Archive for the ‘Blue Sky News’ Category

UMaine’s inflatable technology expertise utilized by NASA, U.S. Army

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

The Curiosity Rover took a selfie June 24 to celebrate its one Martian-year anniversary — 687 Earth days — on the Red Planet.

If NASA perfects its Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD), a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy, one day people also may be taking selfies on the fourth planet from the Sun.

The HIAD slows a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. The technology, says NASA, is intended to make it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars — 34,092,627 miles from Earth — and beyond.

Bill Davids, Joshua Clapp, Andrew Goupee and Andrew Young — engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center — are working with NASA to accomplish that mission.

The out-of-this world opportunity isn’t the first impressive inflatable technology to be worked on by UMaine Composites Center engineers.

First there was the groundbreaking Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM, so named because each deflated bridge arch fits into a Black Bear hockey equipment bag.

The award-winning, patented Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM has earned the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ certification. Bridges similar to those in Belfast, North Anson and Pittsfield, Maine, as well as those in Massachusetts and Michigan, can be built around the country and world. One was built in the Caribbean, says Habib Dagher, Bath Iron Works Professor and founding director of the world-renowned research and development center.

The bridges — stronger than steel and able to be built in a couple of weeks — are made of light, portable carbon-fiber tubes that are inflated, formed into arches and infused with resin. Concrete is poured inside the carbon fiber tubes, which protect the concrete from water and other natural elements, thus extending the bridge’s lifespan to double or triple that of a traditional bridge.

Following Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM, Davids, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department and the John C. Bridge Professor, led a UMaine group that worked on portable, lightweight, rapidly deployable inflatable fabric arch-supported structures for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center.

Designed for military forces, the tents supported by inflatable arches also can be used for disaster relief shelters, temporary medical facilities and storage.

The research involving inflatable fabric arch-supported structures caught the attention of NASA scientists several years ago. NASA officials working on HIAD inflatable technology contacted Davids about possible research collaborations.

Ultimately, Davids’ research proposal on the structural investigation of the HIAD technology to NASA-EPSCoR through the Maine Space Grant Consortium was accepted. UMaine is now about 17 months into the three-year, $750,000project funded by NASA and EPSCoR. The Maine Space Grant Consortium administers the funds.

Dagher says it’s fascinating how one research discovery gives rise to another idea in a completely different field. “The beauty is you don’t know where you’re going to end up in the discovery process. One research discovery leads to another. It’s a big roller coaster,” he says.

UMaine engineers have weekly telecoms with NASA project officials as they strive to make this promising technology a reality.

“Our role is to fill in holes in NASA’s technical knowledge,” says Davids. “They have developed the technology; we help them advance it through testing the structures in the lab and analyzing stresses and deformations in the HIADs.”

Davids and Clapp say the HIAD technology is viewed as one of the most, if not the most, feasible options for a successful human spaceflight to Mars and has the potential to allow landing at higher elevations on the planet, carrying more payload, or both.

Payloads that have landed on Mars to date have had a mass less than 1 metric ton; 40-80 metric tons likely will be required for a mission that includes people, says Clapp, a doctoral student and research engineer.

Also, all Mars landings thus far have been below -1.4 kilometer Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) elevation due to the vertical distance required for deceleration. A number of scientifically interesting sites are at higher elevations, Clapp says.

UMaine researchers are working on a 6-meter diameter HIAD tested at NASA’s National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex — the largest wind tunnel in the world — in Moffett Field, California.

“The 6-meter HIAD created the most air blockage of anything ever tested in the wind tunnel and pushed the limits of the equipment to the maximum,” Clapp says. “The HIAD diameter needed for a manned mission to Mars is estimated to be on the order of 20 meters, therefore we will not be able to conduct aerodynamic testing in a wind tunnel, which makes a reliable predictive tool (i.e. the finite element models that we’re all working on) that much more important.”

Dr. Neil Cheatwood, principal investigator with the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) — a precursor to HIAD — says in a NASA video that if funding was not a concern, he estimated people could be on Mars, where temperatures range from minus 195 F to 70 F, by 2020.

