Archive for the ‘News Releases’ Category

Clark Professor to Discuss Role of Women in War

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

An award-winning scholar specializing in feminism, politics and global affairs will talk about the role of women in war at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, in Minsky Recital Hall at the University of Maine.

Clark University political scientist Cynthia Enloe will discuss “Where are Women in Violent Conflicts? Finding out will Make us Smarter!” She plans to address situations in Syria, Ukraine, Gaza and Israel during the free, public lecture.

“I think it’s important to learn where the women are in war and where the men are in war,” she says. “They are quite different experiences.”

In 2011 in Syria, women were active in open pro-democracy protests against the Assad regime, Enloe says. Today, she says, women are absent from media coverage in Syria except in photographs of displaced people.

Enloe also will talk with students, staff and community members during a meet-and-greet reception 2–3:30 p.m. Sept. 16, in the FFA Room in Memorial Union.

Her interest in global affairs was cultivated by reading the New York Herald Tribune and The New York Times delivered to her parents’ doorstep in Long Island, New York.

“I think that really had an effect on me — both in the sense of keeping up with what is going on in the world and wanting to become part of the world,” Enloe says.

She has done both. Her career has included Fulbrights in Malaysia and Guyana; guest professorships in Japan, Britain and Canada; and lectures in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Korea and Turkey. She also has authored more than a dozen books.

Enloe says she was drawn to books about foreign policy when she worked at a publishing company in New York after earning an undergraduate degree at Connecticut College for Women. At the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her master’s and doctorate degrees, Enloe says a seminar on Southeast Asia further piqued her interest.

“I was off and running,” she says.

Stefano Tijerina, Libra Professor of International Relations at UMaine, invited Enloe to share her expertise with UMaine and the surrounding community.

He credits her with opening his eyes and mind to comparative politics and to issues of social justice during his undergraduate classes at Clark, where Enloe has three times received the Outstanding Teacher Award.

Tijerina, who grew up in Colombia and Texas, says Enloe promotes examining topics from a variety of angles and perspectives — including culture, race, gender and class — to gain deeper appreciation and understanding.

Enloe’s honors include the International Studies Association’s Susan Strange Award, the Susan B. Northcutt Award and the Peace and Justice Studies Association’s Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lecture sponsors are the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; School of Policy and International Affairs; and UMaine’s History and Political Science departments.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Fantastic Migrants

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Saturday, Sept. 6 is World Shorebirds’ Day — a time to celebrate “fantastic migrants.” For biologists Rebecca Holberton and Lindsay Tudor, nearly every day is World Shorebirds’ Day.

They’re in the midst of a two-year study of one of those fantastic migrants — the semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla). Named for the short webs between their toes, the small sandpipers scurry synchronously on black stilt-like legs, “cherking” and searching for food on the shore.

This year, like last, Holberton, a professor at the University of Maine, and Tudor, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W), are conducting health assessments and placing “nano tags” — or very small VHF radio transmitters — on sandpipers.

By monitoring the semipalmated sandpipers’ movements, the scientists learn more about the birds’ stay on the Maine coast during their migration from the Arctic to South America.

In 2013, the first year of the study, Holberton, Tudor and UMaine graduate student Sean Rune learned that during the sandpipers’ stopover in Down East, Maine, they moved between feeding sites along upper Pleasant River, upper Harrington River and Flat Bay during low tide and roosted on offshore ledges at high tide.

Hatching-year birds ate and rested an average of 17.5 days in Maine and adults stayed an average of 12.4 days. Adult semipalmated sandpipers weighed, on average, 5 grams more than hatching-year birds on their first migration.

The young sandpipers, on their first migration and new to this area, may have needed more time to gain enough weight for the energy reserves they needed to fly nonstop to their wintering grounds, Holberton says.

Tudor says it’s easy to be a fan of the little balls of fluff that nearly double their body weight to a hefty 1.4 ounces while resting and refueling during their two- to three-week time in Maine.

When the peeps have packed on sufficient weight, they soar 10,000 to 15,000 feet above the Maine coastline to head out over the ocean and catch a good tail wind. If all goes well, they’ll arrive in South America two to four days later.

