Monday, April 20, 2020

New Voices

This week we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day. Our celebrations will be different for sure. No gatherings, no work parties to plant trees. But we can each truly celebrate the Earth even more this year than we may have before. As we are isolated from one another, we can become more aware and attuned to the Earth. Nature is at her most beautiful, active and alive right now. Celebrate that!
Many of us of a certain age can remember when there was no Earth Day. We can remember when our waterways were filthy and air not was fit to breathe at some times. We can celebrate the change. And we can celebrate that the next generations of leaders will have grown up having Earth Day and environmental awareness as part of their daily lives, part of their school curriculum.
The young adults that are part of the Goodwin Niering Center for the Environment are very much more aware and forward thinking than I may have been at their age. They are also experiencing the worst pandemic threat in a century. But they adjust, adapt and carry on with hope for the future.

We welcome their voices as they report on their projects from this last semester. These are the voices of the future. And I have hope. 
This is Hope.  Photograph by Beth Sullivan.

Hello Avalonia eTrail readers!

My name is Amelia Packard. I’m a sophomore Physics major at Connecticut College working with Avalonia through the Goodwin-Niering Center(GNCE). Connecticut College’s GNCE is a group of students and faculty at the school who are all passionate about the environment and meet once or twice a week. From a large pool of sophomore applicants, only 12 are selected each year. Each student will complete a senior integrative project to try to answer questions that they pose about the world. As we all come from different backgrounds and majors, the topics range from beauty to chemical structures in the environment. But we all share something in common - a love for the outdoors.

I grew up on a family farm and was almost always outside. I played any game you could imagine with my friends in our 12-acre horse pasture and 20-stall stable. In high school I joined the Glastonbury Crew Team because I wanted to be out on the Connecticut River in a boat with my teammates. The first image (1) shows the farm where I grew up. Ours is the green horse pasture in the middle. The other two images (2 and 3) were taken in Cotton Hollow, a great place to hike in my hometown where I have been many times. Growing up outside has ingrained an interest in the environment in me.
Image 1

Image 2 Photograph by Mark Packard.

Image 3 Photograph by Mark Packard.

My interests seem to have a common theme as well. I love it when things move. I love being able to train a horse to move correctly. I like finding rhythm and pace when I work with horses. And in rowing, it’s all about making the boat move faster, improving your technique and strength to better move the boat.

When I hear about environmental issues, specifically global climate change, I wonder if future generations will be able to enjoy the outdoors the way I did. The constant fossil fuel consumption by the world’s population is raising the levels of what are known as greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. These gasses trap heat and raise the Earth’s average temperature. Because of this, climate change will greatly alter habitats around the world. I want to explore sources, especially ones that involve movement (kinetics), in order to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. By doing this, we can mitigate the damage done by climate change on ecosystems. This is a very similar goal to what Avalonia is trying to achieve. We are both, in our own ways, preserving and protecting land for future enjoyment.

I have made connections from extracurricular interests to my academics. During high school AP Physics, I found that I am most interested in the laws of motion. Physics helped explain why the world around me works the way it does. Then I connected my interest in motion and my passion for the environment and I began to look into kinetic sources of energy such as wind, hydropower, tidal, and wave energy. So I asked myself, why aren’t other forms of kinetic renewables seen in the industry today? Was it communication about the issue? Were they not sustainable? It’s these kinds of questions I want to help answer during my lifetime.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 11% of our energy in 2018 came from renewable sources. About 45% of that was from kinetic sources. According to Energy UK, in 2016 the UK obtained their energy mainly from coal (42%), nuclear (21%), and renewables (25%). The makeup of their renewable energy came from wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass, and solar.

From this information, we can see that a lot of renewable energy comes from kinetic sources. Ocean energy (a combination of energy that comes from the ocean) is a relatively new type of energy that is being researched. In some parts of the world waves are large and constant, creating large amounts of energy to be harnessed. The ocean also has currents which can be harnessed as well (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management). In the fourth image, you can see how researchers have designed tools to help capture this energy. In general terms, in order to create electricity, you need to drive a generator or turbine( The designs in the fourth image (4) show how that is possible. This idea is very similar for all types of electricity generation.

I believe that exploring new energy sources will help protect land from climate impacts, and therefore preserve it. I find this fascinating, and I am looking forward to being able to help protect and preserve the land that we all know and love.

But right now, during our sophomore seminar, GNCE students are working on projects for Avalonia. I’m writing blogs and offering a new voice and point of view. My other classmates are working hard on their projects, even as they work from home due to COVID-19. As most colleges have, Connecticut College has sent the majority of students to work from home for the rest of the semester. We are all working to adapt our projects and continue moving forward during this crazy time. Tune in next time for an overview of what we are doing.

