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Author Archives: Jason M. Sheldon

Researchers examine road salt contamination in groundwater and wells

Road Salt Contamination

Deicing salt on the permeable pavement in front of Augustus Storrs Hall, a potential source of groundwater contamination causing mobilization of radium and radon.

Road salt is inescapable during a Northeast winter. Applied as a deicer, it helps prevent accidents, slips and falls. Salt lowers the freezing point of water, accelerating melting and keeping ice from forming when temperatures drop. Despite the benefits to transportation and safety, road salt has serious environmental impacts and presents hazards to human health. Researchers at UConn have recently completed two studies on the Storrs campus, examining how deicers interact with areas surrounding permeable surfaces and discovering a potential radioactive danger.

Mostly a combination of sodium and chloride, road salt chemicals can flow into surface and ground water impacting aquifers, wells, wildlife, flora and drinking water. While these effects have long been publicized, road salt continues to be heavily used due to its low cost and a lack of viable alternatives. The increased use of storm water management systems, particularly in urban settings, has renewed questions about how these contaminants travel and affect the neighboring environment.

A team of UConn researchers, including Professor Gary Robbins of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE), Assistant Extension Educator Dr. Mike Dietz of the Department of Extension and Connecticut Sea Grant and NRE graduate students Derek Angel and Lukas McNaboe, investigated how the installation of one popular storm water management system, permeable asphalt, affects road salt contamination of groundwater. Connecticut Sea Grant funded the initial phase of the research. (more…)

Scientist studies canopy structure for carbon sequestration and roadside management

Connecticut’s forests have been transformed over the years to meet the needs of its inhabitants. Before the arrival of European settlers, Native Americans burned forests in order to clear underbrush and create habitat for the game species they hunted. In the early 1800s, when European settlers arrived in large numbers, forests were cut down to make room for agricultural production and wood was used to build structures, create products and burned for heat. By 1820, the state’s forest cover was reduced to 25 percent. With the decline of agriculture in the state and the passage of conservation acts, Connecticut’s forests have regrown and now cover an estimated 70 percent of the land.

Fahey and colleagues from Purdue and Virginia Commonwealth Universities collecting lidar data

Fahey and colleagues from Purdue and Virginia Commonwealth Universities collecting LiDAR data.

Robert Fahey, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, notes that while it would appear that some of these returning forests are unused, they are serving as a carbon sink. This refers to the ecosystem’s ability to absorb, or sequester, carbon from the atmosphere and store it.

Connecticut trees are part of a vast regrowth of forest in the northern US and Canada. As these forests begin to mature, scientists know little about how the aging of these trees will change the ecosystem’s capacity to continue storing carbon or if they might begin to emit carbon into the atmosphere.

“Over the past hundred years or so the forests of the Northeastern US have been a carbon sink, meaning that they have been pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, offsetting some anthropogenic emissions. But these forests are aging and their potential to continue to be a carbon sink is questionable at best,” says Fahey.

In order to understand how the structure of forest ecosystems affects carbon storage, Fahey, who has a joint appointment in UConn’s Center for Environmental Science and Engineering, is studying forest canopy structure through examination of the specific arrangement of leaves. He believes canopy structural complexity is a prime indicator of efficiency in the ecosystem, which can shed light on how the environment functions. (more…)

Allied Health Sciences welcomes new department head

Justin Nash

Justin Nash.

Interim Dean Cameron Faustman is pleased to announce that Justin Nash has been appointed professor and head of the Department of Allied Health Sciences (AHS). He fills the vacancy left by Lawrence Silbart, who led the department for the past ten years. Silbart is currently vice provost for strategic initiatives.

Nash received his BA in psychology from the University of Rhode Island, where he graduated with distinction. He earned his MA and PhD from Ohio University in clinical psychology. While earning his doctorate, he interned at the VA Medical Center in West Haven, CT. He completed postdoctoral research at the Pain Evaluation and Treatment Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (more…)

Meet undergraduate Gabriel DeRosa

Gabriel DeRosa

Gabriel DeRosa.

Gabriel DeRosa recently completed a UConn study abroad experience at the International Studies Institute at Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, Italy. He participated in the College’s Sustainable Food and Environmental Systems Program where students learn about European agriculture, economy and society, gaining additional perspectives to compare and contrast with their American experiences.

The program, which occurs in the fall semester, allows students to spend fourteen weeks earning fourteen credits overseas. It features classroom instruction and study tours and internships. Throughout the immersive experience, they learn how food is produced, transformed, distributed, prepared and consumed in Italy. The particular areas of focus are determined by the three CAHNR faculty members that accompany students, tailoring each excursion into a unique experience based on their expertise. Typically, the cost for Connecticut residents is slightly more than attending UConn for a typical fall semester and in the case of out-of-state students, the cost for the program may be lower than that for a typical fall semester. Financial assistance may be available for qualified students. For more information, please email John.Volin@uconn.edu, Hedley.Freake@uconn.edu or Steven.Rackliffe@uconn.edu or go to abroad.uconn.edu.

What is your major, and why did you choose it?

I’m a horticulture major. Growing up I spent a lot of time near farms. I always had friends that had farms or lots of land, and so I was around a lot of animals and livestock. I found I was interested in farming but realized that I wanted to focus on plants. I started looking around for community agricultural projects and different organic farms in my area to get involved in. Once I started working, I knew I had discovered something I really enjoyed doing. Then I found that UConn has a great program for plant science. (more…)

College alumni create thriving online businesses

Andrew Marcus and Jesse Silkoff

Andrew Marcus (left) and Jesse Silkoff (right).

After meeting their freshman year on the UConn Men’s Tennis team in 2007, Jesse Silkoff and Andrew Marcus are now business partners, running MyTennisLessons and FitnessTrainer.com out of Austin, Texas. Their online companies help match clients searching for a tennis coach or personal trainer in their local area. Silkoff and Marcus both earned degrees in applied and resource economics from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Their path to becoming business owners began before leaving UConn in 2011.

During their senior year, Silkoff and Marcus entered a business plan competition held by the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI) in the School of Business. The competition was university-wide, open to all students regardless of major or academic level. Seventy-six teams entered the competition with their plans being judged by a panel that included several business executives. Silkoff and Marcus won the top prize of $10,000 for their promising strategy for their proposal entitled Tennis Professionals.

(more…)