by Chet Arnold, CLEAR Director
A UConn faculty partnership that reaches across departmental and college lines is engaged in an effort that seeks to enhance, expand and institutionalize a new model for community engagement at the University. The “Environment Corps” combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and Extension outreach in a unique way that provides “real world” experience for students as they prepare for the work force, while helping communities respond to complex environmental mandates. Students enroll in a semester of classroom instruction that focuses on the impacts and issues involved in an environmental problem at the municipal level. Case studies, news articles, guest lectures by practitioners, field visits, and group projects are used to provide a local framework for the class. Students can then choose to enroll in a practicum course during the following semester, where they form teams that work directly with municipal officials from Connecticut towns. The initial pilot effort, funded by an internal UConn grant, created the Climate Corps, now finishing its third year. It was joined in the following year by the Brownfields Corps, and the Stormwater Corps in Spring 2020. To date, 39 town projects have been completed. The challenge moving forward will be to institutionalize this approach at UConn by making it an attractive and viable option for instructors.
by Sara C. Bronin, Thomas F. Gallivan Chair of Real Property Law, UConn Law School and Chair, Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission
In the COVID-19 era, the law must balance the need to limit face-to-face interaction, the public interest in efficient municipal function, and the difficulties municipalities face in an era with severe staffing, budget, and physical office constraints. Governor Lamont has recently issued two emergency executive orders that have changed the obligations of applicants, municipalities, and agencies in the land use process. Learn more about sweeping changes to requirements related to: public hearings, publication notice, mailed notice, the posting of signs, convening meetings, time periods for appeal, and time periods for decision-making.
by Amanda Ryan, CLEAR MS4 Extension
Options for funding stormwater management efforts in Connecticut are expanding. While our region has been slow to adopt stormwater utilities for raising funds for stormwater management efforts, that may be beginning to change with the state’s first-ever stormwater utility approved in the City of New London in late 2018. Stormwater collaboratives offer another way to gather more resources and funding for stormwater management and these too appear to be gaining steam in our state with the first - Eastern CT Stormwater Collaborative established in 2018.
by Juliana Barrett, Coastal Resources Extension Educator, CT Sea Grant
Avalonia Land Conservancy (ALC) received a land parcel donation to add to their waterfront Dodge Paddock Beal Preserve in Stonington Borough, CT in 2018. The parcel included a large, cultivated garden bordering a marsh. With funding from the Long Island Sound Study Futures Fund, Juliana Barrett (CT Sea Grant/Extension) and Beth Sullivan (ALC) led the effort to naturalize this area with a goal of creating a marsh migration buffer. With rising sea levels, tidal wetlands are migrating landward and upland border areas are getting wetter. This site presented the opportunity to plant native, salt tolerant species and with labels, provide an educational experience for visitors to learn about native plants.
by Cary Chadwick, CLEAR Geospatial Extension Educator
Advancements in data collection technology has made it easy to leverage sensors in smartphones and tablets including cameras, GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes and more. This opens doors for casual mappers and citizen scientists to collect useful data with just the tool in their pocket. This webinar will provide a brief overview of the movement toward mobile data collection, highlight a few GPS field data collection apps, and briefly cover some options for displaying data in an interactive web map.
by Emily Wilson, CLEAR Geospatial Extension Educator
Lidar is a remote sensing technique to map elevation using a laser sensor on an airplane. The result is millions of points (or more) which are often used as input to other datasets such as digital elevation models (DEMs) which show the surface of the bare ground. It has been more difficult to work with and visualize the actual points due to their 3D nature and overwhelming numbers, especially on a statewide extent. But that was then, the statewide 3D Lidar Interactive Viewer is now. The new 3D Lidar Viewer is a proof of concept for publishing statewide colorized Lidar points in a 3D ArcGIS Online web scene. It was created with the help of Esri's Living Atlas Team using ArcGIS Pro and published to ArcGIS Online. It is available on the CT ECO website which is a partnership between UConn CLEAR and CT DEEP. The Viewer contains the 2016 statewide Lidar points which were colorized using summer aerial imagery (NAIP). This means that the points have color corresponding to what is on the ground at that location. Also included in the viewer are points showing detailed building roofs and bridges, points colored by intensity as well as elevation, a pilot area of 3D buildings and trees (including tree height and diameter measurements) along with existing shaded relief, contours and impervious surfaces. We are just beginning to explore the many applications. Check it out at http://cteco.uconn.edu/projects/lidar3D/.
