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.
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
The obituary for Edward Collins Jr., who taught political science and international law at the University of Maine for more than 35 years starting in 1962, is available online. The obituary for John Mitchell Nickerson, who taught political science and public administration at the University of Maine at Augusta and as a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Maine from 1971-88, is also available online.
Many Mainers earn their livelihoods from harvesting bounty — including blueberries and lobsters — from the land and sea.
And Samuel Belknap and Kourtney Collum, the first students to enroll in the University of Maine’s new anthropology and environmental policy doctoral program, want to preserve those storied traditions, as well as the state’s natural resources.
Belknap and Collum say the doctorate program, which focuses on “understanding human society and culture in cross-cultural perspective and their pivotal role in implementing successful environmental policy,” is an ideal fit for their interests.
“It is so applicable and has an interdisciplinary framework,” says Collum. “I can look at issues holistically.”
Collum favors a multifaceted approach. She double-majored in anthropology and environmental studies at Western Michigan University, and earned her master’s in forest resources at UMaine.
Belknap agrees. He earned his undergraduate degree in anthropology and a master’s in Quaternary and climate studies, both from UMaine. “No problem is one-dimensional and no one person can solve everything,” he says.
His doctoral thesis, “Abrupt Climate Change and Maine’s Lobster Industry,” proposes collaboration between lobstermen and policymakers to better protect the state’s iconic industry, especially in the wake of abrupt environmental changes.
Experienced lobstermen possess valuable information, says Belknap. They have knowledge of the industry, concerns about both climate change and fishing regulations, and about how they’ve adapted their behavior in response to both.
Policymakers will be better informed and better positioned to craft policies customized for various situations if they routinely involve lobstermen in the regulatory process, Belknap says.
Belknap, who grew up in Damariscotta, Maine, knows his way around a lobster buoy. He learned to haul traps from his grandfather, a retired physician.
“I grew up lobstering,” Belknap says. “My wife jokes that I’m clumsy because I learned to walk on a boat, not land.”
Belknap worked as dock manager at his family’s lobster pound prior to starting his doctorate and respects lobstering as a way of life.
Abrupt climate change could threaten that way of life for the roughly 5,000 lobstermen in the state, as well as coastal communities in Maine and around the planet, he says.
Last summer, warmer water temperature in the Gulf of Maine contributed to lobsters molting a month or more earlier than usual, which resulted in a glut of crustaceans on the market. And then the price per pound plummeted.
“It’s humbling,” Belknap says of how quickly a temperature fluctuation of 1.5 to 2 degrees caused the drastic ripple effect. Another sudden change in temperature might have the opposite effect on the lobster population, he says.
Belknap doesn’t have to look far in space or time to see examples of that.
In September 1999, huge numbers of lobsters died within a few days in Long Island Sound. It devastated the local industry, which languished for more than a decade. Scientific reports have indicated warmer ocean water was — and remains — a culprit.
And last summer, lobsters in water off New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut were afflicted with a shell disease, with warming ocean water was again cited as a factor.
How policymakers and Maine lobstermen work together to deal with abrupt climate changes could be a model for other fisheries regionally, nationally and globally, says Belknap.
Practical application of knowledge is also important for Collum, whose doctoral dissertation will explore the impact of the declining bee population on wild blueberry growers and the growers’ ability to conserve wild pollinators.
Because many crops rely on insect pollination to produce fruits and vegetables, the global decline of bees – due to pesticides, habitat loss and disease — threatens food security and the livelihood of farmers who produce food.
The lowbush blueberries that grow in Maine are completely dependent on insect — mostly bee — pollination to produce fruit. Without bees, there are no blueberries for Sal — or anyone else.
Commercial honeybees are crucial for the intensive agriculture practiced in the U.S, says Collum. But research suggests, through conservation efforts, native bees can provide a significant amount of pollination without the cost associated with renting commercial hives, she says.
Last year, Maine blueberry growers imported 70,000 commercial honeybees to pollinate about 60,000 acres of wild blueberries, she says. The busy bees trucked to Maine generally start their trek in California, where they pollinate almonds, and make multiple work stops en route.
The cost to blueberry producers to pay for pollination has risen significantly, says Collum, bringing into question whether the practice is financially sustainable.
She’ll therefore explore the ability of farmers to integrate the use of both wild and commercial bees to pollinate crops and increase the yields.
Because Maine has more than 240 bee species — at least 40 of which pollinate blueberries, Collum says it’s a good place for farmers and researchers to collaboratively figure out the best practices to protect, promote and utilize wild, native bees to pollinate crops.
Collum will explore obstacles that growers in Maine and Canada have to increasing their use of wild bees to pollinate lowbush blueberries. She’ll also study what influence government policies and programs have on the way growers manage pollination of crops and how growers can adapt to changing ecological conditions.
