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AntU Day on July 27, one of the main events of this year’s Bug Week, was an invitation to explore and engage in activities focused on the complex biological systems of army ants and their hundreds of associated species, or ‘guests.’

AntU is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and is intended to preserve and curate the University’s collection of 2 million army and guests that resulted from 50 years of fieldwork in Central and South America by the late Professor Carl Rettenmeyer and his wife Marian. The exhibition of specimens from the collection, located in the Biology/Physics Building, opened to the public for the first time in April.

 


The UConn Fire Department’s ability to handle difficult fires, emergencies in high places, and other complex rescue calls is now being greatly enhanced with the addition of a modern ladder truck to its firefighting apparatus.

The new Tower 122 truck was delivered to the University this spring, and went into service July 7 after the necessary practice runs were completed and firefighters were trained in its use. The new vehicle replaces the department’s 1994 truck, which had outlived its 20-year service life and was increasingly out of service in need of costly repairs.

“This purchase was planned out very thoughtfully to meet the needs of the University for another 20 years,” UConn Fire Chief Greg Priest says of the new Rosenbauer truck, which can carry 300 gallons of water in its on-board tank and, when attached to a hydrant, can pump 1,500 gallons per minute.

The purchase comes after a three-year planning process that started with a committee of people from the fire department, motor pool, and elsewhere, who mapped out the attributes a new truck would need to best serve the campus.

UConn Fire Capt. Mitchell Dlubac, an 18-year veteran of the department, headed the committee as it painstakingly reviewed everything from the ideal on-board generator power to the sizes and lengths of the hoses, the aerial’s maximum reach and angles, and other attributes.

Rosenbauer was selected through a competitive bidding process, making UConn one of a growing number of East Coast fire departments to add equipment from that company, which has been producing fire apparatus in Europe for more than a century. The vehicle was built and equipped entirely in the U.S., and replaces the Pierce that had been in service at Storrs since 1994.

Four additional feet might not sound like much, but it could get you to the next window. — Fire Chief Greg Priest

With a 104-foot height when extended, the new truck’s aerial is four feet longer than that of the previous truck, meaning its ladder can reach the highest levels of every residential building on campus, even the notably tall buildings such as the McMahon and Next Gen halls.

“Four additional feet might not sound like much, but it could get you to the next window,” Priest says, adding that there’s also another ladder at the end so people can climb on from windows or roofs without assistance, and can then get to the safety of the bucket even if the firefighters haven’t yet reached them.

The new truck is also slightly shorter in length than the old truck, which makes it much easier to maneuver around corners, near pedestrians and parked cars, and in the many other tight spots around the Storrs campus.

Dlubac says another attractive feature of the Rosenbauer is that its windshield and other replacement parts are not exclusive to that maker, so the University can save time and money by purchasing them from whichever company offers the best value. The last truck needed special replacement parts made only by that manufacturer, which meant the University couldn’t shop around for lower prices.

“This should provide long-term savings, and also help ensure the truck returns to service more quickly, which is a benefit to the University and to everyone that the department serves,” Dlubac says.

The tower truck’s price through competitive bidding was $1.2 million, which is in line with the industry standard for such vehicles. The University also received $50,000 for the trade-in value of the 23-year-old previous tower truck.

The new truck has already received positive reviews from people who’ve spotted it being driven around campus on test runs. Dlubac says many students have stopped to take photos with the truck, or to praise the integration of “UConn blue” and the Husky logo as part of the red truck’s exterior design.

Some of the new tower truck’s benefits are invisible, but profound.

For instance, better insulation in the vehicle’s cab means firefighters will be better able to hear each other and the radio, and less likely to experience the kind of hearing damage that can occur from close proximity to the loud sirens outside.

Some other features include a rear mounting for the aerial tower rather than mounting on the front of the truck, which means the bucket hangs off the front and visibility is better for the driver. The old vehicle had that feature, too, which made training on the new vehicle move along easily and quickly.

The aerial can also be maneuvered to lower its ladder and bucket below grade – a feature the old truck lacked – to help rescue people who may be stuck in low-lying areas due to car crashes, construction accidents, and other emergencies.

The Willimantic Fire Department is the only agency nearby that has a similarly large, well-equipped tower truck. However, it can take 20 minutes for that vehicle to get to campus in an emergency depending on road conditions, including the slower speed at which the heavy truck moves when traveling up Spring Hill on Route 195.

Because of UConn’s proximity to Storrs Center, the UConn Fire Department responds to emergencies at that commercial and residential complex, along with nearby neighborhoods. That means the new tower truck’s attributes benefit not only UConn, but also the Town of Mansfield.