Keeping with the space theme, Dagher says with a smile that the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, much like Star Trek’s starship Enterprise, allows people to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Princeton Review Again Cites UMaine Among Nation’s Top Colleges

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

The University of Maine is one of the 379 higher education institutions nationwide — and the only public university in Maine — to be profiled in the 2015 Princeton Review guide to best colleges. The top ranking follows UMaine’s inclusion earlier this year in the “Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015″ and Princeton Review’s “Guide to 332 Green Colleges: 2014 Edition.”

UMaine’s appearance in “The Best 379 Colleges: 2015 Edition” marks the ninth consecutive year of recognition by Princeton Review, as well as Fiske. This is the fifth consecutive year that UMaine has been named a green college by Princeton Review for exemplary commitment to sustainability in academics, campus infrastructure and programming, with a score of 98 out of 100.

“To be the only public university in Maine to appear in the national best colleges list is a credit to the exceptional efforts of the UMaine community,” says University of Maine President Susan Hunter. “The consecutive national citations are testament to the student experience UMaine provides in its role as the state’s flagship university. The University of Maine is an outstanding choice for students seeking to pursue their academic and personal goals at a comprehensive higher education institution with a focus on undergraduate research and community engagement.”

Only about 15 percent of the 2,500 four-year colleges in the United States are profiled in the latest edition, according to Princeton Review, a test preparation and college admission services company. The profiles include ratings based on institutional data in eight categories, such as quality of campus life, academics, financial aid, admissions selectivity, and green sustainability.

UMaine students surveyed for the Princeton Review rankings reflected on academics and campus life. “The overall consensus is that ‘UMaine has challenging courses that push students to reach their potential,’” according to profile. “Many students say they chose UMaine for its balance of ‘the friendly, small feeling while still at a state university,’ and Maine residents cite the ‘financially feasible’ in-state tuition, combined with the fact that ‘it’s close to home but far enough away and large enough to feel different and exciting.’”

Students also told Princeton Review that “the faculty and administrators take an active interest in the students” and “education is top priority.”

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

UMaine Researchers Studying Availability of Iron in Ocean, Primary Production

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Understanding why phytoplankton — the base of the food web — are not able to use all the iron in seawater is the focus of a three-year study by University of Maine researchers.

Mark Wells, a marine science professor at UMaine, is leading the project that will look at how the chemistry of iron in seawater is controlled by tiny particles, where the particles are most important, and how the chemistry of the particles affects the ability of phytoplankton to grow on iron in seawater.

Oceans contribute about 50 percent of the world’s photosynthesis, with the majority coming from marine phytoplankton, Wells says. The growth of the single-celled organisms in many ocean regions is limited by the availability of micronutrient iron.

The researchers will meld chemistry, physics and biology to learn more about dissolved iron in the ocean that is tied up in colloidal particles, which are too small for gravity to control, and therefore don’t sink in seawater.

“The question is whether the marine colloids are releasing iron, or gathering it up, and this pattern almost certainly will change for different waters,” Wells says. “It is like a Tic Tac container. The Tic Tacs are there but you have to wait for the container to release them before you can eat them.”

Bioavailable iron is an essential nutrient for shaping the distribution and composition of marine phytoplankton production, as well as the magnitude of ocean carbon export, the researchers say. Iron exists in many phases in the ocean and colloidal, or nonsoluble, phases account for a significant portion of dissolved iron.

The colloidal phase of iron may serve as a biological source of stored iron, according to the researchers, but the physical and chemical characteristics of these phases are presently poorly understood.

“We know the particles are there, but we haven’t had the techniques to really see them in a technical way, and that’s what makes this project unique,” Wells says.

To better understand this key part of iron cycling, researchers will use new analytical chemistry methods to quantitatively separate the colloidal iron sizes present in a sample and measure the composition of the colloidal portions in shelf and oceanic waters.They will use flow field-flow fractionation (flow FFF) with multi-angle laser light scattering to make measurements of the uniformity or uniqueness of the colloidal size spectrum, as well as the physical and chemical characteristics of the phases. Flow FFF, according to Wells, uses flow in thin streams along a membrane to separate small particles by size.

“Researchers in the past have just used filters, but filters aren’t a very efficient way to separate size,” Wells says.

