet Arnold, principal investigator of the grant and the Director of UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR).
The Environment Corps or “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.
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. Faculty from the Neag School of Education will lead the research. 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.
“With two years of the Climate Corps and a year of the Brownfields Corps under our belts I think we can say that both the students and the communities are benefitting from this program,” says Sea Grant Extension Educator Juliana Barrett, a Climate Corps instructor. “As a Land and Sea Grant University UConn has a critical mission to engage the community, and the E-Corps project gives us a new, exciting model for doing that.”
We 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 athttp://nrca.uconn.edu/.
Connecticut Environmental Action Day (CEAD) is a one-day conference that seeks to inspire students to take the #ClimateChangeChallenge and then post their actions using #ExtendtheChange to encourage friends and families to do the same. CEAD is sponsored by UConn Extension with our partners from UConn’s Department of Marketing, Department of Anthropology, and UConn PIRG.
The goals of Environmental Action Day are:
Increase students’ understanding of the environment and natural resources.
To foster students’ capacity to become environmentally responsible citizen by increasing their understanding of principles governing individual and collective action.
To provide students with access and educational opportunities from UConn.
CEAD is on Friday, March 29th in the Student Union at the UConn Storrs Campus and features workshops for middle school students, and a climate change challenge for UConn students. Approximately 100 middle school students from Coventry, Ellington, and Mansfield are attending. Each middle school student will attend two workshops in the morning. During the afternoon, they will reconvene in small groups facilitated by UConn students to commit to environmental action in their communities that will reduce climate change.
UConn students are invited to join CEAD at the Student Union and sign the action pledge to extend the change. Students are also encouraged to share their climate change challenge actions on their social media accounts, using the hashtag, #ExtendtheChange.
Suggested climate change actions anyone can pledge include:
UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, students, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems in the areas of food, health, and sustainability. Join us.
UConn Extension’s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program is a national leader in developing innovative approaches to help communities address water quality issues. NEMO has been working directly with Connecticut municipalities for 26 years, won multiple national awards, and inspired a national network of sister programs in 33 states. Over the past year, the program has undertaken an innovative new role, as NEMO has become an advisor, helper and cheerleader for the 121 municipalities in the state charged with meeting stringent new stormwater regulations.
In 2017 a new statewide regulation under the Clean Water Act went into effect that significantly changed the way municipalities and state and federal institutions must manage stormwater runoff. The long-awaited update to the State’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit is more targeted, specific and extensive than the previous permit, placing a great deal more responsibility on municipalities to reduce the amount of pollution entering waterways via local storm drain systems. Many municipalities were overwhelmed by the challenge of learning, planning, and budgeting for the new stormwater control measures, particularly in the midst of increasingly strained local funds.
In an effort to lessen that burden on towns, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) entered into a unique partnership with the NEMO program, part of the Center for Land Use Education and Research, or CLEAR – a university center based out of Extension and the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. DEEP is providing support to NEMO through a grant to create and implement a multifaceted assistance program for MS4 towns and institutions throughout the five-year term of the new regulation. The NEMO program hired a new Municipal Stormwater Educator, Amanda Ryan, as a “circuit rider” available to work with any towns or institutions to explain the new requirements and how they can go about complying with them.
This nationally unique approach of providing outreach in partnership with Extension to lessen the burden of complex new regulations appears to be paying off. Last year all of the 121 regulated municipalities submitted their permit registration within the first 6 months of the effective date of the regulation, that was much quicker than under the previous permit without NEMO support for communities. As DEEP staff put it, “When we originally issued the MS4 permit in 2004 it took over 2 years to get all the towns registered. We also issued over two dozen Notices of Violation in 2006 and three Consent Orders in 2008 for towns that either hadn’t completed the registration process (it was a two-step process back then) or hadn’t submitted any annual reports or both. Needless to say, this time around has shown much better success. Frankly, our success in getting such good compliance this time around has to do with you folks (NEMO).” This program has also saved DEEP staff time answering individual questions from towns and enabled the development and dissemination of guidance on some of the murkier permit requirements, two roles that NEMO has taken on in this first year.
