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

Forest Bioproducts Research Institute Cited in Working Waterfront Article

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

The University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) was mentioned in a Working Waterfront article about wood chips that will be shipped from Eastport to Killybegs, Ireland. Phyto-Charter LLC will be in charge of exporting the wood chips after heat treating them as required by the European Union, the article states. The company will phytosanitize the chips on board the shipping vessel with a heat-treating system developed with FBRI. Phyto-Charter recently received certification for its system, the first such certification in the U.S. for the wood chip product, according to Chris Gardner, port director.

Scientific American Interviews McCleave About Eels

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Scientific American spoke with James McCleave, a University of Maine professor emeritus of marine sciences and a leading expert on eels, for the article “Glass eel gold rush casts Maine fishermen against scientists.” Maine fishermen have been catching glass eels, or elvers, and selling them at modest market prices for years, but demand from Asia has caused prices to skyrocket, according to the article. Some fisheries biologists are now worried about the eel’s survival because of a decline in population, the article states. “We’re supposed to manage fisheries on the precautionary principle. If the trend is down, we don’t say it’s OK,” McCleave said, adding eels were once abundant in East Coast freshwater ecosystems. He called eels a “keystone species,” and cautioned that if they are removed, many predator–prey relationships will fall apart. The Maine Public Broadcasting Network also cited the Scientific American article.

UMaine Researchers Studying Availability of Iron in Ocean, Primary Production

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Understanding why phytoplankton — the base of the food web — are not able to use all the iron in seawater is the focus of a three-year study by University of Maine researchers.

Mark Wells, a marine science professor at UMaine, is leading the project that will look at how the chemistry of iron in seawater is controlled by tiny particles, where the particles are most important, and how the chemistry of the particles affects the ability of phytoplankton to grow on iron in seawater.

Oceans contribute about 50 percent of the world’s photosynthesis, with the majority coming from marine phytoplankton, Wells says. The growth of the single-celled organisms in many ocean regions is limited by the availability of micronutrient iron.

The researchers will meld chemistry, physics and biology to learn more about dissolved iron in the ocean that is tied up in colloidal particles, which are too small for gravity to control, and therefore don’t sink in seawater.

“The question is whether the marine colloids are releasing iron, or gathering it up, and this pattern almost certainly will change for different waters,” Wells says. “It is like a Tic Tac container. The Tic Tacs are there but you have to wait for the container to release them before you can eat them.”

Bioavailable iron is an essential nutrient for shaping the distribution and composition of marine phytoplankton production, as well as the magnitude of ocean carbon export, the researchers say. Iron exists in many phases in the ocean and colloidal, or nonsoluble, phases account for a significant portion of dissolved iron.

The colloidal phase of iron may serve as a biological source of stored iron, according to the researchers, but the physical and chemical characteristics of these phases are presently poorly understood.

“We know the particles are there, but we haven’t had the techniques to really see them in a technical way, and that’s what makes this project unique,” Wells says.

To better understand this key part of iron cycling, researchers will use new analytical chemistry methods to quantitatively separate the colloidal iron sizes present in a sample and measure the composition of the colloidal portions in shelf and oceanic waters.They will use flow field-flow fractionation (flow FFF) with multi-angle laser light scattering to make measurements of the uniformity or uniqueness of the colloidal size spectrum, as well as the physical and chemical characteristics of the phases. Flow FFF, according to Wells, uses flow in thin streams along a membrane to separate small particles by size.

“Researchers in the past have just used filters, but filters aren’t a very efficient way to separate size,” Wells says.

Using this method will allow the researchers to learn more about the shape, size range and chemical composition of the particles.

“A mixture of particle sizes go in one end of the channel but particles come out the other in order of their size. We can use the method to determine what particle sizes have the most iron in them,” Wells says.

The findings will aid future studies to better link the source and fate of iron in the marine environment, according to the researchers, who also expect the project will have broad implications in the fields of marine ecology and biogeochemistry and to modeling studies of ocean-atmospheric coupling and climate change.

“This study will help us understand where iron will be more available and less available in the oceans, which will help us understand why ocean productivity is lower in some areas than others,” Wells says.

The project, “Assessment of the colloidal iron size spectrum in coastal and oceanic waters” recently received a $269,334 grant from the National Science Foundation.

