The Portland Press Herald published an op-ed piece by Joseph Kelley, University of Maine professor of marine geology, titled “Proposed ‘solution’ to Camp Ellis erosion won’t solve problem for long.”
Archive for the ‘Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture’ Category
A University of Maine economist advises Mainers seeking to make shrewd investments with their tax dollars to put them toward high-quality early childhood education.
In his report “Path to a Better Future: The Fiscal Payoff of Investment in Early Childhood Development in Maine,” UMaine economic professor Philip Trostel says providing a first-rate preschool education for one low-income child saves taxpayers an average of $99,200 during the course of that child’s life in Maine.
“It is ironic that the typical argument against devoting more resources to early childhood development is its costs, since it would actually reduce total government spending,” Trostel says.
Nonprofit and businesses leaders who funded the report, which was delivered last week to the Legislature, will hold a news conference Wednesday, May 29 at 9 a.m. in the Welcome Center of the Statehouse to request financial support for early learning.
Trostel says the report’s findings are bipartisan.
“It is bipartisan because investment in early childhood education makes sense in multiple dimensions,” he says. “If all one cares about is providing the best possible future for our children and grandchildren, investment in early childhood education makes sense. If one is concerned about reducing social injustice and creating greater equality, investment in early care and education makes sense. If one wants a safer world, investment in early childhood education makes sense. If one wishes to promote economic prosperity through greater education attainment and innovation, investment in early childhood development makes sense. Even if one only wants to reduce the size of government and taxes, investment in early childhood education makes sense.”
Considerable research has shown the years before children start kindergarten are the most crucial in terms of brain development and habits. Youth with access to premium early education are more likely to graduate on time, be employed, earn higher wages and avoid criminal behavior, says Trostel.
Thus, he says, providing high-quality developmental experiences for the youngest children in the state is an effective approach for guaranteeing long-term economic success.
Numerous fiscal benefits would result from providing low-income children from birth to age 4 with year-round, full-time high-quality services, Trostel says. More parents would be able to work and pay taxes; fewer interventions would be needed in the K-12 years, thus cutting taxpayer funding by $25,700 per child; and special education and juvenile corrections spending would also drop.
It’s more expensive to continue the current education funding model in Maine. Inadequate early childhood education spending results in costly and often times failed remedial efforts, says Trostel.
“Although some children who start behind catch up, and some who start down a promising path veer off, to a large extent life outcomes are determined by the trajectories created before children start school,” he says.
The report was funded by Eleanor Baker and Thomas Saturley, Bangor Savings Bank, The Betterment Fund, The Bingham Program, Jim and Jennifer Clair, Sam L. Cohen Foundation, Jeffrey and Marjorie Geiger, Gorham Savings Bank, The John T. Gorman Foundation, Hancock Lumber, The Maine Community Foundation, MMG Insurance, Susan and Jackson Parker, John and Sandy Peters, Paul Silsby, Meredith Strang Burgess, University of Maine, Unum, and WBRC Architects/Engineers.
Trostel’s report and a summary are available at melig.org.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
University of Maine economist Jim McConnon is cited in a Lewiston Sun Journal story on the new U.S. Census data that show Maine gained slighted and Massachusetts grew significantly.
Two entries from University of Maine graduate students have been submitted into the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program’s 2013 Video and Poster Competition.
Maureen Correll and Bjorn Grigholm, graduate students in the Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change IGERT program at UMaine, submitted a video and poster titled “Abrupt Climate Change in Atlantic Tidal Marsh Communities.”
Melinda Neville, a graduate student in the Sensor Science, Engineering, and Informatics (SSEI) IGERT program at UMaine, entered media for her project “Mercury (Hg) Research Ontology: Employing Informatics in Geochemistry.”
The contest is open to graduate students from IGERT programs across the country and invites them to share videos and posters describing their innovative and interdisciplinary research and its significance. The competition features 119 presentations made by students nominated from IGERT Ph.D. programs, the contest website states. Judging will be done by 50 IGERT faculty members who will announce 20–25 winners Friday, May 24. Community Choice and Public Choice winners will also be chosen. The general public can vote for their favorite entries online.
The videos submitted by the UMaine students can be seen online.
