Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Vernal Pool Conservation

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Vernal Pool Conservation

Monday, July 14th, 2014

A new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) documents nearly 15 years of vernal pools research and management by the University of Maine’s Aram Calhoun who is leading an interdisciplinary team at the Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), a program of the Sen. George J. Mitchell Center.

In the article, published this week online at, Calhoun and three co-authors analyze a timeline of action and scholarship that spans from 1999 to the present. In that time, the professor of wetland ecology and director of UMaine’s Ecology and Environmental Sciences program has collaborated closely with academic colleagues, government at all levels, nongovernmental organizations, landowners, developers and concerned citizens in an effort to create an environment in which these small, but significant, wetlands can flourish.

The article’s co-authors and SSI collaborators are Jessica Jansujwicz, a SSI postdoctoral fellow, Kathleen Bell, associate professor of economics, and Malcolm Hunter Jr., Libra professor of conservation biology and professor of wildlife ecology. The authors acknowledge and thank the many additional faculty and students who contributed to the research and outreach reported in the article.

“It is our hope that the work presented in this paper will inspire other researchers, practitioners and citizens dedicated to planned development and conservation of natural resources to forge new working relationships,” Calhoun said. “Our work shows that time, patience, open-mindedness and the willingness to assume a bit of risk are key to successful collaborations on difficult conservation issues. We have found that the time invested is well worth the effort. The exchange and synthesis of diverse ideas lead to outcomes that are more widely embraced and enduring.”

The effort to protect vernal pools has required a high level of perseverance and creativity, Calhoun says. Tensions among private landowners, ecologists and government entities over resource location, function and management strategies have stymied progress for years. Thus, vernal pools require a different kind of attention than many other types of natural resources, Calhoun and colleagues say. The pools, located mainly on private land, are a key-breeding habitat for several amphibians and serve as an important wetland resource for wildlife. They can be hard to detect. The tiny pools fill with water each spring and often dry up by summer’s end. Researchers stress that multidisciplinary, stakeholder-engaged efforts open the door to innovative strategies that can conserve pools while encouraging development. The diverse perspectives provide a basis for compromise, they say. It is the very nature of these pools, their size and locations that introduce this opportunity for practice of a new sustainable science model, researchers say.

In her 15-year involvement with vernal pools in Maine, Calhoun has played a major role in shepherding in a new era. In 1999, Calhoun and others in a diverse working group pushed for a new state law that better protects vernal pools. It passed. They coupled important scientific discoveries with successful public education programs. More recently, Calhoun, SSI researchers and key stakeholders collaborated to develop a streamlined, locally-tailored approach to regulation, one that could make compliance less encumbering for towns and land developers while better protecting vulnerable amphibian populations. Bell says the successful collaboration laid out in the article is a model of sustainability with real world impact.

“This paper is exciting because it advances interdisciplinary, engaged research as a viable tool to address complex conservation challenges,” Bell said. “It is a story about sustainability science — a journey to link knowledge with action along the road to conservation solutions.”

Hunter added that the team’s work has major implications for conservation far beyond Maine and the region. “One of the most important aspects of this work is that it nicely illustrates a larger principle: that focusing conservation on small bits of the landscape can have disproportionately large effects on ecological integrity at a much larger scale,” he said. Vernal pool conservation was the focus of Jansujwicz’s dissertation. She emphasizes SSI’s mission to include stakeholders as partners in research and solutions: ”Our research demonstrates the value of engaging stakeholders throughout the research process. With their participation, we can design and conduct research that is more flexible, creative, and responsive to diverse concerns.”

Next up for Calhoun and SSI vernal pool researchers: continued study funded by a $1.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Competition (CNH) Program. The four-year project, Of Pools and People, began in 2013 and supports research focused on greater protection of vernal pools and small, natural landscape features that contribute disproportionately to larger ecosystem functions.

Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.

Contact: Tamara Field,  207.420.7755

Rob Lilieholm featured in Bangor Daily News Op-Ed

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Dr. Robert Lilieholm was featured in a Bangor Daily News Op-Ed published July 11, 2014, “Bay to Baxter: As the Penobscot River changes, so must we”.  Dr. Lilieholm is  E.L. Giddings professor of forest policy at UMaine, and an EES faculty member.
To read the Op-Ed:

New Requirement for Grads: INT 601 Responsible Conduct of Research

Monday, May 19th, 2014

The UMaine Graduate School recently instituted a policy such that all graduate students pursuing a thesis that are admitted as of September 2014 must include the one-credit course INT 601 Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) on their program of study. This course is also required for all current students funded by NSF, NIH and other agencies requiring such a course. Other courses may be approved on campus in the future but this is the only course meeting the campus-wide and agency requirements currently. This course fulfills one of the six thesis credits required by the Graduate School so it does not increase the tuition cost for the graduate degree.

