About 70 high school students and teachers from Portland, Bangor, Auburn and local Native American communities will gather at the University of Maine for a five-day UMaine Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) Institute.
UMaine scientists and students, city water planners, and representatives from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and businesses including Woodard & Curran and IDEXX will also take part in the institute that runs from Monday, June 23 through Friday, June 27.
The SMART Institute aims to engage a diverse group of students and teachers in training for the implementation of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) core values in their schools while addressing an important environmental issue.
The institute is supported by a more than $735,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to empower female and minority high school students, their teachers and communities to create innovative solutions to the environmental problems related to stormwater management.
Throughout the conference, students will take part in hands-on projects led by STEM professionals in areas such as engineering design, science, computer modeling and information technology to monitor and map water quality. Participants will tour UMaine labs and stormwater areas on campus, hear from guest speakers, and learn how to use wireless sensors to test water, as well as collect, enter and analyze data.
The institute will cap off with a field trip to the Arctic Brook watershed area in Bangor where students will install the wireless sensors they built and collect data as citizen scientists. An awards ceremony will be held on campus before students depart.
University of Maine professor of oceanography Emmanuel Boss advises students to pursue their passion.
And he leads by example.
This summer, Boss and UMaine master’s graduate Thomas Leeuw will board Tara — a sailboat for the planet — to collect data and conduct research in the Mediterranean Sea.
They’ll study the ocean color, composition and pigments of surface particles.
And in addition to collaborating with international scientists, they’ll talk with schoolchildren about the ocean, swim in warm aqua water and eat delicious meals with backdrops of beautiful Mediterranean vistas.
“It’s a wonderful career,” Boss says. “You should do something you’re passionate about,” he says. “You can be serious about science and have fun in the process.”
Boss finds the work and play aboard Tara so valuable and fun, he’s gearing up for his third voyage. In August, he’ll be one of the scientists aboard during the 10-day leg from Israel to Malta. Boss, who participated in water sports growing up in Israel, says he’s most comfortable in the water and knew from an early age he wanted to pursue a career in oceanography.
Tara is three months into its seven-month, nearly 10,000-mile 2014 international expedition that includes stops in 11 countries, including France, Greece, Israel, Italy and Spain. Tara departed in May from Lorient, a seaport in northwestern France, and is scheduled to return in December.
During the trek, a host of other scientists are exploring the impact of plastic on the Mediterranean ecosystem and the degree to which microplastics in the ocean are part of the food chain. Researchers also seek to raise awareness about the Mediterranean’s environmental issues and encourage policymakers in the region — where approximately 450 million people live — to develop better waste management plans.
At each stopover, the team that generally includes five sailors, two scientists, a reporter and an artist — invite the public to tour the 118-foot-long, 33-foot-wide, 120-ton research vessel. And they take part in outreach projects. May 31 on No Tobacco Day, for instance, crewmembers of Tara removed 53 gallons of trash, including cigarette butts, from a beach.
French designer Agnes B. founded the nonprofit Tara Expeditions in 2003 to “understand the impact of climate change and the ecological crisis facing the world’s oceans,” according to its website.
Boss says the mission, outreach, interdisciplinary science, sharing of chores, stunning scenery and immersion in various cultures make for a valuable and inspiring venture.
And he’s eager to have students experience it as well. Last summer, then-graduate students Leeuw and Alison Chase participated in the 2013 Tara Oceans Polar Circle expedition, as did the husband-and-wife Boss pair — Emmanuel and Lee Karp-Boss, associate professor in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences.
They utilized a $149,714 grant from NASA to gather biogeochemical information from the Arctic Ocean — information that NASA uses to verify data that its satellites glean daily from the same water.
This summer, Boss and Leeuw, who this spring earned his master’s degree in oceanography, will utilize an additional NASA award of $27,000 to continue collecting data in the Mediterranean.
Boss says he was persistent in his efforts to get NASA to provide the follow-up funding. “If you want to make something happen, put all of your weight and belief behind it to make it happen,” he says. “You only live once; go for it. Don’t give up on your dream.”
He gives similar advice to students.
Leeuw says his interest in oceanography emerged when he took an undergraduate course with Boss. Leeuw, a marine science major, subsequently became a research assistant in the University of Maine In-situ Sound and Color Lab.
Multiple opportunities subsequently became available, he says.