“There are no other resources like this that are directly bordering the University,” Priest said of the new UConn vehicle. “A tower truck is a critical piece of life safety equipment, and when you need it there’s no way to get the desired result with a different type of apparatus.”

 


Hannes Baumann, assistant professor of marine sciences, specializes in research on how fish populations are adapted to natural variability in their environment and how they react to ongoing anthropogenic changes in the oceans and coastal waters. These include changes in pH (ocean acidification) and temperature (global warming), but also man-made alterations to the marine food web (fisheries exploitation) and natural mortality patterns (selection).

This summer, with funding from the National Science Foundation, Baumann and his team are conducting research on seasonal changes in spawning and offspring sensitivity in the Atlantic Silverside (Menidia menidia). The Atlantic Silverside is an inconspicuous but ecologically important fish that spawns in saltwater marshes and comprises one of the most abundant food sources for striped bass, bluefish, yellowtail flounder, and others along the American east coast.

In order to study the sensitivity of the very young fish to low pH and low oxygen, caused by climate change and excess nutrients in the water, the researchers obtain embryos from fish caught in the wild and raise them in the lab. They also produce Silverside offspring in the lab by strip-spawning males and females and then counting the eggs.

Graduate student Chris Murray is studying the sensitivity of offspring to the separate and combined effects of high CO2 and low oxygen. REU student Elle Parks is looking at the effects of CO2 and temperature on the starvation resistance of silverside larvae.

Together with Baumann, graduate student James Harrington is rearing fish in collaboration with colleagues from Cornell University, for purposes of genetic studies. Their goal is to develop an annotated genome of the species, which will assist in understanding the molecular and genetic responses of the organisms to local selection regimes and marine climate change.

 



 


 


 

Students celebrated the Hindu spring festival of Holi on Saturday, April 8. Holi, also known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love,” is celebrated in India and Nepal. It signifies the victory of good over evil, the end of winter, and the arrival of spring.

 


 

The Branford House at UConn’s Avery Point campus was built at the turn of the 20th century as a summer home for local financier and philanthropist Morton Plant. Modeled after the famous Newport mansions, it was named after Plant’s hometown of Branford, Conn.

The mansion, which has panoramic views of Fishers Island and Long Island Sound, was designed by Plant’s wife Nellie, who had studied architecture at the Sorbonne in Paris, and was implemented by English architect Robert W. Gibson.

The exterior was done almost entirely in the Tudor style, using granite quarried from the grounds in order to harmonize with the estate’s natural surroundings. The interior was a melange of several different styles, including Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Classical, and even Flemish. Materials used for the interior ranged from rich woods such as mahogany, oak, and walnut, to imported stone and metals such as onyx, marble, sandstone, bronze, and iron. A two-story marble fireplace was the focal point of the house.

Although the Plants only used the mansion for around 30-60 days a year, their staff maintained the estate year-round.

After Morton Plant’s death in 1918, the estate was passed to his descendants, until it was eventually sold for $55,000 at auction in 1939. However, it soon came into the hands of the State of Connecticut. From the 1940s to the 1960s, it became the property of the United States Coast Guard, but reverted back to the state when the Coast Guard training center was relocated. Shortly after, the estate was turned over to the University of Connecticut for use as a branch campus. The Avery Point campus was established on the property in 1967.

In 2001, the mansion was refurbished. It now houses the administrative offices and visitors’ center for UConn Avery Point, and hosts events and celebrations year-round.

UConn Avery Point is celebrating its 50th anniversary during calendar year 2017. For information about planned anniversary celebrations, go to http://50years.averypoint.uconn.edu/.

 


More than 80 students took part in a 24-hour competition this past weekend to come up with solutions to problems associated with allergies and anaphylaxis – acute allergic reaction to an antigen.

The second annual HackUConn was held in the state-of-the art makerspace at NextGen Hall, beginning Friday evening and continuing through Saturday.

The students, from a range of different disciplines, including Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Business, Fine Arts, and others, worked together in teams. Student innovations encompassed hardware, software, and business models. Their solutions ranged from smart epi-pen devices to a food allergy app. Four of the 14 teams won prizes.

The event was organized by the student-run Innovation Society and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Consortium, with lead sponsor KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation, whose mission is to stop anaphylaxis.

 


From jet-skiing to climbing the highest mountain in Costa Rica; sightseeing in Paris, L.A., and D.C.; helping with flood relief, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, and supporting their beloved Huskies at a baseball game, UConn students took spring break as an opportunity to expand their horizons.

 


 

Asian Nite on Feb. 25 lit up the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts with movement, color, and sound.