Archive for the ‘At a Glance’ Category

UMaine Center on Aging RSVP Program Receives Grant

Friday, July 25th, 2014

The RSVP program at the University of Maine Center on Aging was awarded a one-year $14,340 grant by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Paula Burnett, RSVP program director, submitted the proposal to the Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS) within Maine’s DHHS.

RSVP is part of the national Senior Corps — volunteers age 55 and older who serve nonprofit groups, schools and government agencies within their communities. The program is sponsored by UMaine Center on Aging with support from OADS, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the United Way of Eastern Maine and other local funding sources. OADS funding for RSVP partially supports the salaries of two employees.

Volunteer opportunities are available at 40 partnering agencies in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties. About 200 volunteers, who average 75 years of age, are taking part in the program.

RSVP recruits volunteers in four major areas of impact: education, aging in place, access to care, and veteran and military family support services.

Blomberg Studying Population Dynamics of Ruffed Grouse

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Erik Blomberg, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology at the University of Maine, received a $181,518 grant from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for his proposal, “Understanding population dynamics of ruffed grouse.”

The three-year project aims to better understand how forest management practices and sport hunting influence Maine’s ruffed grouse populations. According to the proposal, the native bird benefits from many forms of forest harvest and is widely used as a game species by Maine residents and visitors.

Blomberg and his team will implement a large-scale field study to evaluate how components of ruffed grouse biology, such as seasonal and annual survival and nest success, respond to different types of forest composition and management. Researchers also will estimate harvest rates throughout the annual hunting season from October to December.

Collected information will close a large gap in the current understanding of ruffed grouse ecology in the region and will contribute to future management of Maine’s popular game bird, as well as contribute to the general understanding of wildlife ecology in forest ecosystems, according to the researchers.

The researchers say they will work closely with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to ensure results provide the greatest benefit to Maine wildlife management.

Brady to Study Impact of Climate Change, Farmers’ Practices on Water Quality

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

A University of Maine marine scientist will examine implications of climate change on farmers’ practices and the ensuing consequences for downstream coastal water systems.

Farmers are planting earlier than they were a few decades ago and that means applying fertilizer earlier and, for some crops, being able to plant twice in a growing season, says Damian Brady, assistant research professor at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine.

Brady will examine where the fertilizer goes and how changes in farming practices affect estuaries downstream that also are being impacted by other climate-related factors, including increased frequency of extreme storms and higher temperatures.

His research will concentrate on understanding these dynamics in Chesapeake Bay; but the findings are expected to apply to agricultural watersheds around the world.

Brady also anticipates learning how management policies with different rules and incentives affect farming behavior and, subsequently, impact watershed and estuary health.

The National Science Foundation awarded Brady nearly $124,000 to create multidisciplinary data-driven simulation models to test scientific hypotheses. The entire project team will provide training for approximately 10 master’s and doctoral students, share tools and knowledge with federal and state environmental management agencies and train 15 high school teachers.

Brady is the project’s assistant director. Collaborators are from The Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

He’ll start the four-year project, titled “WSC-Category 3 Collaborative: Impacts of Climate Change on the Phenology of Linked Agriculture-Water Systems” on Sept. 1.

‘Leveraged Flip’ Course Revolves Around Experts

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

University of Maine economist James Breece has traveled to China a half-dozen times and as a University of Maine System (UMS) representative, he recruited Chinese students for the seven UMS campuses.

When Breece — who specializes in macroeconomics, international trade and forecasting — recently returned to the classroom he thought it was important for UMaine to offer a course about the Chinese economy.

After all, in the last decade, China’s economy grew seven times faster than that of the United States. China is the largest exporter and second-largest importer on the planet and, with a population of 1.3 billion, its workforce is considerable.

So he designed and guided a spring 2014 course titled The Chinese Economy that examined its transformation and impact on global trading patterns, distribution of wealth and the environment. A total of 43 students, including 12 graduate students, enrolled.

Breece dubs the class format “Leveraged Flip” — one in which students read assigned textbooks, write papers and view videos outside of class and interact with guest speakers and participate in discussion during class time.

He called upon UMaine colleagues who concentrate in Chinese culture, food, history, language and government to share their expertise with students. Other guest lecturers included Michael Riedel from the American Embassy in Beijing, as well as gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, an attorney who lived in Beijing for several years and represented investors in the Chinese market.