Using this method will allow the researchers to learn more about the shape, size range and chemical composition of the particles.

“A mixture of particle sizes go in one end of the channel but particles come out the other in order of their size. We can use the method to determine what particle sizes have the most iron in them,” Wells says.

The findings will aid future studies to better link the source and fate of iron in the marine environment, according to the researchers, who also expect the project will have broad implications in the fields of marine ecology and biogeochemistry and to modeling studies of ocean-atmospheric coupling and climate change.

“This study will help us understand where iron will be more available and less available in the oceans, which will help us understand why ocean productivity is lower in some areas than others,” Wells says.

The project, “Assessment of the colloidal iron size spectrum in coastal and oceanic waters” recently received a $269,334 grant from the National Science Foundation.

A former UMaine postdoctoral researcher, who is now a Texas A&M University professor, will serve as a principal investigator on the project that also will support the education and research training of one undergraduate student each year. The researchers plan to conduct outreach activities to K–12 students and teachers.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Advancing Marine Farming

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

A $20 million National Science Foundation EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant will establish a Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program in Maine.

Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine will use the grant to mobilize the collective capacity of Maine’s coastal science resources to establish SEANET, a research network focused on sustainable ecological aquaculture. SEANET will take a multi-institutional, transdisciplinary research approach to gain a comprehensive understanding of how sustainable ecological aquaculture can interact with coastal communities and ecosystems.

This multi-institutional, public-private partnership led by UMaine, in collaboration with the University of New England and other institutions in Maine, will use the state’s 3,500-mile coastline as a living laboratory to study physical oceanography, biophysical, biogeochemical, socioeconomic and policy interactions that have local, bioregional, national and global implications.

Maine has multiple institutions with world-class expertise in marine sciences, engineering, climate change and social sciences. The SEANET research partners will initially include UMaine, UNE, University of Southern Maine, University of Maine at Machias, Bowdoin College, Maine Maritime Academy, St. Joseph’s College, Southern Maine Community College, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the Cobscook Community Learning Center. In addition, dozens of other partners and stakeholder groups will collaborate on the project’s research, education, workforce development and economic development activities.

The SEANET research program will utilize the field of sustainability science to understand the social and environmental connections, and feedback loops among sustainable ecological aquaculture and coastal communities and coastal ecosystems.

“This research project will use various types of science to understand how aquaculture fits in our multi-use working waterfront, while building partnerships and training students, so that we can use similar approaches to other coastal resource management issues in the future.” said Paul Anderson, director of SEANET at the University of Maine.

“I am delighted that the National Science Foundation selected Maine EPSCoR for this Research Infrastructure Improvement grant,” said Sen. Susan Collins. “Through tourism, commercial fishing, and sea farming, our state’s economy is highly dependent on the ecological well-being of the Gulf of Maine. This grant will help fund the vital research performed by faculty and students at the University of Maine and its partners at other research and education institutions in the state as they seek to find new ways to support the cultural and economic traditions of Maine’s working waterfronts and assist local governments in making informed decisions regarding coastal usage.”

“This award is great news for the university, its partners, and indeed, the entire state of Maine,” said Sen. Angus King. “This important funding will help establish a new and innovative network of experts who will work together to advance our understanding of Maine’s working waterfronts, which are a vital part of our state’s economy. It will also benefit countless students who will gain valuable research and field experience, making this a win for everyone involved. I look forward to seeing the good work it will support.”

Rep. Mike Michaud said: “This significant investment is wonderful news for the University of Maine, all of those involved with EPSCoR, and the entire state. Maine has established itself as a leader in innovation when it comes to better understanding how we can both support our valuable ecosystems and ensure they are strong drivers of our economy, and I’m excited that this grant will further that work. I know this grant will allow that innovation to continue, and I look forward to following the project.”

“The coast of Maine is not only a big part of our economy but it’s an important part of what makes our state unique,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree. “Our history and our future are wrapped up in our coastline, and this grant is going to help us better understand the risks and opportunities for our coastal economy. It’s a big investment in the university and coastal communities that will pay big dividends in the future.”

