An ecological chain reaction triggered by the boom and bust of sea urchin fishing in the Gulf of Maine demonstrates the importance of comprehensive ecosystem-based ocean management, says a University of Maine marine scientist.
Conventional fisheries management regulates for a “maximum sustainable yield” for each managed species. However, this usually ignores strong interactions between predators and their prey that can affect the entire ecosystem, says Robert Steneck, a professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center.
Steneck and three university graduates pooled 36 years of Gulf of Maine ocean data to examine how a stable ecosystem state composed of green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) and a pavement of crustose coralline algae switched, or “flipped,” to an alternate stable state dominated by erect macroalgae, or kelp and other seaweed.
When fishermen began abruptly removing large numbers of sea urchins from the Gulf of Maine in the late 1980s, the seaweed on which they grazed began to flourish, Steneck says. The abundance of seaweed, in turn, created a nursery habitat for Jonah crabs (Cancer borealis). The crabs, say the researchers, subsequently preyed on the sea urchins that remained.
The entire coastal ecosystem flipped and “locked” into a seaweed-dominated alternate stable state that has persisted for nearly 20 years.
In 2000 and 2001, Steneck and crew tried to “break the lock” of erect macroalgae by reintroducing 51,000 adult sea urchins into plots off the coast of Cape Elizabeth. But both years, large crabs migrated to the plots and wiped out the reintroduced urchins.
The consequences of sea urchin decimation “can be costly, and recovery may be difficult or impossible to achieve” for decades, Steneck says.
Fisheries management may need to focus on increasing the number of crab predators in order to return to a stable state of crustose coralline algae and sea urchins, he says.
The Gulf of Maine crab population increased in density because the seaweed nursery habitat became abundant and because, over time, commercial fishing has reduced the population of crab predators, including Atlantic cod.
Sea urchins, Steneck writes, were “highly abundant and a highly valued food” in 1987 when Maine fishermen began harvesting them along the southwestern coast before moving northeast toward Canada. The Maine harvest peaked in 1993, then declined rapidly.
In 1995, Maine’s sea urchin industry fishery was second only to that of the American lobster in value, Steneck writes. At that time, the local fishery supported more than 1,500 full-time urchin fishers.
Today, Steneck says the sea urchin fishery in the Gulf of Maine has declined 84 percent in value; no full-time fishers remain.
The study was conducted with nearly four decades of UMaine thesis research, starting with Steneck’s master’s thesis. Bob Vadas, UMaine professor emeritus, was Steneck’s thesis adviser. University graduates who co-authored the paper are Doug McNaught, assistant professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias; Amanda Leland, vice president for oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington D.C.; and John Vavrinec, senior research scientist with the Coastal Assessment and Restoration technical group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Sequim, Wash.
The paper, “Ecosystem Flips, Locks, And Feedbacks: The Lasting Effects on Fisheries On Maine’s Kelp Forest Ecosystem,” is featured in the January 2013 Bulletin of Marine Science and is recommended by peer scientists on the F1000Prime website.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
University of Maine graduate students will present their research, artistic works, projects and collaborations during the 2013 Graduate Academic Exposition, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday, March 28–29.
This year more than $10,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to graduate student participants.
The GradExpo will be held in the new Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center on the UMaine campus, and will include an open house of the facility.
The event will feature four areas of competition — poster presentations, oral presentations, intermedia and fine arts exhibits, and a PechaKucha, or rapid-fire slide show event. Upward of 120 presentations are expected at this year’s expo.
The poster and oral presentations will highlight the physical sciences and technology, natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. The intermedia and fine arts exhibits will include art works, projects and performances. The PechaKucha competition, open to students in all academic disciplines, invites participants to share their work in a slide show lasting under seven minutes. Unlike the other presentations, the PechaKucha talks will be judged by the audience rather than faculty reviewers.
The expo will also feature a new roundtable discussion. This year’s talk will focus on cellulose nanotechnology, and five graduate students will address questions on the topic. The student presenters are Alper Kiziltas, Yucheng Peng, Esra Erbas Kiziltas, Melanie Blumentritt and Nadir Yildirim.
Photographs submitted in the first Graduate Student Photo Contest will also be featured.
Graduate students are invited to a screening of a feature film by Jorge Cham, creator of the online comic series “Piled Higher and Deeper” (aka “PhD Comics”) at 6 p.m. Thursday night. The awards gala at 6:30 p.m. Friday begins with light refreshments and a social.
Awards will include:
Visitors will also vote for their favorite presentation, which will receive a cash prize.