by Syma Ebbin, Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Connecticut Sea Grant,UConn and Colleen Franks, Dept. of Marine Sciences, UConn
The Blue Heritage Trail (BHT) project, supported by the University of Connecticut Office of Public Engagement, National Park Service and Connecticut Sea Grant seeks to raise public awareness of the critical importance of the marine environment and maritime economy and culture in Connecticut and, indeed, everywhere. Connecticut’s maritime heritage is long and varied, encompassing the relationship of indigenous peoples to the marine environment, the development in the early decades of the United States and continuation of maritime commerce, as well as the many significant individuals and events that played a role in transforming this region. Public awareness and appreciation of this is critical in developing a holistic understanding of the value of the marine environment and maritime heritage in CT and the US. Most learning that occurs over the course of a person’s life occurs outside the boundaries of formal instructional settings, in informal situations, often outside of educational institutions. The BHT is designed to target life-long learners engaged in this type of free-choice learning. The trail is comprised of walking, car and boat tours, augmented by physical signage and virtual content hosted on our website and on the IZI travel app. We have assembled a BHT Advisory Board, partnered with the Thames River Heritage Park and continue to incorporate this project into UConn classes via service-learning, internships and independent projects. The BHT project aims to provide learning opportunities for residents and visitors, allowing them to locate, visit and enrich their understanding of maritime-themed attractions and events.
by Laura Brown, Department of Extension, UConn
The Connecticut Trail Census is an innovative statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program that encourages data informed decision-making and promotes active citizen participation in multi-use trail monitoring and advocacy. The Trail Census includes trail use counts recorded by infrared pedestrian counters, trail user intercept surveys administered by trained volunteers, and public education programs including a GIS based data visualization portal. Over the past three years the project has documented thousands of trail uses and analyzed over 3,000 intercept surveys from 20 multi-use trail sites across Connecticut. The project is statewide and serves community leaders and decision makers including local elected officials, planners, economic development professionals, trail advocates, trail maintenance professionals, environmental, health and outdoor activity advocates, as well as the general public.
by Lisa Wahle, Wildlife Management Institute, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Young forest and shrubland, and the wildlife species that depend on these areas have been in decline for many years due to anthropogenic development on natural lands and the normal maturation of forests. The designation of the New England cottontail (NEC) as a candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2006 provided an impetus for habitat management in order to avert ESA listing. A coordinated regional effort and comprehensive conservation strategy to restore NECs brought funding, staffing, on-the-ground management, research, monitoring and outreach. In 2015, the US Fish & Wildlife Service determined that listing the NEC under ESA was not warranted due to the Demonstrated1; success of ongoing conservation efforts and the expectation they would continue. Habitat work was initially targeted in NEC Focus Areas and then expanded to a statewide initiative for American woodcock and other species. After nearly a decade of research, monitoring, habitat management and other conservation work, we are taking a look at how these efforts have paid off, old and new challenges to conservation, and where and how to focus our efforts in the future.
by Dr. Nefeli Bompoti, Project Manager, Connecticut Brownfields Initiative
The Connecticut Brownfields Initiative (CBI) is an educational and community support program with a mission to promote brownfield redevelopment in the State of Connecticut. CBI operates within the University of Connecticut and provides training and support for CT stakeholders on brownfield remediation and redevelopment. Our educational program creates a workforce of skilled graduates with hands on experience on brownfields. The initiative enables public-private industry, academia and government to collaborate in solving brownfield remediation and redevelopment challenges in CT. In this webinar, you will learn about: • Brownfields projects we support • CBI’s Fall and Spring Municipal Assistance Program • Recent success stories
by Mark A. Boyer, Dept. of Geography Department, UConn; Executive Director, International Studies Association (ISA; www.isanet.org)
When confronted with the demands of global climate change, why do some towns move the climate adaptation agenda forward in their communities while others seemingly get little accomplished? To answer this question, we look at the “big picture” of what’s going on across Connecticut on climate adaptation. We’ll first look at what is driving public policy based on past research, thus briefly discussing competing and complementary explanations for why some communities aggressively pursue climate adaptation policies, while others do less. We then dig into our data collected across the 169 towns in Connecticut regarding climate adaptation, linking policy actions to their fundamental global cause. The quantitative data is augmented with interview data from policy-makers and activists from around the New England region. We will also discuss briefly some new interviews with municipal climate leaders around the state.
