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Scientists Seek to Improve Prediction of Extreme Weather Events

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

Grant will Boost Nurses who Provide Health Care to Rural Mainers

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

UMaine Center on Aging RSVP Program Receives Grant

The RSVP program at the University of Maine Center on Aging was awarded a one-year $14,340 grant by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Paula Burnett, RSVP program director, submitted the proposal to the Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS) within Maine’s DHHS.

RSVP is part of the national Senior Corps — volunteers age 55 and older who serve nonprofit groups, schools and government agencies within their communities. The program is sponsored by UMaine Center on Aging with support from OADS, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the United Way of Eastern Maine and other local funding sources. OADS funding for RSVP partially supports the salaries of two employees.

Volunteer opportunities are available at 40 partnering agencies in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties. About 200 volunteers, who average 75 years of age, are taking part in the program.

RSVP recruits volunteers in four major areas of impact: education, aging in place, access to care, and veteran and military family support services.

Upward Bound Math Science Students Celebrate 50 Years of National Program

Participants of the Upward Bound Math Science program at the University of Maine are recognizing the 50th anniversary of the national Upward Bound program by contributing to a regional video project.

The video will feature students in Upward Bound programs across New England singing a song dedicated to the program and written by Craig Werth, who works for Upward Bound at the University of New Hampshire and at the New England Educational Opportunity Association (NEOA) Leadership Institute.

The Upward Bound Math Science Program is affiliated with the UMaine College of Education and Human Development and offers a six-week college preparatory program to first-generation college students from eight Maine high schools. The program specifically targets students who are interested in pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors and careers.

This summer, 35 students are attending from Central High School in Corinth, Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, Portland High School, Stearns High School in Millinocket, and Schenck High School in East Millinocket. Five participants are attending college in the fall, while the rest are high school juniors and seniors. A total of 66 students participate in programming — college visits, academic advising, field trips, laboratory experiences and leadership opportunities — throughout the school year.

From 1–4 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until July 17, students work on individual research projects and explorations. This year’s projects cover topics ranging from studying the causes and possible treatments for “chemo fog” in chemotherapy patients to research involving lungworm morphology in Maine moose. In addition to the individual projects, students also are working on a group sustainability design project that involves creating a new portable touch tank, as well as collecting pictures and interviews of green space and important landmarks along the Penobscot River as part of the Bay to Baxter Initiative.

The program also includes Watch Groups, a weekly series of guest speakers who meet with the students to expand and challenge their thinking and knowledge.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Upward Bound, which began in 1964 as part of the Economic Opportunity Act. Talent Search emerged one year later, under the Higher Education Act, and in 1968, Student Support Services was approved by Higher Education Amendments. The three programs were coined TRIO, and more programs have since been created to meet the needs of various student populations.

In an effort to increase students’ performance in mathematics and science courses, the Upward Bound Math Science program began in 1990. UMaine held its first summer session in 1991. The program joined Classic Upward Bound, which came to the UMaine campus in 1966.

More information about the Upward Bound Math Science program is online.

Individual student research project topics are as follows:

Animal pathology/veterinary

Archaeology

Chemical engineering

Genetics

Mathematics/computer science

Microbiology/pharmacy

Physiology/medical

Psychology

Wildlife ecology and environmental science

For more information on the projects or program contact Kelly Ilseman at 617.784.2320 or kelly.ilseman@gmail.com.

University of Maine Announces Spring 2014 Dean’s List

The University of Maine recognized 2,130 students for achieving Dean’s List honors in the spring 2014 semester. Of the students who made the Deans List, 1,730 are from Maine, 338 are from 30 other states and 62 are from 24 countries other than the U.S.

Listed below are students who received Dean’s List honors for spring 2014, completing 12 or more credit hours in the semester and earning a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Also available is a breakdown of the Dean’s List by Maine counties.

(more…)

Arctic Research Expected to Provide Unprecedented Views of Phytoplankton

University of Maine research this summer in the Arctic’s Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) is expected to provide one of the first comprehensive views of the spatial distribution and abundance of phytoplankton under the ice.

