University of Maine marine scientist Rhian Waller has been named a Fellow in an elite international group of adventurers who encourage scientific discovery while exploring land, sea and space.
Founded in 1904, Explorers Club members attempt to attain new heights and depths; they’ve been the first to reach the moon, North Pole, South Pole, the Mount Everest summit and the deepest part of the ocean.
Waller, an associate research professor in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, fits right in. In 2013, National Geographic Magazine celebrated her as a 21st-century risk taker who presses the limits in this “New Age of Exploration.”
Based at the Darling Marine Center (DMC) in Walpole, Maine, Waller has pushed the limits of diving during more than 40 expeditions around the planet. In a submersible, she has plunged to a depth of 3,600 meters to examine corals on the New England Seamount chain.
“I feel extremely honored to have been voted into the Explorers Club, and really pleased to have been recognized for the scientific exploration work I’ve been doing across the globe,” Waller says.
“There are so many conservation issues surrounding the deep ocean, I hope I can use this opportunity to spread the word more widely that the deep sea is important to our whole planet, and does need our protection.”
As a Fellow, Waller has access to the Explorer’s Club research collections, including a library and map room, and she’s connected with a global network of expertise, experience, technology, industry and support. The Explorers Club supports exploratory expeditions and provides opportunities for the 3,000 members worldwide to carry an Explorers Club flag on voyages that further the cause of exploration and field science. Since 1918, flags have flown at both the North and South poles and aboard Apollo 11.
The seven founders of the Explorers Club were two polar explorers, a curator of birds and mammals at The American Museum of Natural History, an archaeologist, a war correspondent/writer, a professor of physics and an ethnologist. Today its members — including archaeologists, astronomers, entomologists, mountaineers, zoologists and now a new deep-sea researcher — conduct explorations and research in more than 60 countries around the globe, and beyond.
For her research, Waller routinely scuba dives in temperatures 35 F and colder. She studies how environmental factors such as climate change, fishing and oil exploration affect deep-sea coral ecology and reproduction, as well as what effect that altered life cycle could have on the rest of the marine ecosystem.
Last summer, Waller was part of a research team that discovered two deep-sea coral communities in the western Jordan Basin and Schoodic Ridge regions of the Gulf of Maine.
Last month, Waller returned from an expedition to Chile. She had traveled to Huinay Scientific Field Station near the northern Patagonian fjords to collect final samples from a yearlong deep-sea coral monitoring program. She’s examining how climate change, salmon farms, fishing and oil exploration affect deep-sea coral reproduction, and what effect any altered life cycle could have on the marine ecosystem.
In her Oct. 11 blog on that trip, Waller wrote that corals, which she calls the rainforests of the ocean, “are not just beautiful to look at … they’re also extremely important to the health of our oceans, and ultimately the health of the planet.”
Next year, Waller will utilize a $381,384 National Science Foundation grant to investigate how Antarctic corals, which provide habitat for thousands of connected species, are coping with warming ocean water.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Actors and directors at the University of Maine are embracing change as they rehearse for Metamorphoses, a play that explores transformations.
Many of their adjustments are because the play takes place in an 18-inch-deep, 30-foot-wide-by-14-foot-long pool filled with 8,500 gallons of water. UMaine Associate Professor of Theatre Marcia Joy Douglas directs the production, in which 150 audience members will be seated on stage adjacent to the actors.
“It’s such a unique theater experience,” says Douglas. “I love the magic that takes place in a theater. The lights, the sounds, the costumes — all of it, in particular with this show. I can guarantee people have never seen anything like it.”
Playwright Mary Zimmerman earned a Tony Award for best direction in her Broadway hit Metamorphoses, which she based on David R. Slavitt’s translation of Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Ovid wrote the poem of 15 books and more than 250 myths, circa A.D. 8, the same year that Augustus exiled him. It explores transformations undergone from the beginning of time until Julius Caesar was deified.
During rehearsals, Douglas says she kept inventing ways to best use the water — which represents cleansing, dying, change and emotion. “It’s a character in the play,” she says.
Each central character — whether it’s King Midas or Myrrha — imparts a lesson. “Myths teach us about what it is to be human,” she says.
Douglas chose Metamorphoses after asking UMaine Assistant Professor and set designer Daniel Bilodeau for titles of plays he would like to design. “I like to get input,” she says. “I’ve never had a designer take me up on it before. I asked Dan about five times, ‘Are you sure we can do the pool?’”