Leeuw and Boss analyzed data collected from 2009 to 2012 during the Tara Oceans expedition. This past year, the two developed an iPhone app that measures water quality.
And after this summer’s monthlong Mediterranean trek, the Lincoln, Vermont, native will drive cross country to Washington state, where he has accepted a job developing environmental sensors at Sequoia Scientific, Inc.
The lesson: “Don’t be afraid to make friends with faculty; some of the best learning and research opportunities can happen outside the classroom,” Leeuw says.
Leeuw says last summer’s Arctic trip was unlike anything he had ever experienced.
“It was empowering to work as a scientist,” he says. “It prepared me for this upcoming situation. I’m more confident.”
He monitored a suite of optical instruments and as water was pumped into the vessel’s flow-through system, he recorded its temperature, salinity profile and fluorescence.
Leeuw calls the data that UMaine collected last summer — which is free and accessible to the public — unparalleled.
“We drifted up to an ice pack and took a bunch of samples,” he says. “The water was below freezing but there were massive plankton blooms. Just amazing.”
A UMaine student is currently working to identify the types of species, he says.
During that trek, Tara was blocked by ice in the Vilkitsky Strait for about a week. When Tara was able to forge ahead, she arrived late at the next destination — Pevek, Russia. The scientists departing the vessel after that leg of the trek, including Leeuw, had missed that week’s one flight out of the northern port.
This summer’s adventure begins for Leeuw on June 26, a couple of weeks after World Oceans Day. He’ll board Tara in Nice, France, work for just over a month and debark in Cyclades — a dazzling Greek island group in the Aegean Sea.
Results of the voyage are expected to provide scientific insight into “what is in the ocean — where species are and why they are there,” Leeuw says, all of which advance researchers’ understanding of the ocean and the mission of Tara Expeditions.
Etienne Bourgois, president of Tara Foundation, says Tara’s quest is to understand what is happening with the climate and to explain it simply.
“This exceptional ship must pursue her mission as ambassador of the world’s citizens, must remain a catalyser of energy and desire to tackle without glitter the main question that arises for each one of us: What future are we preparing for our children?” he says on the website.
To learn more, visit oceans.taraexpeditions.org.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
How does a normally peaceful agent break through a previously impenetrable barrier and become a potential killer?
Robert Wheeler has just received a five-year, $500,000 fellowship from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) to figure that out.
The University of Maine Assistant Professor of Microbiology will study how and why Candida albicans — the most common human fungal pathogen — transforms from an innocuous yeast in the digestive tract of a person with a healthy immune system to a potentially fatal fungus in vital organs of a person whose immune system has been compromised.
“This award marks a new high point in my research career,” says Wheeler, one of 12 scientists nationwide to receive the 2014 Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award. After internal competitions at colleges and universities, each institution may nominate two investigators; this year, 144 scientists were put forward.
“This provides substantial funding that we can use to pursue high-risk projects with the potential to change our perspective on how dangerous infections begin.”
The goal, he says, is to improve diagnosis and therapy of fungal infection due to better understanding of the interactions between host and pathogen cells.
Wheeler’s lab will explore the host-fungal dialogue at mucosal surfaces where C. albicans — the leading cause of hospital-acquired infection that annually kills several thousand patients in the U.S. — is normally kept in check. “We expect that this will allow us to understand how the healthy immune system normally inhibits infection and how C. albicans invades past the epithelial wall,” he wrote in his application.
What happens at the earliest stages of active infection is one of the biggest mysteries about opportunistic pathogens, he says. And solving that mystery is imperative as infections complicate treatment of diseases, including leukemia, that require suppressing the immune system.
Wheeler’s lab will use zebrafish models of candidiasis at multiple levels — holistic, cellular and molecular genetic — to investigate the interaction between fungal cells and host cells during the earliest stages of infection. The integrated approach will utilize a new set of tools to address questions that have previously been inaccessible, he says.
His lab already has conducted pioneering studies with transparent zebrafish, which model infections caused by bacterial and fungal pathogens of humans. The resulting findings, he says, “opened the door to a deeper understanding of host and pathogen activity at the beginning stage of infection.”
Wheeler credits the previous scientific breakthroughs, and the work on the grant, to the talented, highly motivated and hard-working students and post-doctoral fellows in the laboratory. “The award is based on the pioneering work that they have done to change our perspective on fungal infection over the last five years,” he says.