UMaine oceanographer Mary Jane Perry, interim director of the Darling Marine Center, was awarded $196,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Naval Research to sample the biogeochemistry of the Marginal Ice Zone from a Korean icebreaker, the R/V Araon, and with underwater gliders. UMaine scientist Cameron Thompson will participate in additional cruises from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay; Ivona Cetinic, also at the Darling Center, will be involved in data analysis.

On July 30, Perry will join an international group of over 40 scientists to study the retreat of sea ice in the Arctic. The Arctic has experienced a dramatic decline in sea ice thickness, aerial extent and age distribution. Changing patterns in sea ice have significant implications for the planktonic food web, and flow of carbon and nutrients in the Arctic, including timing, magnitude and location of plankton blooms.

The Marginal Ice Zone Program, led by the University of Washington, is an Office of Naval Research initiative that will use a combination of autonomous robotic technologies, ships, aircraft and satellites to study the breakup of ice in the Beaufort Sea and its northward retreat in summer. It is expected to contribute to our understanding of ice dynamics, including feedbacks in the ice-ocean-atmosphere system that affect rates of sea ice decline. More about the MIZ Program is online, as is a story about the research tracking the breakup of Arctic summer sea ice (washington.edu/news/2014/07/16/tracking-the-breakup-of-arctic-summer-sea-ice).

Perry will use small underwater gliders to repeatedly sample open water, the MIZ and water under full ice cover. The optical data collected from the gliders over a two-month period will offer the first comprehensive view of the spatial distribution and abundance of phytoplankton under ice in the Arctic. Relatively few observations of under-ice blooms exist, due to the logistical constraints of sampling under thin and melting ice.

Thinner ice and greater abundance of melt ponds facilitate greater penetration of visible light through the ice, allowing planktonic photosynthetic organisms to grow. Perry will use measurements from the icebreaker to calibrate the glider sensors. She hopes to assess how changing ice patterns affect plankton productivity in the Arctic, and better understand the role of phytoplankton on the heat budget under the ice.

Phytoplankton are microscopic photosynthetic organisms at the base of the marine food web; their production of carbon fuels the ecosystem. For more than a quarter-century, Perry has studied marine phytoplankton in an effort to understand its biomass variability and production dynamics. Her research has taken her to the subpolar North Atlantic and North Pacific on several major expeditions, the last in 2008, as well as other regions in the world’s ocean.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

UMaine Researchers Focus on Improving Urchin Roe Production

Enhancing green sea urchin egg production to aid Maine’s depressed urchin market is the research focus of a University of Maine marine bioresources graduate student.

Ung Wei Kenn, a second-year master’s student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hopes to increase the egg or roe yield of farm-raised green sea urchins through high-quality feed, a process known as bulking. His research is part of a two-year, more than $215,000 research project funded by the National Sea Grant National Strategic Initiative and led by director Nick Brown and biologist Steve Eddy of UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin, Maine.

“I was always interested in the vertical integration of aquaculture and seafood processing,” says Ung, who completed his undergraduate work at the University of Tasmania, Australia. “I am also passionate about seafood that is popular in Asia. This topic is a blend of all that.”

Ung came to UMaine because he was attracted to the project, but he praises CCAR, where he conducts his research, as a key part in his decision to work at UMaine.

“I always felt that aquaculture is not just a science; it is a business as well,” says Ung. “CCAR is special in that it is specifically set up to assist aquaculture businesses by providing scientific and technical know-how. I would not have this luxury at most other places.”

Ung’s research potentially could have significant economic benefit for the state. Maine exports roe to Japan, where it is considered a delicacy. Since the late 1990s, Maine has suffered a dramatic sea urchin industry decline, dropping to a 2.6 million-pound yearly harvest after 1993’s 42-million-pound high, according to information on the Maine Sea Grant website.

“(Using bulking), we can produce out-of-season urchins, enabling the industry to get the best prices, such as when there is a festival in Japan,” Ung says.

Ung places wild green sea urchins, which are harvested from Hancock County’s Frenchman Bay, in a recirculating aquaculture system, where they are fed fresh and dried kelp and a commercial diet that fosters higher-quality eggs. Harvested sea urchins are usually 57 mm in diameter.

