UConn 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 Environment Corps project is built on an extensive partnership at UConn. It includes faculty from four schools and colleges in five departments: Natural Resources and the Environment, Extension, Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Educational Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the project involves four university centers, all three environmental major programs, and the Office of the Provost. Learn more about the Environment Corps at clear.uconn.edu.
Adapt 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-basedRockfall 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 withPREP-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.
In a small attempt at lessening the pain of social distancing, CLEAR has been hosting a “mini-webinar” series since late March. There are two 30-minute webinars per week, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. So far, we’ve held 5 and had almost 500 people in attendance. The webinars are also taped and posted on the website.
We have just announced the second wave of webinars, bringing the total to 12 and taking the series through the end of April. And, while our first set was conducted primarily by CLEAR faculty, our second set is comprised of a wide variety of topics from a diverse set of partners.
Gregory Desautels interned with Dr. Mike Dietz of UConn Extension in the summer of 2019, working with Dr. Dietz on projects for UConn CLEAR. Gregory has continued working with Dr. Dietz on projects funded by Connecticut Sea Grant during the fall 2019 semester. In the article below, Gregory reflected on his summer internship.
Through my summer as an Extension intern at the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), I learned skills and had experiences, which may shape my future. I learned technical skills, working in GIS programs such as Arc Pro and AGOL, as well as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. I improved my organizational skills, learning how to manage multiple iterations and edits of data files so they could be referenced in the future. I learned how to work independently and improved my problem solving while working on projects that were challenging, and sometimes over my head. Finally, I was able to practice communicating with coworkers and supervisors.
The technical skills that I developed this summer were one of the most valuable parts of this experience. Through projects such as the Shellfishing Atlas and Campus LID Map, I had to use many of the skills developed in my previous GIS classes. Furthermore, these projects required me to work outside the confines of my previous experiences and to learn new skills, often by reading tutorials and self-teaching. In programs such as Excel, which I had previously considered myself adept, I found that there was still a lot to learn, and hands on experience was the best way to do so. I consider these experiences valuable not only for the skills learned, but also in learning how to teach myself. In my career, I expect there will be times when I do not know how to solve a problem and I will need to use all the resources available to learn how to solve it.
Organizational skills, specifically in reference to managing files for GIS were one of the most practical skills that I developed. Through my own processes of trial and error, as well as through new iterations becoming available, I was often left with multiple seemingly identical files with small but vital differences. My previous nomenclature wasn’t sufficient to keep track of all these files, however several of my coworkers taught me how to build and manage file databases. This has allowed for a cleaner workflow and the ability to backtrack and reference previous steps, both important skills when working in GIS.
This internship was also a valuable experience in communication. In communicating with coworkers, supervisors
and faculty members, I learned to adapt my communications to them. As someone who defaults to excessive formality, I often had to tone back and learn how to match someone else’s level. I found that the formal “Thank You, double space, sincerely, double space, signature” format lauded by schools is not always practical or necessary and that being overly formal can actually hinder clear communication.
In terms of my career goals, I don’t feel that this summer has wildly altered my trajectory, however I do feel that I have a better understanding of what to expect. Seeing the “behind the scenes” work related to securing grants and funding, as well as how this office fits into the larger body of UConn has been eye-opening. This internship was valuable in more ways that I can say, and I am confident that as I progress through my career, I will find many more instances where this experience has helped me.
Article by Gregory Desautels, CLEAR Intern Reflection
The Land Use Academy is offering anAdvanced Training session onOctober 26, 2019. Registration at 8:30. Training from 9:00 AM-3:30 PM at the Middlesex County Extension Office in Haddam, CT.The topics covered are listed below. Cost is $45 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and course materials.
Follow the registration link at the bottom to register online or to obtain a registration form. We hope to see you in October!
In response to feedback from both professional planners and land use commissioners, we are offering an all-day advanced training covering three topics in-depth.
A map that Extension educator Emily Wilson created last year made it into the most recent Esri Map Book. The Map Book is a hard copy, glossy publication (complete with a textured cover) that Esri publishes every year and distributes to attendees of the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, that had an attendance of over 19,000 people this year. Here is the link to the online map book https://www.esri.com/en-us/esri-map-book/maps#/list and this is the direct link to the UConn map created by Emily Wilson: https://www.esri.com/en-us/esri-map-book/maps#/details/14/1. It is exciting that Emily’s map was selected, and is excellent exposure for UConn and the work that we do.
CT ECO is a website that provides access to many of Connecticut’s statewide geospatial data layers in different formats including over 9000 pdf maps, 10 map viewers (and counting), 138 data services and in some cases, data download. The website contains 18 aerial imagery datasets, the most recent having 3 inch pixels (wow!), statewide elevation with 1 foot contours (wow again!) and much more. Over 25,000 people use CT ECO each year and some days, over 150,000 data requests are made. A recent survey was conducted about the value of CT ECO to its users. The results are currently being analyzed but in a nutshell, a lot of people from different backgrounds including private business, state and local government, nonprofits, education, and citizens use CT ECO and it saves them a lot of time and money. CT ECO is a partnership between the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). The principal architect, builder and maintainer of CT ECO is Extension Educator Emily Wilson.
Climate 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.