Archive for the ‘Hancock County’ Category

Innovate for Maine Internship Program Accepting Applications

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

The University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation is seeking motivated, innovative Maine college students and Maine companies that want to make a difference for the state through the Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG) Innovate for Maine Fellows program, supported by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

The BxG Innovate for Maine Fellows program connects the best and brightest Maine college students with the state’s most exciting, growing companies as a way to grow and create jobs in Maine through innovation and entrepreneurship. The program, which is now accepting applications, offers paid internships that place students with companies to receive training in innovation and entrepreneurship, and real-world job experience. Other benefits include potential academic credit and networking opportunities with Maine businesses and other students.

Applications are also available for Maine companies looking for summer interns. Trained innovation experts guide and mentor both the student and the company for the duration of the project.

The application deadline for both fellows and companies is March 1, 2014. More information and applications for the Innovate for Maine program are online.

Steneck: Understanding Species Interactions Key to Fisheries Management

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck participated in a Florida State University-led study that recommends a paradigm shift for fisheries science and management.

The study spearheaded by FSU biology professor Joe Travis advocates that fisheries experts and managers consider how overfishing and environmental changes disrupt species interactions and alter ecosystems, including pushing some ecosystems past their tipping points.

“In order to succeed, fisheries management must focus on species interactions,” says Steneck, a professor based at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole.

Historically, Steneck says, fisheries science has focused on population dynamics, sustainable yields and influences of biological and oceanographic processes on fisheries.

“By incorporating a more ecological approach, we argue that managers can better understand the dynamics of a fishery, and which species interactions, if affected, can push the ecosystems that house a fishery past its tipping point,” he says.

The loss of one major species from an ecosystem can have severe and unintended consequences because of the connections between that species and others in the system. These changes often occur rapidly and unexpectedly and are difficult to reverse, say the researchers.

“You don’t realize how interdependent species are until it all unravels,” says study co-author Felicia Coleman, director of Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory.

One case study looks at the collapse of sardine and anchovy stocks — partially as a result of overfishing — in the 1970s in the Northern Benguela ecosystem off Namibia. Subsequently, the far less calorie-rich bearded goby and jellyfish flourished. African penguins and gannets that had preyed on energy-rich sardines and anchovies, have suffered, say the researchers. African penguins and gannets have declined by 77 percent and 94 percent, respectively.

In addition, Cape hake and deep-water hake production plummeted from 725,000 metric tons in 1972 to 110,000 metric tons in 1990, say the researchers, and the population of Cape fur seals has dramatically fluctuated.

In Europe, Steneck points to the Atlantic cod stock’s seeming inability to rebound from overfishing. Currently, the cod’s former prey, a small fish called sprat, has become hyperabundant to the point that it preys on larval cod.

Closer to home, the decimation of cod and other large predatory species also resulted in a proliferation of sea urchins. In the late 1980s, a sea urchin fishery subsequently developed and boomed, but by the mid- to late-1990s, overfishing had decimated that industry.

With sea urchin stocks depleted, the macroalgae eaten by sea urchins increased substantially. This, in turn, created an ideal habitat for crabs, which are major predators of sea urchins.

In the same ecosystem, Steneck says declines in soft-shell clams are due to an explosion of non-native green crabs. “All of these examples result from strong ecological interactions that are not captured in most fisheries management models,” he says.

While it’s easy to write off one such case study, Travis says taken all together, the paper is a compelling case that “tipping points are real, we’ve crossed them in many ecosystems, and we’ll cross more of them unless we can get this problem under control.”

Steneck agrees. “Our paper provides case studies from all over the world illustrating how a chain of events taken with an appreciation for species interactions can contribute to complex problems in fisheries management,” he says.

The study, titled “Integrating the invisible fabric of nature into fisheries management,” was published in the Dec. 23, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Travis and Coleman say they hope the research accelerates changes in how fisheries scientists approach ecosystem problems and how fisheries managers integrate system issues into their efforts.

The researchers recommend that more effort be devoted to understanding links between species that set up tipping points in ecosystems and they advised managers be cognizant of data that indicates when a system could be approaching its tipping point.

“It’s a lot easier to back up to avoid a tipping point before you get to it than it is to find a way to return once you’ve crossed it,” Travis says.