From the towns’ perspective, the templates and tools NEMO developed saved them the time and expense of developing those on their own and/or hiring consultants to develop them. NEMO also developed a new MS4 map viewer (http://s.uconn.edu/ctms4map) that will help the towns prioritize where to focus their efforts to most effectively impact water quality. The map viewer identifies water bodies considered impaired by stormwater runoff and areas of high impervious cover. In addition, the towns now have an alternate source to consult for advice on complying with the permit, rather than ask those who are also responsible for judging their compliance with the MS4 permit.
As one town put it, “I would like to thank the Center for Land Use Education And Research (CLEAR) for the assistance it has provided to the Town of East Hartford and other communities in the State with the MS4 program. The information and assistance provided by CLEAR has enabled our Town to save precious resources while complying with the requirements of the MS4 Permit.” – Warren Disbrow, Assistant Town Engineer, East Hartford, CT
The effort is also showing ancillary benefits to the state. One of the data layers in the MS4 map viewer is a new statewide high resolution impervious cover data layer acquired by NEMO to help communities identify high impervious cover areas. A geospatial expert at Esri, the primary GIS software company, found the new layer and combined it with parcel and address data to create a new statewide building address layer. The state Office of Policy and Management (OPM) reports that the new layer saved the state more than $500,000 to acquire on their own.
While just over a year in to this 5-year partnership, the initial results suggest a potentially efficient and cost effective new model for states to launch and manage new environmental regulations. For a small investment, this approach makes it easier for MS4 communities to meet more stormwater requirements and results in a higher level of compliance – not to mention the additional environmental benefits of improving stormwater management practices across the state.
Article by Amanda Ryan, Dave Dickson, and Chet Arnold
Our UConn Extension educators working in land use, and the environment have recently published two articles:
Extension Educators Mike Dietz and Chet Arnold have an article, Can Green Infrastructure Provide Both Water Quality and Flood Reduction Benefits?, in the May issue of the Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment. You can read the article online at: http://s.uconn.edu/476
The UConn CLEAR NEMO team recently wrote an article on our State of LID in Connecticut study that was published in the Watershed Science Bulletin. The study looked at what is being required for stormwater management practices by Connecticut municipal land use plans and regulations. Much of the leg work for the study was carried out by our Extension intern a few years ago. The article can be read online at: http://s.uconn.edu/477.
There are more than one hundred UConn Extension specialists working throughout Connecticut. These educators are teaching and training in local communities, sharing their experience and knowledge with residents through a variety of programs. These instructional activities now will be easily accessible with the creation of an online extension course catalog.
Extension classes address a wide range of topics, including issues related to agriculture and food systems, the green industry, families and community development, land use and water, nutrition and wellness as well as numerous 4-H and youth activities. The website uses these groupings and an A to Z index so finding offerings is simple and straightforward. Each program links to a page with information on the objectives, goals, components, intended audience, the time of year and how often programs run and a link to the program’s website, that provides additional information.
As part of a nationwide network through the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment.
GROTON, CT—Connecticut Sea Grant announces a new website intended to assist coastal Connecticut beach property owners and beach associations with hazards such as impacts from storms and associated erosion and flooding. The new site helps users evaluate threats and prepare to protect property from further damage. A variety of actions, depending on the scale of damage and cost, are provided, including options such as dune restoration, repairing seawalls, moving landward or elevating structures. The new site is accessible at http://beachduneguide.uconn.edu
“We hope this website will be a valuable resource for both coastal property owners and managers in helping to protect infrastructure as well as the natural environment” said Dr. Juliana Barrett, one of the site’s creators. Barrett is an associate coastal habitat educator with Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension.
Connecticut Sea Grant is a partnership between the University of Connecticut and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), based at the UConn Avery Point campus.
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.
It is generally accepted by climate scientists that New England will experience a trend of increasing intensity and frequency of storms resulting in an increase in flooding and coastal erosion. Recent storms have raised our collective awareness of the damage, both fiscal and physical, that these storms can cause. Consider that Sandy wasn’t even a hurricane when it hit Connecticut; it was a mere tropical storm. Yet federal funding for Sandy relief in Connecticut amounted to over $360 million. If you include New York and New Jersey, Congress approved over $60 billion in emergency disaster aid for Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy. That amounts to approximately $382 for every taxpayer (157 million taxpayers) in the country. If these types of storms become more frequent, it raises the question: Just how are we going to pay for it? Read more….