The Bangor Daily News reported engineers at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center are evaluating a 180-foot wind turbine blade for strength testing. Habib Dagher, director of the center, said the blade is the largest structure ever to be tested at the facility, which is one of two sites in the nation capable of handling the blade. He told the BDN there is a growing interest across the nation in using fewer but larger turbines because they are more cost-effective in energy production.
A Portland Press Herald business reporter spoke with Jake Ward, vice president for innovation and economic development at the University of Maine, for a commentary titled “Fact checking LePage on R&D, MTI and innovation.” Ward was interviewed in response to a recent comment made by Gov. Paul LePage stating the University of Maine System has 37 patents that are not being commercialized. Ward said the system has 77 patents assigned to it and more than a third are jointly owned with a private business or have a commercial license agreement or license options. Others are associated with ongoing research projects funded by both public and private dollars, he said.
Jesse Moriarity, coordinator of the University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation, and Jennifer Hooper, an entrepreneur and mentor coordinator at the center, were featured in the Mainebiz article “Innovation, Maine style: A creativity hub hopes to keep good ideas in-state.” Moriarity and Hooper are co-coordinators of the Bangor Innovation Hub, which is one of five hubs planned for development statewide and funded by Blackstone Accelerates Growth, a three-year, $3 million grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The hubs are aimed at bridging the gap between good ideas and profitable businesses, according to the article. UMaine is one of the key partners in the Bangor Innovation Hub, along with Husson University and the towns of Orono and Old Town.
Renae Moran, a tree fruit specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, spoke to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network about this year’s apple crop in Maine. According to the report, experts are predicting an excellent crop this year, with good size and color. Moran said most people who pick their own apples will not see much hail damage, and added most apple farms in Maine get a significant portion of their incomes from pick-your-own and retail farm stand sales. Moran said pick-your-own has started in southern Maine with summer varieties. Activity usually picks up after Labor Day, when the main crop harvest begins the second week in September in southern Maine and continues into October in more northern areas, she said.
Daniel Williams, executive director of the University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts, spoke to Mainebiz about the Bangor region becoming an entertainment destination. Williams said he remembered when the Collins Center opened its doors in 1986 under the name Maine Center for the Arts. “It changed our community overnight. I believe the MCA was the start of a cultural experiment that has been wildly successful. Ten or 15 years ago, we heard a lot of talk about the creative economy. I think we are seeing that concept in full swing in greater Bangor,” he said. Indigenous arts at CCA’s Hudson Museum and fine arts at the University of Maine’s Museum of Art in downtown Bangor were also recognized in the article. An economic impact study on Bangor’s Waterfront Concerts conducted by UMaine economics professor Todd Gabe also was cited in the article. Gabe found from 2010 to 2013, the series drew more than 300,000 people to the region.
Three University of Maine business students — Brent Martin of Acton, Craig Blackwell of Corinth and Casey Libby of Hollis Center — have been chosen for Patriot Insurance scholarships. Six other students attending the University of Southern Maine, Central Maine Community College, Thomas College and Saint Joseph’s College also received awards. The scholarships totaled $62,000. The scholarship are awarded to Maine high school graduates studying business at Maine colleges and universities. More information about the scholarships awarded by Patriot Insurance, based in Yarmouth, is online.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension was mentioned in a Portland Press Herald article about changes in U.S. Department of Agriculture standards that require organic beer to be brewed with organic hops and how those changes are inspiring more Maine brewers to grow hops. According to the article, UMaine Extension is testing several organic hop varieties to see which thrive and can make tasty brews in Maine.
The impact that hemlock tree die-offs have had — and continue to have — on freshwater forest ecosystems is the focus of a research project at the University of Maine.
Hamish Greig, a UMaine assistant professor of stream ecology, and Jacquelyn Gill, an assistant professor of terrestrial paleoecology at the Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the School of Biology and Ecology, are leading a research team that is studying past and present declines of the conifers known for their dense shade. The resulting biomass the dying trees introduce into the watershed, as well as the other tree species that take their place on the forest floor, affect freshwater systems, including streams and lakes.