With this fellowship, Wheeler says his lab will seek to exploit “that opening to discover the mechanistic underpinnings of the dialog between C. albicans and innate immunity at the epithelial barrier.”
On a personal level, Wheeler says he’s humbled to join the creative group of scientists that have previously held or currently hold BWF grants. “It pushes me to further excel and tackle the most important problems in infectious disease,” he says.
Wheeler’s peers lauded both his prior research and his potential.
Aaron Mitchell, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, says Wheeler has “been an insightful innovator for his entire scientific career.”
This award, Mitchell says, will allow Wheeler to build upon his initial findings “to look at the way that the host manipulates the pathogen, and how the pathogen manipulates the host. The remarkable zebrafish toolbox will allow Rob to look for key features of host defense that we can strengthen to thwart the pathogen before it gets a foothold.”
Joseph Heitman, chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University Medical Center, says Wheeler’s research on how “Candida albicans … shields its immunogenic cell surface from immune surveillance in a variety of ways, which can in part be circumvented by drugs that unveil immunogenic signals” has blazed trails.
Heitman says the award will allow Wheeler, a “highly creative and innovative” investigator, to continue to be a leader in the field.
Gerald Fink, the Herman and Margaret Sokol Professor at the Whitehead Institute/Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the award “recognizes [Wheeler’s] preeminence as a leader in the battle to combat Candida, a feared human fungal pathogen … for which we have no satisfactory protection.”
Fink anticipates Wheeler’s research will “provide critical insights into our natural immunity from Candida infections, which is the first step towards developing antifungal agents.”
And Deborah Hogan, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, says, “Ultimately, this work is likely to provide important insight into better ways to prevent and fight these often dangerous infections” in babies, in people undergoing chemotherapy and in those with suppressed immune systems.
The first installment of the award will be sent to UMaine on July 15, according to BWF, an independent private foundation based in North Carolina that supports research to advance biomedical sciences.
Victoria McGovern, senior program officer at BWF, says Wheeler’s selection was “based on the scientific excellence and innovation” of his proposal, as well as the strength of the scholarship at UMaine and Wheeler’s accomplishments as a researcher.
Wheeler says he’s pleased the award showcases UMaine and the laboratory to the national research community and he’s excited for opportunities to be in “contact with a number of the best and brightest infectious disease investigators in the U.S., through yearly meetings and a number of networking opportunities at national conferences.”
“The University of Maine is very proud of Dr. Wheeler’s achievement,” says Carol Kim, UMaine vice president for research.
“The BWF is a very prestigious award and identifies Rob as a leader in his field.”
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The University of Maine will offer a six-day, public leadership training program for female college students that aims to strengthening political skills and build confidence.
A diverse group of 28 students with a variety of majors and interests from colleges around the state will arrive at UMaine on Friday, May 30 to take part in the sixth annual Maine NEW Leadership conference. They will learn skills such as public speaking, networking and how to advocate for a cause and run for public office.
Throughout the free conference, students will participate in a variety of workshops hosted by women leaders from politics, business and education. On Tuesday, June 3, participants will travel to the State House in Augusta and Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan.
“Maine NEW Leadership was established to address the underrepresentation of women in state and federal government,” says Mary Cathcart, co-director of Maine NEW Leadership and a senior policy associate at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.
In the current U.S. Congress, 18 percent of representatives and 20 percent of senators are women, and in the Maine Legislature, 23 percent of senators and 31 percent of representatives are women, according to Cathcart.
More information about Maine NEW Leadership is available online or by calling Cathcart at 581.1539.
Lakes in New England and the Adirondack Mountains are recovering from the effects of acid rain more rapidly now than they did in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a study led by a former University of Maine researcher.
Acid rain — which contains higher than normal amounts of nitric and sulfuric acid and is harmful to lakes, streams, fish, plants and trees — occurs when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere mix with water and oxygen.
In the United States, about two-thirds of sulfur dioxide and one-quarter of nitrogen oxide result from burning fossil fuels, including coal, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Sulfate concentration in rain and snow dropped 40 percent in the 2000s and sulfate concentration in lakes in the Northeast declined at a greater rate from 2002 to 2010 than during the 1980s or 1990s, says Kristin Strock, a former doctoral student at UMaine, now an assistant professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
Also during the 2000s, nitrate concentration in rain and snow declined by more than 50 percent and its concentration in lakes also declined, Strock found.
