University of Maine graduate student Bridie McGreavy was one of 29 doctoral students nationwide who were selected to participate in this year’s Doctoral Honors Seminar of the National Communication Association, July 18–21 in Bar Harbor. For more than three decades, the seminar has brought together the top Ph.D. students and faculty to discuss current topics in communication. The National Communication Association is the largest professional communication organization in the United States. UMaine has had an interdisciplinary doctoral program in communication since 2007.
McGreavy is pursuing an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in communication. She is a research fellow with Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), where her work as a member of the Knowledge-Action team focuses on resilience from multiple perspectives. She also studies collaboration in interdisciplinary partnerships.
McGreavy received a master’s degree in environmental studies/conservation biology from Antioch University New England in 2008, where her research focused on science communication and vernal pool conservation in Maine.
Tell us what it was like to be one of the 29 doctoral students competitively selected to participate in the Doctoral Honors Seminar. What did you take away from the experience?
Participating in the National Communication Association’s Doctoral Honors Seminar was one of the most significant experiences in my doctoral experience. This was a unique opportunity to advance a chapter of my dissertation and to meet early-career scholars in my field. The seminar provided me with an enhanced focus and sense of clarity about my work, as faculty mentors and fellow students in my session gave supportive and helpful insights for how to strengthen my writing. I also met new colleagues and friends with whom I am now planning to collaborate on future conference presentations and writing projects. I came away from the experience with a much greater sense of identification with and community within the national field of communication.
How did you get interested in your research field and how has it evolved from your master’s work on vernal pools to your IPh.D. studies with SSI?
I went into my master’s program with an interest in conducting ecological fieldwork that would contribute to vernal pool conservation. But as the thesis developed, I realized a growing interest in understanding the human dimension of conservation. By the end of my master’s, I knew I wanted to learn more about how to integrate communication and conservation. I came to the study of communication with a narrow idea about what this field would offer and have since expanded my understanding of the range of theories and methods that allow a flexible orientation to the study of human interactions in diverse contexts.
What are the major questions you’re pursuing in your doctoral research and what do you hope your work contributes?
I am interested in how communication, as a field of study, offers insights into the processes of sustainability and resilience. My core questions ask: How do we work together to figure out what to sustain and how to get there? How can communication help us understand and work through complexity? What does communication offer to encourage transformation across scales? My overarching dissertation theme focuses on the concept of resilience, which I approach through three different research projects: interdisciplinary and community partnerships; conservation action planning; and, as a discourse, a system of rules that produce particular ideas about what resilience is and what it is not.
What’s it like being a graduate student at UMaine? Aspects you appreciate most?
As a graduate student at UMaine I have received strong interdisciplinary and community engagement training in my program of study and research. I feel that I have gained depth in the field of communication and breadth across disciplines based on my dual experience in the Department of Communication and Journalism and with SSI.
There are a couple of aspects of my graduate experience that I deeply appreciate. I am grateful for the advising and mentorship I have received from Laura Lindenfeld, Linda Silka and Nathan Stormer. Working with them has enabled me to form and sustain multiple partnerships within the department and field of communication, across disciplines and with community partners. Collectively, we conduct research, write papers, develop curriculum, offer workshops, initiate grant projects, advance conservation plans, hold collaborative capacity sessions and more. I did not realize that my academic experience would result in so many relationships on which I will continue to build for the remainder of my career.
Are you going to be working with UMaine researchers on the latest $6 million EPSCoR grant funding health beaches work? If so, can you tell us about your role in the project?
I accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with the New England Sustainability Consortium (NEST), a collaborative effort led by UMaine and the University of New Hampshire in collaboration with many other academic, governmental and nongovernmental institutions. For me, this project extends research I have been doing with the Frenchman Bay Partners, an organization that seeks to build ecological and economic resilience in the bay. The NEST project aims to strengthen the scientific basis for decision making related to the management of recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting. My role is still emerging, though I expect that I will be studying collaboration within the core group of research partners and with various stakeholders as at least one point of focus.
Where will we find you in your career 10 years from now?