University of Maine President Susan Hunter affirmed the project’s importance, saying, “This NSF grant recognizes the leadership and contribution of University of Maine scholars and students who aim to support coastal ecosystems, economies, and communities by promoting sustainable policies and practices in Maine.”

University of New England President Danielle Ripich said, “UNE is committed to building research and programs to support the marine economy of Maine. This public-private partnership brings two great institutions together to improve our coastal enterprises. Together with all the partners, we can do good things for Maine.”

EPSCoR is a federal program directed at states that have historically received less federal research and development funding. The program provides states with financial support to develop partnerships between their higher education institutions, industry, government, and others in order to effect lasting improvements in its research and development infrastructure, capacity, and national academic competitiveness. Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine is responsible for administering and implementing the NSF EPSCoR program for the state.

The National Science Foundation release is online.

More information about Maine EPSCoR is online.

Contact: Andrea Littlefield, 207.581.2289

Sen. Collins, Researchers Celebrate $18M Grant for Biomedical Research, Workforce Training

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Sen. Susan Collins joined leaders from colleges and research institutions across Maine as well as dozens of Maine college students at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor on Aug. 4 to celebrate the receipt of an $18.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The five-year award aims to strengthen biomedical research and hands-on workforce training in Maine through the continuation of the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), a collaborative network of 13 Maine research institutions, universities and colleges led by the MDI Biological Laboratory. The University of Maine and UMaine’s Honors College are part of the network.

“The INBRE program is a powerful instrument for bringing educational institutions from Fort Kent to South Portland together to build on their collective strengths and help our state be more competitive nationally,” Collins said at the event. “Since it began in 2001, INBRE has brought more than $100 million in federal funds into Maine. It has strengthened our state’s research infrastructure and trained more than 2,000 Maine students in biomedical research techniques.”

The full MDI Biological Laboratory news release is online.

Scientists Seek to Improve Prediction of Extreme Weather Events

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

University of Maine scientists are partnering with multiple agencies to improve the accuracy of forecasts of hurricanes, superstorms, blizzards and floods that endanger people and animals and destroy property.

UMaine received $1.5 million of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s $5.5 million award to increase the precision of predictions of extreme weather events and coastal flooding in the northeastern United States.

“This project allows us to develop rapid response capability and deploy ocean observing assets before extreme weather events, and use these targeted observations to constrain ocean models and issue timely forecasts for coastal cities and towns in the Northeast United States,” says Fei Chai, professor and director of UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, and one of four university co-investigators taking part.

The three other UMaine co-investigators are Neal Pettigrew, professor of oceanography; Mary Jane Perry, professor of oceanography and interim director of the University of Maine Darling Marine Center; and Huijie Xue, professor of oceanography. In addition, program manager Linda Magnum, research associate Ivona Cetinic, graduate student Mark Neary and postdoctoral researcher Saswati Deb, will take part in the project.

The UMaine faculty and researchers are among the 39 researchers engaged in the two-year study. The group will build, deploy, garner and analyze data from state-of the-art outfitted floats, gliders and moorings during two winter storms and two summer storms that hit the Gulf of Maine or the area from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

As a severe storm approaches, aircraft will deploy 15 miniature, expendable floats along the forecasted storm track and launch four reusable gliders in the middle of the shallow continental shelf. Researchers will also anchor 10 portable buoy moorings near estuary mouths where storm surge causes significant flooding and damage.

The floats, gliders and moorings are designed to collect three new levels of ocean observations. The new data will be integrated into computer models that predict currents, sea level and turbulent mixing of cold sub-surface water with the surface ocean.

Meteorologists will be provided with a more complete picture about sea surface temperature and upper-ocean heat content, which will result in better-informed storm forecasting, say the scientists.

In addition, more targeted ocean surface data (air pressure, air and sea temperature, ocean waves, sea-level, etc.) collected by the moorings, in conjunction with current coastal flooding models, should enhance forecasting of flooding, they say.

Pettigrew is taking part in the design and manufacturing of the moorings for atmosphere and surface ocean measurements and he and Perry are in charge of glider deployments and data analysis. Chai is heading up ocean ensemble modeling and Xue is specializing in coastal flood modeling.