You can get a jump start on the 2014-2015 academic year by taking the course this summer.

What: INT 601 Responsible Conduct of Research (1cr)
When: M-F, 10:00 – 11:15, June 9 – June 20
Where: 336 Boardman Hall (limited to 15 on-campus students and up to 5 off-campus students who will participate live by distance)

Description: The course this summer consists of ten sessions involving one meeting per day for two weeks. If you have to miss more than two sessions due to conflicts you should wait to take the course some other time since active student involvement is required in all sessions. The syllabus for the course including the assignments for last semester may be viewed at

Please enroll through the Graduate School, Dianne Knight, 581-3219.

Instructor and Contact:
Professor Harlan Onsrud
School of Computing and Information Science

Making Sense of Maple Syrup

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

maple syrupUnderstanding more about the relationship between weather and maple sap flow, and how Maine syrup producers will adapt to climate change is the focus of research being conducted by a University of Maine graduate student.

Jenny Shrum, a Ph.D. candidate in the ecology and environmental sciences graduate program in the UMaine School of Biology and Ecology, is attempting tounravel the biophysical relationships between weather and sap flow. The goal is to better understand what drives flow and how expected trends in climate may affect the processes and harvesters in the future.

Shrum plans to collect on-site weather station data and sap flow rates at three test sites and to interview small- and large-scale producers to determine if those who have been managing sugar maple stands for years will be more or less resilient to climate change, and if large-scale producers will be better equipped to adapt. Her research is supported by the National Science Foundation and EPSCoR through UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative and its Effects of Climate Change on Organisms research project.

The physiological process for sap flow is not completely understood, Shrum says. It involves a complex interaction between freezing and thawing of the xylem tissue within the tree, and the molecule sucrose which maple trees use to store carbohydrates between seasons.

“When the tree defrosts, the frozen liquid in the tree becomes fluid and that provides a medium for the sugars that are stored in the trunk to get to the branches,” Shrum says, adding that in order to continue flowing, the ground also has to be defrosted so the tree can pull in water during the next freeze cycle and recharge the positive pressure in the trunk to restart sap flow.

Sugar maple trees grow as far north as New Brunswick and as far south as Georgia, yet maple syrup is only produced commercially in the 13 most northern states because of the colder weather, Shrum says.

In Maine and other northern areas, more than one freeze-thaw event happens during the winter. This lets the process repeat and allows the season to last between six and eight weeks as opposed to a few days, which is likely in southern states such as Georgia and Missouri, where maple trees grow but aren’t commercially tapped. Warm weather or microbial build-up in taps usually ends the season, according to Shrum.

In Maine, the season usually starts sometime between the middle of February and the middle of March, and continues for about six weeks, Shrum says.

“This winter has been really weird; we’ve had really warm weather and really cold weather and as far as sap flow, that might be a good thing,” Shrum says. “But not enough is known.”

One change that has been proven is the start time of the sap season.

“Studies are starting to show that the preferred block of time for tapping is starting earlier if you base it on ideal temperatures,” Shrum says, citing a 2010 Cornell University study by Chris Skinner that found that by 2100, the sap season could start a month earlier than it does now.

For big-time operations, Shrum says an earlier season probably won’t be a problem because they can just tap their lines earlier, but she’s not sure how smaller Maine operations will adapt.

“They might not be able to change their season,” she says. “A lot of the smaller operators have multiple jobs; they make money off maple syrup, but also in other fields such as woodcutting or construction. It just so happens maple syrup is a block of time when they’re not doing anything else, so it makes sense. But if that season changes, it might not fit into their schedule as well.”

Shrum will interview a variety of producers — small- and large-scale operators, people who have been tapping trees for 30 or more years and people who started within the past five years — to learn the reasons for tapping and better understand resilience within these groups.