Understanding those implications is particularly important in Maine, where hemlocks are now being threatened by the same exotic pest that, in recent years, has decimated the tree species in the southeastern United States.
“People in Maine have a huge affinity to their rivers and lakes. It’s huge economically; it’s huge socially, and through recreational activities,” says Greig, who is joined on the research team by research assistant professor Krista Caps, postdoctoral scientist Robert Northington, as well as several graduate, undergraduate and high school students.
About 5,500 years ago, the hemlocks of eastern North America sustained a massive die-off that lasted about 1,000 years, brought on by severe drought and the hemlock looper, a native pest, Gill says. Today, the tree species has been nearly decimated in the southeastern United States by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect from Asia.
Maine’s cold winters typically protect against exotic pests. However, warmer temperatures have allowed exotic pests to thrive and move north. Since 2004, the hemlock woolly adelgid has been in southwestern Maine. This year, it has made it as far north as Owls Head, according to the researchers.
“As the climate warms, there won’t be anything preventing the woolly adelgid from hitting our hemlocks in Maine as hard as they’ve been hit elsewhere,” Gill says.
As part of their study, the research team has set up 36 livestock water tanks as experimental freshwater mesocosms, or isolated experimental environments. Hemlock needles, along with rhododendron and maple leaves, have been added to the ecosystems to observe what happens when a hemlock dies.
The mesocosms allow the scientists to study these isolated environments as they develop over time — in this case, into the fall.
“You can’t really control something in a natural lake,” Greig says. “And if you do experiments in the lab, you’re really simplifying things down to two or three species of invertebrates. By having this happy medium, we can have natural complexity with the controlled replication of a true experiment.”
Next, Gill and Northington will study radiocarbon-dated records from the bottom of lakes and bogs in southeastern, coastal and central Maine regions to help understand how aquatic systems were affected by hemlock die-off in the past. By linking the paleo record with a modern experiment, the team hopes to will new light on hemlock’s role in changing ecosystems.
WLBZ (Channel 2) spoke with Robert Rice, a professor of wood science and technology at the University of Maine, for a report on mill officials remaining optimistic about Old Town Fuel and Fiber’s future despite the recent shutdown of the mill. Rice said if mill owners choose to sell, they should consider options, including whether the new owner will continue researching biofuels. He added one of the major challenges the mill faced was that it produced only market pulp, an operational structure that is becoming less viable in the United States.
Bangor’s first Startup Weekend will be Sept. 19–21, focused on jump-starting companies and networking entrepreneurs.
Startup Weekend Bangor will be held Sept. 19 at Bagel Central, 33 Central St., Bangor, and Sept. 20–21 at the University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation and the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization (IMRC) Center. Registration is $99 per person ($75 through Sept. 5); $25 for students. Registration and more information is online.
The hands-on, immersive event is part of Startup Weekend Maine, which brings designers, developers and entrepreneurs together to pitch their startup ideas and receive peer feedback. Teams form around the top ideas — determined by popular vote — and spend the remainder of the three days building a business model. Final presentations before local entrepreneurial leaders culminate the weekend.
Startup Weekend Portland was held June 13; Startup Weekend Auburn is Nov. 14. The events take their mission from the global grassroots effort Startup Weekends that helps community volunteers organize the 54-hour events to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups, according to its website.
The community organizers of Startup Weekend Bangor include Jesse Moriarity and Jennifer Hooper of the Foster Center for Student Innovation; Chuck Carter of Eagre Interactive; Gerry Hall of Emera Maine; UMaine students Silvia Guzman and Michael Kennedy; and Erika Allison, winner of Startup Weekend Portland.
UMaine is a Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG) partner and Bangor is one of three regional BxG Innovation Hubs.