As part of International Horseshoe Crab Day on June 20, Sacred Heart University and Project Limulus will be hosting a horseshoe tagging event and talk in honor of Jennifer Mattei, a long-time professor at Sacred Heart University who died in December at the age of 62. Mattei’s projects to restore shoreline habitats and protect wildlife, including the horseshoe crab, have played an outsized role in Long Island Sound restoration efforts.
The event will be held at noon at Stratford Point in Stratford, CT, and is part of a series of horseshoe crab events being held in Connecticut this month. They are timed to the season when horseshoe crabs arrive on the beaches from the Sound to spawn. Information about the events, including community monitoring to count horseshoe crab populations, are on the Sacred Heart University website.
Mattei established Project Limulus in the 1990s to conduct research, monitor populations, and raise awareness of the American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus in Latin), a vitally important species to coastal ecosystems that are older than the dinosaurs, but are now in decline. Globally, she served as a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Horseshoe Crab Specialists Group working to protect and conserve horseshoe crabs. Locally, her work at Project Limulus helped to tag over 98,000 horseshoe crabs to better understand their patterns of movement and track their abundance. Through this initiative, she also gave public lectures on the importance of the species to the ecosystem to thousands of people and was an early supporter of community science by inviting volunteers to participate in population counts of the horseshoe crabs on local beaches and reporting the tagged horseshoe crabs they saw to Project Limulus.
Mattei also was a well-respected teacher at Sacred Heart who played a key role in developing the school’s coastal & marine science major, and she chaired the biology department from 2003 to 2009. She mentored dozens of undergraduate and graduate research students, and recruited many students to participate in her research. Collectively, her students delivered more than 75 presentations at internal, national and regional research conferences and received at least five awards. Many of her students went on to pursue careers in science and education. Citing her roles as a dedicated teacher, Sacred Heart University this year awarded her the status of professor emerita.
“Jennifer was extremely passionate about the conservation and restoration of the natural world and about inspiring and educating the next generation of scientists,” said Jo-Marie Kasinak, a former student of Mattei who is now the director of Project Limulus. “She was a huge supporter of undergraduate research, and developed courses that allowed her students to participate in scientific research and present their findings at local conferences.”
Mattei received her Ph.D in Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University in 1994. Her first project that received wide attention occurred when she was a postdoctoral researcher at Rutgers University in the 1990s. She was part of a team of scientists to successfully restore coastal woody shrub habitats on top of closed sections of the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, the largest landfill in the U.S. at the time. Mattei continued her Fresh Kills research with a five-year National Science Foundation grant to study the plant and animal interactions at the site after she joined the Sacred Heart faculty in 1997, the same year she started Project Limulus.
In 2013, Mattei started a new project that bridged a gap between restoring and protecting habitats for wildlife such as horseshoe crabs and responding to the impact of sea level rise and climate change along the coast. With support from a Long Island Sound Futures Fund Grant, Mattei conducted a pilot project to install concrete reef balls just off the shoreline at Stratford Point. The reef balls, which are pocketed with holes, are normally used to mimic natural oyster reefs. They provide a structure for oysters to attach to and grow. But in this project Mattei focused on using the reef balls to dampen the impact of strong waves from eroding the shoreline and drowning a newly planted saltmarsh grass restoration. The project succeeded, indicating that nature-based “living shoreline projects” can be used to adapt to storm surges and higher tides that are likely to occur due to climate change. Since Mattei initiated the concept more than a dozen living shoreline projects in Connecticut and New York portions of the Long Island Sound watershed have been completed, are underway, or are planned.
While she published many academic papers, Mattei focused a lot of her attention to educating the public about the beauty of nature near where they lived. In an article that appeared in the fall 2022 Sacred Heart University magazine, Mattei expressed to the magazine’s readers that environmental preservation in the age of climate change impacts should be considered the highest priority for everyone’s involvement. She wrote optimistically that the scientific community will successfully address this problem, but needed the involvement of individuals as well, even if it starts modestly through simple actions such as planting a tree in a backyard.