One of the species’ many talents — in addition to making their way back to their exact same wintering site each season — is the ability to break down lipids in their fat-filled fuel tank under the skin to power their nonstop 3,000-mile journey over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sandpipers don’t put down in the ocean as they can’t tolerate the cold water, says Tudor, which makes their stay on the Maine coast critical to a successful final leg of their uninterrupted migratory flight to South America.

“When in Maine, they’re our (the public) responsibility, our birds,” Tudor says.” We want to know if the habitat (in Maine) is meeting the birds’ needs.”

Studies indicate that since the 1970s the number of these feathered vertebrates has plummeted 80 percent in North America, Tudor says.

The population decline isn’t exclusive to semipalmated sandpipers. Globally, one in eight, or more than 1,300 bird species, are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International as reported in National Geographic.

This project increases the researchers’ knowledge about reasons for the nosedive in numbers of semipalmated sandpipers and points to which of its life stages are most perilous.

Semipalmated sandpipers face a variety of challenges, Holberton and Tudor say, including climate change in the Arctic where they breed, loss of coastal habitat along their migration route, and being the target of hunters on the coast of South America where they winter.

The 5-to-6-inch-tall birds are opportunists that feed on intertidal invertebrates at the interface of land and sea. Thus, they’re an indicator species for the health of mudflats as well as sentinels for the natural world in general, Holberton says.

“The Gulf of Maine ecosystem is really facing challenges,” Holberton says. “We share resources and if birds are in trouble then so are we. This is another piece of the puzzle.”

The research, funded by Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Eastern Maine Conservation Initiative, Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, utilizes 50 automated VHF telemetry receiver towers that range from the Bay of Fundy to Cape Cod.

The nano tags and towers enable the scientists to track the birds when they arrive in Maine and when they leave. Data is fed into a repository coordinated by Phil Taylor at Acadia University.

Tudor and Holberton are pleased the semipalmated sandpipers’ project has expanded; this summer, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is conducting similar research at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells. Comparing the data from Down East with data from southern Maine will be interesting and insightful, says Tudor.

The MDIF&W reviews permits for shoreland development and makes recommendations for conservation management plans for high-value habitats. Tudor says it’s important to know if the initiatives are working and whether birds’ needs are being met.

Using binoculars to watch migrating sandpipers and other shorebirds is a great way to celebrate World Shorebirds’ Day, say the scientists; it’s important for people, and dogs, to give them space so they can eat and rest for their upcoming journey.

Tudor and Holberton encourage bird enthusiasts to participate in bird counts and to contact their local Audubon Society for suggestions on ways to assist birds. Holberton invites bird watchers to like the Gulf of Maine Birdwatch page on Facebook.

Contact: Beth Staples: 207.581.3777

Weathering the Storm

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Old-timers sharing childhood stories about growing up in Maine sometimes recount hiking 10 miles uphill in 3 feet of snow to get to school — and home.

Turns out those tales, of Maine winters anyway, might not be all that exaggerated.

In the winter of 1904–05, horses pulled huge saws to cut channels in foot-thick ice on Penobscot Bay so maritime traders could deliver goods. And in the winter of 1918, people walked, skated and rode in horse-drawn sleighs across the frozen bay to Islesboro, according to the Belfast Historical Society and Museum.

That same winter, Albert Gray and his companions drove a vehicle across the frozen-solid brine. According to a Bangor Daily News report, the group made several trips in a Ford Model T between Belfast and Harborside, just south of Castine.

Historical records indicate upper Penobscot Bay commonly froze during the winter in the 1800s and early 1900s, says Sean Birkel, research assistant professor with the University of Maine Climate Change Institute (CCI). “Not every year; maybe once or twice a decade.”

February 1934 was the last time it occurred.

Today’s climate is different, he says.

For instance, summer — when the mean daily temperature is above freezing — is about 20 days longer now than it was on average in the late 1800s.

