The Maine Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI), a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, joins the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), stakeholders and academic partners in recognizing the importance of the pivotal Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) on it’s 50th anniversary.
Signed into law in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, WRRA established a research institute or WRRI in each state and Puerto Rico. In his official statement, President Johnson said the WRRA “will enlist the intellectual power of universities and research institutes in a nationwide effort to conserve and utilize our water resources for the common benefit. The new centers will be concerned with municipal and regional, as well as with national water problems. Their ready accessibility to state and local officials will permit each problem to be attacked on an individual basis, the only way in which the complex characteristics of each water deficiency can be resolved… The Congress has found that we have entered a period in which acute water shortages are hampering our industries, our agriculture, our recreation, and our individual health and happiness.”
Maine’s WRRI “provides leadership and support to help solve Maine’s water problems by supporting researchers and educating tomorrow’s water scientists. Our goal is to generate new knowledge that can help us maintain important water resources,” said John Peckenham, Director of the institute and Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Mitchell Center.
The Maine WRRI has supported the study of problems such as harmful algae blooms in Maine’s rivers and lakes, arsenic in drinking water, stormwater management, lake acidification and water pollution control techniques. The institute also sponsors the annual Maine Water Conference, bringing together people from across Maine who are connected with water resources to share experiences and make new alliances.
Mitchell Center scientists say WRRI grants have facilitated valuable research over the years.
“The grants help faculty and students conduct meaningful research that aids in the management of streams, rivers, and lakes in Maine,” said Sean Smith, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. “It is difficult or impossible to manage and rehabilitate Maine’s freshwater resources effectively without knowledge of how the freshwater systems work and an understanding of how humans affect them. The WRRI grants provide a mechanism for advancing this knowledge and understanding in Maine.”
In 2014, the Maine WRRI is supporting research at Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for the greater Portland metropolitan area. Led by Smith, the project seeks to quantify connections between geography, land cover, climate and hydraulic conditions within tributaries draining to the lake. The connections between these factors are at the heart of major pollution concerns throughout the Northeast. The research seeks to help guide land use planning, pollution management, aquatic habitat conservation, and public water supply protection.
Another WRRI project in Lake Auburn, a source of drinking water for the Lewiston/Auburn area, is focused on increased levels of phosphorus in the lake. This could compromise public health and eventually result in a water treatment filtration requirement that could result in a greater cost to the community. The work supplements the existing knowledge of the lake and its results will enhance lake and water supply management strategies. The research team is led by Aria Amirbahman, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Stephen Norton, Distinguished Maine Professor, professor emeritus, Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences; Linda Bacon, Lakes Program, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755
David Erb, senior R&D program manager at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, were selected as members of the Maine Technology Institute’s executive committee by the institute’s board, according to a Bangor Daily News article about MTI’s interim leader. The executive committee will advise Brian Whitney, director of business development and innovation for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, as he takes over as the acting director of MTI, the article states. The executive committee also will review applicants for the permanent post as president of MTI.
Technology developed at the University of Maine was mentioned in a Boston Globe article about UltraCell Insulation, a Newton, Massachusetts startup that aims to recycle cardboard boxes into cellulose insulation for homes. The company’s technology was developed and tested at UMaine, where researchers came up with a process of separating contaminants from cardboard and adding a proprietary mix of borate chemicals to make the material fire retardant, the article states. The university owns the technology patent jointly with UltraCell.
Research being conducted at the University of Maine was mentioned in a Huffington Post article titled, “Who grows our food: Wild blueberries, honeybees and Wyman’s of Maine.” According to the article, Wyman’s is funding honeybee preservation studies at UMaine and Pennsylvania State University because wild blueberries rely on honeybees for pollination, and the honeybee population is declining.
David Loper, director of operations at Fiber Materials Inc. in Biddeford, told Mainebiz the company has a strong engineering department with a fairly large population of Maine-based professionals, including University of Maine graduates. “We’re trying to create an environment to grow engineering resources, and over the last 10 years we’ve done a good job to hold talent,” he said. The company also gives young engineers the opportunity to step into a leadership role earlier in their careers, according to the article.
The University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) was mentioned in a Working Waterfront article about wood chips that will be shipped from Eastport to Killybegs, Ireland. Phyto-Charter LLC will be in charge of exporting the wood chips after heat treating them as required by the European Union, the article states. The company will phytosanitize the chips on board the shipping vessel with a heat-treating system developed with FBRI. Phyto-Charter recently received certification for its system, the first such certification in the U.S. for the wood chip product, according to Chris Gardner, port director.
Scientific American spoke with James McCleave, a University of Maine professor emeritus of marine sciences and a leading expert on eels, for the article “Glass eel gold rush casts Maine fishermen against scientists.” Maine fishermen have been catching glass eels, or elvers, and selling them at modest market prices for years, but demand from Asia has caused prices to skyrocket, according to the article. Some fisheries biologists are now worried about the eel’s survival because of a decline in population, the article states. “We’re supposed to manage fisheries on the precautionary principle. If the trend is down, we don’t say it’s OK,” McCleave said, adding eels were once abundant in East Coast freshwater ecosystems. He called eels a “keystone species,” and cautioned that if they are removed, many predator–prey relationships will fall apart. The Maine Public Broadcasting Network also cited the Scientific American article.
The Associated Press cited University of Maine research in an article about marine scientists and lobster harvesters saying some fishermen may be abandoning a key conservation method, called v-notching, which requires lobstermen to mark the tail of any egg-bearing lobster they catch and let it go. State officials say about 66 percent of egg-bearing females surveyed in 2013 were v-notched, down from nearly 80 percent in 2008. The article states that according to an annual UMaine survey of young lobsters in 11 locations in the Gulf of Maine, the number of young lobsters found in 2013 was less than half what was found in 2007. Yahoo News and the Daily Reporter carried the AP report.
Two recent University of Maine graduates have been named the 2014 Higher Education Student Art Educators of the Year by the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA).
Elizabeth Miller of Kittery and Hilary Kane of Concord, New Hampshire, both graduated in May 2014. Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in art education with minors in studio art and art history. Kane received a bachelor’s degree in art education, as well as studio art.
The award is given to MAEA members who have completed their art student teaching internship within the academic year and have demonstrated outstanding evidence of professional leadership in schools and the community, use of new technology, and innovative teaching performance and written curricula. An award ceremony will be held in September during the 2014 MAEA conference at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine.
MAEA is the state chapter of the National Art Education Association, the leading professional membership organization for visual arts educators.
Miller, who is searching for a full-time teaching position, currently is an intern at the Piscataqua Fine Arts Gallery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and works at Art with a Splash, also in Portsmouth, teaching painting classes.
“This award is such an honor and I am very pleased to be able to represent the art education program at the university,” Miller said.
Kane plans to move to New Orleans in the fall where she will continue to focus on art education work and community arts.
Robert Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Portland Press Herald article about Cape Elizabeth native Luke Holden who owns 13 Luke’s Lobster restaurants, with locations in New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, as well as a processing plant in Saco. Last year, Holden became more involved in efforts to boost the Maine lobster industry and joined the board of the Lobster Institute, which works on conservation, outreach, research and education to sustain the lobster fishery, the article states. “Because he’s at the end of the food chain — serving lobster to the customer on an everyday basis — and he has his own processing facility he has more than knowledge. He has an understanding that’s helped us all,” said Bayer.