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Senator George J. Mitchell Center & Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative


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Articles Published in Sustainability Science Journal

Reseachers Jessica Jansujwicz and Teresa Johnson from the Renewable Energy From The Tides project published an article, “The Maine Tidal Power Initiative: transdisciplinary sustainability science research for the responsible development of tidal power” in the August edition of “Sustainability Science”. The article discusses the formation of the Maine Tidal Power Initiative (MTPI), an interdisciplinary team of marine scientists, engineers, oceanographers and social scientists, working to understand the interactions between human and natural systems surrounding the development of tidal power in Maine.

A second article by Mark W. Anderson and the K-A Sustainability Behavior team of Mario Teisl, Caroline Noblet and Sharon Klein, has been accepted and will be published in an upcoming edition of “Sustainability Science”. The article, “The Incompatibility of Benefit-cost Analysis with Sustainability Science,” suggests that using traditional benefit-cost analysis as a methodology in sustainability science is unsuitable and that other approaches may be more appropriate.

See more about the authors:

Students from Around the World Study Land Use in the Penobscot Watershed

SSI researcher Rob Lilieholm spent a week at the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park with a group of 17 students and young professionals studying land use in the Penobscot River Watershed.   As part of the Fourth Annual Acadian Program in Regional Conservation and Stewardship, participants learned about the restoration of the watershed, and had the opportunity to discuss conservation challenges in their own regions. Participants were also introduced to the Maine Futures Community Mapper, an important tool for informing land use decisions, created by the Mapping a Sustainable Future team.

For more information, see Rob’s blog post on the Forest for Maine’s Future website.

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UMaine to Offer New Interdisciplinary Course in Renewable Energy

UMaine is piloting a new course based on Maine tidal power development research being conducted since 2009. The course, Marine Renewable Energy: Engineering, Biology and Human Dimensions, is coordinated by Gayle Zydlewski, one of the team leaders from the Renewable Energy from the Tides project. The goal of this interdisciplinary course is to offer a comprehensive approach to understanding renewable energy systems, potential changes to the marine environment, and the effects of change on other users of marine resources.

See full UMaine News story…

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Mitchell Center Researcher Sarah Nelson in BDN – Good News for Maine Lakes

In an August 15 article in the Bangor Daily News, Mitchell Center researcher Sarah Nelson and her colleague Steve Kahl of Unity College discuss a decades-long study that reveals good news for Maine lakes. The study found that lakes in Maine and New England are recovering much faster from the effects of acid rain than expected. The results of the study, “Decadal Trends Reveal Recent Acceleration in the Rate of Recovery from Acidification in the Northeastern U.S.” were published online in March on the Environmental Science & Technology website.

See full Bangor Daily News article…

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Seeing Forests Through the Trees

In a recent UMaine News story, SSI Ph.D. graduate Spencer Meyer discusses the rapid increase in land protection in northern New England from 1999-2010. Meyer’s research team, which included Christopher Cronan, School of Biology and Ecology, Robert Lilieholm, School of Forest Resources, David Foster, Harvard University and fellow Ph.D. graduate Michelle Johnson, studied the socioeconomic and policy factors that influenced the rate, type and distribution of land protection.

The team’s findings are reported in “Land conservation in northern New England: Historic trends and alternative conservation futures,” published in May in Biological Conservation.

See full UMaine story here…

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Maine Reaps Benefits of 50-Year-Old Water Resources Research Act

The Maine Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI), a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, joins the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), stakeholders and academic partners in recognizing the importance of the pivotal Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) on it’s 50th anniversary.

Signed into law by in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson, the WRRA established a research institute or WRRI in each state and Puerto Rico. In his official statement, President Johnson said the WRRA “will enlist the intellectual power of universities and research institutes in a nationwide effort to conserve and utilize our water resources for the common benefit. The new centers will be concerned with municipal and regional, as well as with national water problems. Their ready accessibility to state and local officials will permit each problem to be attacked on an individual basis, the only way in which the complex characteristics of each water deficiency can be resolved… The Congress has found that we have entered a period in which acute water shortages are hampering our industries, our agriculture, our recreation, and our individual health and happiness.”

