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Welcome Weekend Day of Service

More than 2,000 first-year University of Maine students are expected to volunteer for community projects as part of the fifth annual UMaine Welcome Weekend Day of Service on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 30.

The Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism and First Year Residential Experience offer the Welcome Weekend Day of Service on the first weekend students are at UMaine to give them an opportunity to participate in volunteer activities at community organizations in the Old Town, Orono and Bangor areas.

“Community service is an important part of the culture at the University of Maine,” says Lisa Morin, coordinator of the Bodwell Center. “These projects give the students time to bond with others from their residence hall, allows us to show them how community service will enhance their UMaine experience, and provides valuable assistance to community organizations.”

Led by 150 UMaine students, faculty and staff, first-year students will participate in at least 60 different local, regional and international service projects both on and off campus.

Projects include painting at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter; washing Down East Emergency Medical Institute (DEEMI) vehicles in Orono; grounds work at Hirundo Wildlife Refuge in Alton, Leonard’s Mills/Maine Forest and Logging Museum in Bradley, Orono Bog Boardwalk and Maine Veterans’ Home in Bangor; Penobscot River cleanup; and packing meal, hygiene and school kits on campus.

Last year, approximately 1,800 first-year students volunteered for nearly 60 projects and logged 3,992 hours of service.

For more information, contact Morin at 581.1796 or lisa.morin@umit.maine.edu.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Libby Named Associate Director of Hutchinson Center

Patricia Libby, a member of the instructional and student services staff at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center since 2011, has been named associate director of the Belfast-based outreach facility.

Libby will join Monique LaRocque, associate provost for the UMaine Division of Lifelong Learning (DLL), in leading the Hutchinson Center, which has become an educational and cultural focal point for Maine’s midcoast area since its opening in 2000. Their goals for the center include offering new graduate degrees and certificate programs, and additional conferences and events.

LaRocque joined UMaine in July after an eight-year career at the University of Southern Maine. In UMaine’s Division of Lifelong Learning, which includes the Hutchinson Center, LaRocque is helping develop online program offerings, particularly at the graduate level, and leading the growth of UMaine’s Summer University.

LaRocque noted that Libby has a great sense of the needs of the midcoast region and the potential for quality programming at the Hutchinson Center. “She brings great team-building and a strong set of managerial skills to her work, and I am very pleased to have her leadership at the Hutchinson Center,” LaRocque says.

At the Hutchinson Center, Libby has served as assistant director for student and academic services, and as the instructional and student services coordinator. She has played a key role in the development of the DLL Advising Center, and implementation of the Adult Degree Completion Initiative and the University of Maine System Concierge Program.

Before joining UMaine in 2011, Libby spent more than 16 years in the business sector. She served as operations manager of Libby Sales Corp., and then as a senior account manager at MBNA. In addition, Libby has been a community leader through her involvement at the Penobscot Bay YMCA, and her 12-year tenure on the school boards of SAD 28 and Five Town CSD.

Libby is a licensed social worker who holds a master’s degree in social work from UMaine.

UMaine Named to 2014 Top Campuses Worth Traveling For List

The University of Maine was named one of the 2014 Top Campuses Worth Traveling For by FlipKey.com, the vacation rental company of travel site TripAdvisor.

The company used industry research and traveler feedback to compile the list of the country’s 50 must-see colleges and universities known for attractions, architecture, history and beautiful campuses.

UMaine was included on the list, specifically for the campus plan that was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed the grounds of New York City’s Central Park and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Other universities that made the list include Notre Dame, John Hopkins University, MIT, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Duke University and Cornell University.

Documentary Series Featuring Mayewski Wins Emmy Award

A documentary about climate change that features a University of Maine explorer has won an Emmy Award.

Paul Mayewski, director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, appeared in the ninth and final episode of Years of Living Dangerously, which aired weekly from April to June on Showtime.

Developed by David Gelber and Joel Bach of 60 Minutes, Years of Living Dangerously won Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards held Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles; it is scheduled to be broadcast at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, on FXM.

Years of Living Dangerously offers a critical view of climate change and its impacts that drive right to the heart of the issue: ‘How does climate change impact one’s life today,’” says Mayewski. “We clearly need many more such views of critical issues.”

Actors Matt Damon, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as journalists Lesley Stahl and Thomas Friedman and scientist M. Sanjayan, were among the documentary’s correspondents. They traveled the planet to examine stories about impacts of climate change. In addition to detailing devastation in New Jersey wreaked by Superstorm Sandy, they explored drought and lost jobs in Plainview, Texas, worsening wildfires in the U.S. and civil unrest heightened by water shortage in the Middle East. Sanjayan and a film crew joined Mayewski and his team of CCI graduate students in 2013 for the nearly 20,000-foot ascent of a glacier on Tupungato, an active Andean volcano in Chile.