“Certain as our dependence on the natural world is, it’s a wonder there is any question over what a priority its preservation should be,” she wrote. “Environmental stewardship is not a hobby or a ‘pet project.’ It’s an existential imperative.”
Kasinak hopes people remember Mattei’s passion for protecting the environment and her tenacity in fighting for what she believed. “She had a way of bringing out the best in those around her and worked to help them reach their full potential. She was instrumental in shaping me into the scientist and educator I am today.”
Project Limulus | Sacred Heart University
LISS Project Limulus slideshow (a photographer for the Long Island Sound Study spent a day with Mattei and her students to watch horseshoe crab monitoring.
Stratford Point Living Shoreline Project
“Our Natural World” Dr. Mattei’s last article which appeared in the Sacred Heart University magazine.
To honor Dr. Mattei’s legacy, the Sacred Heart University Department of Biology is creating The Jennifer H. Mattei Scholarship for Undergraduate Research. This scholarship will provide undergraduate students with stipends to conduct research in Connecticut with a biology faculty member in the fields of ecology, coastal management and restoration or other biological studies involving Long Island Sound, and to support Project Limulus and related ecological research. The University is reaching out to the community, through a crowd-funding site, to establish an endowed fund in Jennifer’s memory that will exist in perpetuity.
Two forums — one held at Locust Valley Library in Nassau County on May 4 and another at the Port Jefferson Village Center in Suffolk County on May 10 — brought together 90 attendees, including state and local decision makers, municipal state, and other stakeholders, working to address coastal erosion along the Long Island Sound shoreline. Participants shared information on best practices, discussed challenges, and identified opportunities to increase resilience, all in an effort to enhance coordination across communities.Panelists highlighted strategies and options to address coastal erosion, discussed the Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas Program, local codes, updated New York State sea level rise projections and more. During small group discussions, attendees delved into:• how to better educate private property owners who live on the shore or who are buying property on the shore• how county, state and federal agencies can better support municipalities and communities who are dealing with shoreline erosion• how to balance protecting coastal habitats with protection of coastal communities and infrastructure. Over the next few months, organizers will review the feedback from the small group discussions and follow up with partners on next steps.Hosted by New York Sea Grant and Long Island Sound Study through the Sustainable and Resilient Communities initiative, these forums were made possible thanks to partnerships with Nassau and Suffolk Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Suffolk County Legislators Sarah Anker, Stephanie Bontempi, Kara Hahn, and Al Krupski. They were led by two Long Island Sound Study extension professionals for sustainable and resilient communities: Elizabeth Hornstein and Sarah Schaefer-Brown, both of New York Sea Grant.
Since 1998, the Long Island Sound Study and its partners have restored over 1,100 acres of tidal wetlands. Learn more at the LISS ecosystem targets and supporting indicator microsite.
Wetlands also are an important component of living shoreline projects, which are nature-based solutions to protect coastal areas from the impacts of sea level rise and climate change. Learn about living shoreline projects in Long Island Sound in the Thriving Habitats section of the Long Island Sound Study website or view a living shorelines story map produced by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Wetlands are both an effective and economical way to enhance community safety while improving quality of life. American Wetlands Month was established in 1991 by EPA and its partners. Find out more why it’s worth celebrating in May or any time of the year on the EPA website.
In early May, the Long Island Regional Planning Council announced the Garden Rewards Program for Long Island homeowners (see news release below). The Long Island Sound Study provided additional funding to this program for eligible residents on the North Shore (residents who live in the Long Island Sound watershed). This additional money helps to increase the capacity of the program.
Syosset, NY – [May 1, 2023] – Long Island homeowners looking to play a role in reducing stormwater runoff, which is one of the leading causes of nitrogen pollution in our waterways, will soon be eligible for grants to help cover the cost and maintenance of runoff mitigation projects on their property.
The Long Island Regional Planning Council (LIRPC), in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and NEIWPCC, is introducing the Long Island Garden Rewards Program which will provide up to $500 to offset the expense of installing green infrastructure on their properties including rain barrels, native plantings, and rain gardens.