To record weather and sap flow data, Shrum, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Humboldt State University, will deploy weather stations at maple tree stands in Albion, Dixmont and Orono. She’s also using iButtons to record soil temperatures and time-lapse photography of the buckets to record hourly sap flow rates. She can then relate flow rates to variables the weather stations record, such as temperature, precipitation and sunlight.

Although climate change is likely to affect sap flow, Shrum is confident there will always be maple syrup made in Maine.

“None of the climate change scenarios that have come up result in maple trees not growing in Maine. We’re definitely still going to have freezing events in Maine; it’s not going to get so warm that that’s not going to happen,” she says.

Shrum says maple syrup could become a big commodity in Maine if more of a market was created through government incentive plans, and if the state decided to make it a priority — similar to Vermont.

“Everything is good about maple syrup. There’s very little that’s controversial about it, and the biology is fascinating,” Shrum says.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

EES Graduate Program Holiday Party

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

On December 10, EES Graduate Faculty and Students convened for the Second Annual Holiday Party. Following a pizza dinner, the group divided up into teams for the First Annual EES Squash Car Races. Teams transformed garden gourds into racing machines using holiday paper, glitter, paper, and yes, mustaches. We hope to see you there next year!

EES Director Aram Calhoun to Discuss Vernal Pool Conservation

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Department of Wildlife Ecology &
Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program present…

Aram J.K. Calhoun

Aram Calhoun

 University of Maine
Professor of Wetland Ecology and
Director of Ecology & Environmental Sciences Program

Vernal Pool Conservation: Merging Science and Policy

Monday, November 25th
Room 204 Nutting Hall
12:00 PM

Please contact Kris Hoffmann (; 978.660.7991) to make arrangements to meet with the speaker.

If you are a person with a disability and need an accommodation to participate in this program, please call Kris Hoffmann at 978.660.7991 to discuss your needs. Receiving requests for    accommodations at least two days before the program provides a reasonable amount of time to meet the request, however all requests will be considered.

The University of Maine does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities.~ The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies:~ Director, Office of Equal Opportunity, 101 North Stevens Hall, 207.581.1226.

Within Reach: Journey to Find Sustainable Community

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

EES Presents

Within Reach: Journey to Find Sustainable Community

November 6, 2013

100 Nutting Hall 3:00 – 4:45 p.m.

Discussion with film Producer and co-cyclist Amanda Creighton immediately following the film.


WITHIN REACH explores one couple’s pedal-powered search for a place to call
home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars and traditional houses to “bikepack”
6,500 miles for nearly 2 years around the USA seeking sustainable

To find out more about the film visit:


AP Reports on Research into Superstorm Sandy’s Effects on Tidal Marshes

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

The Washington Post, Boston Herald, Wall Street Journal, Newsday and Portland Press Herald were among several news organizations to carry an Associated Press article on research being conducted by the University of Maine, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Connecticut and University of Delaware on the effects of Superstorm Sandy on plant and bird communities in tidal marshes from Maine to Virginia. The study aims to determine what makes marshes and these communities more vulnerable when it comes to severe weather. Brian Olsen, professor in UMaine’s School of Biology (and EES) and co-principal investigator of the study, was interviewed for the article.

Alex Bajcz Selected for 2013-2014 Correll Fellowship

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Alex Bajcz, a Ph.D. student advised by Frank Drummond, has been selected for the prestigious Correll Fellowship for the 2013-2014 academic year. The Correll Fellowship includes a 12 month stipend of $19,500, a tuition waiver of up to 19 credits and full health insurance during the 2013-2014 academic year.

While the Faculty Council was impressed by all of the nominees for the Correll Award, Alex’s academic achievements at UMaine as well as his research goals were exceptional. In his nomination letter in support of Alex, Frank Drummond wrote, “He is the kind of student that as faculty we all love to mentor. Alex’s research is innovative and has both strong basic and applied components. He is interested in plant ecology as it relates to evolutionary tradeoffs that plants must balance in their strategies for investments of resources towards reproduction and vegetative growth. He has spun this question so that it has a strong pollination ecology component, an area that is a major focus of my research…Alex is a very strong student. I am impressed with his talents and I enjoy his intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm. I have no doubt that he will represent the EES Graduate program and UMaine at the highest level.”

Congratulations, Alex!

EES Professor Frank Drummond in the News

Monday, June 17th, 2013

EES and SBE Professor Frank Drummond was featured in an article about pollination of Maine’s wild blueberry fields in the Huffington Post.