Mayewski’s team was in Chile to collect ice cores from the melting glacier that serves as the drinking water supply for Santiago’s 4 million residents. Temperature there is rising, greenhouse gases are increasing and winds from the west that have traditionally brought moisture to the glacier have shifted, Mayewski says. By understanding trends, he says it’s possible to better predict where climate events will occur so plans can be made.

For decades, Mayewski has made discoveries in Earth’s remote regions. “When you go all over the world, you get a global view,” he says. “By nature, I’m an optimist. That is tempered with this problem. I do believe there will be a groundswell of people, or governments, or some combination so that there will be a better future in store.”

Years of Living Dangerously also was nominated for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. More information is on the show’s website and included in a full news release.

Past, Present Hemlock Declines Focus of UMaine Research Project

The impact that hemlock tree die-offs have had — and continue to have — on freshwater forest ecosystems is the focus of a research project at the University of Maine.

Hamish Greig, a UMaine assistant professor of stream ecology, and Jacquelyn Gill, an assistant professor of terrestrial paleoecology at the Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the School of Biology and Ecology, are leading a research team that is studying past and present declines of the conifers known for their dense shade. The resulting biomass the dying trees introduce into the watershed, as well as the other tree species that take their place on the forest floor, affect freshwater systems, including streams and lakes.

Understanding those implications is particularly important in Maine, where hemlocks are now being threatened by the same exotic pest that, in recent years, has decimated the tree species in the southeastern United States.

“People in Maine have a huge affinity to their rivers and lakes. It’s huge economically; it’s huge socially, and through recreational activities,” says Greig, who is joined on the research team by research assistant professor Krista Caps, postdoctoral scientist Robert Northington, as well as several graduate, undergraduate and high school students.

About 5,500 years ago, the hemlocks of eastern North America sustained a massive die-off that lasted about 1,000 years, brought on by severe drought and the hemlock looper, a native pest, Gill says. Today, the tree species has been nearly decimated in the southeastern United States by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect from Asia.

Maine’s cold winters typically protect against exotic pests. However, warmer temperatures have allowed exotic pests to thrive and move north. Since 2004, the hemlock woolly adelgid has been in southwestern Maine. This year, it has made it as far north as Owls Head, according to the researchers.

“As the climate warms, there won’t be anything preventing the woolly adelgid from hitting our hemlocks in Maine as hard as they’ve been hit elsewhere,” Gill says.

As part of their study, the research team has set up 36 livestock water tanks as experimental freshwater mesocosms, or isolated experimental environments. Hemlock needles, along with rhododendron and maple leaves, have been added to the ecosystems to observe what happens when a hemlock dies.

The mesocosms allow the scientists to study these isolated environments as they develop over time — in this case, into the fall.

“You can’t really control something in a natural lake,” Greig says. “And if you do experiments in the lab, you’re really simplifying things down to two or three species of invertebrates. By having this happy medium, we can have natural complexity with the controlled replication of a true experiment.”

Next, Gill and Northington will study radiocarbon-dated records from the bottom of lakes and bogs in southeastern, coastal and central Maine regions to help understand how aquatic systems were affected by hemlock die-off in the past. By linking the paleo record with a modern experiment, the team hopes to will new light on hemlock’s role in changing ecosystems.

Startup Weekend to be Held in Bangor, on Campus

Bangor’s first Startup Weekend will be Sept. 19–21, focused on jump-starting companies and networking entrepreneurs.

Startup Weekend Bangor will be held Sept. 19 at Bagel Central, 33 Central St., Bangor, and Sept. 20–21 at the University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation and the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization (IMRC) Center. Registration is $99 per person ($75 through Sept. 5); $25 for students. Registration and more information is online.

The hands-on, immersive event is part of Startup Weekend Maine, which brings designers, developers and entrepreneurs together to pitch their startup ideas and receive peer feedback. Teams form around the top ideas — determined by popular vote — and spend the remainder of the three days building a business model. Final presentations before local entrepreneurial leaders culminate the weekend.

Startup Weekend Portland was held June 13; Startup Weekend Auburn is Nov. 14. The events take their mission from the global grassroots effort Startup Weekends that helps community volunteers organize the 54-hour events to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups, according to its website.

The community organizers of Startup Weekend Bangor include Jesse Moriarity and Jennifer Hooper of the Foster Center for Student Innovation; Chuck Carter of Eagre Interactive; Gerry Hall of Emera Maine; UMaine students Silvia Guzman and Michael Kennedy; and Erika Allison, winner of Startup Weekend Portland.