Ung hopes his research will lead to increased roe yield and improved roe quality. After four months of urchin dieting, Ung analyzes roe yield, texture and color data at the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department’s physical properties lab. Taste testing is completed at the UMaine Consumer Testing Center. Roe pre- and post-experimentation aspects are compared to determine if quality has been enhanced.

High-quality roe is sweet, smooth and yellow, gold or orange in color, while poor-quality roe has a watery appearance or bitter taste.

“There is a commercial component where we want to demonstrate that the urchins can be enhanced at a commercial scale,” Ung says. “A higher-quality roe yield would mean better selling prices.”

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

A Shingle Every Second

 The University of Maine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) and Ecoshel, a company that produces cedar shingle panels, recently completed their UMaine-based project, Smart Shingle Production. AMC, along with private and public partners, designed, developed and built a manufacturing assembly line for the company. The line, which includes custom manufacturing equipment, blends conventional woodworking systems with state-of-the-art controls and laser-scanning technology.

“Developing this new type of shingle manufacturing system will greatly increase safety and production efficiency over current systems,” says AMC director John Belding, talking about the assembly line that will be operated in Ecoshel’s new production facility in Ashland, Maine.

The Ecoshel project created more than 11 jobs and provided a learning experience for UMaine engineering students.

Bryan Kirkey, owner and CEO of Ecoshel, was referred to the AMC by the Maine Technology Institute. He met with AMC staff and engineering student interns to discuss how to reach his goal of having a cutting-edge manufacturing facility in Maine. With support from AMC’s innovative engineering and manufacturing services, Kirkey opened the production facility in Ashland.

AMC sought private industry partners such as Dana Hodgkin, owner of Manchester, Maine-based Progress Engineering, for additional system integration and controls support.

Working with Ecoshel and Progress Engineering over the past six months, AMC developed an automated system that can scan, optimize and cut raw lumber to produce a shingle every second with the specialized features of Ecoshel’s system. Once the shingles are made, they are assembled into Ecoshel’s cedar siding panels that use a unique, patented installation system that minimizes installation effort, waste, extra weight and materials, and extends shingle life.

This is the first of many assembly lines Ecoshel plans to use based on the specifications and prints developed by the AMC, according to Belding. AMC plans to share information and assist Ecoshel’s private partners with building the remaining systems.

More about Ecoshel is online.

UMaine Hosts 70 High School Students for Stormwater Research Institute

About 70 high school students and teachers from Portland, Bangor, Auburn and local Native American communities will gather at the University of Maine for a five-day UMaine Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) Institute.

UMaine scientists and students, city water planners, and representatives from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and businesses including Woodard & Curran and IDEXX will also take part in the institute that runs from Monday, June 23 through Friday, June 27.

The SMART Institute aims to engage a diverse group of students and teachers in training for the implementation of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) core values in their schools while addressing an important environmental issue.

The institute is supported by a more than $735,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to empower female and minority high school students, their teachers and communities to create innovative solutions to the environmental problems related to stormwater management.

Throughout the conference, students will take part in hands-on projects led by STEM professionals in areas such as engineering design, science, computer modeling and information technology to monitor and map water quality. Participants will tour UMaine labs and stormwater areas on campus, hear from guest speakers, and learn how to use wireless sensors to test water, as well as collect, enter and analyze data.

The institute will cap off with a field trip to the Arctic Brook watershed area in Bangor where students will install the wireless sensors they built and collect data as citizen scientists. An awards ceremony will be held on campus before students depart.

Maine Government Summer Internship Program Underway

Twenty-nine college students are participating in the 2014 Maine Government Summer Internship Program administered by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.

The full-time, 12-week paid work experience program offers a unique opportunity for talented college students to work within Maine state government. The program provides valuable assistance to state agencies and affords students the chance to gain practical skills in their fields of study. This year, the program expanded to include internships in Maine municipal government.

In 1967, the 103rd Maine Legislature established the Maine Government Summer Internship Program to attract and select college students with ambition and talent for temporary internships within Maine state government. A total of 1,685 students have participated since its inception. This year, 107 students applied for 29 agency positions. Undergraduate and graduate students who reside in Maine or attend a Maine school are eligible.

The 2014 interns are:

More information is available online or by contacting Peggy McKee at margaret.mckee@maine.edu, or Charles Morris at 207.581.4135 or morris@maine.edu.


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