Maine’s WRRI “provides leadership and support to help solve Maine’s water problems by supporting researchers and educating tomorrow’s water scientists. Our goal is to generate new knowledge that can help us maintain important water resources,” said John Peckenham, Director of the institute and Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Mitchell Center. See more on this story

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Sustainability Science in Action: Can Citizens Help Manage Herring Fisheries?

Jeff Lord concedes he does a lot of sitting, watching and waiting along the herring ladder at Highland Lake. But when gangs of alewives begin to leap and flop their way upriver from Mill Brook, his patience is well rewarded.

“It can get a little boring, so I really appreciate when there is action,” the Falmouth resident said as he gazed at the rushing waters. “It’s a chance to put my biology background to work at something that matters.”

Lord and about 13 other volunteers keep count of migrating herring, mainly alewives, as they make their way up fish ladders to traditional freshwater spawning areas. The newly established volunteer monitoring program is a joint research project of UMaine and University of Southern Maine (USM). Scientists want to see if volunteers can help government managers and university researchers amass important data on spring run alewife – something likely too expensive to accomplish otherwise.

The role of citizen science in sustainable river herring harvest is the focus of a $96,600 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Growing out of a project at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, the overall goals are threefold:

See more on this story

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Some Landowners Embrace Sustainability, Some Don’t – SSI Examines Why

Why do some landowners embrace sustainability and conservation in their environs while others ignore these concepts altogether? This was one of the main questions Michael Quartuch explored in his doctoral research at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI).

It’s a complex query. As part of SSI’s People, Landscape and Communities team (PLACE), Quartuch, a recent PhD graduate of SSI and UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, wanted to know what lurked beneath the surface of land use decision-making.

“At a broad level, my research focused on understanding and predicting the ways in which humans interact with and shape the surrounding environment. I was very interested in identifying why people are motivated to act sustainably. Specifically, I wanted to explore whether and to what degree landowner stewardship ethics influence individual land use decisions. Similarly, I wanted to test the role landowner place attachment and sense of community play in terms of influencing behavior,” Quartuch said.

Led by Kathleen Bell and Jessica Leahy, the PLACE team studied small landowners in Maine to develop solutions on key fronts. The team surveyed landowners in an effort to better understand their concerns, attitudes, and behaviors. The responses are helping the team to identify outputs of interest to landowners and key stakeholders who frequently interact with them, including local businesses and local and state governments. See more on this story

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Seeking Postdoctoral Research Associate (Estuarine Modeler)

A position is available for a Postdoctoral Research Associate (Estuarine Modeler) on the NEST Safe Beaches and Shellfish Project. The successful candidate will work as a member of an interdisciplinary team developing and implementing estuarine-coastal models to investigate the interaction between estuarine conditions and bacterial pollution. To see job details or apply, please visit the UMaine Employment website.

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Despite Critiques, Environmental Law Scholars Support Interdisciplinary Research

Among environmental researchers, the challenges of interdisciplinary engagement have become a hot topic. The participants in that discussion range from environmental economists to communications specialists to ecologists. Yet the literature says hardly anything about the potential role of law. Meanwhile, the legal world has been engaged in its own debates about interdisciplinary research. Many participants in those debates – including the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court – have questioned the usefulness of such collaboration.

In a forthcoming article in the journal Ecology Law Quarterly, Dave Owen, Professor in the University of Maine School of Law, and Caroline Noblet, Assistant Professor in UMaine’s School of Economics, argue that we should take a different view of environmental law’s role in interdisciplinary research. To environmental non-lawyers, the core pitch is simple: environmental law researchers could play an important role on your research team, particularly if you hope your research will lead to policy change. And to skeptical lawyers, the authors offer some reassurance that interdisciplinary engagement can help improve legal practice, teaching, and research.  See more on this story

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Contact Information

Senator George J. Mitchell Center & Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative
5710 Norman Smith Hall
Orono, ME 04469
Phone: 207.581.3244E-mail: umgmc@maine.edu
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System