UMaine is a Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG) partner and Bangor is one of three regional BxG Innovation Hubs.

Fall ’14 Go Blue Fridays

The following days have been designated as Go Blue Fridays, a chance to show your UMaine spirit and campus pride by wearing blue and/or UMaine clothing: Aug. 29; Sept. 19; Oct. 3 and 17; and Nov. 7 and 21.

Researchers Advise Proactive Approach to Land Protection in Northern New England

Since 1800 — two decades before the Pine Tree state existed as a state — the most rapid rate of land protection in northern New England (NNE) occurred from 1999 to 2010.

Forty-four percent of all the protected area (PA) in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire was added during those 11 years, says Spencer Meyer, former associate scientist for forest stewardship with the University of Maine Center for Research on Sustainable Forests.

Conservation easements on privately owned land fueled an abrupt increase in the protection rate from 1999 to 2010, he says. Conservation easements became financially appealing to both landowners and conservationists who partnered to save landscapes from development to ensure forests and ecosystem services — including water purification — remained intact.

For example, in 2001, the Pingree Forest Partnership — a landmark working forest conservation project — was forged. The 762,192 protected acres is bigger than all of Rhode Island and is still the largest of its kind in the nation.

The 11-year span from 1999 to 2010 was one of three distinct eras of PA growth, says Meyer, who earned his Ph.D. at UMaine in 2014. The other two were 1800–1979 and 1980–1999. All, he says, are characterized by new policies and an expansion of conservation tools.

To inform successful future conservation planning, a research team led by Meyer sought to explore socioeconomic and policy factors that influenced the rate, type and distribution of previous land protection.

“It is important to take pause occasionally and revisit our past,” he says. “This conservation history research was especially rewarding because it gave us a chance to examine how much has already been accomplished by conservationists. The frequent innovation and accelerating protection we have documented bodes well for the future of ecosystems and people in the region.”

Researchers found there has been a “significant influence of expanded policy and economic drivers guiding protection” and that it is important to develop “new conservation innovations for achieving future gains in protection.”

Short-term constraints — including real estate market conditions — impact conservation action, says Meyer, now a NatureNet Fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he collaborates with The Nature Conservancy.

Thus, the team recommends that conservation groups focus on priority areas and take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to protection, and be ready to capitalize on financial market conditions that make large conservation deals attractive to landowners.

Much of NNE is privately owned, Meyer reports; 16 percent of New Hampshire is federally or state owned, while eight percent of Vermont and five percent of Maine are. All three states are heavily forested. Maine has 84 percent forest cover, while Vermont and New Hampshire both have 67 percent.

A group of conservation scientists, led by the Harvard Forest, have proposed protecting 70 percent of New England’s forests from development to achieve a sustainable landscape by 2060. If the protection rate realized from 1999 to 2010 continues, Meyer says the 70-percent goal could be achieved in 2089.

Broad objectives of PAs in NNE include conservation of biodiversity, retaining benefits of ecosystems, public open space, recreation, and natural resource removal, such as timber harvesting, he says.

Tension exists due to people’s increasing demand to use land and the need to conserve land and ecosystem services, and land protection has been a global conservation strategy of a number of public and private groups for more than 100 years, Meyer says.

Land protection from 1800 to 1979 had an “evolving suite of conservation objectives,” he says, including watershed protection, open space and recreation. The 179-year era consisted of slow, incremental expansion of PAs, including (Acadia National Park, the Appalachian Trail and Baxter State Park) and multiple-use forests.

The middle era of conservation of PAs — beginning around 1980 and lasting until 1999 — included a surge in land trusts to protect private land from development. Public acquisitions, continued in a linear fashion during that time, according to researchers.

The rate of protection in NNE between 1999–2010 was four times what it was during the 19-year span from 1980 to 1999 and 20 times the rate between 1800 and 1979, says Meyer. During the span from 1999 to 2010, the accelerating rate of protection was the fastest in Maine, where 71 percent of the state’s total PA was safeguarded from development.

“Regardless of what the future holds, the 200-year history of conservation innovation in New England offers hope for future efforts to protect ecosystems and their myriad ecological, social and economic benefits in the face of rising human populations,” the team writes.

The Maine Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) and the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program supported Meyer’s Ph.D. fellowship in UMaine’s School of Forest Resources.

Researchers from UMaine working with Meyer included Christopher Cronan of the School of Biology and Ecology, Robert Lilieholm of the School of Forest Resources and Michelle Johnson of the Ecology and Environmental Science Program, as well as David Foster of Harvard University.