“The quality of our surface waters, and of our drinking water beneath us, is threatened by excess nitrogen pollution created by stormwater runoff,” stated John Cameron, LIRPC Chairman. “While municipalities on every level are addressing stormwater runoff and nitrogen pollution, the Long Island Regional Planning Council saw the need to encourage homeowners to become a part of the solution in their own small but significant way.”
Excess nitrogen causes toxic algal blooms that lead to low oxygen conditions, fish kills, harmful algal blooms, degraded wetlands and marine habitats. Nitrogen also contaminates the groundwater, which is the sole source of Long Island’s drinking water supply.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC is committed to protecting Long Island water quality in partnership with the Long Island Regional Planning Council, NEIWPCC, and Nassau and Suffolk counties. Reducing nitrogen pollution is critical to improving water quality, protecting groundwater, and strengthening the long-term health of marine life. DEC encourages homeowners to take part in the Long Island Garden Rewards Program and talk to neighbors about how green infrastructure can reduce runoff and protect the environment.”
“It has been great working with LIRPC and NYSDEC to build out this program, and I’m excited for this launch!” said Courtney Botelho, NEIWPCC Environmental Analyst. “The program offers Long Island residents a hands-on opportunity to meaningfully contribute to local water quality improvements right from their yards.”
Under the Long Island Garden Rewards Program, homeowners can receive a maximum of $500 to help cover the cost of their projects.
Rain Barrels: Rain Barrels reduce stormwater runoff by collecting and storing rainwater for homeowners to later use in their yards and gardens, also helping conserve water consumption. Barrels must be a minimum of 50 gallons and are required to have mosquito netting or screening. Reimbursement of up to $125 for each barrel will be provided for purchase, up to $500 maximum.
Native Plantings: Native plants are heartier and more resilient to local climate conditions. Native plant plantings can reduce water usage, reduce fertilizer and pesticide usage, and promote biodiversity. These native plants help promote a healthy ecosystem and are more resistant to local weather.
Rain Gardens: Rain gardens collect rainwater from roofs, driveways and other surfaces and allow that rain to soak into the ground. Rain gardens can filter stormwater before it reaches local waterways, mitigate flooding caused by pavement and enhance your yard with low maintenance landscaping. To be eligible, a rain garden must be a minimum of 20 square feet, use native plants and be maintained for at least three years.
For more information on the Long Island Garden Rewards CLICK HERE.
About Long Island Regional Planning Council
The Long Island Regional Planning Council comprises public and private sector leaders who are experienced and knowledgeable in business, environment, transportation, and planning. Its mission is to educate Long Island officials, stakeholders and residents on key issues affecting the quality of life in the region, and to propose immediate and long-term strategies and solutions.
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The COE Plan sets out to align and coordinate Communication, Outreach, and Engagement efforts of LISS staff and partners over five years. The Plan provides clear goals, actions, and metrics designed to enhance engagement among LISS’s current – and prospective – partners, enabling them to work in a more coordinated manner, better leverage their respective skills, and expand reach to individuals, organizations, and communities throughout the Sound watershed.
The fact sheet highlights a needs assessment of coastal Long Island Sound communities to better understand the environmental threats and hazards that they are most concerned about, what communities may already be doing to address these issues, and what barriers they are facing when it comes to implementing projects and taking action. The assessment was conducted by the Connecticut and New York Sea Grant Sustainable and Resilient Communities extension professionals. Download fact sheet.
Connecticut Sea Grant is excited to share openings for three extension positions. The positions are:
This entry originally appeared on the Connecticut Sea Grant website.
The request for proposals is available on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation website.
There will be a total of $10 million for environmental grants in the Long Island Sound watershed (CT, MA NH, NY, VT).Grant range $50k-$1.5m.
Types of Funding: $50k-$1.5m for “shovel-ready” projects $50k-$500k for planning…watershed, resilience, feasibility, suitability/ alternatives analyses, site assessment/conceptual design, final design/permits
Geography & Funding Priorities? See the Interactive Sound Watershed Map
Connecticut and New York grants will be available for
Long Island Sound Watershed (non-coastal CT, MA, NH and VT) grants available for projects to prevent nutrient/nitrogen loading such as riparian, freshwater wetland & in-stream restoration, agriculture, wastewater treatment facility retrofit etc.