In 10 years, I see myself working as a faculty member in an interdisciplinary environmental communication program or serving in a leadership position at a nonprofit conservation and research organization. I will have published my first book, an outgrowth of my dissertation research, that explores material relationships and transformations among people and ocean tides. More than anything, you will still find me enjoying what I love most about this work: reading, writing, developing ideas with interesting people, and finding ways to make this knowledge useful in collective efforts to create a shared and sustainable future.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network spoke with University of Maine doctoral student Kristine Hoffmann about her research on the blue-spotted salamander. Hoffmann is studying breeding ecology, habitat selection and life histories in an effort to conserve the amphibians.
The works of seven graduating master’s students in intermedia will be featured in the 10th Annual Without Borders Festival, Aug. 9–Sept. 27 in the University of Maine’s Lord Hall Gallery.
The exhibit is sponsored by UMaine’s Intermedia MFA Program. A public reception is scheduled for Sept. 6, 5:30–7 p.m. For more information or to request disability accommodation, call 207.214.6382.
The exhibition title, Re, honors a common thread in the process of each artist, which evolves by researching, reframing and responding. The exhibit represents a materialization of this process. The 2013 graduating class includes Peg Killian, Siglinde Langholz, Yannick Moutassie, Heather Perry, Amy Pierce, Nick Rucker and Neil Shelley.
The Master of Fine Arts in Intermedia at the University of Maine provides advanced interdisciplinary study in the arts. The program emphasizes intensive development of students’ creative and innovative abilities through a diverse engagement with multiple research processes, critical thinking skills, and creative production tools and technologies.
More information on the Without Borders Festival, the artists, and other events and performances connected with the festival are online.
Competitive Energy Services LLC (CES) of Portland, Maine, has donated $25,000 over five years to support the Maine Business School’s MBA Business and Sustainability Track at the University of Maine.
The gift will provide student learning and educational opportunities through conferences and workshops, according to Associate Professor of Management Terry Porter, who coordinates the Business and Sustainability Track.
“We are grateful to CES for this generous gift which will greatly expand the opportunities we can provide for our students,” she says. “Sustainability is becoming a basic part of most businesses and this gift will help prepare the new generation of business and sustainability professionals.”
The Business and Sustainability Track includes the University of Maine’s chapter of Net Impact, a student sustainability organization with activities for both undergraduate and graduate students. Net Impact seeks to inspire, educate and equip individuals to use business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world.
“We want to work with the Business School, collaborate with other areas of the university to help everyone better understand sustainability and assist the university community at-large in living a more sustainable life,” says CES President and Chief Operating Officer Jon Sorenson, a 1986 UMaine graduate, and member and former chair of the MBS Board of Advisors.
“Our company is active with universities, communities and businesses in managing their carbon emissions and sustainability efforts. An investment in UMaine puts a great focus on the educational component that will benefit everyone. We hope to help with the expansion of internships, provide real-life work and knowledge to the Business School, broaden the curriculum, improve campus stakeholder collaboration and provide a vehicle for the Business School to grow and, in time, become a leader in sustainability. We hope our investment and contribution is just a start to something much bigger.”
CES also has supported students in sustainability in other ways, such as sponsoring undergraduate internships.
Founded in 2000 by career energy professionals, Competitive Energy Services is an independent energy services company that advises institutional, industrial, commercial and nonprofit sectors on the procurement and management of their energy needs and issues. Services include alternative energy projects, cogeneration, carbon management and planning, and sustainability planning, etc. CES now serves more than 2,500 accounts across North America, including the University of Maine, and manages in excess of $2 billion in energy and utility spending.
Contact: Ruth Ellen Cohen, 207.581.1926
Advanced Structures and Composites Center research to retrofit aging concrete flat-slab bridges was the focus of a July 19 story in the Bangor Daily News. Civil Engineering graduate student Hannah Loring and professor William Davids lead the research.
The University of Maine’s Department of Communication and Journalism is hosting the annual Doctoral Honors Seminar of the National Communication Association, July 18–21 at the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Bar Harbor. For more than three decades, the seminar has brought together the top doctoral students and faculty nationwide to discuss current topics in communication, according to the NCA website. This year, the 29 competitively selected doctoral students includes UMaine Ph.D. student Bridie McGreavy. Among the eight faculty leaders will be Nathan Stormer and Laura Lindenfeld, offering seminars on rhetoric and communication studies, respectively. The National Communication Association is the largest professional communication organization in the U.S. More information is available online. UMaine has had an interdisciplinary doctoral program in communication since 2007.