A former UMaine postdoctoral researcher, who is now a Texas A&M University professor, will serve as a principal investigator on the project that also will support the education and research training of one undergraduate student each year. The researchers plan to conduct outreach activities to K–12 students and teachers.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Advancing Marine Farming

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

A $20 million National Science Foundation EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant will establish a Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program in Maine.

Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine will use the grant to mobilize the collective capacity of Maine’s coastal science resources to establish SEANET, a research network focused on sustainable ecological aquaculture. SEANET will take a multi-institutional, transdisciplinary research approach to gain a comprehensive understanding of how sustainable ecological aquaculture can interact with coastal communities and ecosystems.

This multi-institutional, public-private partnership led by UMaine, in collaboration with the University of New England and other institutions in Maine, will use the state’s 3,500-mile coastline as a living laboratory to study physical oceanography, biophysical, biogeochemical, socioeconomic and policy interactions that have local, bioregional, national and global implications.

Maine has multiple institutions with world-class expertise in marine sciences, engineering, climate change and social sciences. The SEANET research partners will initially include UMaine, UNE, University of Southern Maine, University of Maine at Machias, Bowdoin College, Maine Maritime Academy, St. Joseph’s College, Southern Maine Community College, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the Cobscook Community Learning Center. In addition, dozens of other partners and stakeholder groups will collaborate on the project’s research, education, workforce development and economic development activities.

The SEANET research program will utilize the field of sustainability science to understand the social and environmental connections, and feedback loops among sustainable ecological aquaculture and coastal communities and coastal ecosystems.

“This research project will use various types of science to understand how aquaculture fits in our multi-use working waterfront, while building partnerships and training students, so that we can use similar approaches to other coastal resource management issues in the future.” said Paul Anderson, director of SEANET at the University of Maine.

“I am delighted that the National Science Foundation selected Maine EPSCoR for this Research Infrastructure Improvement grant,” said Sen. Susan Collins. “Through tourism, commercial fishing, and sea farming, our state’s economy is highly dependent on the ecological well-being of the Gulf of Maine. This grant will help fund the vital research performed by faculty and students at the University of Maine and its partners at other research and education institutions in the state as they seek to find new ways to support the cultural and economic traditions of Maine’s working waterfronts and assist local governments in making informed decisions regarding coastal usage.”

“This award is great news for the university, its partners, and indeed, the entire state of Maine,” said Sen. Angus King. “This important funding will help establish a new and innovative network of experts who will work together to advance our understanding of Maine’s working waterfronts, which are a vital part of our state’s economy. It will also benefit countless students who will gain valuable research and field experience, making this a win for everyone involved. I look forward to seeing the good work it will support.”

Rep. Mike Michaud said: “This significant investment is wonderful news for the University of Maine, all of those involved with EPSCoR, and the entire state. Maine has established itself as a leader in innovation when it comes to better understanding how we can both support our valuable ecosystems and ensure they are strong drivers of our economy, and I’m excited that this grant will further that work. I know this grant will allow that innovation to continue, and I look forward to following the project.”

“The coast of Maine is not only a big part of our economy but it’s an important part of what makes our state unique,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree. “Our history and our future are wrapped up in our coastline, and this grant is going to help us better understand the risks and opportunities for our coastal economy. It’s a big investment in the university and coastal communities that will pay big dividends in the future.”

University of Maine President Susan Hunter affirmed the project’s importance, saying, “This NSF grant recognizes the leadership and contribution of University of Maine scholars and students who aim to support coastal ecosystems, economies, and communities by promoting sustainable policies and practices in Maine.”

University of New England President Danielle Ripich said, “UNE is committed to building research and programs to support the marine economy of Maine. This public-private partnership brings two great institutions together to improve our coastal enterprises. Together with all the partners, we can do good things for Maine.”

EPSCoR is a federal program directed at states that have historically received less federal research and development funding. The program provides states with financial support to develop partnerships between their higher education institutions, industry, government, and others in order to effect lasting improvements in its research and development infrastructure, capacity, and national academic competitiveness. Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine is responsible for administering and implementing the NSF EPSCoR program for the state.

The National Science Foundation release is online.

More information about Maine EPSCoR is online.