“The lakes really do freeze up later, and ice out is earlier than it used to be,” says Birkel, adding that computer models predict that over the next 40 years, the average temperature in Maine could rise 3–4 degrees Fahrenheit, with most of the warming taking place in winter.

And the number of extreme weather events — like the record-breaking 6.44 inches of rain that flooded Portland on Aug. 13 — has spiked in the last 10 years. Birkel says a 50 to 100 percent increase in rainfall events with more than 2 inches per day has been recorded at weather stations across the state.

The rise of extreme events, including heat and cold waves, is likely tied to the steep decline of Arctic sea ice since about 2000, Birkel says. Studies show rapid warming over the Arctic is changing circulation patterns across the Northern Hemisphere.

In particular, jet stream winds are slowing, which increases the likelihood of blocking events that hold a weather pattern — including heat and cold waves — in place for several days, he says. When blocked patterns finally dissipate, they tend to do so with powerful storm fronts.

Computer models generally predict that in the future, extreme weather events will be the norm, he says.

Birkel and other CCI researchers have developed online tools to assist local community planners prepare for climate changes. The tools — Climate Reanalyzer, 10Green and CLAS Layers — will be explained at the CLAS (Climate Change Adaptation and Sustainability) Conference on Thursday, Oct. 23 at UMaine.

The tools provide users access to station data, climate and weather models, and pollution and health indices, he says.

Paul Mayewski, director of UMaine’s CCI, says the CLAS software explains past, present and future changes in climate at the community level and introduces a “planning system that invokes plausible scenarios at the community level where local knowledge can be applied to produce local solutions.”

For instance, city leaders considering opening a cooling center for residents can review projections for future frequency of heat waves. Medical care workers can assess the potential for increase in Lyme tick disease. And community planners preparing to replace storm water drains can examine predicted precipitation in coming decades.

Esperanza Stancioff, climate change educator with UMaine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant, says coastal residents and communities need strategies to address sea-level rise and coastal flooding which will result, in part, to melting glaciers and polar ice caps.

UMaine Extension and Maine Sea Grant are among those working with coastal community leaders to help minimize potential hazards to fisheries, aquaculture, working waterfronts and tourism by implementing resilient coastal development strategies and practices, Stancioff says.

Ivan Fernandez, Distinguished Maine Professor in the School of Forest Resources and CCI, says understanding how Maine’s climate is changing is critical for informed risk assessment and cost-effective adaptation.

Warming of the Gulf of Maine impacts the risk of lobster disease as well as market uncertainty, Fernandez says. He points to summer 2012 when warming ocean water resulted in a glut of lobsters and a subsequent bust in prices. In agriculture, rising temperatures can result in an increase of insects and disease, Fernandez says, as well as crop damage and soil erosion due to intense precipitation events.

Opportunities also could result from the changing climate, says Fernandez, including longer growing seasons and emerging shipping lanes in the Arctic Sea due to the receding of the polar ice sheet.

It’s important for businesses to prepare for such changes, says conference presenter John F. Mahon, the John M. Murphy Chair of International Business Policy and Strategy and Professor of Management at UMaine.

“Business has to be engaged with government and other organizations at the local and national level,” says Mahon.

“One of the more useful tools for doing this is the use of plausible scenario planning (PSP). In PSP, we try to envision several plausible futures with equal likelihood of happening and develop a set of ‘warnings’ or ‘indicators’ that tell us which one of the several futures we have identified is unfolding so that we can adapt to it in the most efficient, economical and effective manner.”

On a global scale, Mayewski says climate change is a security issue, as it “impacts human and ecosystem health, the economy; intensifies geopolitical stress; and increases the likelihood of storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and other extreme events.”

In 2012, for instance, 11 weather and climate disasters worldwide killed more than 300 people and caused more than $110 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. The disasters included Hurricane Sandy and the largest drought since the 1930s — which also worsened wildfires that burned more than 9 million acres.

The CLAS framework soon will be expanded to encompass national and international planning capability, says Mayewski, who was featured in Years of Living Dangerously, a nine-part documentary about climate change that Aug. 16 won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.

The CLAS conference, slated from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 23 at Wells Conference Center, costs $45; registration is required by Oct. 13 at online.

