Dr. Breslin Works to Preserve Long Island Sound and Educate Students
Anisa Jibrell – General Assignment Reporter
Just off the coast of Branford, Connecticut among the Thimble Islands, lies a five-acre island in a discreet location dotted with rich ecology and wildlife, that members of the Outer Island Research and Education project are simultaneously protecting and using to promote enriching educational experiences with a relaxing backdrop.
Dr. Vincent Breslin, Professor of Science Education and Environmental Studies and one the coordinators of the Outer Island project, explains that while the primary goal is to preserve the wildlife and their natural habitats, he wishes to grant access to a unique location that doesn’t get much attention. “The goal is to provide public access to what is a phenomenally beautiful island in the Long Island Sound,” said Breslin.
According to their website, the island serves as a sanctuary for numerous threatened and endangered species, and all work done on the island is tied to understanding and sustaining the habitats and the plants and animals living there. Southern’s Department of Science Education & Environmental Studies is a chief partner in Research and Education on Outer Island.
Every summer, two students are welcome to apply for a summer internship, involving marine studies, and to live on the island, rent-free. Science major as well as non-science majors are welcome to apply, says Breslin.
“There’s very little electric power, its all solar and rustic,” said Breslin. “But it’s a great opportunity to live offshore on an island in Connecticut.”
The project attracts a number of school groups from towns such as Branford, New Haven, Guilford, and Madison that come out to the island and conduct educational programming like guided tours and field studies that the hired interns help facilitate throughout their stay on the island.
“The real value is some of the rocky inner tidal areas allow you to do basic marine ecology studies on the island in a relatively undisturbed location.“ said Breslin. The convenient location of the island offers a quiet and tranquil space for educational programming.
One of the goals of the project is to get the public more excited about what the Long Island Sound has to offer and to provide the public with as many opportunities to visit and to foster a connection between the public and the Sound.
“For many years the Long Island Sound had a bad reputation for having bad water quality, for being contaminated, polluted,” said Breslin. “and we’ve done a lot over the last 30 years to improve the water quality and ecology within long island sound.”
According to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) database, since 1988, toxic chemical discharges directly into the Sound have been reduced by 93 percent and airborne discharges throughout the watershed have reduced by 88 percent.
“Maybe the next time something comes up for a vote in in their towns about improving water quality in the long island sound they’ll consider that favorably because they’ve been there and they’ve seen it,” said Breslin.
Along with opening the island up to school groups during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, Dr. Scott Graves, Associate Professor of Science Education and Environmental Studies, interest is in in opening up professional workshops to create opportunities for teachers. “Whether they be elementary, middle school , high school, we want the, to come out to come out and discover the unique ecology geology and oceanography represented on the island.”
The island is owned by U.S Fish & Wildlife Service and is part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Refuge wildlife and rescue system.
Photo Credit: slack12