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

Meyer and another team earned the 2014 University of Maine President’s Research Impact Award for spearheading creation of the Maine Futures Community Mapper — an online mapping tool for planners to visualize future landscape scenarios. The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and SSI funded the Maine Futures Community Mapper.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Sustainable Science in Action

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 now-retired Lord, who has a Ph.D. in entomology, saw a chance to use his biology knowledge in a public service capacity. He sees citizen programs as a way to engage the public by introducing projects that affect their home turf: “I think that as more people get involved in this type of project and communicate with others, there will be more support for these kinds of conservation efforts,” Lord said.

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, a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, the overall goals are threefold:

UMaine co-principal investigators are Karen Hutchins Bieluch, visiting assistant professor of communication and journalism, Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and professor of economics; and Laura Lindenfeld, associate professor of communications and journalism and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. Co-principal investigators from USM are Theodore Willis, adjunct assistant research professor of environmental science; and Karen Wilson, assistant research professor of environmental science. Jason Smith, master’s student at USM, is the project research assistant.

Volunteers for pilot projects in Windham and Pembroke, are already hard at work using good old-fashioned manual clickers to count as many fish as possible. Data from the Windham project is checked against recordings from a video camera installed by researchers. If the video and citizen counts match, the pilot program will be a viable alternative to expensive and difficult to maintain counting equipment, project scientists say.

This past year between 49,000 and 62,000 alewives climbed the Highland Lake ladder in Windham. The huge range occurred because a first wave of fish began leaving the lake before stragglers had finished migrating upstream, researchers say. It created some confusion for the volunteers, they said, something to iron out as the project moves forward. Though researchers hope to eventually have good estimates of newly spawned river herring streaming down the ladder, this first year focused mainly on citizen science group formation and learning methodology. Next year, researchers hope for a deeper pool of volunteers who will be ready to go by the start of migration in May. And if the adult count goes well next year, focus can shift to the little ones leaving the lake, which can number in the thousands per hour.

The big question: Can citizens be engaged in counts long term? USM fisheries scientist Willis thinks herring are charming enough to sustain interest.

“River herring are one of the few marine species that people can interact with because they swim inland to where we live,” Willis said. “There are dry spells in the counting, but then there will be 830 alewife an hour zipping past you. Early in the run there were thousands of fish piled up in the stream trying to work their way up the ladder.”

So much so that half the total count for 2014 was tallied in the first five days, Willis said.

Maine is one of only three states currently harvesting river herring and maintaining a viable fishery has been tough. Though herring fisheries are managed locally, they must comply with criteria issued by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Among the rules:

“What we’re beginning to learn from our interviews is that these volunteer monitoring programs provide critical data for managers assessing the sustainability of a run for harvesting population trends, and the effectiveness of particular restoration efforts. More than just collection of data, these programs help build a sense of community around a local resource and increase local awareness of the fish. A sense of stewardship is essential for protecting river herring, now and in the future” said investigator Hutchins Bieluch.

Researchers are hopeful that this project will not only help jumpstart new monitoring programs, but will also facilitate communication between volunteers, local government officials, harvesters, and managers.

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755

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 in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, 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.

The Maine WRRI has supported the study of problems such as harmful algae blooms in Maine’s rivers and lakes, arsenic in drinking water, stormwater management, lake acidification and water pollution control techniques. The institute also sponsors the annual Maine Water Conference, bringing together people from across Maine who are connected with water resources to share experiences and make new alliances.

Mitchell Center scientists say WRRI grants have facilitated valuable research over the years.

“The grants help faculty and students conduct meaningful research that aids in the management of streams, rivers, and lakes in Maine,” said Sean Smith, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. “It is difficult or impossible to manage and rehabilitate Maine’s freshwater resources effectively without knowledge of how the freshwater systems work and an understanding of how humans affect them. The WRRI grants provide a mechanism for advancing this knowledge and understanding in Maine.”

In 2014, the Maine WRRI is supporting research at Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for the greater Portland metropolitan area. Led by Smith, the project seeks to quantify connections between geography, land cover, climate and hydraulic conditions within tributaries draining to the lake. The connections between these factors are at the heart of major pollution concerns throughout the Northeast. The research seeks to help guide land use planning, pollution management, aquatic habitat conservation, and public water supply protection.

Another WRRI project in Lake Auburn, a source of drinking water for the Lewiston/Auburn area, is focused on increased levels of phosphorus in the lake. This could compromise public health and eventually result in a water treatment filtration requirement that could result in a greater cost to the community. The work supplements the existing knowledge of the lake and its results will enhance lake and water supply management strategies. The research team is led by Aria Amirbahman, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Stephen Norton, Distinguished Maine Professor, professor emeritus, Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences; Linda Bacon, Lakes Program, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755


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