Technical Director Joe Donovan constructed the pool, which is almost completely drained after each night’s rehearsal. Each afternoon it’s refilled with hot water and a chlorine tablet is added. Bilodeau said structural engineers rated the stage floor, which is directly above the costume shop, to ensure it could safely sustain the weight of the filled pool.
The water was a big draw for Nellie Kelly, a junior theatre and history major from Boothbay, Maine, who plays Myrrha. “I’ve done a lot of shows but the idea of working in a pool was an awesome opportunity,” says Kelly. “When we added costumes it became more challenging. The fabric gets heavy and your movement slows but that adds interest.”
Approximately 50 students are taking part in the School of Performing Arts’ production, in which 13 actors don 85 costumes designed by Jonna Klaiber. “It’s challenging with the costumes getting wet every night,” Klaiber says good-naturedly. “I painted some of the costumes in an artistic way and that got washed out.”
There will be seven performances — at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 17 and 24. Content is mature. Tickets are $10, free with a student MaineCard. Tickets may be purchased at umaine.edu/spa or at the door one hour before the show. To request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.1781.
WLBZ (Channel 2) and Bangor Daily News reported on the first of three public meetings being held by University of Maine representatives to share updates on the planned 12-megawatt offshore wind demonstration project by Maine Aqua Ventus GP LLC. During the first meeting in Friendship, university officials including Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, showed residents the research they are currently doing. Some residents, including State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, were concerned over the effects the project could have on fishing in the area. Ward said they are studying the effects the turbines will have on fishermen, boats and wildlife. WLBZ also carried a report about Volturnus 1:8 — the UMaine-led DeepCwind Consortium’s test turbine off Castine — withstanding a storm earlier in November.
The Penobscot Bay Pilot and the Associated Press advanced three public meetings in Friendship, Bristol and Port Clyde that will be held by the University of Maine to share updates on the planned 12-megawatt offshore wind demonstration project by Maine Aqua Ventus GP LLC. Boston.com, Daily Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Portland Press Herald, WGME (Channel 13), WABI (Channel 5) and WLBZ (Channel 2) were among news organizations to carry the AP report.
The University of Maine will hold three public meetings in Friendship, Bristol and Port Clyde to share updates on the planned 12-megawatt offshore wind demonstration project by Maine Aqua Ventus GP LLC.
The meetings, from 6–8 p.m., will be held: Nov. 12, Friendship Town Office; Nov. 14, Bristol Consolidated School; and Nov. 25, Herring Gut Learning Center, Port Clyde. Moderating the meetings will be Maine Sea Grant Director Paul Anderson.
Community members interested in learning more about the offshore wind demonstration project are urged to attend.
The Associated Press, Renewable Energy News, Bangor Daily News and Mainebiz reported the University of Maine and its partner companies have released additional details about their offshore wind project proposal. Maine Aqua Ventus released information about plans to supply power directly to Monhegan Island. Jeffrey Thaler, assistant university counsel and a visiting professor of energy policy, law and ethics at UMaine, told the AP the project aims to provide power to the island where residents currently have high energy costs due to their reliance on generators. Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, said the proposal highlights the university and its partner companies’ strong approach that they believe gives them a good shot at winning a $46 million federal energy grant. The Boston Herald, Sun Journal, WLBZ (Channel 2), Tri-City Herald, Miami Herald, Recharge News, Portland Press Herald and Bloomberg Businessweek were among organizations to carry the AP report. The BDN also published an editorial on the project and Before it’s News mentioned the project in the article “Offshore wind experiences its best growth in 2013.”
The Bangor Daily News reported officials connected to the University of Maine’s offshore floating wind turbine will meet with residents of three coastal towns — Friendship, Bristol and Port Clyde — to outline early plans for a power transmission line that might pass through one of their communities in the future. Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, said UMaine representatives will present possible locations of where the line could come ashore and that research is continuing to determine a location. He added the line is a “fairly small transmission line, not too different from what you’d see on a utility pole.”
Rachel Lasley Rasher, a biologist at the University of Maine’s Marine Darling Center, was interviewed for a Living on Earth segment titled “Copepod Love.” Rasher spoke about how the tiny crustaceans track down suitable mates for the report by Public Radio International’s environmental news magazine.
Village Soup reported the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Knox and Lincoln counties will take part in 4-H National Youth Science Day on Nov. 3. The event will include a Maps and Apps experiment for children ages 9-18.
The Working Waterfront reported the University of Maine will host November meetings on its offshore wind project in Friendship, Bristol and Port Clyde. UMaine representatives are expected to provide updates on the university’s research and development program on offshore wind energy.