Fishing experts generally understand how overfishing affects other species and the ecosystem as a whole but it “needs to be a bigger part of the conversation and turned into action,” Coleman says.

Seven other scientists from the University of Connecticut, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Santa Cruz, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale in France participated in the study.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

UMaine, Department of Education Launch Autism Resource, Research Institute

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development has partnered with the Maine Department of Education to create a statewide system of supports for Mainers who serve children with autism and their families. The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) will open Jan. 1, 2014 on the UMaine campus. Deborah Rooks-Ellis, an assistant professor of special education at UMaine, will be the institute’s full-time director. She will oversee the institute’s efforts to increase statewide capacity to improve outcomes for children with autism. The full DOE news release on the collaboration is available online.

UMaine Researcher Strives for Effective Innovative STEM Initiatives

Friday, October 18th, 2013

A University of Maine researcher is participating in five projects aimed at improving nationwide science instruction and assessments.

Michelle Smith, assistant professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology, is the principal investigator on four projects and co-principal investigator on another granted $6.8 million in total funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF); UMaine’s portion is $1,012,269.

The projects, three of which are collaborative with other universities, involve UMaine administrators, faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students, undergraduates and area K-12 teachers. “All of these stakeholders … will contribute to national initiatives to improve science education,” says Smith, a member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education (Maine RiSE Center).

In August, Smith was returning from a reunion with family members when she learned about the possible funding. “We stopped for lunch and I looked down at my phone and realized my inbox was full of messages from the NSF requesting that I provide them with more information on four different grants within 48 hours,” she says. “I told my family they had to eat ‘right now’ because we had to get home.”

Susan McKay, UMaine professor of physics and director of the Maine RiSE Center, as well as Smith and several other colleagues, will receive $299,998 to transform K-12 STEM education by restructuring teaching methods courses to align with national standards. They’ll also work to attract and retain STEM majors in college as educators and form partnerships with area school districts.

Researchers say the project could make a difference in Maine, where more than 50 percent of students in more than half the school districts are eligible for free or reduced lunch and the resource-based economy could benefit from more technology jobs.

Smith and colleagues MacKenzie Stetzer, Susan McKay and Jeff St. John will receive $249,851 to establish a UMaine program to broaden use of evidence-based teaching and learner-centered practices in STEM courses. UMaine faculty and area K-12 teachers will observe and document instruction in university STEM courses. Their data will be used to develop workshops targeting faculty members’ needs and implement innovative teaching practices.

Smith will receive $219,966 of a $528,459 collaborative project to develop assessments called Bio-MAPS (Biology-Measuring Achievement and Progression in Science) that gauge whether undergraduate college biology students understand core concepts. The University of Washington and University of Colorado-Boulder are partners in the endeavor “to articulate common learning goals and monitor longitudinal student learning in biology.”

The assessments will identify areas in biology in which students struggle. They’ll also help two-year community colleges evaluate how effectively they’re preparing students to transfer to four-year institutions. Assessment data will inform faculty about where changes need to be made in the biology curriculum.

Smith will also receive $187,968 to expand a national network for open-ended assessments called Automated Assessment of Constructed Response (AACR) in which computer software programs analyze answers of students in large-enrollment science courses. The assessments provide more insight into student thinking on common conceptual difficulties than multiple-choice questions.

Michigan State, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Georgia, and Stony Brook University, are also participating in the $5 million project, in which researchers will create a community Web portal to improve alliances among STEM education researchers and promote nationwide implementation of innovative instruction materials.

Smith will receive $54,486 of a $718,000 collaborative award with four other universities to build a national network of Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) that provide professional development opportunities so more faculty can use constructed response assessments to reform teaching in biology. UMaine faculty members Seanna Annis, Farahad Dastoor and Brian Olsen will work with Smith to develop the UMaine FLC.

The project seeks to provide insight into factors that facilitate or hamper faculty using modified teaching materials and practices. It also lays the foundation for a national network of FLCs and subject-based virtual communities with access to real-time automated analysis of AACR assessment items, faculty-developed teaching resources and support.

Smith, who says she chose a faculty position at UMaine in order to work with fantastic researchers and supportive peers, appreciates that her colleagues helped her think about research questions and mentored her during the grant-writing process.