“Integrated Rapid-Response Observations and Ocean Ensemble Optimization to Improve Storm Intensity Forecasts in the Northeast U.S.” is the name of the study, which is being led by Glen Gawarkiewicz, senior scientist in the Physical Oceanography Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Rutgers University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science are partners, and the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region (CINAR) is the cooperating institute.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Scientists to Study Impact of Soap Antimicrobial on Public Health

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Julie Gosse, University of Maine assistant professor of molecular and biomedical sciences, is examining how a synthetic antimicrobial common in soaps and deodorants inhibits cells that sometimes fight cancer.

Triclosan (TCS) was once limited to use in hospitals. But in the 1990s, manufacturers began putting the chemical into antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, body washes, facial cleansers and a multitude of other over-the-counter hygiene products.

TCS also is used in fabrics, plastics and clothing — from yoga mats to kitchenware to socks — to slow or stop the growth of bacteria and mildew. Because of its pervasive presence in products, Gosse says it’s also now in waterways.

When TCS inhibits the function of mast cells in skin, allergic disease may be eased. But Gosse says mast cells are complex players and are involved in both pro- and anti-cancer roles, in fighting bacterial infections and in central nervous system disorders such as autism.

“The results of this study will fulfill an urgent need by providing insights into the impact of TCS on public health, as well as insights into the inner workings of this crucial cell type, and will point to either pharmacological uses for or toxic impacts of this ubiquitous chemical,” she says.

The National Institutes of Health awarded Gosse more than $420,000 for the three-year project that begins Aug. 1.

In 2012, she and several UMaine undergraduate and graduate students published a paper about TCS that concluded it “strongly inhibits several mammalian mast cell functions at lower concentrations than would be encountered by people using TCS-containing products such as hand soaps and toothpaste.”

This grant, she says, will allow continued exploration of the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects. She and her research team will use a variety of methods and tools — including the fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) technique invented by UMaine physicist Sam Hess. The technique images individual molecules.

Hess is participating in the research, as are Lisa Weatherly and Juyoung Shim, graduate students in Gosse’s lab, and students from the Hess lab.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

 

Grant will Boost Nurses who Provide Health Care to Rural Mainers

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

The University of Maine School of Nursing has been awarded a federal grant to defray educational costs of family nurse practitioner (FNP) students who will provide primary health care for rural Mainers in medically underserved areas.

The Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship grant, totaling nearly $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will aid eligible, full-time FNP students in the School of Nursing master’s degree program in 2014 and 2015.

“Reducing the financial burden associated with graduate education is a tremendous benefit for the RNs enrolled in UMaine’s rigorous FNP program,” says Nancy Fishwick, director of UMaine’s School of Nursing.

Family nurse practitioners provide comprehensive primary health care services to people, from infancy through adulthood. Since the inception of UMaine’s FNP program in 1992, the majority of its graduates have lived and worked in medically underserved and rural areas in the state.

Maine is both the oldest and most rural state in the nation, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau. More than 61 percent of Mainers — whose median age is nearly 43 years — live in areas with fewer than 2,500 people.

Mary Shea, UMaine assistant professor of nursing and graduate program coordinator, is directing the project titled “Ensuring Access to Primary Health Care for Rural Maine.” The project’s objectives align with federal health care workforce goals and initiatives that seek to improve access to quality health care for all.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Engineers Without Borders Traveling to Developing Country in Attempt to Improve Water Security in Region

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Members of the University of Maine student group Engineers Without Borders will travel to Ecuador for two weeks in August on an assessment trip they hope will open the door to a long-term project to improve water security in the region.

From Aug. 16–28, six UMaine students and two mentors will stay in La “Y” de La Laguna in the coastal rain forest of Ecuador. La “Y,” which means the “Y” or a fork in the road, is a 300-person community that is struggling with an insufficient supply of drinking water.

A long dry season and inadequate storage is responsible for the low water supply. Residents are now dependent on buying untreated river water from an improvised tanker truck, according to EWB-UMaine members. The group aims to improve water security by helping the community find an adequate source, appropriate treatment, and reliable distribution.