Contact: Beth Staples: 207.581.3777

Investment in UMaine

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Young men and women discuss investment strategies as they scrutinize real-time electronic trading and commodities data scrolling across numerous screens. In a scene right out of Wall Street, students examine global, up-to-the-second energy prices, stocks and bonds, interest rates and supply chain analysis, honing skills they’ll be able to employ in financial firms in New York City and around the world.

That’s what Gerard S. Cassidy intended when he created the Capital Markets Training Laboratory in the Maine Business School at the University of Maine.

Cassidy, who graduated from UMaine in 1980 with a dual degree in accounting and finance, knows the world of capital markets well.

He’s managing director of equity research at the Portland, Maine-based RBC Capital Markets. At the investment bank with offices in 15 countries he provides banking and regional economic research to clients. He’s also president of BancAnalysts Association of Boston, Inc. and he created Texas Ratio, a formula investors use to determine the financial health of banks.

The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, CNN, BNN and National Public Radio utilize him as an expert source about banking, stocks and economic issues.

Cassidy wants other UMaine graduates to be able to have similar opportunities, so he donated a gift to make the state-of-the-art financial education lab possible. Thursday, Sept. 18, the Gerard S. Cassidy ’80 Capital Markets Training Laboratory will be dedicated in his honor.

“I was fortunate to get a solid foundation in accounting and finance here at UMaine,” says Cassidy, who lettered in football for the Black Bears. UMaine is also where he met education major Elaine Conley ’78. The two married and live in Cumberland Foreside, Maine.

“I hope that this new laboratory will bring a Wall Street environment to UMaine students and that they might benefit from exposure to a part of the business world they might not otherwise experience.”

The lab provides a variety of business educational experiences for the 950 undergraduate and graduate students and 26 faculty members in the Maine Business School (MBS) as well as for numerous other students and staff members in other disciplines.

It’s also an ideal facility to conduct portfolio management for the University of Maine Foundation, construct business models for commercializing UMaine products and analyze energy pricing for the University of Maine System.

“We are so grateful to Gerard for his generosity,” says Ivan Manev, dean of the Maine Business School.

“The new lab will be an important resource for our students and the whole university. It will help us teach business at a truly world-class level and demonstrates our commitment to revitalizing the state, which is Pathway 1 of the University of Maine’’s strategic plan.”

The lab, which measures 26 feet by 20 feet, includes two 70-inch monitors for Bloomberg data — “real-time global financial and market data, pricing, trading, news and communications tools.”

Nine leased Bloomberg data feeds supply an instructor’s workstation and eight dual-monitor stations that can be utilized simultaneously by as many as 16 students.

“Upon graduation, many of our students will accept a position where being Bloomberg-savvy on day one is a real plus and is likely to give them an advantage over their contemporaries who have not previously had this experience,” says Robert Strong, University Foundation Professor of Investment Education, professor of finance and SPIFFY (Student Portfolio Investment Fund) adviser.

One wall-mounted monitor is designated for the SPIFFY portfolio. In the early 1990s, the University of Maine Foundation contributed $200,000 to start a fund so students could apply financial knowledge they gleaned in the classroom to real-world investing.

Today, Strong advises the group of about 70 SPIFFY students who, after weekly presentations and research, make trades through a broker. The SPIFFY fund now totals $2.3 million in value.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

More Than 2,000 First-Year Students to Participate in Community Projects

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

More than 2,000 first-year University of Maine students are expected to volunteer for community projects as part of the fifth annual UMaine Welcome Weekend Day of Service on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 30.

The Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism and First Year Residential Experience offer the Welcome Weekend Day of Service on the first weekend students are at UMaine to give them an opportunity to participate in volunteer activities at community organizations in the Old Town, Orono and Bangor areas.

“Community service is an important part of the culture at the University of Maine,” says Lisa Morin, coordinator of the Bodwell Center. “These projects give the students time to bond with others from their residence hall, allows us to show them how community service will enhance their UMaine experience, and provides valuable assistance to community organizations.”