She’s also grateful for the contributions of K-12 teachers. “The pilot data the K-12 teachers collected about university-level STEM instruction was featured in the grant to broaden use of evidence-based teaching and learner-centered practices in STEM courses,” Smith says. “That grant earned the highest scores of any I submitted. My colleagues and I are incredibly lucky to work with such a talented group of teachers who are also excellent researchers.”

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777


Maine Development Foundation, UMaine Issue Report on Personal Income in Maine

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

On Oct. 17, the Maine Development Foundation and the University of Maine’s School of Economics and Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center released the second quarterly report analyzing critical economic indicators in Maine. The latest report looks at Maine’s relatively low per capita personal income. The first report, released in August, addressed Maine’s comparatively low level of worker productivity. Ann Acheson, a research associate at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, wrote the new report that analyzes the relative contribution of the three sources of personal income — earned income, investment income and transfer payment income — in Maine and in comparison to the national average. The Maine Development Foundation news release and the full report are online.


‘Sustainable Maine’ Series to Air on MPBN

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

MPBN will air season three of the Maine EPSCoR produced “Sustainable Maine” series, highlighting the research of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), based at UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center. SSI is helping communities solve interconnected economic problems while advancing sustainability science. Information about the MPBN documentary series is online.

The broadcast schedule is:

Return of a River – Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 9 p.m.
(Repeating on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 10 AM and Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 1 p.m.)

Tipple Bottom Line – Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 9:30 p.m.
(Repeating on Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.)

Culvert Operations – Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 9 p.m.
(Repeating on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10 AM and Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 1 p.m.)

Desperate Alewives – Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 9:30 p.m.
(Repeating on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.)

Preserving Paradise – Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9 p.m.
(Repeating on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 10 AM and Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 1p.m.)

Saving Our Lakes – Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9:30 p.m.
(Repeating on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.)

Basket Trees – Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 9 p.m.
(Repeating on Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 1 p.m.)

Pools, Policy & People – Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 9:30 p.m.
(Repeating on Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.)

University of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy and Partners Receive $983,997 from the NSF for the creation of a unique offshore wind-wave generating system

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

The University of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy, Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were awarded a $983,997 energy grant from the National Science Foundation for the creation of a new wind and wave generating system.

W² will be a unique, multidirectional system that will consist of a rotating open-jet wind tunnel positioned over a deep-wave basin that will be designed to work together. Using a programmable directional wave maker, wave and wind conditions similar to those in the Gulf of Maine and beyond will be simulated.

This type of system is not available anywhere else in the country.

Data collected from the project can be used to develop test standards for floating structures, particularly those requiring wind and wave interaction, such as offshore floating wind turbines.

The system also has the potential to create better understanding of wave and wind effects in the ocean that can help researchers develop new methods of capturing renewable energy, optimize the performance of existing renewable energy devices and construct future offshore infrastructures, according to a press release issued Wednesday by U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King.

“Researchers at the University of Maine and their world-class partners have demonstrated ingenuity in seeking new ways to capture Maine’s abundant supply of offshore deepwater wind energy through the launch of the nation’s first grid-connected offshore floating wind turbine prototype in May,” Senators Collins and King said in a joint statement. “The construction of the Wind-Wave generating system will provide students and scientists with invaluable information regarding the ocean’s interaction with offshore infrastructure as they seek to build on their already considerable achievements.”

Other uses of the equipment include testing by ocean energy developers and those in the offshore oil and gas industry; studying of wave interaction with beaches and structures by coastal engineers; and examination of the wind dispersal of marine pollutants by oil spill management companies. The facility will also be available to undergraduate and graduate students for research and will benefit K–12 students during STEM educational activities.

Krish Thiagarajan, the University of Maine’s Alston D. and Ada Lee Correll Presidential Chair in Energy and mechanical engineering professor, is the principal investigator of the project. Co-principal investigators include UMaine engineering professors Habib Dagher, Andrew Goupee and Qingping Zou, as well as Maine Maritime Academy professor Richard Kimball.

The system will be located in the Wave Wind Laboratory, a new addition to the Advanced Structures and Composites Center on the UMaine campus.

Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Maine and New Hampshire EPSCoR Receive $6 Million to Address Health of Coastal Ecosystem

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Maine and New Hampshire’s coastal tourism and shellfish industries contribute millions of dollars annually to the regional economy. In Maine in 2010, coastal tourism and recreation added $1.1 billion to Maine’s gross domestic product, while shellfish landings in that same year generated revenues of $347 million. But these industries and the coastal environment they depend on are vulnerable to a variety of factors, including pollution, climate change and invasive species.

A team of researchers led by the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire will conduct a three-year study of the many factors affecting the health of their shared coastal ecosystem. This collaboration, funded by a $6 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), aims to strengthen the scientific basis for decision making related to the management of recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting. This research is a direct outgrowth of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, supported by the NSF EPSCoR program.

The project, titled the New England SusTainability Consortium (NEST), is managed by the EPSCoR programs at UMaine and UNH in partnership with College of the Atlantic, University of New England, University of Southern Maine, Great Bay Community College, Plymouth State University and Keene State College. In Maine, researchers will also collaborate with several state agencies and other stakeholders, including the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine State Department of Education and Maine Healthy Beaches.

“I am delighted that the National Science Foundation selected the New England SusTainability Consortium, for this Research Infrastructure Improvement grant,” said Sen. Susan Collins. “Through both tourism as well as commercial fishing, 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 as they seek to find ways to reduce pollution caused by coastal runoff and assist local governments in making informed decisions regarding the closure of beaches and shellfish beds.”

“This is good news for Maine, and indeed for all coastal areas,” said Sen. Angus King. “Our shellfish industry is facing many threats an climate change, warming oceans, acidifying waters, and an increase in green crabs, which are decimating clam flats. Our state simply can’t lose another fishery. I look forward to seeing the results of the good work that this grant will enable, like hopefully more targeted closures of flats. Our changing environment is a big problem, and while we work out broad solutions, we must also focus on mitigating the direct impacts on people and ecosystems.”

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

The project combines scientific knowledge and local expertise to improve resource management decisions. There is widespread agreement among resource managers and scientists in both states that current beach and shellfish management decisions are challenging and can be improved by strengthening partnerships among scientists, managers and communities.

NEST uses a collaborative process where resource managers and other stakeholders participate in defining problems, identifying research needs, interpreting results and designing solutions. The team will select a number of study sites in each state to investigate how natural processes like water flow in rivers, and human activities like land development, in coastal watersheds influence bacterial dynamics. Project research will advance understanding of how environmental and climatic conditions affect the dynamics of bacterial pathogens. The project studies how human activities contribute to and are affected by these bacterial dynamics and related public resource management decisions. Coupling these distinct strands of research offers a more comprehensive view of beach and shellfish management. This innovative approach seeks to generate cost-effective strategies for reducing bacterial pollution. By identifying solutions that strategically avert risks to humans, while supporting economic development and ecosystem health, NEST will develop regional capacity between Maine and New Hampshire to advance sustainability solutions through science.

Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) is supported in large part by a $20 million, five-year investment through the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR Program). SSI enhances Maine’s research capacity and promotes innovation and societal benefit through the field of sustainability science. This innovative initiative represents an extensive network of over 350 researchers and students and more than 200 community-based stakeholders working together to advance solutions across Maine.

Contact: Andrea Littlefield, 207.581.2289

Sensor Buoy to Help Answer Questions About Declining Water Clarity in Acadia National Park

Friday, July 12th, 2013

A state-of-the-art sensor buoy system has been deployed in Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park to begin a high-tech water quality monitoring program in light of recent concerns about decreasing clarity in what is considered one of the clearest lakes in Maine.

The monitoring program is made possible by a partnership led by Friends of Acadia, Acadia National Park and the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute. Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, is the official sponsor for the program. Through Canon’s support, Friends of Acadia was able to purchase a NexSens CB-400 Data Buoy and hire a full-time aquatic scientist, Courtney Wigdahl of Topsham to monitor the study.

Friends of Acadia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to projects that preserve and protect Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island communities. Wigdahl is an alumna of the University of Maine, where she did her Ph.D. and postdoctoral research with Jasmine Saros, associate director of the Climate Change Institute.