The Ecologist interviewed Bob Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, and Robert Steneck, professor in the School of Marine Sciences at UMaine’s Darling Center, for the article “Fishing the Gulf of Maine: Tradition at a Crossroads.” Bayer spoke about lobster bait while Steneck spoke about the complex Gulf of Maine ecosystem.
The Bangor Daily News spoke with Ian Bricknell, University of Maine marine biology professor, and graduate student Chris Roy about research being conducted on molded concrete boat moorings and their effect on the marine habitat.
WLBZ (Channel 2) recently spoke to Robert Steneck, professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine’s Darling Center, and Andrew Pershing, professor in the Gulf of Maine Research Institute at UMaine, about the warming temperatures in the Gulf of Maine and how they are effecting fishermen and scientists. Steneck talked about the effects on the lobster industry and Pershing focused on the warming temperatures and what that means for certain species.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network spoke with Rick Kersbergen, University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator on sustainable dairy and forage systems, about the return of small farms. Despite the decline of the family farm over the years, Kersbergen says interest in farming is at a record high in Maine.
A free exercise program designed to prevent and help reverse the symptoms of osteoporosis through strength training, balance exercises and health education is being offered in eight locations in eastern Maine by the University of Maine Center on Aging’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.
The RSVP Bone Builders Osteoporosis Exercise and Prevention Program, funded by a grant from the United Way of Eastern Maine, is an evidence-based program developed by Tufts University researchers who determined that adults can improve their strength and fitness at any age.
Researchers found a low-impact weight training exercise program can improve balance, bone density and muscle strength. These improvements, along with education that focuses on diet, medications and lifestyle can also help prevent the risk of falls.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone density decreases, making the bones thin and brittle and easily broken or fractured. One out of every two women and one out of every four men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Research indicates that proper exercise can stress and stimulate bones, increasing bone density and making bones stronger.
The exercise portion of the UMaine Bone Builders class helps improve overall balance and flexibility, which leads to more confidence in walking in different environments and rebounding from falls.
Another major element of the program is the education focusing not only on diet and medications for osteoporosis, but also lifestyle, which includes how to maintain a home, reach for objects on high shelves, or get in and out of a vehicle safely to avoid falls and fractures.
The Bone Builders program offers free hour-and-a-half-long classes twice a week for six-month sessions. Classes currently are running at the Women’s Health Resource Library in Milbridge, the Ellsworth Senior Center, Island Community Center in Stonington, Parker Ridge in Blue Hill, Avalon Village in Hampden, Sunbury Village in Bangor, Brewer’s Housing Authority, and the Old Town-Orono YMCA.
Classes are limited to 15 participants, and spots are currently available at the Brewer and Hampden locations.
Those who wish to attend must register and get medical clearance from a licensed health care provider.
RSVP members who have been trained by certified health and fitness consultant Kevin Dunton lead the Bone Builders classes. There are two volunteer lay leaders per class.
The exercises in the class range from warm-up and cool-down stretches to movements using hand and ankle weights.
“The RSVP staff and lay leaders are dedicated to providing class participants with a safe and comfortable atmosphere for an exercise regimen which can be adjusted to an individual’s condition whether or not they have engaged in regular exercise over the years,” Program Director Paula Burnett says.
The Center on Aging’s RSVP is one of three national senior service corps programs sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service whose “mission is to invest the skills and life experiences to make a difference for generations in Eastern Maine through volunteer service,” Burnett says.
For more information on how to participate or serve as a volunteer lay leader, call Paula Burnett, 207.262.7926.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
Pat and Barb Cyr of Millinocket slept in shifts after their daughter Courtney was born in 1992.
Courtney was diagnosed with impaired cognition function, cerebral palsy and autism, and she required constant care when she was awake, which was most of the time. Courtney slept a few hours a day, if that. Barb says when Courtney was 18 months old she was hospitalized and treated after barely closing her eyes for 11 days.
When Courtney was 3 and becoming more mobile, the couple sought to buy her a protective pediatric bed but their insurance company wouldn’t help with the purchase.
Soon after, Pat sketched a design of a special bed on a napkin while having lunch at Applebee’s. He tweaked the pattern, then built Courtney a 7-foot-long, 6-foot-high four-poster bed.
