University launches innovative marine environmental education program and invites public to get involved

The Citizen Opportunities for Accessing Science Training on the Sound (COASTS) program will train nearly two dozen local community members to become citizen scientists, furthering education and marine management in Long Island Sound.

May 20, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

University of New Haven students at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven as part of a class.

Barry Libowitz ’23 is looking forward to what promises to be an exciting and unique experience this summer. He will be part of an innovative new environmental education program that will allow him to share his passion for marine biology with members of the local community.

Libowitz will assist several University faculty members who will lead the inaugural Citizen Opportunities for Accessing Science Training on the Sound (COASTS) program. He looks forward to applying his own knowledge of the field as he helps his teachers educate participants, organize each day’s programming, and participate in the program’s community events.

“This program will allow me to test so many of the skills I learned in the classroom,” he says. “I’m a big believer in the idea that you don’t really know something unless you can teach it. I hope that by teaching volunteers different equipment and theories involved in marine science, I will broaden my own understanding of them.

“Enable people to become better stewards”

University of New Haven faculty, with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund, created COASTS to provide marine environmental education opportunities for members of the local community. Volunteer participants will be trained as “COASTers,” experience Long Island Sound, and gain hands-on experience as citizen scientists.

Amy Carlile, Ph.D., one of the program’s principal investigators, is eager to share her expertise in marine plants and algae. Eager to participate in more local outreach opportunities, she and her colleagues are excited to share their passion for the local environment.

“By providing equitable educational opportunities, we hope to increase knowledge and connection with the marine environment,” said Dr. Carlisle, associate professor and chair of the University’s Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences. “This will in turn lead to a better appreciation of Long Island Sound and its resources. This increased appreciation and knowledge is an effective combination to truly empower people to become better stewards of their “blue backyard”.

“Inspire a personal connection with marine life”

As part of the comprehensive three-month stewardship program, participants will learn techniques to understand the flora, fauna, ecology and water quality of Long Island Sound. Faculty experts will teach them hands-on skills and participants will explore the science and conservation of the Long Island Sound watershed.

Karin Jakubowski, Ph.D., a biology and environmental science practitioner-in-residence, hopes the program will encourage citizen scientists to get involved and ask questions. She will help them learn science teaching and communication methods, and she considers the impact of the program beyond education.

“I hope the program connects a diverse group of residents of all ages and backgrounds to Long Island Sound,” she said. “Opportunities to get outside and experience nature in our local marine environments can inspire a personal connection to marine life, the resources we use from the Sound, and the ecosystems therein.

“To foster this stewardship, people must first have positive experiences around Sound,” she continued. “We hope to impact the community by providing such educational experiences to people who may not have such opportunities. I hope our interns will be proud to reside near this incredible estuary.

“Get involved in conservation”

Open to 20 members of the New Haven and West Haven community, the program is for participants who are at least 16 years old as of June 1, 2022 and who want to learn more about the ocean and then share their knowledge. Participants, who do not need to have previous scientific experience, should apply by June 5.

Participants will learn the human dimensions of coastal management, as well as how to discuss science, conservation and politics with the general public. They will apply their knowledge through educational community events and two professional development workshops for 50 local educators.

“The COASTS program is a great opportunity for community members to learn more about Long Island Sound and get involved in conservation,” said Christian Conroy, Ph.D., assistant professor and coordinator of the University graduate program in environment. science. “Those who join will have the chance to explore our local estuaries and beaches with University of New Haven professors and other experts, practicing the techniques we use to study sound.”

Dr. Christian Conroy and a graduate student sample in Long Island Sound.
Dr. Christian Conroy and a graduate student sample in Long Island Sound.
“The next step in raising awareness”

The immersive programs will take place at field sites along Long Island Sound and at the Canal Dock Boathouse in New Haven. Courses for the participants will take place weekly and the program will also include several field days at various local sites. In addition to University faculty, attendees will also learn from experts at Mystic Aquarium and the National Audubon Society.

Faculty will also host an end-of-year conference to review lessons learned, what worked, and challenges they faced, and to explore recommendations for future training and community outreach events.

“This grant allows us to take a new step in our outreach,” said Jean-Paul Simjouw, Ph.D., lecturer and coordinator of the University’s undergraduate programs in environmental sciences and biology. Marine. “We already offer courses with a service-learning component where students work with local community organizations on projects, but now we can involve community members directly. This grant will strengthen the link between the University and the community.

“It will be a great opportunity”

In addition to diversifying and expanding University programming, COASTS will create new opportunities for University of New Haven students to work with the community and apply what they have learned in the classroom.

For Libowitz, a marine biology student, the program is a great opportunity for him to educate community members while learning himself. A minor in communications, he will take photos and videos of the program to help document it for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund. He hopes it will also help him explore new career opportunities.

“The opportunity to combine my passions for marine biology and communication in one program is a real test for me of the kind of skills I can develop,” he said. “Also, education is something I plan to pursue after graduation, so this will be a great opportunity to see how much I enjoy working with different age groups in an educational setting. informal.”

To learn more about COASTS and to apply, please visit the program webpage. For more information, contact