Connecticut Audbon Society
The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

Science Research at the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

College Interns Research Aquatic Plants to Assess Health of Connecticut River Estuary

Interns Leila Kouakou and Haley Rivers spent the summer navigating a canoe through scenic Connecticut River coves. But they weren’t paddling for fun.

The Mount Holyoke College environmental studies majors were awarded paid fellowships by the Lynk Foundation to work full-time with the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center to conduct a survey of the abundance and distribution of “submerged aquatic vegetation,” also known as SAV.

Leila Kouakou, left, and Haley Rivers, on Selden’s Cove. Photo by Bob MacDonnell.

Although these underwater plants are easy to overlook, SAV is a vital component of aquatic ecosystems, providing habitat for fish and food for waterfowl such as American Black Duck and Green-winged Teal.

Under the guidance of Jim Arrigoni, aquatic ecologist for the RTPEC, the interns focused on Whalebone and Selden Coves in Lyme. Their objective was to compare current conditions with a baseline study conducted in the mid-1990s by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Juliana Barrett, was consulted early in the design of the interns’ research.

Leila Kouakou, middle, and Haley Rivers, working with biologist Jim Arrigoni on an aquatic plant survey in Selden’s Cove.

“In order to understand changes in environmental quality, it’s important to continually assess the condition of critical resources like SAV,” said Dr. Barrett, who is now an extension educator with the Sea Grant Program at UCONN’s Avery Point campus. “But it’s also gratifying to see these young women follow up on the work that we conducted two decades ago.”

Among the interns’ most important findings is that water celery (Vallisneria americana), formerly the most abundant SAV species and an excellent source of food for waterfowl, is now less abundant than waterweed (Elodea sp.), which has much less nutritional value.

They also documented in Whalebone Cove the first occurrence of water chestnut (Trapa natans), notable because early detection and removal are essential to the control of this highly invasive species.

Osprey Nation

Osprey Nation is Connecticut Audubon Society’s citizen science partnership, launched in the summer of 2014, to monitor the health  of our state’s Ospreys. The goal of Osprey Nation is to create a long-term record of data that will give the conservation community a better understanding of the health of Connecticut’s Osprey population.

In its first season, Osprey Nation’s 100-plus stewards located 414 nests in five counties and 42 towns, and monitored 174 of those nests. We plotted all the nests and the data submitted by the stewards on the map below. Osprey Nation stewards confirmed that 78 young Ospreys were successfully fledged in 2014, a number that we’re confident is low.

In its second year, the program saw a rise in the number of volunteer stewards, to 146; in the number of nest locations added to the project’s interactive map, to 515; in the number of active nests that were recorded, from 210 to 250; and the total number of hatchlings, from 221 to 415. Observers recorded that 356 of those hatchlings fledged.

In its third year, we had 220 stewards sign up to monitor nests. By the end of the 2016 season, there were 606 nests plotted on the Osprey Nation map. Over 400 of these nests were active, and approximately 500 fledglings were reported this year!

The project is off to a great start but we still need your help and expertise!

Our network of Osprey Nation stewards collects and sends us data on the birds’ arrival dates each spring, the location of nests, nesting success and departure dates. We enter the data on a map for everyone to view. Osprey Nation is a partnership with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and we will be submitting the data to DEEP biologists.

Email to learn more.

Federal railroad decision is a victory for conservation in southeastern Connecticut

Piping Plover BeachOur statement on the decision by the Federal Railroad Administration in July 2017 to abandon plans to run a high-speed rail line under the Connecticut River and Old Lyme.

The decision by the Federal Railroad Administration to abandon the proposed Connecticut-Rhode Island bypass of its Northeast Corridor project in favor of having state officials study an alternative route is a considerable victory for conservation and environmental protection in southeastern Connecticut.
In comments opposing this proposal, the Connecticut Audubon Society pointed out that the FRA’s Preferred Alternative ignored the impact on four endangered or threatened species: Atlantic sturgeon, shortnose sturgeon, Roseate Terns, and Piping Plover.

Based on that flaw, Connecticut Audubon called for further study of the route through southeastern Connecticut, and for greater involvement by local officials and residents.

The Hartford Courant, CT Mirror, and New Haven Register included excerpts of our statement in their breaking news stories about the decision.
The decision has taken into account the opposition of residents of the area and the concerns of the Town of Old Lyme, which issued an 82-page report on the proposal that included an environmental assessment prepared by the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center.

Old Lyme’s First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder deserves credit for her dogged work and foresight in putting together a strategy team to assess this issue.

The Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement was flawed in that it failed to recognize the impact on historic, cultural and environmental resources that would have been adversely affected by the construction of a tunnel under the ecologically sensitive Connecticut River Estuary and the Town of Old Lyme.

It was our conclusion that the infrastructure project posed a substantial threat to the estuary and would have created displacement and destruction of habitats as well as reduced the estuary’s ability to defend from storm surges.

We are gratified that the FRA took our concerns seriously and has placed the decision as to the best route in the hands of state authorities. We expect that further study will continue to receive local input and input from environmental organizations. – Claudia Weicker, chair of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center




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