Archive for the ‘Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture’ Category

UMaine Economic Impact Studies Cited in WLBZ Craft Brewery Report

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

A WLBZ (Channel 2) report on the economic impact of Maine craft breweries on local communities cited several University of Maine studies. The report states that according to UMaine economic impact studies, Maine’s wild blueberry harvest was worth about $69 million in 2012, and the lobster catch was worth about $340 million. A study conducted by UMaine and the Maine Brewers’ Guild found the state’s craft brewing industry has an economic impact of nearly $200 million and is growing. The study looked at Maine’s 35 craft breweries in 2013. Now there are 55 breweries, with three more scheduled to open this year, according to the report.

Lilieholm Writes Op-Ed on Penobscot River Changes for BDN

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Robert Lilieholm, the  E.L. Giddings professor of forest policy at the University of Maine, wrote the opinion piece, “Bay to Baxter: As the Penobscot River changes, so must we,” for the Bangor Daily News.

Brady to Study Impact of Climate Change, Farmers’ Practices on Water Quality

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

A University of Maine marine scientist will examine implications of climate change on farmers’ practices and the ensuing consequences for downstream coastal water systems.

Farmers are planting earlier than they were a few decades ago and that means applying fertilizer earlier and, for some crops, being able to plant twice in a growing season, says Damian Brady, assistant research professor at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine.

Brady will examine where the fertilizer goes and how changes in farming practices affect estuaries downstream that also are being impacted by other climate-related factors, including increased frequency of extreme storms and higher temperatures.

His research will concentrate on understanding these dynamics in Chesapeake Bay; but the findings are expected to apply to agricultural watersheds around the world.

Brady also anticipates learning how management policies with different rules and incentives affect farming behavior and, subsequently, impact watershed and estuary health.

The National Science Foundation awarded Brady nearly $124,000 to create multidisciplinary data-driven simulation models to test scientific hypotheses. The entire project team will provide training for approximately 10 master’s and doctoral students, share tools and knowledge with federal and state environmental management agencies and train 15 high school teachers.

Brady is the project’s assistant director. Collaborators are from The Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

He’ll start the four-year project, titled “WSC-Category 3 Collaborative: Impacts of Climate Change on the Phenology of Linked Agriculture-Water Systems” on Sept. 1.

MPBN Interviews Redmond for Report on Seaweed Beer

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Sarah Redmond, a Maine Sea Grant aquaculture specialist at the University of Maine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research, was interviewed for a Maine Public Broadcasting Network report about beer made with seaweed at the Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. in Belfast, Maine. David Carlson, the company’s owner, has been consulting with scientists including Redmond about using seaweed in the beverage. Redmond said if researchers can figure out how to farm seaweed on sea farms, then there will be a more sustainable source that could lead to innovation and new products, such as fertilizer, food ingredients, nutritional supplements or beer. NPR also carried the report.

Christine Lamanna: Using plant ecology to study climate change

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Plants that grow in alpine environments are often the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to climate change. A number of plants have disappeared from Acadia National Park despite being protected for nearly a century. Climate change is the prime suspect. Christine Lamanna, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maine’s Sen. George J. Mitchell Center, is working with stakeholders and citizen scientists to figure out what this means for the future of native plants.

Working as part of the Effects of Climate Change on Organisms (ECCO) team at Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), Lamanna and a diverse working group including citizen volunteers are conducting research at Acadia to find out why 20 percent of the park’s plant species have disappeared since the late 1800s. Additionally, Lamanna is creating maps predicting how important species in the state may respond to future climate change — and how those changes could affect the state economically, culturally and ecologically.

A major goal of the ECCO project is to help state decision makers understand and think about climate change impacts in Maine. It is that kind of collaborative engagement that has made working for SSI such a valuable learning experience, Lamanna said.

“My background is plant ecology and climate change. As part of SSI, I’m able to use that knowledge, but turn it to real-world problems that are impacting Maine right now,” she said.

“Through SSI, I’ve been exposed to so many different ways of approaching a problem, several of which challenged my own way of thinking. It wasn’t easy. But I think the experience of working toward a common goal with different people with different views has been invaluable. The breadth of problems SSI teams are tackling and the span of approaches are exciting,” Lamanna said.

She also values the role introspection plays in SSI projects.

“I’m so inspired by the success stories that have come out of SSI, but one thing that I value in particular is that we also turn a critical eye on ourselves, and think about what makes some projects so successful, while others struggle. That self-reflection improves the work we do and makes us all better scientists and collaborators in the future,” she said.

Soon, Lamanna begins a new adventure. She has accepted a research position with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) at their world headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. ICRAF is part of a global consortium of independent research organizations that work on food security, global change and development. As part of her new job, she’ll be helping governments and institutions in East Africa develop climate-smart agriculture portfolios through decision analysis, stakeholder engagement and modeling. The goal is to both increase food security and decrease the environmental impact of agriculture in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries.

Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.

See more about ECCO.

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755

Upward Bound Math Science Students Celebrate 50 Years of National Program

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Participants of the Upward Bound Math Science program at the University of Maine are recognizing the 50th anniversary of the national Upward Bound program by contributing to a regional video project.

The video will feature students in Upward Bound programs across New England singing a song dedicated to the program and written by Craig Werth, who works for Upward Bound at the University of New Hampshire and at the New England Educational Opportunity Association (NEOA) Leadership Institute.

The Upward Bound Math Science Program is affiliated with the UMaine College of Education and Human Development and offers a six-week college preparatory program to first-generation college students from eight Maine high schools. The program specifically targets students who are interested in pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors and careers.

This summer, 35 students are attending from Central High School in Corinth, Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, Portland High School, Stearns High School in Millinocket, and Schenck High School in East Millinocket. Five participants are attending college in the fall, while the rest are high school juniors and seniors. A total of 66 students participate in programming — college visits, academic advising, field trips, laboratory experiences and leadership opportunities — throughout the school year.

From 1–4 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until July 17, students work on individual research projects and explorations. This year’s projects cover topics ranging from studying the causes and possible treatments for “chemo fog” in chemotherapy patients to research involving lungworm morphology in Maine moose. In addition to the individual projects, students also are working on a group sustainability design project that involves creating a new portable touch tank, as well as collecting pictures and interviews of green space and important landmarks along the Penobscot River as part of the Bay to Baxter Initiative.

The program also includes Watch Groups, a weekly series of guest speakers who meet with the students to expand and challenge their thinking and knowledge.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Upward Bound, which began in 1964 as part of the Economic Opportunity Act. Talent Search emerged one year later, under the Higher Education Act, and in 1968, Student Support Services was approved by Higher Education Amendments. The three programs were coined TRIO, and more programs have since been created to meet the needs of various student populations.

In an effort to increase students’ performance in mathematics and science courses, the Upward Bound Math Science program began in 1990. UMaine held its first summer session in 1991. The program joined Classic Upward Bound, which came to the UMaine campus in 1966.

More information about the Upward Bound Math Science program is online.

Individual student research project topics are as follows:

Animal pathology/veterinary

  • Lungworm morphology in Maine moose

Archaeology

  • Colonial archaeology

Chemical engineering

  • Bioplastic development

  • Pulp and paper applications: nano- and micro-fibrillated cellulose, and cellulose nanofibers

Genetics

  • Desiccation resistant yeast gene

  • Ethanol and circadian rhythms in zebrafish

  • Genetic lineage of amoeba and dog populations

Mathematics/computer science

  • Evolutionary algorithms for optimization of dynamic systems (such as wind farms)

  • Finding the shortest path across campus

  • Music tone and chord discrimination

  • Population study on gerrymandering and political elections

  • Restricting and opening parameters for robot operation

  • Spatial engineering system for in-flight aircraft recognition

Microbiology/pharmacy

  • Antibacterial effectiveness against E. coli

  • Antimicrobial properties of fighting fish bubble nests

  • Antiseptic actions of on S. epidermidis

  • Handwashing methods and bacterial growth

Physiology/medical

  • Vision acuity in humans

Psychology

  • Causes and treatments for chemo fog

  • Effects of music on mood

  • Effects of music on mood and sustainability

  • Ethanol and circadian rhythms in mice

  • Impacts of eating habits and exercise on self-esteem

  • Learning styles and memory

  • Play behavior in preschool children

Wildlife ecology and environmental science

  • Rainbow smelt age and size compared with otolith (ear bone) growth rings

  • Rainfall levels and wood frog development in local vernal pools

  • Sucker fish size and egg laying capability

  • Water quality in local lakes and streams over time

For more information on the projects or program contact Kelly Ilseman at 617.784.2320 or kelly.ilseman@gmail.com.

Vernal Pool Conservation

Monday, July 14th, 2014

A new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) documents nearly 15 years of vernal pools research and management by the University of Maine’s Aram Calhoun who is leading an interdisciplinary team at the Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), a program of the Sen. George J. Mitchell Center.

In the article, published this week online at pnas.org, Calhoun and three co-authors analyze a timeline of action and scholarship that spans from 1999 to the present. In that time, the professor of wetland ecology and director of UMaine’s Ecology and Environmental Sciences program has collaborated closely with academic colleagues, government at all levels, nongovernmental organizations, landowners, developers and concerned citizens in an effort to create an environment in which these small, but significant, wetlands can flourish.

The article’s co-authors and SSI collaborators are Jessica Jansujwicz, a SSI postdoctoral fellow, Kathleen Bell, associate professor of economics, and Malcolm Hunter Jr., Libra professor of conservation biology and professor of wildlife ecology. The authors acknowledge and thank the many additional faculty and students who contributed to the research and outreach reported in the article.

