Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Steneck Quoted in Huffington Post Blog on Shrimp, Lobster Populations

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Robert Steneck, a marine scientist at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Huffington Post blog post titled “Shrimp down, lobster up: Is there a connection?” Warming temperatures are leading to a thriving lobster population in the Gulf of Maine while lobster numbers are declining farther south, according to the report. Steneck said the shift is happening because warming waters in the area have aided the lobster boom, but he worries if temperatures get too warm — above 20 C (68 F) — the area could become too stressful for lobster.

Phys.org Reports on Olsen’s Research on Sexual Selection of Birds

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Phys.org reported on research on the sexual selection of birds conducted by Brian Olsen, assistant professor in the University of Maine’s School of Biology and Ecology and Climate Change Institute. Olsen found when looking for a mate, female coastal plain swamp sparrows choose males with large bills. He also found small-billed males are more at risk of being cheated on by their mates.

UMaine Doctoral Graduate Receives International Prize for Studying First Human Settlement in Peruvian Andes

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

A University of Maine alumnus and faculty associate in the Department of Anthropology recently won an international prize for his ice age research related to the first human settlement in the high Peruvian Andes.

Kurt Rademaker, who is also an associate graduate faculty member at UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, won the Tübingen Research Prize in Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology. The award is open to recent doctoral recipients around the world in a variety of areas including archaeology, ecology and human evolution.

The goal of Rademaker’s research is to better understand the timing, environmental setting and adaptations related to the early settlement.

“Human colonization of the Americas was the most rapid and extensive geographic expansion in our species’ history, in which hunter-gatherers successfully settled some of the most challenging environments on Earth,” he says.

Rademaker and his team discovered humans lived at 14,700 feet elevation in southern Peru about 12,000–12,500 years ago, making the Andes settlements the highest known ice-age archaeological sites in the world.

“The fact that hunter-gatherers were physiologically capable of living in high-altitude mountains at the end of an ice age is an example of how amazingly adaptable our species is. My team and I are trying to learn more about how people managed this initial settlement and how Andean environments, ecology and culture have changed since then,” he says.

Rademaker collaborates with researchers from throughout the United States, Canada, Peru, Chile and Germany.

“Many different skill sets are needed to do interdisciplinary work, and archaeology is labor-intensive, so this means building teams of people with varied specializations,” he says.

Rademaker considers his work somewhat nontraditional because he uses an interdisciplinary systems approach that combines archaeology and other earth science techniques to investigate the long-term evolution of landscapes in which people play an important role.

Rademaker and his team can sometimes estimate the age of settlements by tools found at sites. Other times the researchers excavate areas in rockshelter sites used as camps and retrieve organic material such as animal bones that people discarded then radiocarbon date the bones to determine their approximate age.

Research conducted by Rademaker and his team suggests that the first people in the Peruvian Andes settlements hunted Andean camelids — ancestors of today’s alpacas and llamas — and Andean deer. The people may have also eaten plants, but a complete picture of their diet awaits further study, Rademaker says.

“One interesting finding is that there are stone tools in the shelter that do not come from the highlands but from lower-elevation canyons,” Rademaker says. “So these people may have been moving between low and high elevations, perhaps seasonally.”

The Tübingen Research Prize is administered by the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology housed in the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory and Archaeology of the Middle Ages at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. The prize, in its 16th year, was created to promote innovative research among scholars studying ice age archaeology, Quaternary ecology and human evolution.

“It is such a great honor to win this award,” Rademaker says. “Tübingen has one of the premier archaeological departments in the world. The Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology is renowned for its archaeological sciences expertise and groundbreaking work on human prehistory and evolution throughout Africa, Asia and Europe.”

In accepting the award, Rademaker is slated to deliver the prize lecture Feb. 6 at the Fürstenzimmer of Schloss Hohentübingen, where he will receive 5,000 Euros ($6,800). As the winner, he is also expected to contribute a research paper summarizing the major aspects of his research for the journal Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Urgeschichte.

“I have lots of ideas for future research, so I hope to have the opportunity to continue in academic archaeology,” Rademaker says.

Rademaker has been researching early human settlements in the high Peruvian Andes for about 10 years and has made 13 trips to Peru to complete his master’s and Ph.D. research.

“In total, I have spent about a year of my life camping in the high Andes while doing fieldwork,” he says.

Rademaker, who has been interested in the settlement of the Americas since he began his career in archaeology in 1996, became involved in Peruvian archaeology and climate change through the Climate Change Institute when he came to UMaine in 2003.

“I had the good fortune to have Dan Sandweiss as my graduate adviser,” Rademaker says. “Dan invited me on his field project in Peru in 2004, and I have been hooked on the Andes ever since.”

In 2008, Rademaker won the Society for American Archaeology’s Douglas C. Kellogg Geoarchaeology Award and the Geological Society of America’s Claude C. Albritton Archaeological Geology Award for research by a graduate student. Rademaker is the second person to win both awards and the only person to win them in the same year, according to his former adviser Sandweiss, the dean and associate provost for graduate studies and a professor of anthropology and quaternary and climate studies.