by Cary Chadwick and Dave Dickson, UConn Department of Extension, CLEAR
During the COVID-19 crisis, trail usage has skyrocketed. However, that usage has been concentrated on the best known trails, creating a challenge for social distancing. There are several smartphone apps that can help connect people with lesser known trails that can help you get away from the crowds and/or make people aware of your land trust’s or municipality’s trail system. This webinar will highlight a few of those options.
by Dr. Mike Dietz, UConn Department of Extension, CLEAR, CT Institute of Water Resources
Let’s face it, the weather is improving (slightly), and the last thing anyone wants to think about is winter and road salt. However, now is the time to start planning for next year! New Hampshire’s Green Snow Pro certification program has been adapted here in Connecticut, and the results are dramatic. Documentation of actual salt reductions from a small watershed will be presented in this webinar, along with cost savings and feedback from facilities staff.
by Dr. Robert Fahey, UConn Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
Forests represent an important potential component of climate mitigation strategies and are increasingly being promoted as an important solution in addressing global climate change at local to global scales. However, the forests of Connecticut are entering a period of rapid change in which a variety of factors such as invasive pests, exurban development, and successional transitions are affecting forest composition, structure, and functioning. This presentation provides a basis for understanding forest climate mitigation and adaptation as they relate to forest change (including stand development, forest management, and disturbance) and provides context on trade-offs that need to be considered in decision-making surrounding forest lands.
by Emily Wilson, UConn Department of Extension, CLEAR
New high resolution imagery is here! Connecticut’s 2019 aerial imagery is now part of the CT ECO website in the form of viewers, download, and services. The 4 band, 6 inch pixel imagery is the 20th imagery dataset of Connecticut on CT ECO. The webinar will introduce the 2019 imagery as well as other imagery datasets, demonstrate how to view, download and connect to the imagery as well as tips for using it in online or desktop GIS. The imagery project was managed by USGS and OPM and funded by USDA NRCS, CT DOT, DESPP and CT DEEP. Visit the website for full names. CT ECO is a partnership between UConn CLEAR and CT DEEP. cteco.uconn.edu.
by Sara C. Bronin, Thomas F. Gallivan Chair of Real Property Law, UConn Law School and Chair, Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission
Governments around the country are slowly allowing businesses to re-open as new COVID-19 cases taper off. One strategy to make re-opening safer is to move commercial activities outdoors. How does this happen if local laws prohibit outdoor activities? Governor Lamont just issued an emergency executive order that fast-tracks approvals for certain "Outdoor Activities," including serving food and beverages and selling goods. Learn about how applicants, municipalities, and agencies must adjust to new application forms, automatic approvals, shared spaces, the use of sidewalks and streets, nonconforming rights, and signage.
by Dr. Miriah Russo Kelly, UConn Department of Extension
Now that online communication is becoming ubiquitous, land-use officials may be challenged to find new and innovative ways to connect with, and gather feedback from stakeholders. In this webinar, Dr. Kelly will demonstrate how to use sli.do, an online polling platform, to connect with stakeholders in a virtual environment. Dr. Kelly will present instructions for how to use the tool, and will discuss best practices for its application in environmental evaluation and engagement contexts.
by Dr. Ashley Helton, UConn Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
Groundwater discharge zones along river networks sustain water flow and provide thermal refugia for aquatic organisms while also acting as conduits of legacy contaminants, including nitrogen. Efforts to protect and manage groundwater-influenced stream ecosystems, however, are limited by our ability to characterize and predict both the spatial distribution groundwater discharges and their influence on water quality along river corridors. Here I will provide an overview of our ongoing efforts to map, characterize, and predict where groundwater seeps occur using a combination of thermal infrared imagery, high resolution geospatial datasets, and groundwater modeling, focused on the Farmington River watershed in Connecticut. I will discuss the challenges for understanding how legacy nitrogen contamination in groundwater may influence water quality of stream and rivers, and our initial efforts to measure water quality of groundwater discharge zones throughout the Farmington River watershed.
by Tom Worthley, Extension Professor and Forester, UConn Dept. of Extension
Recently, insect pests affecting trees, particularly emerald ash borer and gypsy moth, have caused the deaths of trees in varying degrees of severity, from individual trees to entire stands. And with so many folks taking physically-distant recreational time outdoors - in the yard, in the park and on trails in the woods - falling limbs and collapsing dead trees present a potential safety issue that many people might not take into consideration. This webinar will describe the current status of tree mortality around the state, address what might be expected for insect pest activity during summer 2020, and discuss safety considerations associated with dead trees, whether you're hiking past them or thinking of salvaging one or more for firewood.