The class “was an unbelievable learning experience,” says Elyse Doyle of Gray, Maine, who is on track to earn a master’s in economics in May 2015. “It was unlike any course I had ever taken.”

Mike Kuhn of Bridgewater, New Jersey, says in this increasingly globalized environment, he took the class to understand how the world’s largest economy functioned from a business perspective.

“The format of the class was probably the best I’ve ever taken part in because we got actual exposure to people who have lived through both success and failure in China, both of which provided insightful feedback,” says Kuhn, who recently graduated with a Master of Business Administration.

“Dr. Breece has done a fantastic job of giving students an in-depth, hands-on experience of what China is all about as opposed to staring at a book and sitting through lectures, neither of which spark much interest.”

The pedagogy was so successful that Breece is replicating it this fall in a course titled Health Economics. He’ll team-teach with staff from Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and continue to invite a variety of guest speakers.

Breece, a forecaster of national and state economies, says this format makes it possible to maintain important classes during a fiscal climate in which some colleges are struggling to replace retiring professors.

Bataineh Awarded Funds to Research Spruce Budworm Effects

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Mohammad Bataineh, an assistant research professor of quantitative silviculture and forest modeling at the University of Maine’s Center for Research on Sustainable Forests, was awarded $69,747 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service for his proposal, “Incorporating spruce-budworm impacts into the Acadian Variant of the Forest Vegetation Simulator.”

Outbreaks of the native spruce budworm insect (Choristoneura fumiferana) cause tree mortality and growth reduction, which negatively affect forest productivity. Outbreaks also cause uncertainty in predicting future wood supplies and forest conditions. Sustainable management of the Northern Forest requires accounting for outbreak effects in forest management planning and wood supply forecasts, according to the proposal.

Bataineh’s five-year project aims to modify the Acadian Variant of the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) to account for spruce budworm effects on tree and stand development.

Aaron Weiskittel, an associate professor of forest biometrics and modeling, is the project’s co-principal investigator.

The FVS is a system of forest growth simulation models that have been calibrated for specific geographic areas, or variants, of the country. The system can simulate a range of silvicultural treatments for most major forest tree species, forest types and stand conditions, according to the Forest Service’s website.

The research project also proposes to establish the Acadian Variant as the base stand growth model in the Spruce Budworm Decision Support System.  The Canadian Forest Service developed the Spruce Budworm Decision Support System to assist foresters in planning and carrying out management activities that potentially reduce the damage caused by spruce budworm.

Researchers will compile a regional dataset on individual-tree growth and mortality under Maine’s most recent spruce budworm outbreak that occurred in the 1970s and ’80s.

The new capability of the Acadian Variant will provide Northern Forest managers with improved growth and yield projections and the ability to assess the potential impact of spruce budworm outbreaks on wood supply and forest level planning through the Spruce Budworm Decision Support System, according to the researchers.

Haskell Facilitates Facilitation

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Professor Jane Haskell specializes in strengthening skills of group facilitators so meetings can be conducted effectively and efficiently. Fishermen and graduate students are among her more than 400 clients.

This summer, Haskell, who has authored a national facilitation-training curriculum, is working with members of Wabanaki Nations.

She’s also researching how to buoy skills of facilitators who assist refugees. Specifically, she’s studying how American-born, English-speaking facilitators and group leaders ask for feedback from refugees who have recently arrived in the United States.

Refugees, she says, may not have positive experience with regard to giving comments in a formal group setting and may not understand the concept from a Western perspective or framework.

Haskell and a colleague who specializes in immigration and refugees issues are exploring how to best partner with refugees so that their perspectives are heard and understood in Maine.

A Shingle Every Second

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

 The University of Maine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) and Ecoshel, a company that produces cedar shingle panels, recently completed their UMaine-based project, Smart Shingle Production. AMC, along with private and public partners, designed, developed and built a manufacturing assembly line for the company. The line, which includes custom manufacturing equipment, blends conventional woodworking systems with state-of-the-art controls and laser-scanning technology.

“Developing this new type of shingle manufacturing system will greatly increase safety and production efficiency over current systems,” says AMC director John Belding, talking about the assembly line that will be operated in Ecoshel’s new production facility in Ashland, Maine.

The Ecoshel project created more than 11 jobs and provided a learning experience for UMaine engineering students.