Image 4. Image by Alpaslaan Aydingakko from Research Gate.

Aydingakko, Alpaslan, et al. “Figure 6 Typical Types of the Wave Energy Converters (20) .” ResearchGate, 1 Aug. 2018,
How Are Ocean Waves Converted to Electricity?”,
Renewable Energy on the Outer Continental Shelf.” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,
U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” U.S. Energy Facts Explained - Consumption and Production - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA),
WebxSol. “Electricity Generation.” Energy UK Small,

Monday, April 6, 2020

Time for some new ways of thinking

By Beth Sullivan
In less than three weeks the world has turned more upside-down and inside-out than anyone could have imagined. I am quite sure just about everyone feels as I do - overwhelmed, scared, frustrated and somewhat useless. Being considered “elderly” doesn’t just get me a senior discount, but pretty much mandates that I try to really stay home and stay safe. I am.
I am very grateful that I find solace in nature; solitude and quiet are not things I am afraid of. I have always embraced them. But it is not for everyone. It surely is a bigger change for so many other people, than for me. We are so lucky to live in an area with many available open spaces, to spread out, walk, sit and think or sit and not think. We can meet friends and keep our distance, but talk a little louder outdoors and get at least some sort of real un-pixilated face time.
We are lucky to live in an age of easier communication and connection. With the internet we can take classes, read books, see our grandchildren from afar and learn a million different things. It’s hard, though, for me to sit still at the computer so long now, especially since the weather is getting better.
This year my gardens will be cleaned earlier and that’s a good thing since things seem to be springing up earlier. This year more than ever, we should notice and cherish the coming of spring. We have the time. Take notes. Take photos. Write in a journal or do some sketching. I have suggested taking a child out with you, to explore, see things through their eyes and to embrace their sense of hopefulness. My little ones are out of my reach right now. It’s hard to face time with a 6 month old, and a toddler really doesn’t quite have the patience and understanding for conversation, but she does blow great kisses.
However my 5 ½ year old grandson and I have invented a game. When I am out and about in the yard or woods, camera /phone in hand as always, I am finding things to photograph. The most mundane things look so amazing when seen very close up. I challenge him to figure out what they are. Sometimes there is a story behind the photo: a shell from a cicada that emerged last summer, close up of woolly bear ‘fur’ which spent the winter under a pile of leaves. Somethings lead to a bigger conversation or a hunt in their own area to find the same. Sometimes he has to look things up. Sometimes we both do.
We have had a lot of fun and laughs together over this. We also created a Fairy House in the woods when he was here months ago. Now he has me check it to see what the fairy has left and take a photo so we can discuss the contents. That’s fun for both of us. That fairy is busy!
A magical fairy house.

An emerging rhubarb leaf.

Cicada larval shell.

It's a root, not a pile of poop.

Some items to keep in mind

This is all fun stuff, distracting activities, but we know there is underlying seriousness. I have a couple of requests.
While we are all worrying about the crisis at hand, we have needed to shift our priorities a lot. But while we are home worrying, there is still a climate crisis. There are many who believe that these two situations are intricately related. The global climate talks have ceased. Each day I read of new laws that dismantle former protections for our environment and public lands here in our country. This seems to be happening quietly and there is no one objecting. While you have the time to read, please take heed, you can take the time to become involved without being part of a crowd. Let your voice be heard, so that when we emerge from this crisis we will still have large unspoiled places, protected land that we can cherish and visit when we are free again to roam.
It is the small places we call home that we are using now. The Avalonia trails throughout SE CT are welcome havens for families and individuals. The preserves will remain open. There are several programs dedicated to family hiking and exploration: Avalonia’s Hike and Seek, and the local Hike Stonington. I am guessing other areas have similar programs. I have run into so many people out on the trails these last weeks. It is wonderful. Please keep in mind the rules of physical distance between people, avoid groups, and please keep your dogs on leashes. Our pets are therapy now but keep them close and beside you, for their sake, out of concern for others, and for the wildlife we are striving to protect.
A small ask: if you are now, newly enjoying Avalonia’s trails and if you are able, please support our work by becoming a member or offering a small donation. We still have to “keep the lights on” though the office is closed. Our small staff is working from home. We are still using equipment to maintain the trails and are raising funds and writing grants for several acquisitions that will become available to you in the future. Thank you.
I am personally wishing you all well. Be safe, stay home, but you can call the preserves home as you need.
Computers are used for connections on many levels.

There's plenty of space out here. Photograph by MJ Hughes.

You can teach physical distancing with a good stick to allow social fun time. Photograph by Nick Young. 

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.