University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Author Archives: Jason M. Sheldon

New project aims to harness student power to assist Connecticut towns with climate adaptation planning

Climate Corps - Living Shoreline Workshop

A Living Shoreline workshop organized by Juliana Barrett held on the Avery Point campus as part of the Climate Adaptation Academy (CAA). The Climate Corps builds on the success of the CAA, an organization that provides municipalities with information and tools to help them adapt to a changing climate.

Uniting faculty members from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, Center for Land Use and Research (CLEAR), and Connecticut Sea Grant, the Climate Corps will serve Connecticut communities by assisting with analyzing climate impact and presenting adaptation strategies while providing a unique learning opportunity for undergraduates.

Students in the Climate Corps will engage in classroom teaching and service learning to develop valuable workplace skills. The program is divided into two components, featuring instruction in the fall semester and a practicum in the spring. Students will learn about climate change and public policy in a new team-taught course entitled: Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning; then, in the following semester, they will form teams and, with the help of faculty mentors, work with local administrators in communities across the state to support climate adaptation planning. Students will directly assist town officials by preparing assessments of vulnerable areas, structures and systems. They will present ideas on how to prepare for the challenges and suggest methods to acclimate to a changing climate. The goal is to provide municipalities with data, models, forecasts, policies and information on costs so officials can make informed decisions to manage the risks their communities face. The program will draw its students from the Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies and Environmental Engineering majors. Four Connecticut communities will participate in the first year. (more…)

Online course catalog created for Extension programs

Extension Course Catalog

There are more than a hundred UConn Extension specialists working throughout Connecticut. These educators are teaching and training in local communities, sharing their wealth of knowledge with residents through a variety of programs. These instructional activities will now be more visible and easier to find with the creation of an online extension course catalog.

The new catalog was proposed by Michael O’Neill, associate dean for outreach and public engagement, in order to raise the profile of extension activities. Prior to the launch of the website, there was no single source that listed and described all of the courses that UConn Extension hosts.

“In this digital age, we need a mechanism for citizens and businesses to access the excellent programs we offer through UConn Extension,” says O’Neill. “I believe that this online catalog is a valuable first step in that direction.” (more…)

Meet new faculty member and alumnus Michael Puglisi

Michael Puglisi

Michael Puglisi

Michael Puglisi has come full circle. Having received his PhD in nutritional sciences from UConn in 2008, he worked in research labs in Nashville, Tennessee, and on public health initiatives in Brooklyn, New York, and North Carolina. Now he is returning to UConn as an assistant extension professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and coordinating the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) for the state of Connecticut.

Where did you get your degrees?

I received my BS degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware, my MS in nutrition in sports and chronic disease from Virginia Tech and my PhD at UConn in nutritional sciences. It’s good to be back at UConn!

What did you do before you came to UConn?

I went through the whole spectrum of the field of nutrition. After graduating from UConn, I went to Vanderbilt University and completed a post-doc in inflammation and the effects on insulin sensitivity and how different dietary fatty acids affect that. So, I went from human research to animal and cell research.

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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…)