Heavy Metal Movers

February 22nd, 2013 1:44 PM

wood frogs

Juvenile wood frogs emigrating from their birthplaces in vernal pools into the terrestrial ecosystem may transfer mercury they accumulated during larval development into the food web, according to a team of University of Maine researchers.

The team, led by U.S. Geological Survey and UMaine wildlife ecologist Cynthia Loftin (and EES Faculty member), conducted its study at four short-hydroperiod (likely to dry by mid-June) seasonal woodland pools in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine.

The researchers found mercury levels in the 1- to 2-week-old embryos were near or below detectable amounts, indicating that transfer of mercury from mother to eggs was absent or minimal. However, mercury accumulated rapidly in the 6- to 8-week-old tadpoles.

Mercury, a heavy, toxic metal, occurs naturally and is introduced into the environment by metal processing, coal burning and mining. People are exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish and wildlife. Over time, low-grade mercury exposure in people can impact cognitive thinking and fine motor skills.

While concentrations of total mercury differed among the pools and were greatest in the unburned softwood-dominated setting, the levels increased in all pools throughout the season. The pools dried in June and refilled with September and October rain.

Wood frogs can travel some distance from their natal pools. During summer, fall and winter, they live in wetlands and on land. In the winter, they hibernate underneath leaf litter, woody debris and soil. They return to pools in the spring to mate.

For a better understanding of the transport of this contaminant from seasonal pools into the surrounding environment and potential for uptake into the terrestrial food web, future studies should focus on the ratio of total mercury to methylmercury (produced by burning of fossil fuels) in embryos, tadpoles and juvenile frogs leaving natal ponds, according to the research team, writing in the journal Northeastern Naturalist.

Loftin teamed with Aram Calhoun, professor of wetland ecology and EES Director; Sarah Nelson, assistant research professor at the Senator George J. Mitchell Center; Adria Elskus, associate professor of biological sciences (also EES faculty); and Kevin Simon, assistant professor in the School of Biology and Ecology, to conduct the study.


NSFA Graduate Students to Showcase Research

February 14th, 2013 11:45 AM

Graduate students in the University of Maine College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture will showcase their research at a free public Graduate Students Research Awards Competition from 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 21, in Room 57 of Stodder Hall. EES Grad Students Jennifer McCabe, Binod Neupane and Matthew Jones will be among the students presenting their research. Topics being explored include mathematically predicting global oceanic carbon dioxide uptake; migrating songbird stopover habitat use in the Gulf of Maine; optimum tree-cutting standards for productivity; forest-based sustainable bioenergy development; drying cellulose nanofibrils, the effect of wild blueberries on health risk factors in rats, using dung beetles to suppress pathogens in wild blueberry crops; gentrification and vulnerability of Maine fishing communities; and processing polymer nanocomposites with cellulose nanofibrils. For information or to request disability accommodations, call 207.581.3205.

UMaine-based Maine EPSCoR “Sustainable Maine” Episodes to Air

September 26th, 2012 12:01 PM

Three new episodes in the “Sustainable Maine” series will premiere beginning on Sept. 27 and in the coming weeks on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN). The Season 2 episodes are part of a continuing partnership between Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and MPBN. The series takes a look at Maine’s involvement in a new branch of scientific inquiry known as “sustainability science,” which combines the study of biophysical sciences with social science and economics.  Researchers from Maine EPSCoR’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), which is based at UMaine, are working with communities and stakeholders to produce research knowledge and link it to actions that can help to sustain Maine’s changing landscape and preserve its quality of place. Maine EPSCoR and MPBN partnership formed in 2010 to produce 2 to 3 documentaries each year that focus on SSI’s research and how it is helping to develop solutions for Maine.

The new films include “Saving Our Lakes” at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 and at 1 p.m. on Oct. 7, “Basket Trees” at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 and 1 p.m. on Oct. 21, and “Maine’s Vernal Pools” at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 11 and at 1 p.m. on Oct. 28. For more information or to view these episodes on the web, visit http://www.mpbn.net/Television/LocalTelevisionPrograms/SustainableMaine.aspx.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

EES Pizza Party!

September 4th, 2012 12:51 PM

All EES students are invited to a pizza party on Tuesday, September 11 from 5-6:30 p.m. at Lyle Littlefield Ornamental Gardens (near the University Credit Union.) Come meet your fellow EES students, eat pizza, and tie-dye your EES t-shirt. Please RSVP and let me know your shirt size by Monday, September 10. If you already have an EES t-shirt, please bring it with you.

 Extra points for those of you that bring your own cup and plate!

Fernandez Introduces Former Senator George Mitchell at Climate Change Conference

July 20th, 2012 9:34 AM

EES Faculty member and Professor of Soil Science introduced former Senator George Mitchell, who delivered the closing keynote address at BIOGEMON, a climate change conference hosted by UMaine in Northport which drew over 200 people from the U.S. and abroad. Fernandez and Professor Emeritus Stephen Norton were instrumental in planning the conference. For the full story, visit the Bangor Daily News article link below.


Ecologist Examining Loss of Native Bees

June 27th, 2012 9:45 AM


EES Faculty member and University of Maine professor of insect ecology Frank Drummond has received $3.3 million as part of a larger $6.6 million grant-funded regional study of native bees, which are necessary and critical players in fruit and berry crop pollination in the Northeast. For the full story, visit the UMaine News Blog.

Fernandez Watershed Research Featured in UMaine Today

June 15th, 2012 11:39 AM

More than a quarter-century ago, University of Maine geochemist Stephen Norton, forest soils scientist Ivan Fernandez and colleagues wrote a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant proposal that launched a landmark whole-watershed manipulation project to study effects of acid precipitation. Norton, a national expert on acid rain, and his research team identified the perfect spot in the North Woods — a paired-stream watershed on the southeast slope of Lead Mountain in northern Hancock County, known as Bear Brook.

Literally and figuratively, it was a watershed moment in the study of long-term experimental acidification. Today, the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine (BBWM) research program is internationally recognized for its contributions to our understanding of the effects of elevated atmospheric nitrogen and sulfur deposition in forests.

Read the rest of this story in the Summer 2012 issue of UMaine Today.


Margaret Burns Wins 2012 Boyle Prize

April 30th, 2012 11:08 AM

Maggie Burns, EES 2012 with a concentration in Environmental Sciences, was awarded the John F. Boyle Prize in Ecology and Environmental Sciences on April 25 at a ceremony held at the University Club. The award is given each year to the top graduating senior in Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

Maggie’s advisor Ivan Fernandez wrote in his nomination letter, “Maggie is an exceptional student, and ranks with one of only a few undergraduate advisees I have had over my three decades that exhibits this much professionalism, energy, enthusiasm, and intellectual ability.”

After graduation, Maggie will enter the Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Congratulations Maggie!