UConn researchers to explore marine life and human-sea interaction


Six research projects exploring various facets of Long Island Sound and the wider marine environment have been selected by Connecticut Sea Grant for the 2022-2024 funding cycle.

Four of them will aim to better understand marine life under changing environmental conditions. One of the others will examine community perceptions and behaviors in response to flood risks, while the sixth will focus on human relationships with the marine environment and an individual’s “ocean identity”. Four of the principal investigators are based at the University of Connecticut and two are based at Southern Connecticut State University.

The projects are expected to receive a total of $ 765,585 in federal funds administered by Connecticut Sea Grant, to which is added $ 410,564 in non-federal funds, for a total research investment of more than $ 1.17 million. Prices are contingent upon receipt of federal funding slated for early 2022.

“Once again, I am impressed with the quality, diversity and collaborative nature of the projects selected for funding, and how the research competition could leverage local and regional talent to solve complementary issues important to Long Island Sound and the people who care, ”says Sylvain De Guise, director of Connecticut Sea Grant.

Syma Ebbin, Connecticut Sea Grant research coordinator, noted that the projects represent a variety of academic disciplines.

“The direction and extent of the research funded under this cycle is exciting to see,” she says. “Research projects encompass the natural, physical and social sciences. Together, they will improve our understanding of the reciprocal relationship between humans and the marine environment and, hopefully, generate more lasting connections. “

The four projects involving UConn researchers are:

  • Hannes Bauman, associate professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at UConn, will work with Deborah Pacileo and Jacqueline Benway of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to study the abundance and growth of Black Sea Bass to determine the role of rising water temperatures and salinity in growing populations of this fish in Long Island Strait. The fish will be harvested during DEEP’s spring trawl surveys in 2022 and 2023, and the ear bone structures called otoliths that record annual growth will be analyzed. Richard McBride of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also participate in the research. This project will receive $ 149,173 in CTSG funding, complemented by $ 77,205 in matching funds.
  • Hans Dam, Professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at UConn, will work with Michael Finiguerra, Associate Professor in Residence in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn, to test the impact of various climate change conditions on the survival of copepods, microscopic marine animals that are key to the food webs of the Long Island Strait and other coastal and offshore waters. The research will advance an earlier project funded by CT Sea Grant that established rapid but limited adaptation of this zooplankton to changing environmental conditions over 25 generations. The new experiments will focus on the response to warming oceans, ocean acidification, and combined warming and acidification. This project will receive $ 149,563 in CTSG funding, complemented by $ 78,214 in matching funds.
  • James Knighton, Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment at UConn, will assess how socio-economic factors influence the behavior of coastal communities with regard to flood insurance and mitigation measures. The project will use data from the census and the National Flood Insurance Program to characterize the factors that explain variations in tolerance to flood risks, relationships between risks and losses, precautionary measures taken after the flooding. loss and memorization of past floods. Specifically, the research will examine seven Connecticut coastal communities with coastal surge barriers and present the findings to flood mitigation experts to inform efforts in high social vulnerability communities that underutilize risk management programs. ‘flood. This project will receive $ 146,337 in CTSG funding, complemented by $ 74,316 in matching funds.
  • Christopher Perkins and Jessica Brandt, from the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment at UConn, will examine PFAS contamination in shellfish and the phytoplankton they consume. PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances — are chemicals used in a variety of consumer and industrial products that are persistent in the environment. A growing body of evidence suggests that they have many detrimental effects on humans and wildlife. The shellfish and phytoplankton chosen for the study would come from an area where PFAS contamination is known or suspected. Blue mussels and oysters in this area would be analyzed for PFAS concentrations, and these results compared to PFAS concentrations in phytoplankton. The results would be shared with professionals in public health, aquaculture and environmental management. The project will receive $ 140,359 in CTSG funding, supplemented by $ 70,542 in matching funds.

The CTSG Research Funding Competition is open every two years and uses federal funding administered by the Connecticut Sea Grant to support projects that improve the health of marine and coastal ecosystems and benefit the public. Connecticut Sea Grant is a partnership between UConn and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of 34 Sea Grant programs across the country. It is based at UConn’s Avery Point campus in Groton.

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