Rademaker earned a doctoral degree in Quaternary archaeology from UMaine in 2012 and a master’s degree in Quaternary and climate studies in 2006. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Kentucky. He is expected to teach archaeology courses at UMaine during the spring semester.

“In addition to being a unique source of information about our own species’ development, archaeology also is a tremendous source of information about past climate and environmental change,” Rademaker says. “Future environmental change is the most serious challenge our civilization faces. Archaeology can help us understand the development of Earth’s landscapes and our current situation.”

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Mayewski Talks to NPR About Cold Snap, Weather in Antarctica

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Paul Mayewski, a professor and director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, spoke to NPR for a segment titled “Can’t stand the cold snap? Don’t go to Antarctica.” Mayewski was interviewed by phone from Kennedy Airport where he was on his way to Antarctica to study ice cores, columns of frozen water that researchers use to determine what the climate used to be like. He said the coldest place he has been was the interior of East Antarctica where daily temperatures were about -55 C (-67 F) without the windchill. Mayewski added if you wear plenty of layers, keep all skin covered and try to move around as much as possible, being out in the cold can be enjoyable.

Jacobson Keynote Speaker at Rhode Island Meeting, AP Reports

Monday, January 6th, 2014

The Associated Press reported that George Jacobson, Maine’s state climatologist and professor emeritus of biology, ecology and climate change at the University of Maine, will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of Rhode Island’s Nursery and Landscape Association on Jan. 16 and 17 at the University of Rhode Island. Jacobson plans to discuss the likely effect of climate change on “green” industries in New England and what can be done to prepare. The Republic, Daily Journal and Times Union carried the AP report.

Ecological Changes, Economic Consequences

Monday, November 18th, 2013

A $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation will allow a multidisciplinary team of researchers to examine the impact of rising ocean temperatures on the ecology and economics of the Gulf of Maine.

Led by Andrew Pershing from the University of Maine and Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), the team will conduct a four-year project as part of the NSF’s Coastal SEES (Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability) Initiative to support collaborative studies.

“Climate change is impacting the distribution of fish and lobsters in the Gulf of Maine,” Pershing says, “and these ecological changes can have significant economic consequences.”

For instance, record warm ocean temperatures during 2012 prompted lobsters in the Gulf of Maine to migrate shoreward about a month early, making them easier to catch. Lobstermen proceeded to haul in record numbers of the crustaceans, but the overabundance of product on the market tanked the price paid to lobstermen.

“There’s a growing realization among scientists that complex problems like climate change and fisheries require us to work with people from other fields,” says Katherine Mills a co-investigator on this study from UMaine and GMRI.

The team includes climate scientists, oceanographers, fishery scientists and economists from UMaine, GMRI, Stony Brook University, NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) and NOAA’s National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

“The Gulf of Maine is an ideal test site to examine relationships between climate change, oceanography, ecology and economics,” Pershing says. In addition to its economically valuable lobster and groundfish fisheries, the Gulf has strong temperature gradients and has been warming rapidly in recent years.

“Rising temperatures impact spatial and seasonal distributions of many fish and invertebrates,” says Janet Nye, an assistant professor at Stony Brook University. Shifts in the distribution and abundance of species drive changes to their interactions with each other, as well as changes to where, when and how many are caught.

As part of its multidisciplinary approach, the project has a dedicated education component through GMRI’s LabVenture! Program that annually reaches 10,000 Maine fifth- and sixth-grade students. The researchers will work with GMRI’s education specialists to develop a hands-on experience that enables students to explore how computer models help scientists understand complex interactions among species and the environment.

In addition to Pershing, Mills and Nye, the team includes Andrew Thomas, Richard Wahle and Yong Chen from the University of Maine; Jenny Sun, Tom Farmer and Frank Chiang from GMRI; Dan Holland from NWFSC; and Mike Alexander from NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Chilean Newspaper La Tercera Reports on Waller’s Coral Research

Friday, November 15th, 2013

La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper, recently reported on coral research by Rhian Waller, an associate research professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine. The article, “Corals of cold water: the unknown forest under the Patagonian sea,” focuses on Waller’s findings from a deep-sea coral expedition in Chile, which she blogged about on the National Geographic website.

Research.gov Highlights EPSCoR Sustainability Solutions Initiative Team’s Study

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

The National Science Foundation’s website Research.gov published an article on research by a Maine Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) team at the University of Maine. The team is developing tools to help Maine communities better understand and prepare for the potential local effects of climate change. NSF is funding the project.

Mayewski, Jacobson Quoted in Morning Sentinel Article on Climate Change Forum

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Paul Mayewski, a professor and director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, and George Jacobson, state climatologist and professor emeritus of biology, ecology and climate change at UMaine, were quoted in a Morning Sentinel article about a climate change forum held at Kennebec Valley Community College. The pair spoke about the importance of climate change and the technical aspects of how climates have evolved in various parts of the world. The symposium was organized by the Mid-Maine Climate Adaptation Working Group and focused on the effects of climate disruption on our health, the economy, extreme weather events, the sea level and our water supply.