The 187-acre Jordan Pond is 150 feet deep — the deepest and the second largest of the 26 lakes and ponds on the island. Described as one of Acadia’s most pristine lakes with exceptional water quality, Jordan Pond is the water supply for Seal Harbor.

Since 1985, the Park Service has manually monitored water quality on a monthly basis throughout Acadia’s waterways. In Jordan Pond, data analysis has shown that water clarity has been declining since the mid-1990s. In the past four years alone, water clarity has shifted from 14 meters to 12 meters, as measured using a secchi disk.

To determine the potential causes of clarity loss, as well as the effects on the broader ecosystem, the water quality monitoring will be automated with the help of the buoy sited in the deepest part of Jordan Pond. With the latest sensor technology, the buoy will monitor nearly 100 data points every day, including the amount of algae and organic material in the water column, and water pH and temperature. The data will be compiled and transmitted every 15 minutes to a receiving station located at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant.

The buoy, which will be visible approximately 2 feet above the water surface, will be in Jordan Pond for the next four months, and then will be redeployed in the spring.

The automated monitoring will provide a more comprehensive perspective on water conditions, and inform decisions about lake protection measures. Just as important, it will monitor conditions before, during and after major weather events to understand the changes the pond undergoes.

“This is likely not an isolated case. We think it is indicative of what’s happening in many lakes in Maine,” says Saros, who has been studying the lakes in Acadia National Park for the past five years, looking at the effects of and recovery from acid rain, and the effects of climate change. “Many lakes in Maine are brown because of natural organics. Jordan has a low concentration of that, but it may be increasing.

“If the changes in Jordan Pond are largely because of air pollution reduction, it’s important to know that the lake is returning to a previous state and the reduction in clarity is not a concern,” says Saros, who will lead the data analysis. “If it’s more of a sign of changes in climate with the increased frequency and severity of storms, we will be more concerned and will have to consider what we can do to mitigate the effects. For the park and for lakes across Maine, it is an important question.”

By next year, Jordan Pond’s high-resolution sensor data will be available to the public on a website and at an information kiosk at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. The data also will be entered in the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), which shares and interprets information from around the planet in an effort to understand the role and response of lakes to a changing environment.

Wigdahl will be blogging about her work with the buoy on the Friends of Acadia news site.

A Wall Street Journal article about the Canon U.S.A. sponsorship with Friends of Acadia is online.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745; 207.949.4149

Researchers Uncover Lessons for Fisheries Management in Changing Climate

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Last summer’s ocean heat wave has provided researchers from the University of Maine and Gulf of Maine Research Institute with unique insights into how fishery managers and policymakers might best sustain marine ecosystems in the face of climate change.

The study found the abnormal water temperatures, which were 3 degrees to 5 degrees above the long-term average, caused some species to move north and seek refuge in cooler waters, and others to migrate earlier than usual. These behavioral changes had substantial ramifications for commercial fishermen, affecting both the species variety and the selling price of their catch.

“Longfin squid, which are generally found off the shores of Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, made their way to the Maine coast,” said Katherine Mills, one of the scientists who published the findings in the June issue of Oceanography. “Local fishermen quickly took advantage of the catch, and new local markets for the squid developed.”

The warmer temperatures also caused Gulf of Maine lobsters to molt about a month earlier than usual, bringing an early start to the summer harvest. While lobstermen proceeded to catch a record number of these crustaceans, the abundance flooded the market and caused the price of lobsters to plummet.

“In order to sustain marine ecosystems, scientists and fishery managers also need to be able to rapidly adjust in response to abrupt changes in climate,” Mills said. “In the paper, we outline a number of recommendations to help them prepare for and react to events like the 2012 ocean heat wave.”

The researchers advocate for development of climate-ecosystem models that link physical changes to biological outcomes and economic impacts. These models would help fishery managers identify and evaluate climate change adaptation strategies.

In addition, they assert that targeted predictive models that take into account multiple real-time data streams would be valuable for supporting fishery management decisions in the era of climate change.

They also state that fishery management processes may need greater flexibility to accommodate and adjust to future climate events. One such example is a responsive permitting structure for commercial fishermen that may be helpful in case one species leaves the area and another species moves in.

Additional collaborators on this research included SUNY Stony Brook and NOAA, as well as researchers from France and Taiwan.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777