WVII (Channel 7) interviewed doctoral student Kristine Hoffmann on her research on the blue-spotted salamander.
Hoffmann is studying breeding ecology, habitat selection and life histories in an effort to conserve the salamanders.
Hannah Breton Loring, a graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMaine, was interviewed by WABI (Channel 5) and WVII (Channel 7) about her research on and development of a more affordable bridge reinforcement system. Loring’s system consists of fiber-reinforced polymer composites that attach to the bottom of concrete beams to add support to aging bridges.
Last month, Maine was ranked ninth in the nation for percentage of bridges classified as deficient in a report by the Washington-based Transportation for America. The report used Federal Highway Administration data to determine nearly 15 percent of Maine’s bridges require maintenance or replacement.
Replacing, and even rehabilitating, all of the bridges at once is a large financial burden for the Maine Department of Transportation.
Hannah Breton Loring, a University of Maine graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from Greenville, Maine, hopes to ease that burden by offering the MaineDOT a more affordable bridge retrofitting system than the current commercial options.
Loring’s system, engineered and tested at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, is a fiber-reinforced polymer flexural retrofit system made of carbon composites and glass to reinforce and strengthen concrete flat-slab bridges, many of which are 50 or more years old.
“There are multiple reports and report cards on bridge infrastructure, and the U.S. is doing very poorly,” Loring says. “What we’re trying to do is give Maine a little bit of a stepladder. We’re giving them a low-cost alternative for the short term that would increase the strength and durability of the bridge, prevent it from having to be weight posted, and allow the bridge to remain safe.”
The 2007 collapse of the I-35 Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., that killed 13 people and injured 145 served as a wake-up call across the nation, urging transportation departments to look at the condition of their own bridges, according to Loring.
After the collapse, the MaineDOT formed a panel to review its bridge inspection and improvement programs. Engineers on the panel, from the MaineDOT, UMaine and private consulting and construction sectors, released the report “Keeping our Bridges Safe” in November 2007.
According to the report, the MaineDOT is responsible for 2,772, or 70 percent, of the known bridges in the state. Of those bridges, 205 are more than 80 years old, 244 were considered in poor condition and 213 were found to be structurally deficient. The report also estimated that 288 bridges were at risk of closure or weight restrictions from 2007–17.
“A lot of these bridges have to be replaced or extensively repaired, so that’s asking for a lot of money from the Maine department and we’re already struggling,” Loring says. “If we space the cost out over time, it’s almost like self-financing.”
Loring has been working with her adviser Bill Davids on the MaineDOT- and Federal Highway Administration-funded project since June 2011 after earning her bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in May 2011. Davids, the John C. Bridge Professor and chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, approached Loring with the research opportunity after working with former graduate student Timothy Poulin, who now works for global engineering firm T.Y. Lin International Group in Falmouth, Maine, to develop software that allows existing flat-slab concrete bridges to be analyzed more accurately.
Loring says calculations are used to determine the strength of a bridge and if it needs to be replaced, but current calculations can be overconservative, calling for more replacements than what might be necessary. The software Davids and Poulin developed was designed specifically to assess the load rating of flat-slab bridges to determine which bridges can be repaired instead of replaced.
For the bridges that can last a few more years with reinforcing instead of replacing, a retrofitting system such as the one Loring engineered, could be applied to increase the bridge’s strength and weight limits.
Loring’s retrofitting system includes composite strips of high-tensile-strength, lightweight carbon fibers sandwiched between glass fibers. The strips are about 4 inches wide and 0.20 inches thick and can be as long as the bridge allows.
“The strips have strength comparable to steel but are light enough to be handled by a single person, which is not something you could do with a piece of steel of the same dimensions,” Loring says.
The composite strips are applied to bridges by drilling holes in the bridge’s concrete and placing threaded rods into an epoxy adhesive, which Loring also tested for durability.