The Clean Air Act enacted in the U.S. in 1970 has been modified several times, including amendments implemented in 1994 that regulated emissions, especially from coal-burning power plants. The Clean Air Interstate Rule issued in 2005 by the EPA sought to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 70 percent. Total emissions of sulfur and nitrogen in the U.S decreased by 51 and 43 percent, respectively, between 2000 and 2010, Strock says, which was twice the rate of decline for both in the 1990s.
Strock and the research team analyzed data collected since 1991 at 31 sites in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New York and 43 sites in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.
The research team included Sarah Nelson, assistant research professor with the Senator George J. Mitchell Center and cooperating assistant research professor in Watershed Biogeochemistry in the UMaine School of Forest Resources; Jasmine Saros, associate director of the Climate Change Institute at UMaine and professor in UMaine’s School of Biology & Ecology; Jeffrey Kahl, then-director of environmental and energy strategies at James Sewall Company; and William McDowell of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of New Hampshire.
“Data collection for over two decades in this study is part of the EPA-LTM network, which also includes over 30 years of research and monitoring at 16 remote lakes in Maine, and over 25 years at the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine,” Nelson says.
“These long-term monitoring data allow us to observe patterns like changes related to climate, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act. The new findings reported here underscore the importance of such long-term monitoring, which can often be difficult to keep funded.”
While results reveal a recent acceleration in recovery, the researchers say continued observation is necessary due to variability of results. In New England, Strock says variability might be due to the effect of human development, including road salt, on lakes.
A number of other factors can affect watersheds and interact with acid rain, say the researchers, including depletion of calcium in forest soils, long-term increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, long-term changes in air temperature, and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme wet and dry seasons.
The study, “Decadal Trends Reveal Recent Acceleration in the Rate of Recovery from Acidification in the Northeastern U.S.” was published online in March on the Environmental Science & Technology website.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
It’s Showtime for Paul Mayewski. Check out the preview of the season finale of Years of Living Dangerously that airs at 8 p.m. Monday, June 9. The episode also features President Obama, Thomas Friedman and Michael C. Hall.
University of Maine professor Paul Mayewski is featured in the Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously starring Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Matt Damon.
It’s a thriller with an ending that hasn’t been written yet.
Executive producer James Cameron, who has also directed the blockbusters Avatar, The Terminator and Aliens, describes Years of Living Dangerously as the biggest survival story of this time.
The documentary, developed by David Gelber and Joel Bach of 60 Minutes, depicts real-life events and comes with an “adult content, viewer discretion advised” disclaimer.
The nine-part series that premiered April 13 shares life-and-death stories about impacts of climate change on people and the planet.
Correspondents, including actors Ford and Damon, as well as journalists Lesley Stahl and Thomas Friedman and scientist M. Sanjayan, travel the Earth to cover the chaos.
They examine death and devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy; drought and lost jobs in Plainview, Texas; worsening wildfires in the U.S.; and civil unrest heightened by water shortage in the Middle East. The correspondents also interview politicians, some of whom refute the science or are reluctant to enact legislation.
And they speak with scientists who go to great lengths, and heights, to do climate research. Mayewski, director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute (CCI), is one of those scientists. He is scheduled to appear in the series finale at 8 p.m. Monday, June 9.
Climate change, he says, is causing and will continue to cause destruction. And he says how scientists and media inform people about the subject is important.
“There are going to be some scary things that happen but they won’t be everywhere and it won’t be all at the same time,” he says. “You want people to think about it but not to terrify them so they turn it off completely. You want them to understand that with understanding comes opportunity.”
In February 2013, Sanjayan and a film crew joined Mayewski and his team of CCI graduate students for the nearly 20,000-foot ascent of a glacier on Tupungato, an active Andean volcano in Chile, to collect ice cores.
Sanjayan calls Mayewski “the Indiana Jones of climate research” for his penchant to go to the extremes of the Earth under challenging conditions to retrieve ice cores to study past climate in order to better predict future climate.
Sanjayan, a senior scientist with Conservation International, wrote in a recent blog on the Conservation International website that while people may distrust data, they believe people they like.
He thought it would be beneficial to show the scientific process at work and to introduce the scientists’ personalities to viewers. “He’s the sort of guy you’d want to call up on a Wednesday afternoon to leave work early for a beer on an outdoor patio,” Sanjayan writes of Mayewski.
