Every spring semester, the new GNCE Sophomore class does service learning projects for Avalonia Land Conservancy. Often students will take over their blog to give Beth Sullivan a break and share a different perspective. Head on over thorough the link below and see the 4/18/21 post "Spring is Here!" by GNCE's Madeleine Gassin and find your favorite sign of spring. Check out the archives and find other GNCE students post and projects. Even better, "spring" into action and check out one of Avalonia's many beautiful preserves and experience the signs of the seasons yourself.
Looking for a fun activity with built in distancing? Kayaking or canoeing is a great way to hit the water, explore some new places and observe wildlife like this great blue heron patiently hunting. Make sure you have your personal flotation device (PFD), drinking water, and if possible, an amazing childhood friend to join you, like Mandee here. In Connecticut there are over 100 public boat launches (see link below) so there is no shortage of amazing places to paddle. Send us your pictures and you might find yourself on our social media! GNCE@conncoll.edu
In these changing times, it seems more important than ever to connect with each other and the planet- yet even those methods are shifting. We will be doing a blog series on people, places and things that may inspire you to connect, adapt, and co-create in more powerful ways. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have ideas or want to contribute.
We will also continue the series on how to fish as the season opened early, so clearly it is not all bad news out there.
Remember, you may not always be able to hug people, but you can hug a tree!
If you have an interest in tidal marshes, chances are you have come across Ron Rozsa, either in name or in person. Ron is a plant community ecologist who retired from CT DEP's Coastal Area Management Program where he worked for 31 years supervising the Technical Services Section. Ron helped to create the Connecticut Tidal Wetland Restoration Program which restored over 1800 acres of degraded marshes. As you might expect, Ron knew Bill Niering and worked with many other Connecticut College experts including Scott Warren and Glenn Dreyer on various projects related to tidal marsh monitoring and health. GNCE's Jen Pagach has worked with Ron for many years on climate impacts to coastal areas as well as Sentinel Monitoring for climate change in Long Island Sound. longislandsoundstudy.net/research-monitoring/sentinel-monitoring/
We caught up with Ron while hiking Bailey's Ravine or Ayers Gap http://explorect.org/baileys-ravine/, a special site in Eastern Connecticut that Ron remembered from a college geology field trip. Ron has a gift for connecting the past to the present, as well as looking to the future to inform stewardship.
Ron's dedication to the environment started young and is still continuing today. After a marine class field trip on Long Island, Ron and a few of his Bellport High School classmates conceived the idea for an environmental club they named Students for Environmental Quality (SEQ). SEQ launched in the fall of 1970 (same year as the EPA!) with Ron volunteering to be the first chair. The club's first success was the recycling of oil by a local auto dealership instead of discharging the oil into a freshwater lake. SEQ would support the enactment of legislation to protect seals and assist NY DEC is the designation of the Carmen’s River as a Scenic or Recreational River. SEQ is the oldest continuously operating club in the schools history.
Ron continues with the GNCE connection today. He worked with GNCE students now alumns Mary Buchanan '14 and Jessica Wright '15 on his retirement passion, reconstruction the history of vegetation changes at the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, CT. This has led to the discovery of previously unknown impacts from mosquito ditches affecting eight decades of change. In the same period of time the natural marshes have seen virtually no change in the distribution of the plant communities.
Ron's past and continuing projects and contributions are a testament that environmental leadership can have ripple effects that can last beyond our lifetimes.
Jane Dawson is not only the Virginia Eason Weinmann '51 Professor of Government and Environmental Studies but she is notably the current Karla Heurich Harrison '28 Director of the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment. We caught up with Jane at a local vegan restaurant, as her lifetime love of animals has shaped her food choices and beyond.
Jane grew up in Ohio where around age five the neighborhood boys introduced her to snakes. She started not just owning them but volunteering for the local nature museum so she could interact with reptiles, birds of prey, and many other creatures. She quickly worked her way through the ranks of Junior Explorer, Junior Naturalist, etc. until she was a curator giving full blown tours. In college there was no environmental studies major at that time, so at Bryn Mawr she majored in chemistry and science. At Harvard pursuing her Masters in physical chemistry, she felt disconnected being in the laser lab for three years searching for a hidden energy level that seemed to want to stay hidden. She took time off and started teaching high school chemistry and physics, all the while taking Russian language classes and studying then even visiting the Soviet Union. She decided to make this political hobby her career so she headed back to school at John Hopkins to get her Masters in International Relations and Soviet Studies, then on to Berkley to get her Ph.D. in the same topic. Here she met her now husband Robert Darst, where they both traveled to the Soviet Union and wrote articles together on waste and environmental justice issues surrounding nuclear power. At GNCE, Jane says she teaches and advises students to "wake up" the next generation on why they should care about social, political and environmental issues. She loves learning from Center students and their projects, and the students love the semester end sustainable potlucks she hosts in her home with her beloved cats. Jane went vegetarian over a decade ago, and is frequently biking or kayaking and traveling, even going on an African safari a few summers past. She continues to write and teach on environmental justice and animal welfare and the intersection of us, other species, and the planet, bringing her formative years full circle.