Growers of other crops that want to transition to utilizing wild bees, where applicable, could apply the findings, she says.
Collum, who grew up in Monroe, Mich., near the border of Ohio, is used to working in the field and on the trails.
She fell in love with Maine when she was a college intern working on a trail crew at Baxter State Park in Millinocket. As a field coordinator for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in Colorado, Collum battled the pine beetle infestation. And she worked on an ecotourism project in New Zealand, building trails, battling invasive gorse and planting native trees.
Collum urges people to know where their food comes from, to build relationships with local farmers and to support those doing their best to reduce chemical inputs. She also encourages people do what they can to protect bees, including not using pesticides around their homes and planting bee-friendly gardens.
Collum and Belknap both want to make a positive difference in the state they love and ensure that ensuing generations of lobstermen, farmers and foresters have the opportunity to make livings from the land and sea.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The Bangor Daily News published a University of Maine press release about graduate students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department providing speech therapy services to underserved clients in rural areas through virtual sessions.
University of Maine research fellows have been assisting the Maine Governor’s STEM Council create a comprehensive strategy to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives through an effort funded by UMaine’s Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.
Laura Millay, a student in the master of science in teaching program through the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, or RiSE Center, and Johanna Barrett, a research fellow at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and student in the master of arts program in economics and international environmental policy, are providing information and resources to the council on how to create a strategic plan and data dashboard.
Daniel Laverty, a science teacher at Mattanawcook Junior High School in Lincoln who is also a master of science in teaching student through the RiSE Center, assisted in the initial gathering and presentation of data.
The STEM Council was signed into law and formed in 2011 when members were appointed by Gov. Paul LePage, according to Millay.
The council is composed of volunteer representatives from organizations, departments and businesses across the state, all with differing STEM perceptions. Without a clear mandate or any funding, members have created subcommittees to determine their role and find direction, Millay says.
One of the subcommittees is tasked with looking at successful STEM councils and programs in other states. UMaine’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Susan Hunter, a subcommittee member, decided to recruit UMaine research fellows and provide funding for their efforts, according to Millay.
In the summer of 2012, Millay, Barrett and Laverty researched STEM initiatives and strategies used to promote them in states that are comparable to Maine.
“There are lots of STEM initiatives going on all over the place, but the idea of a council is to pull all of those together and coordinate efforts and clarify a strategy for STEM,” Millay says.
Millay believes STEM education is necessary in advancing energy, developing technology and supporting economic growth while protecting the environment.
“You can see the importance of STEM all around us,” Millay says. She believes many societal problems could benefit from STEM innovations by allowing for development without pollution and waste. Millay also says STEM education is necessary for economic growth in Maine by expanding industries and providing well-paid jobs for qualified workers.
“Because STEM education is about learning by doing and exposure at an early age to people already engaged in those fields, it can foster the necessary creativity, curiosity, drive and discipline required to be successful,” Barrett says.
As a prospective high school science teacher, Millay’s interest in the project is based in education.
“I’m inspired because I always had an interest in science and had what felt like a really unfulfilling experience with science in college, and it seemed like what I learned in grade school and high school was a poor match with what I expected to do in college,” Millay says.
Barrett, who says she is “not an academic at heart,” is more interested in identifying the cultural norms related to education initiatives and likes the intersection between culture and economics.
“From an economic standpoint, STEM education is the path by which future workforce needs are met,” Barrett says. “Students who have a solid background in science, technology, engineering and math are better equipped to meet the needs of the technology-intensive labor industry.”
Millay, Barrett and Laverty presented last summer’s findings to the STEM Council during a daylong workshop. Currently, the state does not have a comprehensive strategy for STEM initiatives. Millay and Barrett hope the information they provide can help the council create a road map for where they are headed.
The researchers also helped the council write a request for funding that went to the governor and legislature. That request is still being processed.
Millay and Barrett are working on a mock-up of a data dashboard they plan to present to the council this summer. Creating a dashboard connects to the concept of data-driven decision making, or using data to inform policy, Millay says.
A data dashboard would be an interactive website available to policymakers, researchers and the general public that would organize STEM education information in one place. Data on the website could be categorized to answer questions based on topics such as location or school, and linked to objectives to offer success indicators or benchmarks on reaching goals.
Making this information readily available would also help educate the public on the data’s importance, Millay says.
“Data becomes powerful and reliable when it is consistent and thorough,” Barrett says. “This goes back to the cultural component — consistent, reliable data requires that people are willing to participate and give information.”
Data collection is also needed to monitor the council’s progress. The longitudinal data can display trends and identify successful efforts in STEM education.
The Maine Department of Education currently has an online Data Warehouse where some STEM statistics are available, but doesn’t offer a lot of useful data for crafting STEM policy or illustrating which initiatives work over time, according to Millay.