Led by 150 UMaine students, faculty and staff, first-year students will participate in at least 60 different local, regional and international service projects both on and off campus.

Projects include painting at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter; washing Down East Emergency Medical Institute (DEEMI) vehicles in Orono; grounds work at Hirundo Wildlife Refuge in Alton, Leonard’s Mills/Maine Forest and Logging Museum in Bradley, Orono Bog Boardwalk and Maine Veterans’ Home in Bangor; Penobscot River cleanup; and packing meal, hygiene and school kits on campus.

Last year, approximately 1,800 first-year students volunteered for nearly 60 projects and logged 3,992 hours of service.

For more information, contact Morin at 581.1796 or lisa.morin@umit.maine.edu.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

JAMA Taps UMaine Psychology Researcher for Commentary on Potential for Medical Marijuana to Save Lives

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The potential for medical marijuana to curb the growing incidence of opioid analgesic-associated deaths is the focus of an invited commentary in the Aug. 25 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), co-authored by a University of Maine psychology researcher and a physician at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

The invited commentary, “Legalization of Medical Marijuana and Incidence of Opioid Mortality,” by Marie Hayes, a UMaine professor of psychology, and Dr. Mark Brown, chief of pediatrics and director of nurseries at EMMC, references a study in the same JAMA issue examining the link between medical marijuana laws and unintentional overdose mortality from opioid analgesics.

This is the second time in the past two years that Hayes has been tapped for commentary by JAMA as a result of her research on substance-exposed newborns. And in 2013, she also was the co-author on a JAMA research paper.

“The striking implication is that medical marijuana laws, when implemented, may represent a promising approach for stemming runaway rates of nonintentional opioid analgesic-related deaths,” write Hayes and Brown.

Use of medical marijuana to lessen the drive to use opiates at lethal levels in individuals with psychiatric, nonpain-related conditions is particularly promising, the Maine researchers write. That’s critically important for states like Maine, where the rates of opioid analgesic overdose deaths are high, and addiction and related psychiatric disorders represent an estimated 50 percent of opioid analgesic-related deaths.

The question that needs more study, says Hayes, is whether marijuana provides improved pain control that decreases opioid dosing to safer levels.

Since 2009, research led by Hayes and Brown has included the collection of genetic data as part of a longitudinal study of mothers and their substance-exposed newborns. In 2011, Hayes and Brown began collaborating with Drs. Jonathan Davis and Elisha Wachman at Tufts Medical Center to determine which genes would be most helpful in predicting severity of withdrawal symptoms and, ultimately, most effective treatments and lengths of hospital stays.

Their research is part of a $3 million, multi-institution National Institutes of Health (NIH) study led by Davis at Tufts Medical Center and Barry Lester at Brown Medical School. Hayes is a member of the steering committee on the associated clinical trial, providing expertise on genetic polymorphisms and developmental outcomes in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) infants.

The first findings of the collaborative research with Wachman and Davis at Tufts Medical Center, and Hayes on the genetics of neonatal abstinence syndrome were reported in JAMA in 2013. The research team also included Jonathan Paul, a former UMaine doctoral researcher under Hayes who helped develop the genetic model and who is now an NIH postdoc at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

A year ago, JAMA featured an editorial by Hayes and Brown, “The Epidemic of Prescription Opiate Abuse and Neonatal Abstinence,” detailing the challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, cautioning against defunding maternal treatment programs, and calling for stepped-up research into effective medications and other protocols.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

UMaine Sociologist Says Age, Maturity and Experience Influence Perceptions of Workplace Interactions

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

When it comes to recognizing instances of sexual harassment in the workplace, age is a fundamental factor in shaping individuals’ perceptions of interactions, according to a University of Maine sociologist.

Amy Blackstone, an associate professor of sociology and chairwoman of UMaine’s Sociology Department, found age is important because how perceptions shift over time links to several age-related processes such as maturity and historical context.

“When it comes to how we understand harassment and how we respond to it, age, maturity and experience matter,” Blackstone says. “Our study suggests that employers should consider tailoring harassment training and interventions to the specific needs and experiences of workers at different life course stages.”