“It is our hope that the work presented in this paper will inspire other researchers, practitioners and citizens dedicated to planned development and conservation of natural resources to forge new working relationships,” Calhoun said. “Our work shows that time, patience, open-mindedness and the willingness to assume a bit of risk are key to successful collaborations on difficult conservation issues. We have found that the time invested is well worth the effort. The exchange and synthesis of diverse ideas lead to outcomes that are more widely embraced and enduring.”

The effort to protect vernal pools has required a high level of perseverance and creativity, Calhoun says. Tensions among private landowners, ecologists and government entities over resource location, function and management strategies have stymied progress for years. Thus, vernal pools require a different kind of attention than many other types of natural resources, Calhoun and colleagues say. The pools, located mainly on private land, are a key-breeding habitat for several amphibians and serve as an important wetland resource for wildlife. They can be hard to detect. The tiny pools fill with water each spring and often dry up by summer’s end. Researchers stress that multidisciplinary, stakeholder-engaged efforts open the door to innovative strategies that can conserve pools while encouraging development. The diverse perspectives provide a basis for compromise, they say. It is the very nature of these pools, their size and locations that introduce this opportunity for practice of a new sustainable science model, researchers say.

In her 15-year involvement with vernal pools in Maine, Calhoun has played a major role in shepherding in a new era. In 1999, Calhoun and others in a diverse working group pushed for a new state law that better protects vernal pools. It passed. They coupled important scientific discoveries with successful public education programs. More recently, Calhoun, SSI researchers and key stakeholders collaborated to develop a streamlined, locally-tailored approach to regulation, one that could make compliance less encumbering for towns and land developers while better protecting vulnerable amphibian populations. Bell says the successful collaboration laid out in the article is a model of sustainability with real world impact.

“This paper is exciting because it advances interdisciplinary, engaged research as a viable tool to address complex conservation challenges,” Bell said. “It is a story about sustainability science — a journey to link knowledge with action along the road to conservation solutions.”

Hunter added that the team’s work has major implications for conservation far beyond Maine and the region. “One of the most important aspects of this work is that it nicely illustrates a larger principle: that focusing conservation on small bits of the landscape can have disproportionately large effects on ecological integrity at a much larger scale,” he said. Vernal pool conservation was the focus of Jansujwicz’s dissertation. She emphasizes SSI’s mission to include stakeholders as partners in research and solutions: ”Our research demonstrates the value of engaging stakeholders throughout the research process. With their participation, we can design and conduct research that is more flexible, creative, and responsive to diverse concerns.”

Next up for Calhoun and SSI vernal pool researchers: continued study funded by a $1.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Competition (CNH) Program. The four-year project, Of Pools and People, began in 2013 and supports research focused on more effective strategies when it comes to vernal pools and small, natural landscape features that contribute disproportionately to larger ecosystem functions.

Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.

Contact: Tamara Field,  207.420.7755

Wabanaki Youth Science Program Featured in Bangor Daily News

Monday, July 14th, 2014

The University of Maine’s Wabanaki Youth Science Program was the focus of the Bangor Daily News article, “Summer camp aims to create future environmental leaders in Maine’s tribes.” The program includes a weeklong earth science camp hosted at Schoodic Point for native students from each of Maine’s tribes, as well as the Haudenosaunee tribes in New York. Students in the program learn about science and their cultural heritage simultaneously, according to the article. They receive lessons on forestry, climate change and local plant species, along with basket-weaving and tribal history.

Lichtenwalner Quoted in MPBN Report on Vehicle-Moose Collisions

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Anne Lichtenwalner, director of the University of Maine’s Animal Health Laboratory, was interviewed by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for a report on moose collisions in Maine. Lichtenwalner said moose are likely out foraging for food such as tender young plants to try to make up for a tough winter. She said according to research, moose are more active during twilight hours and there is no silver bullet to stop moose-car crashes. “The best thing is just realizing you live in a place where these animals are going to be close to the road, and being extremely careful as a driver” she says. “You know, we do co-exist with these animals and I think we just have to be very watchful.”

Working Waterfront, Phys.org Publish Report on Grad Student’s Sea Urchin Research

Friday, July 11th, 2014

The Working Waterfront and Phys.org carried a report on sea urchin research being conducted by University of Maine marine bioresources graduate student Ung Wei Kenn. His research focuses on enhancing green sea urchin egg production to aid Maine’s depressed urchin market. Ung hopes to increase the egg or roe yield of farm-raised green sea urchins through high-quality feed, a process known as bulking. “I was always interested in the vertical integration of aquaculture and seafood processing,” says Ung. “I am also passionate about seafood that is popular in Asia. This topic is a blend of all that.”