Want project idea feedback? Reach out to [email protected].
The deadline to submit project ideas is April 14, 2023. NY and CT Coastal: Reach out to a Long Island Sound Study Extension Professional MA, NH, VT & non-coastal CT: Reach out to [email protected] Register for one of 12 Workshops or Webinars. Check out the RFP for the list. Grant-writing Assistance Program? Questions?…[email protected]
Robert Burg, Long Island Sound Study, [email protected]
Paul C. Focazio, Communications Manager, NYSG, [email protected], P: (631) 632-6910Judy Benson, Communications Coordinator, CTSG, [email protected], P: (860) 287-6426
Soundwide (March 2, 2023) – Long Island Sound water quality, salt marsh and public beach characteristics will be examined by marine and social scientists in nine research projects awarded funding by the Connecticut and New York Sea Grant programs (CTSG and NYSG respectively) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Study (LISS) Research Grant Program.
These new projects, which seek information that can be used to improve the conditions of the estuary for humans and wildlife, are being supported by $4.2 million in federal funds. That will be supplemented with matching funds of $2.1 million, for a total research package of more than $6.3 million.
The projects will be conducted over two years beginning this spring. The results will build on the substantial body of research funded through the LISS Research Grant Program administered by CTSG and NYSG since 2008 which has contributed to improved understanding and management of this nationally recognized estuary. Cumulatively, this represents the largest research investment in the Sound, which has been designated an estuary of national significance and one of the most valuable natural resources for both states.
The four CTSG-administered projects are:
The five NYSG-administered projects are:
In their words: Long Island Sound Research Projects:
From Sylvain De Guise, director of CTSG: “The continued partnership between Sea Grant programs and EPA will support a nice diversity of innovative and ambitious research projects to benefit both people and ecosystems of Long Island Sound, for mutual benefits—a wise investment, in my opinion.”
From Syma Ebbin, research coordinator for CTSG: “This competition was the largest ever administered, allowing the program to support these diverse, high-quality proposals, all with the capacity to enhance Long Island Sound’s management, health and public benefits.”
From Becky Shuford, director of NYSG: “New York Sea Grant is proud to continue this long-standing partnership with Connecticut Sea Grant and the EPA Long Island Sound Study. This year was the largest research competition to date resulting in the selection of nine excellent and diverse studies that will address priorities related to historical and current water quality conditions, habitat and fisheries health and restoration, and Sound access. The results will have direct benefit to the communities, coasts, critters, and waters of the Long Island Sound Estuary.”
From Lane Smith, research coordinator for NYSG: “This cohort of new research will build on the growing legacy of impactful research that benefits the Long Island Sound and its coastal communities. This continues the fruitful partnership between Sea Grant and the EPA Long Island Sound Study that benefits the LIS ecosystem.”
From David W. Cash, EPA New England regional administrator: “The Long Island Sound estuary is an essential ecosystem that supports communities, economies, and habitats across the region. I’m pleased to say these diverse and innovative Sea Grant projects include a focus on improving the Sound’s water quality, mitigating the effects of climate change, and helping local communities receive more equitable access to the Sound.”
From Lisa F. Garcia, EPA Region 2 regional administrator: “The Long Island Sound is in the center of one of the most densely populated coastlines in the country. This investment will help Long Island Sound communities combat sources of pollution that lead to closing public beaches or contaminating local fish. It will also help communities improve efforts to restore wetland habitat and increase resiliency to climate change by understanding the effects of sea level rise and warming temperatures on valuable marsh habitats. This funding will advance ecological research and play a critical role in improving water quality and reducing pollution, providing lasting results for the wildlife and wetlands in the Sound for years to come.”
Descriptions of Long Island Sound Study research grants since 2000 with final research reports are available on the Long Island Sound Study website.