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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

CAHNR in the news

newspaper readersUConn Today depicted two incoming CAHNR students, Olivia Knuth and Prachi Udeshi, in an article about new freshmen. It also quoted Knuth, who was described as an animal science major from West Hartford.

silive.com included comments from Department of Kinesiology Professor Douglas Casa about a high school football drill that killed a player. See also CBS Sports.

Time quoted Professor Nancy Rodriguez as saying that protein from whole foods, rather than powder, contributes extra micronutrients and fiber to the diet. Rodriguez is on the faculty of nutritional sciences.

UConn Today mentioned Alexandra Grimaldi, who is a dual-degree student studying English and allied health sciences with a concentration in public health and health promotion, in an article about summer research opportunities for students at UConn Health. (more…)

Meet graduate student Yayu Li

Yayu Li

Yayu Li

Yayu Li grew up in a small village in rural China. The school in her village closed in 2002 due to a declining population and lack of funding. With limited employment opportunities, many young people had left for jobs in cities. Having to travel to neighboring villages for school and living in a dorm by age 12 to attend middle school, Li realized the value of education.

In 2008, Li started college. Through scholarships and part-time jobs, she supported her studies and went on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Arriving at UConn in 2015, Li is now a PhD student in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. She describes coming to UConn as the moment the “impossible became possible.” Here is what she said in an interview:

Where did you study as an undergraduate?

I earned my bachelor’s degree from Huazhong Agriculture University, Wuhan, China.

What was your major?

My major was environmental science with an emphasis in soil science. I also completed a master’s degree program at Huazhong in environmental science.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I chose environmental science as my major because I love nature. As an undergraduate, I applied to a graduate research group and worked as a research assistant during my junior and senior years in order to learn more about the field. I had opportunities to do lab work with graduate students, attend academic seminars and discuss scientific problems with advisors. I was impressed by how dedicated the advisors and graduate students were to get precise measurements and accurate results from experiments. They wanted to find truth and reality. I wanted to be one of them and explore the unknown. Therefore, I decided to apply for graduate school. (more…)

NRE faculty member and students researching effects of salinization on wetlands

Connecticut now has a fraction of the forested wetlands that used to cover the state. Until the middle of the twentieth century, clearing land, constructing roads, building infrastructure and introducing irrigation and drainage systems did not require an assessment or mitigation of potential environmental impacts. Amidst growing concern for wetlands, the US Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a nationwide wetlands inventory in 1954. In the decades that followed, further scientific studies helped raise awareness of the benefits of wetlands for habitat, improving water quality and providing flood protection. The change of public opinion from approving of wetlands use for residential and industrial improvements and landfills towards conservation led to the adoption of legislation throughout the 1960s and ‘70s to safeguard wetlands. The volume of forested wetlands in Connecticut has since remained relatively consistent, with small losses due to natural conversion, typically becoming ponds, and from development projects. The embrace of wetlands research helped ensure the passage of federal and state laws and regulatory controls that stabilized the loss of these important ecosystems.

BLawrence

Beth Lawrence

Forested wetlands are now facing new threats. The application of road salt is salinizing freshwater areas, affecting the ecosystem services these swamps provide. Beth Lawrence, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) with a joint appointment in UConn’s Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, is taking a closer look at the impact of salinization on forested wetlands. Forested wetlands represent over two-thirds of all wetlands in the state.

“The application of road salt and its effects on these swamps are an emerging issue of concern,” says Lawrence.

“The aim of my research is to better understand and quantify the numerous ecosystem services forested wetlands provide. My focus is on how plant community composition, carbon storage and carbon dynamics are affected by salinization. I’m also looking at the effects of experimental road salt applications. We know that wetlands benefit people in a variety of ways, but we do not have a good understanding of the capacity of these ecosystem services and how their functioning may be impacted across environmental gradients,” says Lawrence. (more…)

Course demystifies chemical processes in the study of soil science

Cristian Schulthess

Cristian Schulthess

Every other fall, Cristian Schulthess, associate professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, offers a class called Soil Chemistry Processes. The course description may sound intimidating, but Schulthess says that studying chemistry with an environmental twist fits with many majors from plant science to environmental engineering.

“Most students are quite afraid of chemistry,” Schulthess says. “I’m taking them through the components of soil chemistry and teaching them chemistry principles through the environment. Studying the environment involves three components—physics, biology and chemistry—and they are all intertwined.”

There are three major sections to the course. The first covers oxidation-reduction reactions through environmental examples such as the degradation of organic material. Climate, moisture, soil composition, and soil contaminants all affect oxidation. Students observe the differences in soil color and how they relate to reactions at a cellular level. For instance, if an environment is highly oxidizing, the soil becomes redder; if the opposite occurs, the soil turns gray. Students learn the biology of photosynthesis and the environmental consequences to these reactions.

The second section of the course focuses on measuring pH (hydrogen concentration) in the environment. “There is a lot of nuance to pH and salt concentrations and how particles interact with each other,” Schulthess points out. This section covers measuring techniques, pH properties and particle interaction.

During the third part of the course, students study soil fertility and soil contamination control, including reactions between contaminants in liquid and solid forms, contaminant movement within the environment and retention reactions. Students learn the process of extracting materials from soil.

(more…)

CAHNR in the news

Students with mobile devicesUConn Today announced the release of a survey done by Korey Stringer Institute researchers focused on a nationwide health and safety policy ranking for high school athletics. The study is slated to appear in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. See also Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Hartford Courant, Providence Business News, Associated Press, The Charlotte Observer, Portland (ME) Press-Herald, Hearst Newspapers and Denver Post.

UConn Daily Digest announced that Judy Benson is Connecticut Sea Grant’s new communications coordinator. She earned a MS in natural resources and the environment in 2015 and a BA in journalism in 1983. Both degrees were from UConn. Benson won first place for environmental reporting in the New England Better Newspaper Competition in 2015, 2010, 2009 and 2008.

UConn Today listed student-athletes who made the Big East All-Academic Team for the 2016-17 season. The list included lacrosse teammates Dani Dunn from animal science and Julia Simmons from allied health as well as field hockey player and animal science student Darby Smith. (more…)