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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

Silka Talks with MPBN About Innovation, Maine Policy Review

Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for Part 1 of its “Innovation in the Maine Economy” series. Silka spoke about the importance of innovation for the state’s future and the latest Maine Policy Review, which focuses on innovation in Maine’s economy.

Kersbergen Cited in Articles About Organic Dairy Farms

Articles by Mainebiz, The Forecaster and the Portland Press Herald on a $1.7 million training program launched by Wolfe’s Neck Farm and Stonyfield to invigorate the local and regional organic dairy industry and jumpstart the next generation of organic dairy farmers included statistics from University of Maine Cooperative Extension Professor Rick Kersbergen. WLBZ (Channel 2) reported Wolfe’s Neck is working with UMaine Extension to develop the training program. There are currently 285 dairy farms in Maine, compared to 597 in 1995, Kersbergen says. Within the same time frame, Kersbergen says the number of organic dairies has increased from one to 60.

Summer Technology Camp Mentioned in Press Herald Article

A University of Maine-affiliated Summer Technology Camp offered in Orono by the startup High Touch Courses was mentioned in a Portland Press Herald article about the business and its founder Elizabeth Chabe.

High Touch Courses aims to create online courses for middle and high school students who want to learn about computer programming, Web development and video game design, according to the article. The summer camp, co-located at UMaine, is an intensive, project-based overnight and day camp for students who want to change the world with technology. Four weeklong courses will be offered on topics including Web design, 3-D art and graphic design, game development, and hardware architecture.

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.

WVII, WABI Cover Ecoshel Event at Advanced Manufacturing Center

WVII (Channel 7) and WABI (Channel 5) reported on the completion and demonstration of the Ecoshel — Smart Shingle Production Project at the University of Maine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center. The AMC, engineering students, and private and public partners designed, developed and built a manufacturing assembly line for Ecoshel, a company that produces cedar shingle panels. The assembly line will be operated in Ecoshel’s new production facility in Ashland, Maine. The project created more than 11 jobs and provided a learning experience for the students. Ben White, a mechanical engineering student, told WABI he was happy to see the project come together and run smoothly. “This facility has really been essential to being able to experiment, develop, have a work-in-progress kind of relationship with the team here and get it off the ground,” said Bryan Kirkey, owner and CEO of Ecoshel.

Media Report on Gabe’s Updated Waterfront Concerts Study

The Bangor Daily News and WLBZ (Channel 2) reported on an updated study conducted by University of Maine economist Todd Gabe on the economic impact of Bangor’s Waterfront Concerts series. Gabe first released the study in early 2013, which estimated the first three years of the concert series brought more than $30 million into the local economy. Gabe recently released an update to include data from the 2013 season, which surpassed each previous year in terms of attendance, number of performances, impact on local businesses and people’s willingness to travel long distances to see a show, according to the article. The 19 shows in 2013 had a total economic impact of nearly $17.5 million — more than half the total of the first three years combined, according to the study. Gabe’s journal article on the study is scheduled to be published in the Review of Regional Studies. Mainebiz also cited the BDN report. 

Gabe’s Economic Impact Study for Downeast LNG Cited in Press Herald Article

An economic impact study by University of Maine economist Todd Gabe was cited in a Portland Press Herald article about Downeast LNG altering plans for a proposed liquefied natural gas import terminal in Washington County. Downeast LNG commissioned Gabe to conduct the study. Gabe found the new project would create 2,350 jobs and $375 million in labor income during its three-year construction period. He also estimated the terminal would support 337 jobs in the state and have an annual economic impact of $68 million.

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.

Researchers, Students to Participate in Down East Economic Impact Study, BDN Reports

The Bangor Daily News reported the Down East Research and Education Network has commissioned a study to determine the economic impact of conservation effort in Washington and Hancock counties. Two University of Maine economics researchers and several UMaine students will work with Phillips Consulting in Clinton to conduct the study. The study will analyze the economic value of conservation, research and education of the regional land trust and conservation organizations as employers and of the region’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems for their natural resources, said Barbara Arter, director of the network.


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UMaine News
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System