“We are pushing for more community attendance this year,” says Charles Rodda, vice president of the UMaine Graduate Student Government. “This is the first event being held in the new Stewart Hall. Community members interested in the new intermedia facilities are encouraged to attend and will be offered tours and demonstrations.”
For additional information, to become a judge or to request disability accommodations, contact Charles Rodda, 207.210.4969.
Details about the GradExpo are online.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
His Excellency Jamal Al-Suwaidi, a member of the royal family and director general of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi, was the fourth inductee in the University of Maine Graduate School’s George Davis Chase Society. Al-Suwaidi is a member of the UMaine School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA) advisory board. Al-Suwaidi was inducted as a Distinguished Patron, the highest level of the society.
The Graduate School established the society in 2011 to recognize individuals, who are not students or employees at the university, for significant contributions to graduate studies at UMaine. George Davis Chase served as the first dean of the Graduate School, 1923–38.
UMaine Graduate School Dean and Associate Provost for Graduate Studies Dan Sandweiss inducted the ECSSR as an Institutional Patron to recognize the center and its staff’s contributions to and support for UMaine’s Graduate School and SPIA.
Sandweiss was part of a UMaine delegation of faculty, administrators and 10 SPIA students who attended a conference in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on global financial crises and the future, where he made the presentations.
Jim Settele, assistant director of SPIA, says Al-Suwaidi and the ECSSR have been instrumental since 2007 in supporting SPIA with travel expenses for speakers in Maine, and also travel and accommodations for UMaine students, faculty and others to attend three previous conferences in Abu Dhabi on global affairs. Last year, the ECSSR conference was on civility between Islam and the West. Next year, water is the topic.
“Dr. Jamal made it happen,” Settele says. The conferences have placed UMaine international affairs students into global settings to discuss world affairs and conflicts. The SPIA students also met with U.S. Foreign Service officers in Abu Dhabi to discuss U.S. State Department careers.
Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756
A new permanent exhibit at the Maine State Archives in Augusta has its roots in the Ph.D. research of a recent University of Maine alumnus and newly appointed assistant professor.
Ethnohistorian Micah Pawling is the guest curator of “Choosing Survival: Wabanaki Documents at the Maine State Archives.” The exhibit features 18th- and 19th-century Wabanaki documents — petitions and an original watercolor map — that provide a unique perspective on the Maine tribes’ struggle to preserve their homeland. Among them: an 1821 petition on behalf of the Passamaquoddy Tribe to the Maine legislature seeking assistance in staving off the influx of American and British settlers who were dramatically transforming their homeland. Such petitions were an attempt by the Penobscots, Passamaquoddies and Maliseets in present-day eastern Maine, western New Brunswick and the southern shore of Quebec to navigate a new, ever-changing geopolitical landscape. With their very survival on the line, the tribes learned to use petitions as a political tool to negotiate, assert concerns and articulate aboriginal rights to governments.
Pawling’s research on the Native petitions culminated in a Ph.D. and master’s degree, both in history, from UMaine in 2010 and 1999, respectively. In 2007, in conjunction with the Penobscot Indian Nation, Pawling published the book, Wabanaki Homeland and the New State of Maine: The 1820 Journal and Plans of Survey of Joseph Treat. Pawling is now a UMaine assistant professor of history and Native American studies.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
On Monday, Oct. 29, University of Maine President Paul Ferguson will hold Community Conversation 2.0, his second annual discussion with the UMaine community.
The President’s Community Conversation 2.0 will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. in Wells Conference Center. This year, the President’s Community Conversation is being combined with the annual Employee Breakfast. For UMaine employees working evening shifts, an “evening breakfast” is scheduled for 9–10 that night.
Last October, President Ferguson held the first Community Conversation to share his first impressions of UMaine. He also described the collaborative process about to be initiated to shape a bold, pragmatic vision for UMaine’s future. That Conversation launched the “The Blue Sky Project: Reaffirming Public Higher Education at Maine’s Flagship University,” the strategic planning initiative led by a 26-member leadership team of faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Community Conversation 2.0 will focus on both achievements and challenges at UMaine this past year, and will introduce the Blue Sky Project Implementation Plan.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, (207) 581-3745
Retired Central Intelligence Agency specialist Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, will discuss Osama bin Laden and the future of al Qaeda in a lecture at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Buchanan Alumni House at the University of Maine.
Sponsored by the UMaine School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA), the presentation, titled “The Search for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda: Inside the War on Terror,” is free and open to the public. Riedel will revisit the trail that led American SEALs to find the mastermind of 9/11 in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and assess the Obama administration’s strategy for fighting al Qaeda. The presentation also will look ahead to the status of al Qaeda today and the threat it poses in the future.