The website includes facts on student achievement in math and science as well as where students go after high school and what careers they choose. Information missing from the database includes public perceptions, success indicators and instruction quality, the researchers say.
Millay and Barrett are researching data on students, workforce, achievement, interest and teaching practices. They intend to learn what information is and isn’t available and what would be useful in crafting policy. By looking at other states, they also plan to determine the best way to use, present and make publicly available the findings.
An example of new information that could be compiled would be the percentage of high school teachers in STEM subjects who have a degree in their field.
“Having that kind of data collected could really help show if there is an issue that needs to be addressed,” Millay says. “And we’d be able to tell if some of the things we are trying are working or not. Without the data it’s kind of impossible to say.”
Barrett says she is proud of the research the team has completed so far.
“I like research that produces tangible outcomes rather than a paper on a shelf,” Barrett says. “I feel we succeeded in giving the Maine STEM Council a solid understanding of where Maine stands in the national STEM landscape, and we are providing policymakers and business leaders with real and feasible recommendations about what kinds of initiatives are working here and what factors ought to be considered when implementing and measuring success.”
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
A new University of Maine training program for graduate students in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) is expected to reduce the cost of providing speech therapy services, while reaching out to underserved children and adults in rural areas throughout Maine — or around the world.
The university’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Department has developed a Web-based speech therapy telepractice training program to give graduate students the competencies that are revolutionizing the delivery of health care worldwide. It is now accepting speech therapy clients who would benefit from the remote access of telepractice.
“We have created one of the first nationwide speech therapy telepractice training programs,” says Judy Walker, a UMaine CSD associate professor who developed the program in collaboration with colleagues in the Speech Therapy Department at Waldo County General Hospital (WCGH) in Belfast.
The UMaine program is one of only a few programs in the country that offers speech therapy telepractice training at the college level in an emerging service model for delivering health care through evolving technologies. Speech therapy telepractice involves almost no travel expense and expands the reach of therapy services to more people in Maine, where an overabundance of people in need of speech therapy is compounded by a severe shortage of speech therapists, Walker says.
“Telepractice is not only efficient in reaching people, but also cost-effective,” Walker says.
Nationally, at least one study estimates that telemedicine services provided via broadband Internet would save $700 billion nationally over the next 15 to 20 years, according to Walker.
The program uses a secure, password-protected Web-based platform that allows virtual face-to-face therapy between service providers and clients. Clients can be assisted by designated “e-Helpers” — family, friends or caregivers — according to Walker. All that is needed is a computer with a webcam and broadband Internet access, located in a private setting, such as a home, school, clinic or community center.
“In addition to overcoming barriers such as geography, weather and transportation, we can also bring in family members and caregivers to participate in the therapy from their own computers in any location,” Walker says. “With this service delivery model, anyone involved in a child’s or adult’s therapy program can actually view or participate in the session, regardless of where they are,” Walker says.
The UMaine graduate training program in speech therapy telepractice, based in the Madelyn E. and Albert D. Conley Speech, Language and Hearing Center in Dunn Hall, complies with American Speech-Language-Hearing Association guidelines for demonstrating competencies and skills in speech telepractice services, which standardizes the training of the UMaine graduates.
That’s important, according to WCGH Speech Therapy Department Director Michael Towey, who oversees the hospital’s 5-year-old speech therapy telepractice, on which the UMaine program is modeled. Competency standards have not been well defined nationally, says Towey, a UMaine alumnus and adjunct CSD faculty member assisting the university with its telepractice training curriculum.
Industry credentials reassure clients that telepractice therapists are competent, he says. Towey says the UMaine speech therapy telepractice training program is among the first to establish training standards for therapists at the college level.
Waldo County General Hospital’s speech telepractice program is provided by staff professionals, who have served people from Canada to Russia and Taiwan, in addition to more that 40 Maine communities between Kittery and Fort Kent. It is one of only a handful of speech therapy programs in the country with Training Program Accreditation from the American Telemedicine Association, according to Towey, and the only one that allows therapists to work with clients in home settings rather than at designated clinics, he says.
Walker along with Casey Monnier, a CSD staff speech pathologist and lecturer, and WCGH staff offered the first telepractice training class in August 2012 to 10 CSD graduate students, including Taylor Rodgers of Standish and Janet Ciejka of Brunswick. Following the class, Rodgers and Ciejka applied their new skills in two semesters of clinical practicum providing telepractice speech therapy to clients under the supervision of Walker and Monnier. A new cohort of 12 CSD graduate students are currently in a telepractice training class this month and will be involved in applying their new telepractice skills in clinical practicum during the next school year.