So for the documentary, Mayewski was filmed in the field — gathering ice cores at an oxygen-deprived altitude of 20,000 feet atop a glacier with sulfur spewing from nearby volcanic ponds. “It’s a strange place to work,” Mayewski says, “but it’s where we can find amazing, productive data.”
He was also interviewed at home, where he enjoys his family, dogs and sailing.
Mayewski likes the series’ story-telling approach. Scientists, he says, need to explain material in a way that is relatable, relevant and empowering.
Take for instance Joseph Romm’s baseball analogy. Romm, a Fellow at American Progress and founding editor of Climate Progress, earned his doctorate in physics from MIT.
On the Years of Living Dangerously website, Romm writes, “Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. And like a baseball player on steroids, it’s the wrong question to ask whether a given home run is ‘caused’ by steroids. Home runs become longer and more common. Similarly climate change makes a variety of extreme weather events more intense and more likely.”
Mayewski says it’s also imperative to provide tools that enable people to take action to mitigate climate change as well as adapt to it.
“When we have a crystal ball, even if the future is bad, we can create a better situation,” he says. “We have no choice but to adapt.”
Maine is in a good position to take action, he says, especially with regard to developing offshore wind technology. “Who wouldn’t want a cleaner world, to spend less money on energy and have better jobs? We will run out of oil at some point but the wind won’t stop,” he says.
Wind is up Mayewski’s research alley. He has recently been studying ice cores from the melting glacier that serves as the drinking water supply for 4 million residents of Santiago. Temperature in the region is rising, greenhouse gases are increasing and winds from the west that have traditionally brought moisture to the glacier have shifted, he says.
And the glacier is losing ice.
“Our biggest contribution is understanding how quickly wind can change,” Mayewski says. “Wind transports heat, moisture, pollutants and other dusts.”
By understanding trends, Mayewski says it’s possible to better predict where climate events will occur so plans can be made. Those plans, he says, could include determining where it’s best for crops to be planted and where seawalls and sewer systems should be built.
Harold Wanless, chair of the University of Miami geological sciences department, says sea levels have been forecast to be as much as 3 to 6 feet higher by the end of this century. On the Years of Living Dangerously website he says, “I cannot envision southeastern Florida having many people at the end of this century.”
In Maine, Mayewski says climate change is evidenced by the powerful 2013–2014 winter, the lengthening of summers, increased lobster catches and northward spread of ticks.
While climate change has become a political topic, Mayewski says it’s a scientific and security issue. He says it’s notable that previous civilizations have collapsed in the face of abrupt, extreme changes. And climate change, he says, is far from linear in the way it evolves.
For decades, Mayewski has been interested in exploring and making discoveries in remote regions of the planet. “When you go all over the world, you get a global view,” he says. “By nature, I’m an optimist. That is tempered with this problem. I do believe there will be a groundswell of people, or governments, or some combination so that there will be a better future in store.”
To watch clips from previous episodes of Years of Living Dangerously, as well as the entire first episode, visit yearsoflivingdangerously.com.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Research being conducted through the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) was highlighted in the the National Climate Assessment report recently released by President Barack Obama, which found global warming is directly affecting life in Maine and other New England states.
The research by the SSI team is focused on the effects of increasingly intense and frequent storms striking Maine and New England, causing millions of dollars in damage and threatening fragile ecosystems. Shaleen Jain, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Esperanza Stancioff, an extension associate professor, are leading the team that is helping Maine communities better understand and prepare for the potential local impacts of climate change.
The report explains how the research team “mapped decisions by town managers in Maine to sources of climate information, engineering design, mandated requirements, and calendars that identified the complex, multi-jurisdictional challenges of widespread adaptation for even such seemingly simple actions as using larger culverts to carry water from major storms.”
Research by the UMaine team is highlighted in the Northeast section of the report under “Key Message: Planning and Adaptation.”
The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States. More than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the report.
The UMaine research project is funded by the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, which is supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and a grant from NOAA’s National Sea Grant Coastal Communities Climate Adaptation Initiative (CCCAI).
More about the SSI project is online.
Xuan Chen, a farm credit assistant professor in the University of Maine’s School of Economics, received a $28,390 Maine Department of Agriculture grant for his proposal, “Determining the Current Cost of Producing Milk in Maine 2013.” The yearlong project aims to accurately determine the costs of producing milk in Maine based on four levels of production as defined by demographic data collected in a mail survey and by milk production records maintained by the Maine Department of Agriculture. About 40 farms will receive on-site visits to collect financial performance data for the year 2013. The information will be summarized and presented to the Maine Milk Commission in written and oral testimony, as well as during state legislative hearings.