Riedel retired from the CIA in 2006 after 30 years of service, including postings overseas. He was a senior adviser on South Asia and the Middle East to the last four presidents as a staff member of the National Security Council at the White House. He also was deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Near East and South Asia at the Pentagon and a senior adviser at NATO in Brussels.
In January 2009, President Barack Obama asked Riedel to chair a review of American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the results of which the president announced in 2009. Riedel served in 2011 as an expert adviser in the prosecution of al Qaeda terrorist Omar Farooq Abdulmutallab in Detroit.
Riedel is the author of “The Search for al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology and Future” and “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad.” He also was a contributor to “Which Path to Persia: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran,” “The Arab Awakening” and “Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979–1988.”
Riedel currently teaches at the Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies and is an advisory board member for SPIA.
Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756
The University of Maine Graduate School will hold an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 17 in Room 57 of Stodder Hall to highlight its graduate and professional degree options. Doctorate degrees are available in 30 areas of study and a master’s degree may be earned in more than 75 areas, ranging from the arts, sciences and engineering to professional degrees in the fields of business, education, nursing, communication sciences and disorders, global policy and social work. The event will include refreshments and raffle giveaways.
Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756
UMaine Gets $3 Million NSF IGERT Award For An Adaptation To Abrupt Climate Change Program
The need to adapt environmental policies and management strategies to meet the social and ecological challenges caused by abrupt climate change events around the world is the focus of a new graduate program at the University of Maine beginning this fall, funded by a five-year, $3 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The program, called Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change, is a collaboration between UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and School of Policy and International Affairs, funded through NSF’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. It will support the international research of 24 Ph.D. students in Earth sciences, ecology, economics, anthropology and archaeology. Their focus will be on threats of abrupt climate change to global security; ecosystem sustainability under abrupt climate change; and adaptation of economic, social, political and ideological systems to abrupt climate change.
In addition to collaborative interdisciplinary research, the students will participate in policy and management internships with international, federal and state agencies and organizations.
In the new graduate training program, students will become experts and leaders in their fields, understanding the dynamic relationship between the environment and the security of humans in response to abrupt climate change, says Jasmine Saros, associate professor of biology in UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and the principal investigator on the project. They will be the next generation of scientists charged with anticipating, managing and meeting the environmental and social challenges of abrupt climate change.
“The risks of abrupt climate change are globally pervasive and include increased numbers of environmental refugees from storms, sea level rise and inundation of coastal areas, disruption of vital ecosystem services such as potable drinking water,
and erupting conflicts over changing resource availability,” says Saros. “This is why abrupt climate change is recognized as one of the major challenges to global sustainability. Meeting this challenge will require a stronger integration of both the
social and natural sciences — exactly what our new IGERT program is designed to do.”
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program defines abrupt climate change as “a large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes
substantial disruptions in human and natural systems.”
UMaine’s program will be led by Saros and a team whose research looks at the causes and effects of abrupt climate change: Climate Change Institute director Paul Mayewski; Kristin Sobolik, professor of anthropology and climate change; Mario Teisl, professor of resource economics and policy; and Ivan Fernandez, professor of soil science.
UMaine’s new program received one of 18 NSF IGERT awards made this year. Since the inception of the IGERT program started more than a decade ago, UMaine has received three of the highly competitive awards. The first two are Ph.D. programs in Sensor Science, Engineering and Informatics, and Predoctoral Training in Functional Genomics in Model Organisms, funded in 2005 and 2002, respectively.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, (207) 581-3745
University of Maine School of Policy and International Affairs graduate student Ian Henderson of Hampden, who is currently serving a research internship in Cairo, Egypt, was interviewed by the Bangor Daily News about what he’s been seeing firsthand as Egypt held its first democratic election last week. Henderson called the atmosphere over the weekend “electric” as crowds awaited the presidential election results. Henderson and other UMaine students serving research internships are blogging about their experiences.
Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756
Ian Henderson, a second-year UMaine School of Policy and International Affairs student from Hampden, Maine, who is pursuing a master’s degree in global policy, wanted an international internship that would expose him to reform in the Arab world.
He found one. Henderson secured an internship with the Ibn Khaldun Center in Cairo, Egypt, a non-governmental organization that focuses on and researches reform in the Arab world as it affects democracy, women’s rights, and free and fair elections.
Less than two weeks later, Henderson found himself watching an historic Egyptian political event in Tahrir Square. The square was the coalescence of Egyptian protests, then jubilant praise, from supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared the winner of the country’s recent presidential election. The election is being called the country’s first democratic election.