Prior to graduation, Rodgers had been providing speech therapy to a woman from southern Maine, who as the result of a stroke in April 2012, had difficulty finding the words to communicate with her family for much of the spring and summer. Speech therapy telepractice sessions began in the fall 2012, involving one adult daughter videoconferencing from Rhode Island, another daughter at her mother’s side in southern Maine, and Walker and Rodgers in Orono. Now, the woman can retrieve many nouns and other words (verbally or in writing using e-Tools) as Rodgers displayed digital materials that are unique to this client on the computer screen where all participants can see- bread, rice cakes, butter or milk, for example.
Therapy by videoconference is working better than the daughters expected, they say. Their mother is progressing faster as a result of more frequent therapy sessions and outside practice of activities involving the daughters and their mother between online sessions with Rodgers and Walker.
“I had a telephone conversation with my mother last week and I understood everything she was trying to say,” the southern Maine daughter says of her mother.
Therapy at home also ended a “convoluted and complicated” transportation problem when her mother was visiting a therapy clinic, says one daughter, a nurse.
“I was driving her to therapy two and three times a week, and we had to arrange transportation. I felt I was losing touch because I wasn’t there for all the sessions,” she recalls. It was worse for the daughter in Rhode Island, a school bus driver who can now participate in therapy sessions with her mother between her shifts at work. “Being so far away, I feel so much more involved now,” she says.
For the mother’s part, starting telepractice speech therapy “was wonderful,” she says. “It’s helping me.”
Rodgers, who recently received a master’s degree, is convinced the new telepractice skills will give UMaine speech-language pathologists an edge in the job market.
“I think it’s a really exciting opportunity the University of Maine makes available to us,” Rodgers says. “I have friends in speech pathology at other universities and they really don’t have anything like this, and this seems to be the future direction of speech pathology.”
The University of Maine, Madelyn E. and Albert D. Conley Speech, Language and Hearing Center is accepting new clients for speech therapy telepractice services this summer and fall. Telepractice is covered by many insurance plans, including MaineCare. For more information or to make an appointment, call the Conley Speech, Language and Hearing Center, 207.581.2006, or visit the telepractice website.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
Educators and parents avow that Reading Recovery — an early intervention, short-term, one-on-one prevention initiative for first-graders having difficulty reading and writing — opens doors to learning and creates opportunities for children.
The thousands of children who enjoy reading and are reading well are proof.
Brian Doore, assistant research professor in the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development, figured out a way to strengthen the life-changing initiative by analyzing Reading Recovery data within a comprehensive intervention model.
Doore and his wife, Stacy, a UMaine doctoral student in spatial engineering and a research associate at the Center for Research and Evaluation at UMaine, designed the prototype for Comprehensive Intervention Model for Maine (CIMME) — a Web-based data collection entry system for educators.
Teachers plug in a student’s data, including instructional hours, number of absences, books read, average text level gain, average writing vocabulary gain, as well as notes and comments. With CIMME, teachers are able to make up-to-the-second instructional decisions to best help the student.
The system displays children’s learning trajectories in various forms, including line charts and motion graphs.
Kit Cuddy was lead programmer on the CIMME project and Quansheng Song supervised. Cuddy, Song and CRE director Craig Mason refined and added functionality to the system so it could be offered to schools throughout Maine and in nine other states, Doore says.
Often times, says Doore, educators utilize summative assessments — think midterms and finals. These tests seek to determine whether students learned — past tense — the material.
This data collection system provides a formative assessment — in real time. “We’re focused on what they are learning,” Doore says.
Because the graphs show the child’s reading knowledge at that moment, educators can determine what instructional strategy will be most beneficial at that moment in time.
“The right question (for teachers) is, ‘What does the child need to learn and what do I need to teach next?’” Doore says.
For Doore, a former special education and regular education teacher, the objective is “for all children to make progress and be successful.”
Because teachers, teacher leaders and administrators in different locations can simultaneously view the information on their computers, they can collectively brainstorm about how best to proceed.
The data provides a detailed picture of individual literacy interventions and that becomes the catalyst for coaching conversations around how to accelerate students’ learning.
Teachers can follow a student’s long-term progression in one school system and, if a student moves, Doore says educators in the new school can immediately access the data so there’s no gap in services for the youth.
“It’s an empowering model instead of a deficit model,” says Mary Rosser, director of the University Training Center for Reading Recovery at UMaine.
“Rather than contemplating what we could have, should have and would have done, it’s an opportunity to look at where we are we now and what can we do, in the moment, to accelerate learning.”
In order to increase access to the system, Doore and Rosser have teamed up with partners from across the country to submit multiple federal grants.
Additional funding, says Doore, would allow CIMME to be available to more students and teachers across the country and support improved outcomes and accelerated learning for children through educators’ increased ability to engage in systematic, data-based, instructional decision-making.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777