Blackstone worked with Jason Houle, a UMaine alumnus who is now an assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, and Christopher Uggen, a Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, to examine how perceptions of sexual harassment at work are linked to an individual’s age, experience and historical backdrop.

The findings were documented in the article, “‘I didn’t recognize it as a bad experience until I was much older’: Age, experience, and workers’ perceptions of sexual harassment,” which was published in June in the Mid-South Sociological Association’s journal “Sociological Spectrum.”

As many as 70 percent of women and 1 in 7 men experience sexual harassment at work, according to previous findings cited in the article. To study changes in perceptions of related experiences, the researchers analyzed data from 33 women and men who were surveyed over the course of 14 years and interviewed in 2002 about their workplace experiences from adolescence into their late 20s.

Three themes emerged among participants: As adolescents, respondents perceived some of the sexualized interactions they experienced at work as fun; while participants did not define some of their early experiences as sexual harassment at the time, they do now; and participants suggested prior work experiences changed their ideas about workplace interactions and themselves as workers.

The researchers used data from interviews with 33 participants in the Youth Development Study (YDS), a longitudinal survey of 1,010 adolescents in Minnesota that began in 1988, when respondents were 14–15 years old and in ninth grade, the article states. In the 2000 administration of the survey, when respondents were 26–27 years old, they were asked if they experienced sexual harassment in jobs held during and since high school. In 2002, when respondents were 28–29 years old, the researchers interviewed 14 men and 19 women of varying races.

Looking back at jobs held during adolescence, the majority of interviewees recast some of their early workplace experiences as sexual harassment, but said flirting and other sexually charged behaviors were considered normal interactions because they were at a point in life when sociability was believed to be an important aspect of the work experience. The participants also viewed some interactions as acceptable for adolescents but inappropriate for adults, the researchers found.

While some respondents attributed their shift in perceptions to role or status changes — growing older, marriage or parenthood — others cited the importance of historical context and landmark sexual harassment cases that altered workplace policies and garnered national attention, according to the article.

Public consciousness about sexual harassment may have heightened during the time participants were in high school, the researchers suggest, as a result of high-profile events such as the 1991 televised hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that included amendments to Title VII that allowed for compensatory damages in cases of sex discrimination.

Interviewees reported that at least some of the sexualized interactions they experienced at work were not perceived as problematic because the interactions occurred among peers. Several participants said they enjoyed some of the workplace flirting and joking.

One participant said she and her co-workers at an an ice cream shop talked about sex because most of the workers were ‘‘at the age where people are starting to become sexually active so that’s a big deal.’’

Upon reflection, some respondents said they have redefined some experiences during adolescence as sexual harassment, and some participants — both men and women — felt they may have offended co-workers in the past, according to the researchers.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggest sexual harassment training and policies would be most effective if they were better tailored to workers at particular life stages, and further research should be considered.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

UMaine Named to 2014 Top Campuses Worth Traveling For List

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

The University of Maine was named one of the 2014 Top Campuses Worth Traveling For by FlipKey.com, the vacation rental company of travel site TripAdvisor.

The company used industry research and traveler feedback to compile the list of the country’s 50 must-see colleges and universities known for attractions, architecture, history and beautiful campuses.

UMaine was included on the list, specifically for the campus plan that was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed the grounds of New York City’s Central Park and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Other universities that made the list include Notre Dame, John Hopkins University, MIT, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Duke University and Cornell University.

Researchers Advise Proactive Approach to Land Protection in Northern New England

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Since 1800 — two decades before the Pine Tree state existed as a state — the most rapid rate of land protection in northern New England (NNE) occurred from 1999 to 2010.

Forty-four percent of all the protected area (PA) in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire was added during those 11 years, says Spencer Meyer, former associate scientist for forest stewardship with the University of Maine Center for Research on Sustainable Forests.

Conservation easements on privately owned land fueled an abrupt increase in the protection rate from 1999 to 2010, he says. Conservation easements became financially appealing to both landowners and conservationists who partnered to save landscapes from development to ensure forests and ecosystem services — including water purification — remained intact.