“This trip will help us assess the needs of the community and build relationships that are vital to project success,” says EWB-UMaine member Logan Good. “Thinking ahead, this trip is just the beginning of a great companionship with the people of La ‘Y’ and a fantastic chance to experience global engineering.”

EWB-UMaine is a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA. It was founded in 2007 and is made up of students and professional mentors who introduce communities in developing countries to sustainable engineering projects that aim to improve residents’ quality of life. Students from any major can join the group.

Good, a mechanical engineering student from Presque Isle, Maine, is the team’s project leader, co-design leader and assistant health and safety officer. During the trip, he will be responsible for ensuring all scheduled tasks are accomplished and for providing a safe, educational and exciting experience for team members.

This is the second EWB-UMaine trip for Good, who traveled with the group to Honduras in March 2013.

“Engineers Without Borders provides many opportunities to enrich students’ global perspectives and create responsible leaders,” Good says.

During the summer assessment trip, EWB-UMaine members will meet with the community, collect water quality and health data, and discuss possible storage solutions.

Edwin Nagy, a civil and environmental engineering lecturer at UMaine, is the group’s interim adviser and will attend the trip as an engineering mentor. His focus will be on the students’ relation-building efforts as they try to understand the community’s needs and organizational structure. Robert Sypitkowski, an environmental engineer and UMaine alumnus, will provide the main technical guidance on the trip, Nagy says.

Sypitkowski traveled to La “Y” in December to meet community members. While there, he learned that five years ago, a water pump system was constructed, but the system immediately failed and there is no funding to fix it. After conducting water quality tests, he determined a new source and a storage system are needed, and the community agreed, according to Sypitkowski.

Involving the community is an important aspect of the project, according to Nagy. Community members also will be given cameras and encouraged to take photos to spark discussions with EWB-UMaine about future potential projects.

“Having the community involved from the beginning means that the people who benefit from the project are involved in keeping it alive, and it means that needs identified are needs that the people themselves believe they have,” Nagy says, adding the group’s short-term goal is to get to know the community well enough to assess and understand their needs while making friends.

“I am very interested to know their story, make new stories with them, and of course, play some futbol,” Good says of the local residents.

After the assessment trip, the students will work with the mentors to design a suitable water system. Over the next several years, the group will take a series of implementation and monitoring trips to assist La “Y” with at least water storage, if not water quality. Nagy expects the project will take three to five years to complete.

In between trips, the group will work on perfecting their design; raising funds; and analyzing data on water quality, health, satisfaction and political status collected from the community. The data will help the group determine what effect their work is having on the perceived quality of life in the region.

Educational programs will be provided to community members throughout the project term to keep residents informed and encourage sustainability. Programs will include discussion about coliforms and related health risks, as well as information about operation and maintenance of the water system the group implements.

“If all goes well, this will overlap with other projects within this community or neighboring communities and we can have a long-term relationship with the people in and around La ‘Y,’ slowly helping them get to a point where they have the infrastructure for long-term, self-directed growth,” Nagy says.

In 2013, EWB-UMaine completed a five-year effort to implement a community septic system for 28 homes in Dulce Vivir, Honduras. In 2012, the project earned a $25,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation and the EWB-USA “Premiere Project Award” — the only award of its kind given to a student chapter that year. The project taught students how to work with a community to develop and implement a sustainable project, such as the one they are now pursuing in Ecuador.

“I hope the students will gain an appreciation for the many alternative ways of living in the world, a more practical approach to engineering and an increased sense of the options available to them as engineers,” Nagy says.

In February, the group was awarded a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant for work to be completed in Ecuador during the summer. Projects for Peace grants are funded by the Davis Foundation and are awarded to efforts that address conflict resolution and reconciliation, foster understanding, provide opportunity and build community, according to the foundation.

UMaine chemistry student Bryer Sousa also won a Projects for Peace grant in 2013 to install biosand water filters in 50 households in an impoverished rural region of Honduras.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

NASA, UMaine Endeavor to Better Understand Phytoplankton, Carbon Cycling

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

University of Maine oceanographer Ivona Cetinic is participating in a NASA project to advance space-based capabilities for monitoring microscopic plants that form the base of the marine food chain.