Contact: Andrea Littlefield, 207.581.2289

Media Report on $18M Grant Awarded to Network for Biomedical Research, Workforce Training

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

The Associated Press, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, WLBZ (Channel 2), WABI (Channel 5) and WVII (Channel 7) reported on an event held at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor on Aug. 4 where Sen. Susan Collins joined leaders from colleges and research institutions across Maine as well as dozens of Maine college students to celebrate the receipt of an $18.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The five-year award aims to strengthen biomedical research and hands-on workforce training in Maine through the continuation of the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), a collaborative network of 13 Maine research institutions, universities and colleges led by the MDI Biological Laboratory. The University of Maine and UMaine’s Honors College are part of the network. Anne Campbell, who graduated from UMaine in 2012 with degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, spoke with MPBN about her experience with the program. As a member of UMaine’s Honors College, she took a weeklong course at MDI Bio Lab on functional genomics, which was paid for by Maine INBRE. Campbell said during that course she met her thesis adviser, and was able to develop a thesis project. The Portland Press Herald carried the AP report.

Maine Edge Publishes Report on Extreme Weather Events Research

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

The Maine Edge published a report about University of Maine scientists working with agencies to improve the accuracy of forecasts of hurricanes, superstorms, blizzards and floods that endanger people and animals and destroy property. UMaine received $1.5 million of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s $5.5 million award to increase the precision of predictions of extreme weather events and coastal flooding in the northeastern United States. “This project allows us to develop rapid response capability and deploy ocean observing assets before extreme weather events, and use these targeted observations to constrain ocean models and issue timely forecasts for coastal cities and towns in the Northeast United States,” said Fei Chai, professor and director of UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, and one of four university co-investigators taking part.

Sen. Collins, Researchers Celebrate $18M Grant for Biomedical Research, Workforce Training

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Sen. Susan Collins joined leaders from colleges and research institutions across Maine as well as dozens of Maine college students at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor on Aug. 4 to celebrate the receipt of an $18.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The five-year award aims to strengthen biomedical research and hands-on workforce training in Maine through the continuation of the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), a collaborative network of 13 Maine research institutions, universities and colleges led by the MDI Biological Laboratory. The University of Maine and UMaine’s Honors College are part of the network.

“The INBRE program is a powerful instrument for bringing educational institutions from Fort Kent to South Portland together to build on their collective strengths and help our state be more competitive nationally,” Collins said at the event. “Since it began in 2001, INBRE has brought more than $100 million in federal funds into Maine. It has strengthened our state’s research infrastructure and trained more than 2,000 Maine students in biomedical research techniques.”

The full MDI Biological Laboratory news release is online.

Bayer Quoted in National Geographic Article on Rare Calico Lobsters

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Robert Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, was interviewed for a National Geographic article about a rare calico lobster that was caught in Maine. Even though the chance of finding a calico lobster is estimated to be between 1 in 30 million and 1 in 50 million, according to the article, Bayer said he thinks calicos may be more common than people think. “I’ve seen quite a few of them,” said Bayer. “I’ve seen more calicos than any other color variant.” Bayer said how a calico lobster gets its spotted shell is poorly understood, but he thinks the cause may be more environmental than genetic.

WLBZ Covers Ocean Acidification Committee Meeting

Monday, August 4th, 2014

WLBZ (Channel 2) reported on the first meeting of the Maine Ocean Acidification Committee, which was held at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole. The committee is studying the effects of ocean acidification on the state’s environment and economy. Rep. Mick Devin, a UMaine marine biologist who sponsored the legislation creating the panel, said researchers are looking at potential localized remedies, including planting more eel grass or kelp near shellfish beds, so the plants will absorb more of the carbon dioxide. More widespread solutions, he added, will require major global changes to reduce carbon emissions. Boothbay Register also reported on the meeting.

UMaine Data Cited in AP Article on Lobster Monitoring

Monday, August 4th, 2014

The Associated Press cited University of Maine research in an article about marine scientists and lobster harvesters saying some fishermen may be abandoning a key conservation method, called v-notching, which requires lobstermen to mark the tail of any egg-bearing lobster they catch and let it go. State officials say about 66 percent of egg-bearing females surveyed in 2013 were v-notched, down from nearly 80 percent in 2008. The article states that according to an annual UMaine survey of young lobsters in 11 locations in the Gulf of Maine, the number of young lobsters found in 2013 was less than half what was found in 2007. Yahoo News and the Daily Reporter carried the AP report.