The warm weather and long days have arrived, so time to gear up so you can get out there! First you must decide what type of fishing as gear is specific especially to water type and species. For example, a freshwater pond setup for small panfish is very different than the gear needed for salt water fishing for Stripers (Striped Bass) in choppy Long Island Sound. Luckily many rods and reel setups are versatile with different line and tackle or live bait for species that inhabit similar waters. Maybe it is easier to pick where you want to go and start from there? Check out the CT DEEP fishing website and try the "Something Fishy" site:
Susan's roots are in the mid-west, where she was born, went to school, and started her environmental and agricultural based education and outreach work. She has worked at a zoo, at a natural history museum at the beginning of discovery schools, and taught high school before working at CT DEEP. This wealth of experience makes her the perfect educator to coordinate and share CT's Project Food, Land and People curriculum, Project Wet, as well as spearheading climate education for the new science standards. This legislative session, CT passed a requirement for climate change to be included in curriculum, but no surprise that Susan was ahead of the need and already offering programs for teachers on climate education. This July Susan is coordinating and holding a 3 day workshop on Communicating Climate Change, and Jennifer is thrilled to be teaching on the boat tour of the CT River having the 25 teachers observe and predict impacts and plan lessons to make climate science come to life for their future students.
So in between leading and chairing multiple educational groups and institutions and all her other citizen science literacy work, what does Susan do for fun? She is an avid reader, quilter and traveler. She loves traveling alone and check out museums and centers to inspire herself and her programs at Kellogg, which you can learn more about here: https://www.ct.gov/DEEP/cwp/view.asp?q=322550. One of her favorites is the Prince Edward Island Potato Museum! Her most recent notable adventure trip was Alaska, but she has done the Grand Canyon and many other places solo. What is next for the inspiring Susan? Perhaps an African Safari, but keep watching as she is sure do do much for for us in the state and beyond who are lucky to have such a talented and committed educator.
Nothing captures the feeling of summer ease like a day fishing, pole in hand, surrounded by water and nature's calm energy. Much like life, you can ponder what will you catch today and bring from the depths into the light? Whether you are in a kiss-and release or catch, clean and eat what you caught frame of mind, this blog series will inspire and inform you to get going!
First step is to get a licence. Luckily, no carbon footprint needed, you can easily obtain one online on the CT DEEP website at https://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?q=322716. Notice there are several types of licenses including freshwater, marine, and a new trout/salmon stamp. I prefer the all water license with the addtional 5$ trout/salmon stamp so my possibilities are limitless. This also benefits conservation efforts statewide. If you are 65 or older there is no fee except for the stamp, and license fees are cheaper for youth. After purchase, make sure you print it out and have it on you at all times, as State Conservation Officers will often stop to see it, as well as inspect what you have caught. Catch limits vary from site to site so make sure you are informed as worse than fines, would be to stress the population or diminish recreational opportunities for yourself and others. Shared resources are to be cared for and treasured by all.
This summer Associate Director Jen Pagach is pioneering an Environmental Leader series, where she interviews inspirational individuals on how they "get their environment on" often while hiking the recently blazed Richard H. Goodwin Trail. During the first section of the Goodwin Trail starting in Haddam she interviewed Brian Toal, Supervising Epidemiologist in the Environmental Health Section CT DPH in charge of toxicology and hazardous substance response. While Brian's work has him dealing with emerging environmental issues all day long, he still has a host of environmental hobbies and pursuits in his free time.
As past President and trip leader with the Hartford Audubon Society, while hiking he shared his birding expertise and tips to allow us to hear and glimpse some really beautiful species through his special binoculars. In the new growth forest with streams and gentle inclines and declines, the canopy was a chorus of beautiful breeding birds. Spotted specimens included a red start, scarlet tanager, indigo bunting, acadian flycatcher and an extra special treat of a cerulean warbler!
With such beautiful birds spotted, you can see why he caught the birding bug and continues to offer tours and help with data collection even past his term as Audubon President. An avid fisherman and golfer, ultimate frisbee player and coach, member of the CT Forest and Parks Association and currently working on backpacking the Appalachian trail in New England, Brian has so much knowledge to share, and his enthusiasm is contagious. In fact, this hiking trip was inspired by him alerting us there was a prothonotary warbler in the Connecticut College Arboretum this Spring!
It was a very special treat to see and hear the bird world and forest thorough his environmental and conservation minded perspective. Through his work, hobbies and passions, he approaches, appreciates and helps the planet in very diverse yet complementary and powerful ways.
If you want to learn more or be on the bird siting list, visit https://www.hartfordaudubon.org/ and http://www.ctbirding.org/birds-birding/ct-birds-email-list/
The Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment at Connecticut College
a special community of students, faculty and staff that promotes student led and faculty guided interdisciplinary research on environmental issues