Spencer Meyer, a Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) doctoral candidate in UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, along with faculty advisors Rob Lilieholm and Chris Cronan, has been awarded the 2014 President’s Research Impact Award for the development of a sophisticated online mapping tool that allows Maine communities to visualize future landscape scenarios in localized areas. A member of SSI’s Alternative Futures Team, Meyer led the development of the Maine Futures Community Mapper (MFCM) over four years with team leader Lilieholm, Associate Professor of Forest Policy, Cronan, Professor of Plant Biology and Ecology, and Michelle Johnson, an SSI doctoral candidate in UMaine’s Ecology and Environmental Science program. Read more here
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The size of a pine nut with grass-blade wings and a disco shimmer, the elusive emerald ash borer (EAB) doesn’t look capable of destroying one tree, let alone upward of 150 million. But this comely green killer is poised to attack Maine’s ash population, having already decimated trees the Midwest while moving rapidly east. EAB is literally at Maine’s front door. The nearest confirmed “finds” place the insect 30 miles from Maine’s western border in both Quebec and Concord, NH with the Asian native predicted to arrive sometime within the next two years. Because the insect is hard to see and its larvae hidden, researchers say EAB may have already begun its Maine invasion. See more on this story
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Mussie Beyene, a doctoral student working on SSI’s Safeguarding a Vulnerable Watershed research team was recently awarded the Michael J. Eckardt Dissertation Fellowship for the 2014-15 academic year. Beyene’s research focuses on understanding the hydroclimatic dynamics of lake systems, and the commingling effects of changes in ice out and nutrient loading on Maine’s lakes. Beyene’s advisor is Shaleen Jain, Associate Professor for Civil and Environmental Engineering.
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Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine through the Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) will fund three projects as part of the Emerging Opportunities – Foundations for Future Research grant program. The program is focused on broadening the scope of SSI and the three opportunities offer researchers a chance to engage new stakeholders in new places in new ways. From grappling with threatened fish species stuck in lobster traps, to examining questionable private forest sustainability standards, to providing tourists with a virtual reality wind power experience, the projects offer breadth and diversity. Most importantly, they live up to SSI’s primary mission: to be a leader and valued partner in understanding and solving societal problems related to the growing challenge of improving human well-being while protecting the planet’s life support systems. Read the rest of the story here
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Brian McGill felt something was missing from life inside the academic “castle in the sky”. The year was 2009 and his discontent was not due to lack of scholarly success. Quite the opposite: McGill’s basic ecology research at Arizona University ranged from the effects of climate change on beavers to variations in leaf traits across ecological scales. Publications were numerous. But McGill wondered if his scientific findings were having maximum impact. Today, his research and, increasingly, his blogging on the site Dynamic Ecology reflect his passion for policy-relevant science, the kind that partners directly with local government and people directly affected by the topics at hand. McGill leads SSI’s Effect of Climate Change on Organisms (ECCO) team. Along with colleagues, he works with foresters, park officials and tourism representatives to identify their primary concerns about our changing climate. And he’s sharing his ideas about these partnerships with ecology faculty and graduate students at universities across the globe. Read the full story
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Researchers at the Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) have broken new ground in the pursuit to better understand how sustainable science partnerships between municipalities and universities can be successful. The key ingredient: belief. In a large survey of Maine municipal officials, the factor that made stakeholders most likely to consider a problem-solving partnership with a university was personal belief that such a venture held value. Neither the severity of a particular local problem nor its financial burden on the community was as big an influence. To see the whole story, click here
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Graduate student Jenny Shrum, a Ph.D. candidate in UMaine’s Ecology and Environmental Sciences graduate program and UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), is working to better understand the relationship between weather and maple sap flow, and how Maine syrup producers will adapt to climate change. Her research is supported by the National Science Foundation and Maine EPSCoR through SSI and its Effects of Climate Change on Organisms (ECCO) research project. Shrum’s study has been featured by several media outlets, including Associated Press, Portland Press Herald and Boston.com. Click here for links to news pieces. And to see UMaine Today Magazine’s feature on Shrum, click here.
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For social scientists, measuring opinion is a precise scholarship, a tool that must evolve if research is to advance. This is no easy task. Opinion scales must have uniformity, so studies can be compared. Change is a challenge. Researchers at the SSI are at the forefront of such change. In a recent paper, researchers with the Sustainable Behavior team questioned the full efficacy of the long-held gold standard for measuring personal views on the environment. Researchers thought something was missing. So, the team formulated an updated scale that adds a new evaluation tool, one designed to capture a broader ecological perspective or, more specifically, a person’s views on nature simply for nature’s sake. Read full story
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The culverts under the streets and byways of Maine’s coastal communities were built to handle a predictable amount of precipitation – a regular load of storm water that changed little from year to year. But the new millennium has brought increases in both precipitation and storm severity. Around the state, culverts meant to last decades into the future are being damaged and destroyed. And the problem is only expected to intensify. The SSI’s Coastal Adaptation team is working closely with two Maine municipalities to find innovative and lasting solutions. See full story…
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SSI researcher Tim Waring, along with colleagues from Arizona and Austria, has been awarded a grant to convene an international working group at National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee. The working group will focus on evolutionary approaches to social-ecological systems change. The goal of the group is to break new theoretical ground on the factors that drive the emergence and persistence of sustainable behaviors and institutions. The group will meet twice yearly for two years.