The concrete on the underside of a bridge is weak in tension and is not responsible for supporting the bridge, but rather holding the internal reinforcing steel in place. The reinforcing steel is strong in tension and is the main component in keeping a bridge sturdy. Bridges that are more deteriorated may not be able to withstand the drilling and would have to be replaced or use a more extensive rehabilitation system, Loring says.
While developing this technology, Loring tested four different composite material systems. She tested two all-glass systems, one with a core fiber orientation at plus or minus 45 degrees and one at 90 degrees, and two glass-carbon hybrid systems with the same orientations.
“The fiber-reinforced polymer composites are really strong in the direction of the fiber,” Loring says. “If you have fibers that run in one direction and you pull on the composite in that direction, it takes tens of thousands of pounds to break it. What we end up doing is kind of combining the fiber orientations in different directions, giving it different properties. We looked at different fiber orientations for the core fibers in order to ensure the threaded rods can develop sufficient capacity.”
Loring used glass and carbon because they are lighter than steel. Glass is usually cheaper than carbon, but tends to deteriorate in the environment faster. The hybrid system was chosen because it would be cheaper — due to the glass — and durable enough for short-term use — because of carbon’s superior durability properties.
After conducting durability studies on effects of saltwater, freezing and thawing, the four systems were whittled down to the two glass-carbon hybrid systems.
“The performance of the glass-carbon system was much more superior so we had that manufactured in large strips so we could apply them to reinforced concrete beams,” Loring says.
Working with Kenway Corp. of Augusta, the strips were manufactured and tested on beams designed to mimic flat-slab bridges.
“There has been a big constructability focus with everything we’ve done,” Loring says. “The ability to make the materials, the ability of the materials to perform properly, the ease of installing on a bridge. Everything we’ve done for testing, we’ve done overhead, because you can’t just pick a bridge up and roll it over.”
Loring found the glass-carbon systems performed the best.
“We were able to get about a 47 (percent) to 49 percent increase in the flexural capacity of the beam compared to an unreinforced beam,” she says.
Loring says the system looks promising, although some fine-tuning could increase efficiency. Another student is planning to perform fatigue testing after Loring graduates this summer. Fatigue testing is essential before any field application.
Although Loring doesn’t yet have an exact dollar figure on how much using her retrofitting system would cost, she’s confident it is cheaper than what is available and could save the department tens of thousands of dollars per bridge compared to other methods of strengthening.
“There are commercially available systems out there for the same type of product that I’ve engineered from the ground up, but they’re proprietary systems,” Loring says. “Basically what that means is you pay for the product from the company at whatever price they say it’s worth.”
Loring’s main goal for the project is to be able to give the MaineDOT an alternative option. She wants to present the department with a comprehensive report on a low-cost retrofitting system they could have manufactured instead of defaulting to a proprietary option.
“A lot of the time MaineDOT puts out to bid its work and sees what companies can do,” Loring says. “With this they would be able to present the design specifications to a composite manufacturer and say, ‘Here’s what we want. How much can you make it for?’”
For Loring, working in an environment that forced her to apply what she learned in college was overwhelming at first, but she credits her department, adviser and the Advanced Structures and Composites Center with making her feel comfortable and capable throughout the process.
“The department’s awesome, there’s always been a really close-knit community with the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department,” Loring says. “Professors go by their first names. It’s just friendly, it’s welcoming. I come from a big family so having a family environment at school has just been great.”
Loring chose to study civil and environmental engineering after developing a love of buildings at an early age. Growing up visiting worksites with her father who is a carpenter, Loring knew she wanted to have a hand in creating buildings. Following in the footsteps of her father and several siblings, she decided to come to UMaine to pursue her goal of becoming an engineer.
This is Loring’s first project working with bridges.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
Massachusetts native Kristine Hoffmann feels right at home in her wading boots in vernal pools in Orono, Maine.
As a youngster, she enjoyed exploring a spring wetland close to her Bay State backyard. And these days, vernal pools — forest floor depressions that fill with water in the spring and generally dry out in late spring or early summer — are again an interest for Hoffmann.