“(The internship) will allow me to look at Arab reform from a truly Arab perspective, which in and of itself will be a unique opportunity,” he wrote in his first blog post on the SPIA Abroad internship website.
“I’ve gotten to see a calm-ish Cairo in the lead up to the run off elections this past weekend, and was able to talk to quite a few people on their thoughts, positive and negative, regarding the run off,” he said in an email. “It has been a bit
dicey since then, particularly since (June 19) when Tahrir Square filled again. I went down (to Tahrir Square later in the week). While I kept my distance, it was a mass of humanity; the shots on TV do it no justice.”
Henderson is one of eight SPIA graduate students engaged in and blogging about their summer internships in places as far away as East Timor, Egypt, Kenya and Chile and as close as Washington, D.C. and Rockland, Maine. Eight other students in the program either have already or will also participate in internships as a requirement of their degrees. The SPIA internship program is different from typical study abroad experiences in that its focus is on experiences that affect global policy, often with the agencies the students may ultimately work for later, according to SPIA’s assistant director, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jim Settele.
The two-year, 33-credit hour interdisciplinary master’s program offered through the UMaine Graduate School has three concentration options: International Environmental Policy; International Trade and Commerce; and International Security and U.S. Foreign Policy. Approved by University of Maine System Trustees in 2010, the program is attractive to students with international affairs or economics backgrounds, but any bachelor’s degree is acceptable. Some 40 UMaine professors from multiple disciplines, including political science and economics, teach core and elective classes.
“It’s a small program with a lot of personal attention,” says Settele, who advises the students. Settele calls the internships, which add both depth and realism to academic studies, life-changing.
Muna Abdullahi, for example, is a second-year SPIA student from Somalia who is doing independent research on gender issues in the refugee camps along the Kenya-Somali border, where she herself has family and spent time as a young girl.
She is working with several of the agencies that are helping refugees in the camps.
“All the women here have their faces covered,” she blogged on May 23, 2012. “I didn’t find this unusual but I think it’s important to note because sexual-based violence and the night raids are common. I believe that is too hot to have my face covered here. Although I would argue that it provides great protection against the heinous stench plaguing the air.
It is very overwhelming being here because people are constantly walking towards me with their hands out, begging for money.”
Abdullahi hopes to work for one of the non-government humanitarian organizations in northeast Africa helping Somali women and children when she finishes her degree.
“Muna is going to come back from this and she’s going to be a different person,” Settele says. “You can’t come back from an experience like that and not be impacted in a significant way.”
The degree in global policy is a professional degree, usually leading to a job afterwards, rather than continued education. Upon acceptance in the program, students research possible internship opportunities with counsel from Settele or members of the SPIA advisory board, a well-connected group of international experts, including active or retired diplomats, business executives or U.S. ambassadors in Washington, D.C. or retired and living in Maine.
Financial support from the Daniel and Betty Churchill Internship Fund, the Peter T. Madigan Internship Fund, and the Penelope S. Wolfe Fund assist with students’ expenses during their internships. To ensure student safety, Settele and SPIA Director Mario Teisl consult with agencies or embassies with which the students are connected to be sure the students are looked after.
“We’re building some incredible relationships,” Settele says. The program is “a tremendous example of how to pull in expertise, how to pull in benevolency, and pull in amazing people to extend your learning experience.”
Another student intern is Eric Bailey of Milo, who is at the Washington-based Potomac Institute’s International Center for Terrorism studying antiterrorism measures for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He is working with one of the world’s leading antiterrorism experts, professor and center director Yonah Alexander, studying the creation of the Taliban, the history al-Qa’ida leading up to the events of 9/11, and the history of terrorism in Afghanistan.
Kate Kirby of Orono is currently in East Timor with Mercy Corps examining aquaculture and assessing the potential impact of inland fisheries projects on increasing food security.
Others are at the African Center for Strategic Studies at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., a U.S. Department of Defense organization for strategic security studies, research and outreach in Africa; in Rockland working with the Island Institute as part of the UMaine-led DeepCwind Consortium; and in Santiago, Chile, working through the U.S. Embassy to see how trade between Chile and Maine might be increased.
Settele says more than half of the students are from Maine and earned undergraduate degrees elsewhere but came to UMaine to pursue SPIA’s Master of Arts in global policy.
SPIA was created in 2007 to encourage collaboration among faculty and departments with interests in international affairs and global policy. SPIA collaborated with an independent, community-based speakers bureau, the Bangor Foreign Policy Forum, and sponsored its own lectures on campus. SPIA initiated its educational component in 2010 with its first cohort of five students, who graduated in May. SPIA will have 21 students in the fall.
Contact: Jim Settele, (207) 581-1835