Bryan Kirkey, owner and CEO of Ecoshel, was referred to the AMC by the Maine Technology Institute. He met with AMC staff and engineering student interns to discuss how to reach his goal of having a cutting-edge manufacturing facility in Maine. With support from AMC’s innovative engineering and manufacturing services, Kirkey opened the production facility in Ashland.

AMC sought private industry partners such as Dana Hodgkin, owner of Manchester, Maine-based Progress Engineering, for additional system integration and controls support.

Working with Ecoshel and Progress Engineering over the past six months, AMC developed an automated system that can scan, optimize and cut raw lumber to produce a shingle every second with the specialized features of Ecoshel’s system. Once the shingles are made, they are assembled into Ecoshel’s cedar siding panels that use a unique, patented installation system that minimizes installation effort, waste, extra weight and materials, and extends shingle life.

This is the first of many assembly lines Ecoshel plans to use based on the specifications and prints developed by the AMC, according to Belding. AMC plans to share information and assist Ecoshel’s private partners with building the remaining systems.

More about Ecoshel is online.

Grew Aids in Designation of Stornes Peninsula as Antarctic Specially Protected Area

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Ed Grew, a research professor of geological sciences at the University of Maine, was acknowledged by Geoscience Australia for his role in getting Antarctica’s Stornes Peninsula designated as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area by the Antarctic Treaty signatories.

The action taken during the May 2014 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting strengthens international environmental protection for the area in Antarctica where Grew discovered minerals during fieldwork in 2003–04 on the Australian Antarctic Expedition.

The designation formally recognizes the peninsula’s outstanding geological significance and gives it the highest level of environmental protection under the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection.

More information is online.

Research Focuses on Role of Citizen Science in Sustainable River Herring Harvesting

Friday, May 16th, 2014

The role of citizen science in sustainable river herring harvest is the focus of a more than $49,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The co-principal investigators are Theodore Willis and Karen Wilson at the University of Southern Maine, and Karen Hutchins Bieluch, Linda Silka and Laura Lindenfeld at the University of Maine.

Maine is one of only three states currently harvesting river herring. The researchers believe that collaborations between the state, harvesters and citizens who live in the towns where river herring runs occur can play a role in ensuring a sustainable river herring fishery. Additional data is needed to help inform decisions about fishery management and sustainability. One potential solution to collecting more data for future stock assessments is to expand the role of citizen scientists in gathering data on river herring. Citizen science involves members of the public in gathering and sometimes analyzing scientific data about a particular issue of interest. Citizen science not only generates important scientific data, but it also has been shown to be an important educational tool for learning about nature and about the production of science broadly. There are three primary goals of this project:

  • Investigating the various attempts at citizen science monitoring of river herring, collating the successes and difficulties, and producing a road map useful to other groups interested in getting involved with local river herring monitoring and management.
  • Working with pilot communities to assist them in developing monitoring programs and, simultaneously, assess the accuracy of citizen efforts in producing harvest independent records.
  • Collaborating with stakeholders, facilitating meetings, interviewing members of the stakeholder groups, performing participant-observation at meetings and monitoring activities, and designing and implementing surveys to study participant perceptions, attitudes and intent to continue citizen science monitoring efforts.

 

UMaine Research Cited in National Climate Assessment Report

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Research being conducted through the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) was highlighted in the the National Climate Assessment report recently released by President Barack Obama, which found global warming is directly affecting life in Maine and other New England states.

The research by the SSI team is focused on the effects of increasingly intense and frequent storms striking Maine and New England, causing millions of dollars in damage and threatening fragile ecosystems. Shaleen Jain, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Esperanza Stancioff, an extension associate professor, are leading the team that is helping Maine communities better understand and prepare for the potential local impacts of climate change.

The report explains how the research team “mapped decisions by town managers in Maine to sources of climate information, engineering design, mandated requirements, and calendars that identified the complex, multi-jurisdictional challenges of widespread adaptation for even such seemingly simple actions as using larger culverts to carry water from major storms.”

Research by the UMaine team is highlighted in the Northeast section of the report under “Key Message: Planning and Adaptation.”

The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States. More than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the report.

The UMaine research project is funded by the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, which is supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and a grant from NOAA’s National Sea Grant Coastal Communities Climate Adaptation Initiative (CCCAI).

More about the SSI project is online.