The University of Maine doctoral student is studying the breeding ecology, habitat selection and life histories of the blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale), including the distance they emigrate from vernal pools.
Hoffmann recently followed one salamander 280 meters from a local vernal pool, multiple times the distance she anticipated.
“When I saw this job, it felt like coming home,” Hoffmann says of her dissertation research. “It’s a great opportunity.”
In recent years, vernal pools have become a topic of discussion and concern due to a worldwide decline of amphibians, some of which breed in the vernal pool in which they were born.
In order for blue-spotted salamanders to be conserved, Hoffmann says vernal pools and the adjacent forestland need to be protected. When vernal pools and the critical land around them are destroyed, amphibians are lost, biodiversity decreases and food availability for other species is compromised.
Current Maine regulations state that “the basin depression of ‘significant’ vernal pools must not be disturbed,” says Hoffmann, “and at least 75 percent of the critical terrestrial habitat within 250 feet of the high-water mark must remain intact and forested, with native understory and woody debris.”
Those regulations, though, protect fewer than 25 percent of Maine vernal pools, and Hoffmann says that might not be enough to ensure long-term conservation of other salamanders, as well as wood frogs and fairy shrimp that also breed in vernal pools in the state.
Hoffmann says data from her research may inform proposed legislation about zones of consultation in Maine.
Because vernal pools don’t have inlets or outlets and because they dry up, salamanders are at risk from fewer predators than they would be in ponds and lakes.
But there’s a trade-off of sorts — they’ve had to adapt to breed quickly — they arrive early to the pool and hatch and undergo metamorphosis within weeks. The impetus is strong — they have to lose their gills and grow lungs before the seasonal pool is gone.
After blue-spotted salamanders grow lungs, they spend much of their life underneath leaves in the surrounding moist woodlands in eastern central North America, the Atlantic Provinces and northern New England. The nocturnal amphibians with long tails can grow as long as 5.5 inches.
Seven days a week, Hoffmann treks to several Orono-area vernal pools. She dons a broad hat, blue jeans and long sleeves to ward off mosquitoes — a staple of salamanders’ diet.
In a sun-dappled forest near a pollen-coated vernal pool Hoffmann checks whether the adult salamanders she implanted with radio transmitters have moved.
If they have, she marks the new spots with flags then notes factors including canopy density and soil temperature and moisture level.
Hoffmann implanted the transmitters — which will emit signals for about 45 days — during a short surgery in which they were anesthetized in a UMaine lab.
In mid-June, Hoffmann was awaiting the first of this year’s juvenile salamanders to emerge from the pools.
Much of what she’s already learned from her research has resulted in more queries. For instance, she questions why after the mass spring migration there were 700 female salamanders and just three males in one area pool.
There are now two types of blue-spotted salamanders, Hoffman says — Ambystoma laterale and unisexual salamanders, which are the result of prior hybridizing. Today, the unisex salamander steals sperm from the Ambystoma laterale.
Hoffmann will study both blue-spotted salamanders and the unisex salamanders to see what effects genotype (different genetic compositions), female body size and environmental factors have on egg mass structure and fertility.
She’ll also examine which environmental factors — pond depth, canopy density, distance to roads and presence of other breeders in the pool — impact breeding site selection. And she’ll explore whether juvenile habitat choice differs between the genotypes.
“We keep finding out things. We’ve found salamanders with three genomes or four or five genomes,” she says, wondering aloud what that might mean for the salamanders’ health and life expectancy. “If we [humans] get one extra chromosome, we get Down syndrome.”
UMaine undergraduates Eleanor D’Urso from Branford, Conn., Catherine Herr from Cape May, N.J. and Ian Lookabaugh from Lubec, Maine, are assisting Hoffmann with the research.
D’Urso and Lookabaugh are fifth-year wildlife ecology majors and Herr is a fifth-year student majoring in wildlife ecology and mathematics.
Katherine Sypher, an Orono High School junior is also assisting with the study through the OHS-University of Maine Summer Research Experience Program. The program seeks to increase high school students’ science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.
Sypher says it’s an ideal summer job — she’s paid to work outside while learning and applying practical knowledge.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777