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environmental metonia, uconn

The University of Connecticut has had a long history of convening Metanoia around important issues facing society that would benefit from deep reflection and discussion. In keeping with that tradition, we are happy to announce a Metanoia on The Environment over Spring Semester 2018. Many of the grave problems facing society in the 21st Century are environmental in nature, including issues of sustainability, water availability, food security, deforestation, and the loss of biodiversity. Because these problems are global, assuredly they will befall many nations and peoples that can least afford them. MORE

Nature and Knowledge at Our Doorstep

Aug 15, 2018, UConn Today

A gray tree frog calling. (Kurt Schwenk/UConn Photo)

Notes from the field 

At dusk on a cool, damp evening in late spring, a group of UConn students and researchers suit up in waders and descend upon a flooded meadow, just off the Storrs campus in the UConn Forest. The going is slow, and a little treacherous as the destination is more flooded than usual this evening. Tangled mounds of grass and fallen tree limbs await in the murky water, to trip the unwary.

The outing is part of a summer course in Field Herpetology and an opportunity for ecology and evolutionary biology professor Kurt Schwenk to enlist help from students locating the vocal spring peepers, Pseudacris crucifer, in the act of mating.


Preserving Green Spaces in Connecticut’s Changing Landscape

Aug 9, 2018, UConn Today


Percentages of Connecticut's land surface in 2015. Smart land use management is critical in order to preserve open space, says extension educator Chester Arnold. 'It isn’t something we can go back and fix later on.' (Graphic by Maxine Marcy for UConn)

The history of land use in Connecticut is one of dramatic but ongoing change. Perhaps most strikingly, the state was once covered in forests that were clear cut to make way for development, and this happened not once, but twice. In addition, significant coastal modification and marsh land changes are now underway, changing the coastline as the sea level continues to rise.

UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) was created to help decision makers make good land use decisions by providing them with the information they need.

The director of CLEAR, extension educator Chester Arnold, says smart land use management is critical in order to preserve open space: “It isn’t something we can go back and fix later on.” READ MORE

Connecticut’s Forests Today a Far Cry from Towering Giants of Old

Aug 1, 2018, UConn Today

Connecticut Forests, Then and Now
Researcher John Volin discusses the history of the state’s forests, and current threats from climate change, blights, and invasive species. (Yesenia Carrero/UConn Illustration)

Imagine stepping back in time, before the first Europeans arrived, into the forests of New England more than 500 years ago.

At that time, these forests were dominated by towering giants, such as the chestnut and white pine, capable of reaching over 100 feet, above a layered variety of species right down to the forest floor. They would have looked very different from what is seen today.

Widespread change initially came to New England after the arrival of the colonists, when forests were cleared to make way for farmlands, says John Volin, a professor of natural resources and the environment and vice provost for academic affairs. Then when richer, less rocky agricultural lands further west appealed to farmers, many New England farms were abandoned and the forest began to regenerate.

That was in the early 1800s. Then industrialization happened, and deforestation took place for a second time in the mid- to late 1800s. It’s hard to picture today’s largely forested landscape as it was 100 years ago, with significantly fewer trees.

The relatively quick regrowth of the forests is testament to the resilience of nature, but the young forests of today are not the same as the forest of 500 years ago.  READ MORE

Camera Traps, Citizen Science, Help Track State’s Animal Populations

July 25, 2018, UConn Today

A female deer and her fawn are captured on camera by UConn researchers, part of a project to gather abundance data on the state's deer population. (Jennifer Kilburn/UConn Photo)

Connecticut is home to an abundance of wildlife and one doesn’t have to go far to find it. With the unique not-quite-urban, not-quite-rural landscape in much of the state, this means humans are living among wildlife, oftentimes in our own backyards.

Keeping track of the animals and their numbers is important information for decision making, management, and conservation for animal populations.

Researchers at UConn are addressing these challenges using new technology and citizen science, to learn more about the animals and the places where both people and wild creatures live.

Associate professor of natural resources and the environment Tracy Rittenhouse and researcher Jennifer Kilburn ’18 MS have been tackling the question of how deer density varies across the state, by developing better methods to estimate deer abundance.

“Determining deer abundance can be very labor-intensive and costly in terms of counting, marking, and recapturing,” says Rittenhouse. “One method may work better in one area and not so well in another, so finding the best way to count them to get a good estimate of abundance by using cameras is something we have been working on.” READ MORE

Working Toward Sustainable Solutions

July 12, 2018, UConn Today

John Volin, Sustainability

“Environment,” “concern for the environment,” and “sustainability” are often considered to be important issues for voters. Unfortunately these concerns seldom translate into effective actions.

The economy, jobs, health care, terrorism, immigration, and the like typically trump environmental issues. Indeed, all of these issues are extremely important and have major effects on human well-being. But the issue that most greatly affects human well-being now and into the future is the health of the planet.

The relatively thin layer below and above the surface of our planet provides the environmental services that are critical for human survival and prosperity. Despite the environment’s integral importance, we often delay making the tough decisions that are necessary for the future well-being of our children and their children’s children. We politicize environmental concerns such as climate change for short-term gain, rather than working collectively toward environmentally sound and sustainable solutions. READ MORE

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