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Pat Jepson's retirement party

Pat Jepson’s retirement party. View more photos.

Interim dean values College’s people-centered culture

Cameron Faustman

Cameron Faustman Credit: Peter Morenus

As a former undergraduate student, assistant professor, associate professor, professor, interim department head, department head, associate dean and, now, current interim dean, Cameron Faustman has a deep and wide knowledge of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) and its people. He has nearly 29 years of professional experience in the College.

“It is a great place to work. We are not perfect, but the total culture is a pretty good one,” said Faustman, who began as interim dean of CAHNR and director of the Cooperative Extension System and Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station in January 2017.

He especially appreciates that the College values a people-centered approach to learning. According to Faustman, undergraduate and graduate students truly matter and have ready access to CAHNR’s faculty through their student advising.

This emphasis on people continues to make an impression on former students into their adult lives. He sees this reflected in alumni support for the College and a donor base comprised of mostly individuals instead of only industry groups. “I want to advocate and champion this unique aspect of our college culture,” Faustman said.

Initial accomplishments

Others recognize Faustman’s suitability for this new role. “Cameron is one of the most well-respected members of UConn’s faculty and administration, known across campus for his academic accomplishments, collaborative spirit, and good judgement. The College and the University are fortunate to have him as dean,” said University of Connecticut Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Teitelbaum. (more…)

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UConn's Trees

Thomas Worthley, associate extension professor, points out damage caused by Emerald Ash Borers on a tree along Horsebarn Hill Road. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo) (UConn Today)

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.

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