natural resources

STEM Education for Teens, Adults, and Teachers

nrca students in waterThe Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) is a group of three linked projects that focus on connecting STEM education for high school students with natural resource conservation at the local level. With over 130 land trusts in the state and each of its 169 municipalities having a Conservation Commission, Connecticut has a long history of local conservation. NRCA provides an assist to these efforts, while educating students and teachers about the science and issues surrounding natural resource protection. The TPL is joined by the foundational NRCA project, the Conservation Ambassador Program (CAP), and the Conservation Training Partnership (CTP). CAP brings high school students from around the state to campus for a week-long intensive field experience at the UConn main campus, from which they return home to partner with a community organization on a conservation project of their own design. CTP moves around the state for two-day training of adult-student teams that teaches them about smart phone mapping applications and their use in conservation. The teams then return and implement a conservation project. Together the three programs have educated 308 participants and resulted in 187 local conservation projects in 105 towns, involving 119 community partner organizations.

Article by Chet Arnold

Welcome Abby Beissinger to UConn Extension!

Abby BeissingerUConn Extension and the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture are proud to announce our newest team member, Abby Beissinger. Abby has accepted the position of Plant Diagnostician in the UConn Plant Diagnostic Laboratory. Her first official day was May 28, 2019.

Abby attended the University of Wisconsin and received a B.A. in Anthropology in 2011. During her undergraduate studies, she focused on agriculture and sustainable development, and implemented development projects in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uganda. Abby spent two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer teaching urban agriculture and gardening to youth in Massachusetts, and a summer with the Student Conservation Association leading trail crews in Chicago. From her work, she realized she was drawn to plant pathology and how plant diseases impact human livelihoods.

In 2016, Abby graduated from Washington State University with a M.S. in Plant Pathology. Her research focused on how management decisions of Potato virus Y impact the epidemiology and etiology of the virus. She then relocated to University of Connecticut to run the Conservation Ambassador Program in the Department of Natural Resources & the Environment. She fostered a statewide volunteer network of 90+ community partners including schools, non-profits, and government agencies to mentor high school students conducting long-term conservation projects. She enjoyed helping students make an environmental impact, and was drawn back to plant pathology to support growers and agricultural networks.

Abby is an example of the winding path people take to discover plant pathology, and is excited to serve as UConn’s Plant Diagnostician. In her spare time, Abby can be found in her garden growing food and flowers, painting, dancing, or exploring cities and their greens spaces.

Please join us in welcoming Abby to UConn Extension! Please visit our website for more information on the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory.

Authors: Karen Snover-Clift and Abby Beissinger

UConn Extension Encourages Water Conservation with the 40 Gallon Challenge

By Angie Harris

dripping tapUConn Extension is inviting all Connecticut residents to join the 40 Gallon Challenge and take on new practices to increase water conservation. The 40 Gallon Challenge is a national call for residents and businesses to reduce water use on average by 40 gallons per person, per day. The challenge began in 2011 as a campaign funded by the Southern Region Water Program and coordinated by the Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and the Southern Region Drinking Water and Rural-Urban Interface Education Program Team.

As a participant in the challenge, one commits to taking on additional indoor and outdoor water savings activities. The top three most pledged commitments are: reducing irrigation station runtimes by 2 minutes, using a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks, and fixing a leaky toilet. There are many other commitments to choose from and each has a daily gallon savings equivalency. Some of the most impactful actions include: installing a “smart irrigation controller” that adjusts for temperature and precipitation (40 gallons daily savings), replacing an old, non-efficient showerhead with low flow showerhead (20 gallons daily savings), and fixing a leaky toilet and faucet (45 gallons daily savings). Participants are encouraged to commit to actions adding up to 40 gallons or more of daily savings.40 gallon challenge logo

This year, UConn Extension is on a mission to spread the word about the challenge and increase Connecticut’s participation. To date, the number of pledges in Connecticut is 10, compared to around 2,000 in Georgia and 4,000 in Texas, states where this program is rooted. We want to increase that number many times over, and demonstrate our commitment to preserving this critical and limited natural resource.

On September 15, 2017, UConn Extension will launch their outreach efforts at the Big E in Springfield, MA with pledge forms and water savings materials available to encourage Northeast residents to take the challenge. The Big E, also known as The Eastern States Exposition, is billed as “New England’s Great State Fair”. It is the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard and the seventh-largest fair in the nation. Participation is open to residents of all states and counties. Farmers, gardeners, business owners, homeowners, school children, and all others interested are encouraged to participate and begin the conversation in their communities about why water conservation matters.

To sign up, visit http://www.40gallonchallenge.org/ and fill out a pledge card. To learn more about what UConn Extension is doing about water quality and quantity issues in our state and region, visit http://water.extension.uconn.edu.

My Connecticut Woods

woodsMiddlesex County Extension Center Announces a Year-long Series of Twelve Workshops for Woodland Owners and Nature Lovers called My Connecticut Woods.

Workshop #1: Field Trip to a Local Vernal Pool

Come join us as the UConn Extension Forestry Team and guest lecturers explore a variety of topics about Connecticut’s natural resources.

Each class will begin at the Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam, CT, but may end at a nearby location. The series begin on Sunday afternoon, May 3rd. Register for one class or a few at a time. Other topics to follow include a chainsaw safety course for women only, attracting more wildlife to your property, and how to make your own wooden spoon.

Register for one class or a few at a time. Please visit our calendar. Workshops from July to December will be posted early this summer.

Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands and home to many animals whose lifecycle depends upon this threatened ecosystem. The workshop begins in class with an overview of a vernal pool ecosystem followed by a field trip to a vernal pool in Haddam.

The program will be held Sunday, May 3, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm at the Middlesex County Extension Center, 1066 Saybrook Road, Haddam, CT. Tom Worthley, an Extension Forester with UConn Extension, will present the workshop.

PREREGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Further program information may be found on the Extension calendar:  http://www.extension.uconn.edu​. Registration fees are $35.00 or $30 for Coverts Cooperators.  Contact Nancy Marek at nancy.marek@uconn.edu or 860-345-5231 for more information.

Salt of the Earth

UConn Extension’s Center for Land Use Education And Research (CLEAR) provides information, education and assistance to Connecticut’s land use decision makers, community organizations and citizens on how to better protect natural resources while accommodating economic growth.

Read Michael Dietz’s blog post about road salt at the CLEAR website.

One of UConn’s salt piles.