He used sturdy awning fabric — with built-in window netting — as side and end panels. The internal sleeping compartment was designed to keep Courtney from falling out of bed and wandering at night. The front panel had a large zippered opening. The hardwood frame was plenty sturdy to support her when she bounced. And the interior compartment was padded and tightly fitted to protect her from banging her head or burrowing under the mattress.
Courtney felt safe and was content in her special bed, Pat says. She slept more and so too did Pat and Barb.
In 2003, Great Northern Paper laid off 48-year-old Pat, and 1,400 other employees. Pat had been at the mill 30 years; he started soon after he graduated from Stearns High School. Pat loved being a beater engineer, mixing pulp with water, chemicals and dye to turn it into paper.
He knew the job and did it well.
While contemplating his future, Pat discovered he had a knack for repairing PCs; he fixed a computer that Barb had bought to use for her college classes. He subsequently enrolled and excelled in courses at Eastern Maine Community College, then started a computer repair business, ComputerFixx. The business, he says, is very enjoyable and thriving.
But his invention that had changed his family’s life wasn’t far from his mind. Pat realized if a bed could so drastically improve Courtney’s life, it could also help other families in similar circumstances.
He dusted off the napkin design and he and his cousin Ron Cyr, a furniture maker, began building “Courtney Beds.” After obtaining a patent and approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the design in 2008, they built and sold seven beds. In 2009, they built and sold seven more.
While Pat was confident in his and Ron’s carpentry skills and work ethic, he knew he needed help with a business plan. So he asked for it. U.S. Congressman Mike Michaud, who had previously worked 29 years at Great Northern Paper, listened.
In 2009, help arrived.
Michaud was instrumental in securing a $1.82 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to fund the Knowledge Transfer Alliance (KTA) at the University of Maine.
The grant, created to help communities and businesses like Cyr’s prevail through economic hardships caused by the Great Recession and natural disasters, has grown to assist all Maine companies seeking engineering, manufacturing or business expertise.
Hugh Stevens directs the KTA, which is overseen by George Criner, director of the School of Economics; and John Mahon, a professor in the Maine Business School.
UMaine business and economics students as well as faculty members from business, economics, engineering, UMaine Cooperative Extension, the Foster Center for Student Innovation and Forest Bioproducts Research Institute all pitch in.
“We get them (business owners) to the right place on their terms,” says Stevens of the KTA staff. “We’re serving them. It’s gratifying to help them through their rough spots.”
Pat says he received considerable free expert advice from the KTA, in particular from previous employees Bernardita Silva and Sue Medley. “They helped me create and facilitate my business acumen,” he says.
KTA provides a range of valuable services, including consulting, market and financial analyses, software training, website management, branding, sales strategy and production and accounting guidance.
That’s the goal of the initiative — to transfer the knowledge and information of UMaine professors and staff to Maine businesspeople.
Since 2009, Stevens says KTA has assisted about 300 Maine businesses. Its motto is “Helping Maine communities and business overcome hardships — one business at a time.”
Since utilizing KTA’s counsel, Pat has steadily increased the number of Courtney Beds he’s constructed and sold. After selling seven beds in 2009, he sold 16 in 2010; 37 in 2011; and 50 in 2012. Courtney Bed, Inc. now operates out of two shops with six employees.
Children in the United States, Canada and Australia are sleeping in Courtney Beds. Families from Israel, Japan, Mexico, Guatemala and most of Western Europe have inquired about the invention. Five families requested, and received help through the Make-A-Wish Foundation to purchase beds, Pat says.
Pat sells the FDA-approved hospital beds, which are comprised of 27 pieces of Maine ash, for $4,400.
The customer feedback, Pat says, is priceless. With each Courtney Bed he ships out the door, he knows he’s helping improve lives, one family at a time.
“Some folks have called and started crying,” Pat says. “They say they can’t believe how our bed has changed their lives.”
Pat says Courtney, who will be 21 in December, is thriving. She still sleeps in a bed named in her honor. “Barb and I have been God-blessed,” Pat says. “Courtney has a good life. She’s growing at her own pace and tee-hees and giggles much of every day.”
And she sleeps at night.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777