Phytoplankton — tiny ocean plants that absorb carbon dioxide and deliver oxygen to Earth’s atmosphere — are key to the planet’s health. And NASA wants a clear, global view of them.

NASA’s Ship-Aircraft Bio-Optical Research (SABOR) mission will bring together marine and atmospheric scientists to tackle optical issues associated with satellite observations of phytoplankton.

The goal is to better understand marine ecology and phytoplankton’s major role in the global cycling of atmospheric carbon between the ocean and the atmosphere.

“Teams involved in this project are working together to develop next-generation tools that will change forever how we study oceans,” says Cetinic, a research associate at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center (DMC) in Walpole, Maine.

“Methods that will be developed during this experiment are something like 3-D glasses. They will allow us to see more details on the surface of the ocean and to see deeper into the ocean, helping us learn more about carbon in the ocean — carbon that is fueling oceanic ecosystems, as well as the fisheries and aquaculture.”

Cetinic will be a chief scientist aboard RV Endeavor that departs July 18 from Narragansett, Rhode Island. She received $1,043,662 from NASA’s Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry program for her part in the three-year project.

Cetinic’s crew, which includes Wayne Slade of Sequoia Scientific, Inc., Nicole Poulton of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and UMaine Ph.D. student Alison Chase, will analyze water samples for carbon, as well as pump seawater continuously through on-board instruments to measure how ocean particles, including phytoplankton, interact with light.

Chase, who recently earned her master’s in oceanography at UMaine, will blog about the experience at earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/fromthefield.

Interim DMC director Mary Jane Perry, who is participating in another research cruise this summer (umaine.edu/news/blog/2014/07/08/under-the-ice), will be involved in future data analysis.

Mike Behrenfeld of Oregon State University also will be aboard Endeavor and he and his team will use a new technique to directly measure phytoplankton biomass and photosynthesis.

“The goal is to develop mathematical relationships that allow scientists to calculate the biomass of the phytoplankton from optical signals measured from space, and thus to be able to monitor how ocean phytoplankton change from year to year and figure out what causes these changes,” he says.

Another research team also will be aboard Endeavor, which for three weeks will cruise through a range of ecosystems between the East Coast and Bahamas.

Alex Gilerson of City College of New York will lead a crew that will operate an array of instruments, including an underwater video camera equipped with polarization vision. It will continuously measure key characteristics of the sky and the water.

The measurements taken from aboard the ship will provide an up-close perspective and validate measurements taken simultaneously by scientists in aircraft.

NASA’s UC-12 airborne laboratory, based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will make coordinated science flights beginning July 20.

One obstacle in observing marine ecosystems from space is that atmospheric particles interfere with measurements. Brian Cairns of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York will lead an aircraft team with a polarimeter instrument to address the issue.

From an altitude of about 30,000 feet, the instrument will measure properties of reflected light, including brightness and magnitude of polarization. These measurements will define the concentration, size, shape and composition of particles in the atmosphere.

Polarimeter measurements of reflected light should provide valuable context for data from another instrument on the UC-12 designed to reveal how plankton and optical properties vary with water depth.

Chris Hostetler of Langley is leading that group. He and others will test a prototype lidar (light detection and ranging) system — the High Spectral Resolution Lidar-1 (HSRL-1). A laser that will probe the ocean to a depth of about 160 feet should reveal how phytoplankton concentrations change with depth, along with the amount of light available for photosynthesis.

Phytoplankton largely drive the functioning of ocean ecosystems and knowledge of their vertical distribution is needed to understand their productivity. This knowledge will allow NASA scientists to improve satellite-based estimates of how much atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean.

NASA satellites contributing to SABOR are the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO), which view clouds and tiny particles in Earth’s atmosphere, as well as the Terra and Aqua satellites, which measure atmospheric, land and marine processes.

Analysis of data collected from the ship, aircraft and satellites is expected to guide preparation for a new, advanced ocean satellite mission — Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and ocean Ecosystem (PACE), according to NASA.

PACE will extend observations of ocean ecology, biogeochemical cycling and ocean productivity begun by NASA in the late 1970s with the Coastal Zone Color Scanner and continued with the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view-Sensor (SeaWiFS) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on Terra and Aqua.

SABOR is funded by the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777