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Department of Natural Resources and the Environment: An Overview

As evidenced by the name, faculty in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) focus on management and conservation of our planet’s limited natural resources, including earth’s water and climate system, air quality, forests, fisheries, and wildlife resources. “Our departmental research mission statement is to contribute to the solution of environmental problems, to increase understanding of natural resources systems and to enhance the wise and sustainable management of these resources,” says Jason Vokoun, associate professor, and interim department head.  Read More

Jason Vokoun appointed head, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment

This past August, after serving as interim head in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment since May of 2017, Jason Vokoun was appointed department head. He was also promoted to full professor and director of the interdisciplinary environmental sciences major. “It has been an eventful year for me professionally,” Vokoun says. “I’m humbled to be able to tap into my passion to help people succeed. One of my favorite things about being a professor has always been to work with students and help them find a path to their career. That was always the thing that gave me the most joy. I find in being department head that I am able to do similar things, but now across broader networks of people. It has been the great surprise of this position and provides me a lot of personal satisfaction.” Read More

David B. Schroeder Scholarship supports students preparing for careers in natural resources

The David B. Schroeder Scholarship was established in memory of David B. Schroeder, professor emeritus and former head of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE). The scholarship provides support for outstanding seniors enrolled full-time as majors in the department. Schroeder enjoyed a career at UConn that spanned forty-one years, until his retirement in 2006. He died in 2015, at the age of 80. This year’s Schroeder Scholarship recipient, Michaela Poppick, is an NRE major with a focus in fisheries and wildlife conservation and a minor in environmental studies. On receiving the scholarship, she said, “I am primarily responsible for paying for my own education, and scholarships have made the difference between going to college and not. It’s been really important that I keep up my grades to be able to attend grad school and receive internships, but I also want to show that I really am passionate and appreciative for what others have contributed to my education.” Read More

A New Tide at UConn’s Connecticut Institute of Water Resources

What do taking a trip to the beach, testing a well, and planting a new garden have in common? You guessed it – water. UConn is home to a state-wide organization focused on providing Connecticut’s citizens with information and research about all the water resources we encounter in our daily lives. As the state’s land-grant university, UConn became the home of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources (CTIWR) in 1964 as part of College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources. The institute seeks to resolve state and regional water-related problems and provide a strong connection between water resource managers and the academic community. CTIWR also seeks to share water-related research and other information with the general public to bridge the gap between scientists and the community. Read More

Connecticut’s Marshes: Past, Present, and Uncertain Future

A troubling report issued recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that Earth is just two decades away from disastrously high levels of carbon in the atmosphere. As we approach those levels, there has been an increased focus on developing and using technology to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yet nature already has some effective means to accomplish this – wetlands and marshes. Two assistant professors in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Ashley Helton and Beth Lawrence, are studying the processes that occur in these complex ecosystems. “Globally, wetlands and marshes are one of the largest natural sinks for carbon,” Helton says. “We want to quantify what wetlands are doing in terms of how they impact various ecosystem functions.” Read More

The Rains in Africa: How Global Climate Influences the Water Cycle

While water is a precious, life-sustaining resource, too little or too much can spell trouble. Water moves around the planet, either in the ground or through the air, in a well-orchestrated cycle, one that UConn associate professor in the department of Natural Resources and the Environment Richard Anyah is working to better understand. His research, recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, with colleagues from Cardiff University (U.K.) and Curtin University (Australia), focused on how variations in climate can impact the cycle of water and its storage in Sub-Saharan, and especially Southern, Africa. Read More

Groundwater’s Role in Legacy Nitrogen Transport

Every summer, hundreds of near-shore coastal waters across the globe, including the Long Island Sound, become “dead zones.” These areas are so oxygen-starved they cannot support marine life. This is caused by nitrogen pollution, much of which comes from the use of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. When it rains, nitrogen fertilizer runs off the land to streams and rivers, which transport it downstream to estuaries and oceans. The processes of surface runoff and river transport of nitrogen responsible for dead zones have been studied since the 1980s and are well understood. But nitrogen that does not run off the land surface can move underground into groundwater. Because groundwater moves much slower than surface water, nitrogen in fertilizer may not reach streams and rivers until years, decades, or even centuries after it was applied. Read More

Wildlife ecologist assists in statewide bobcat study

After years of hunting and trapping and loss of habitat dwindled their population, Connecticut’s only wildcat appears to be making a comeback. Bobcats were once a rare sight in the state, but residents have glimpsed these predators more frequently in recent years. People across the state have been reporting bobcats in their hometowns to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Wildlife experts speculate the animal’s population has been steadily increasing, but lack accurate data about their current numbers. DEEP started the CT Bobcat Project in September 2017 with the goal of assessing the bobcat population and studying its behaviors in the state. Assistant Professor Tracy Rittenhouse of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment recently joined the research team. Read More

Contact the Natural Resources and the Environment Department:

1376 Storrs Road, Unit 4087
Storrs, Connecticut 06269-4087
(860) 486-2840