For example, in 2001, the Pingree Forest Partnership — a landmark working forest conservation project — was forged. The 762,192 protected acres is bigger than all of Rhode Island and is still the largest of its kind in the nation.

The 11-year span from 1999 to 2010 was one of three distinct eras of PA growth, says Meyer, who earned his Ph.D. at UMaine in 2014. The other two were 1800–1979 and 1980–1999. All, he says, are characterized by new policies and an expansion of conservation tools.

To inform successful future conservation planning, a research team led by Meyer sought to explore socioeconomic and policy factors that influenced the rate, type and distribution of previous land protection.

“It is important to take pause occasionally and revisit our past,” he says. “This conservation history research was especially rewarding because it gave us a chance to examine how much has already been accomplished by conservationists. The frequent innovation and accelerating protection we have documented bodes well for the future of ecosystems and people in the region.”

Researchers found there has been a “significant influence of expanded policy and economic drivers guiding protection” and that it is important to develop “new conservation innovations for achieving future gains in protection.”

Short-term constraints — including real estate market conditions — impact conservation action, says Meyer, now a NatureNet Fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he collaborates with The Nature Conservancy.

Thus, the team recommends that conservation groups focus on priority areas and take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to protection, and be ready to capitalize on financial market conditions that make large conservation deals attractive to landowners.

Much of NNE is privately owned, Meyer reports; 16 percent of New Hampshire is federally or state owned, while eight percent of Vermont and five percent of Maine are. All three states are heavily forested. Maine has 84 percent forest cover, while Vermont and New Hampshire both have 67 percent.

A group of conservation scientists, led by the Harvard Forest, have proposed protecting 70 percent of New England’s forests from development to achieve a sustainable landscape by 2060. If the protection rate realized from 1999 to 2010 continues, Meyer says the 70-percent goal could be achieved in 2089.

Broad objectives of PAs in NNE include conservation of biodiversity, retaining benefits of ecosystems, public open space, recreation, and natural resource removal, such as timber harvesting, he says.

Tension exists due to people’s increasing demand to use land and the need to conserve land and ecosystem services, and land protection has been a global conservation strategy of a number of public and private groups for more than 100 years, Meyer says.

Land protection from 1800 to 1979 had an “evolving suite of conservation objectives,” he says, including watershed protection, open space and recreation. The 179-year era consisted of slow, incremental expansion of PAs, including (Acadia National Park, the Appalachian Trail and Baxter State Park) and multiple-use forests.

The middle era of conservation of PAs — beginning around 1980 and lasting until 1999 — included a surge in land trusts to protect private land from development. Public acquisitions, continued in a linear fashion during that time, according to researchers.

The rate of protection in NNE between 1999–2010 was four times what it was during the 19-year span from 1980 to 1999 and 20 times the rate between 1800 and 1979, says Meyer. During the span from 1999 to 2010, the accelerating rate of protection was the fastest in Maine, where 71 percent of the state’s total PA was safeguarded from development.

“Regardless of what the future holds, the 200-year history of conservation innovation in New England offers hope for future efforts to protect ecosystems and their myriad ecological, social and economic benefits in the face of rising human populations,” the team writes.

The Maine Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) and the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program supported Meyer’s Ph.D. fellowship in UMaine’s School of Forest Resources.

Researchers from UMaine working with Meyer included Christopher Cronan of the School of Biology and Ecology, Robert Lilieholm of the School of Forest Resources and Michelle Johnson of the Ecology and Environmental Science Program, as well as David Foster of Harvard University.

The team’s findings are reported in “Land conservation in northern New England: Historic trends and alternative conservation futures,” published in May on the Biological Conservation website.

Meyer and another team earned the 2014 University of Maine President’s Research Impact Award for spearheading creation of the Maine Futures Community Mapper — an online mapping tool for planners to visualize future landscape scenarios. The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and SSI funded the Maine Futures Community Mapper.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Sustainable Science in Action

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Jeff Lord concedes he does a lot of sitting, watching and waiting along the herring ladder at Highland Lake. But when gangs of alewives begin to leap and flop their way upriver from Mill Brook, his patience is well rewarded.