Two UMaine Researchers Team with UC Berkeley Professor to Study Effects of Turbulence on Cells’ Sinking Rate, Trajectory, Distribution

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Two University of Maine researchers are teaming up with a University of California-Berkeley professor to study the sinking rate and trajectories of phytoplankton in relation to particle shape and water turbulence. Phytoplankton provide the food supply at the base of the marine food web and help maintain the health of the atmosphere by absorbing and sequestering carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

Lee Karp-Boss, a marine scientist and associate professor in the UMaine School of Marine Sciences, is a principal investigator of the project along with Evan Variano, a researcher in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UC Berkeley. Pete Jumars, a UMaine professor of marine sciences and oceanography who is based at the Darling Marine Center (DMC), is a co-principal investigator of the study.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded $409,035 to the UMaine researchers and $315,869 to Variano for the three-year project that began in September 2013.

The purpose of the study, “Collaborative Research: Trajectories and spatial distributions of diatoms at dissipation scales of turbulence,” is to create a better understanding of how turbulence and particle shape affect the sinking velocity and paths of phytoplankton — specifically diatoms.

“Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that are responsible for food production in the ocean and they account for about half of the oxygen that we breathe,” Karp-Boss says of the plant-like organisms.

Since phytoplankton are photosynthetic organisms and need light, they grow in the upper layer of the water column in oceans where turbulence caused by wind and waves prevails. Many phytoplankton types either can’t swim or have a limited swimming ability and are at the mercy of turbulence.

Turbulence mixes the cells, and if it’s strong and deep enough, transports them out of the illuminated upper layer of the ocean, or photic zone.

“That mixing affects the light fields they experience and that will ultimately determine rates of photosynthesis and production in the ocean,” Karp-Boss says.

Cell components have densities larger than seawater and therefore tend to sink. If phytoplankton sink too quickly, they exit the illuminated zone. Cells that settle away from the photic zone too deep serve as a food supply for organisms in the deep ocean. A fraction of these settling cells may get buried in sediments, effectively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the interior of the ocean, which explains the interest in the rate phytoplankton sinks, Jumars and Karp-Boss say.

Simple turbulence operates in all directions, carrying phytoplankton up and down. Scientists originally assumed a cell would move up or down at the same average speed in turbulence as it would in still water, but results have shown otherwise. Whether they sink or rise, more intense turbulence makes them move quicker. However, the methods used in the last decade give little insight into the mechanisms behind this acceleration, according to the UMaine researchers.

Studies conducted by atmospheric scientists have found key components of turbulence are the small eddies or vortices whose friction with the surrounding fluid — air or water — drains away the kinetic energy in turbulence. These eddies spin small water droplets out and make them more likely to collide, Jumars says.

Those findings don’t tell the whole story for phytoplankton because it doesn’t explain how buoyant particles are accelerated upward by turbulence. Testing this requires the ability to track individual phytoplankton cells in three dimensions as they move through eddies.

That’s why Karp-Boss and Jumars teamed with Variano, the UC Berkeley researcher, who with colleagues has developed a system that allows scientists to look at the trajectories of thousands of individual particles as they move.

Variano has developed a borescope with a double iris and video camera that gives the instrument binocular vision and captures the 3-D position of the cell.

“If you capture many quick snapshots, you can put all the frames together and see how this particle is moving in the water. If you calculate the distance and you know the time between frames, you can get velocity. You can also see whether their trajectories are straight or curved and how they settle or rise in the water. It gives us more information than just looking at mean sinking speeds of a population,” Karp-Boss says.

Most of the particles researchers have studied are spherical, while particles in nature are a variety of other shapes.

“Diatoms exhibit a striking morphological diversity, and we argue the shape of the particles will determine the trajectory and how fast they settle,” Karp-Boss says.

Karp-Boss and Jumars hope the project will also teach researchers more about the effects of turbulence on the distribution of phytoplankton cells. Whether the cells are randomly distributed or group together to form patches carries important implications to foraging strategies of grazers that feed on the cells. Turbulence is likely to play a role, but the underlying mechanisms are not yet fully understood.

The researchers will work together at both institutions throughout the project. The tanks design and construction, as well as characterization of the turbulent flows, will be done at UC Berkeley, while the experiments and analysis will be completed at UMaine.

In addition to their research, the PIs plan to hold a workshop at UMaine’s DMC in Walpole, Maine to bring together students from various departments who have similar interests in the dynamics of particles in flows.

“These types of questions are of interest to many STEM fields including  engineering, physics, atmospheric science and — of course — oceanography. Learning from each other’s approaches, models and measurements can greatly enhance understanding of how particles and flows interact,” Karp-Boss says.

Convening students from different fields who deal with particles in turbulent flows at earlier stages of their careers will hopefully give them an opportunity to form lifelong interactions and collaborations across fields. Karp-Boss and Jumars met Variano at a similar conference devoted to this range of topics.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747