“It can get a little boring, so I really appreciate when there is action,” the Falmouth resident said as he gazed at the rushing waters. “It’s a chance to put my biology background to work at something that matters.”

Lord and about 13 other volunteers keep count of migrating herring, mainly alewives, as they make their way up fish ladders to traditional freshwater spawning areas. The newly established volunteer monitoring program is a joint research project of UMaine and University of Southern Maine (USM). Scientists want to see if volunteers can help government managers and university researchers amass important data on spring run alewife — something likely too expensive to accomplish otherwise.

The now-retired Lord, who has a Ph.D. in entomology, saw a chance to use his biology knowledge in a public service capacity. He sees citizen programs as a way to engage the public by introducing projects that affect their home turf: “I think that as more people get involved in this type of project and communicate with others, there will be more support for these kinds of conservation efforts,” Lord said.

The role of citizen science in sustainable river herring harvest is the focus of a $96,600 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Growing out of a project at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, the overall goals are threefold:

  • To study volunteer monitoring of river herring in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, assess successes and difficulties and produce a road map useful to other groups interested in similar citizen science programs
  • To help pilot communities develop these citizen fish-count programs while assessing the accuracy of the resulting data
  • To explore the role of these programs, in local, state and regional fishery management

UMaine co-principal investigators are Karen Hutchins Bieluch, visiting assistant professor of communication and journalism, Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and professor of economics; and Laura Lindenfeld, associate professor of communications and journalism and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. Co-principal investigators from USM are Theodore Willis, adjunct assistant research professor of environmental science; and Karen Wilson, assistant research professor of environmental science. Jason Smith, master’s student at USM, is the project research assistant.

Volunteers for pilot projects in Windham and Pembroke, are already hard at work using good old-fashioned manual clickers to count as many fish as possible. Data from the Windham project is checked against recordings from a video camera installed by researchers. If the video and citizen counts match, the pilot program will be a viable alternative to expensive and difficult to maintain counting equipment, project scientists say.

This past year between 49,000 and 62,000 alewives climbed the Highland Lake ladder in Windham. The huge range occurred because a first wave of fish began leaving the lake before stragglers had finished migrating upstream, researchers say. It created some confusion for the volunteers, they said, something to iron out as the project moves forward. Though researchers hope to eventually have good estimates of newly spawned river herring streaming down the ladder, this first year focused mainly on citizen science group formation and learning methodology. Next year, researchers hope for a deeper pool of volunteers who will be ready to go by the start of migration in May. And if the adult count goes well next year, focus can shift to the little ones leaving the lake, which can number in the thousands per hour.

The big question: Can citizens be engaged in counts long term? USM fisheries scientist Willis thinks herring are charming enough to sustain interest.

“River herring are one of the few marine species that people can interact with because they swim inland to where we live,” Willis said. “There are dry spells in the counting, but then there will be 830 alewife an hour zipping past you. Early in the run there were thousands of fish piled up in the stream trying to work their way up the ladder.”

So much so that half the total count for 2014 was tallied in the first five days, Willis said.

Maine is one of only three states currently harvesting river herring and maintaining a viable fishery has been tough. Though herring fisheries are managed locally, they must comply with criteria issued by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Among the rules:

  • Herring harvest populations must be self-sustaining and not supplemented by outside stock. Noncompliance can result in a four-year shutdown.
  • Total adult population must be estimated at 235 fish per surface acre.
  • A run must demonstrate a healthy spawning survival rate and a good older age population.

“What we’re beginning to learn from our interviews is that these volunteer monitoring programs provide critical data for managers assessing the sustainability of a run for harvesting population trends, and the effectiveness of particular restoration efforts. More than just collection of data, these programs help build a sense of community around a local resource and increase local awareness of the fish. A sense of stewardship is essential for protecting river herring, now and in the future” said investigator Hutchins Bieluch.

Researchers are hopeful that this project will not only help jumpstart new monitoring programs, but will also facilitate communication between volunteers, local government officials, harvesters, and managers.

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755