The University of Maine Humanities Initiative will host the second annual Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day at various downtown locations on Saturday, May 17.
From 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., free events for participants of all ages will be offered at venues such as the UMaine Museum of Art, Bangor Public Library, Maine Discovery Museum and the Brick Church.
The Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day was created in 2013 as part of the University of Maine Humanities Initiative (UMHI) to create a better forum for connecting UMaine faculty, staff and students with the general public in our region of the state, according to organizer and UMaine history professor Liam Riordan.
“The goal of the day is to share high-quality cultural work of all sorts that stimulates thought in a fun and informal setting. From student research to music, movies, visual arts and conversation, the day offers a range of engaging events,” Riordan says.
Local partners of the day are Bangor PechaKucha, Downtown Bangor Arts Collaborative, KahBang, Northeast Historic Film, River City Cinema and the string ensemble of The Eastern Maine Pops Orchestra (TEMPO) for Young Musicians.
Featured events include:
10:30 a.m. to noon
National History Day Open House at the Bangor Public Library where prize-winning research by middle and high school students will be on display
Graphic novel author and illustrator Jimmy Gownley at The Briar Patch
University of Maine Museum of Art sculpture lecture by Andy Mauery, UMaine art professor, and a photography exhibit tour led by George Kinghorn, UMMA’s director and curator
TEMPO youth string ensemble performances at the Maine Discovery Museum
Student and parent discussion at the Bangor Public Library about National History Day’s national competition in Washington, D.C.
Northeast Historic Film’s world premiere public showing of three short films shot by Bangor resident Charles E. Gilbert in 1929, co-hosted with River City Cinema and KahBang at the Brick Church
Humanities 20×20 PechaKucha presentations by UMaine faculty and local practitioners at the Brick Church, co-hosted with PechaKucha Bangor and the Downtown Bangor Arts Collaborative
The Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day is one of several UMHI events planned for 2014. The initiative, housed in UMaine’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and established in 2010, advances the teaching, research and community outreach of the arts and humanities to enrich the lives of all Maine residents.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
categories: blue sky news, liberal arts and sciences, outreach, pathway 1
The University of Maine Humanities Initiative (UMHI) and the Maine Humanities Council will host the second annual Maine Humanities Summit at the Governor Hill Mansion in Augusta on Friday, May 16.
This year’s summit, “The Humanities and Public Policy,” will feature speakers from across the nation who will discuss ways humanities administrators, faculty and the general public can effectively communicate the value and importance of the humanities to residents and media.
“The summit offers the opportunity to speak to the public and legislators in concrete terms about how important humanities are to our state’s civic and economic well-being,” says Justin Wolff, UMHI director and an associate professor of art history at UMaine. “We hope to persuade policymakers that funding these areas from kindergarten up through higher education is a strong investment with a high return.”
Wolff says in a time of increasing emphasis on STEM education, it’s important to remember the value of the humanities, as well.
“The humanities form the foundation of all disciplines,” he says. “They teach critical writing and communication skills, as well as awareness and sensitivity to place and identity.”
For example, Wolff says, if an engineer plans to build a bridge, it’s important for them to understand the cultural heritage and the needs and desires of the people who live in the region that would be affected by the bridge.
Humanities advocates are often faced with the challenge of not having the hard data that STEM backers may have, according to Wolff.
“It’s very hard for humanities advocates to find and share the hard data to prove what we know. We know the value of critical thinking, and we know employers want workers with the skills the humanities teach, but it can be hard to prove it with charts and graphs,” he says.
About 60 humanities constituents from throughout the state attended last year’s summit. Participants came together to talk about areas of broad concern, new initiatives and programs, and ways to coordinate efforts to advocate humanities. Wolff says the inaugural event led to encouraging conversations, including the idea to make future summits more instrumental.
In an effort to make the second summit more focused, the organizers decided to give this year’s event a theme — “Humanities and Public Policy.” The summit will feature speakers from around the nation who will discuss subjects in one of three areas: advocating the humanities through the use of data and media; the humanities and education policy; and the importance of cultural tourism and the humanities to the state’s economy.
Scheduled speakers include Maine residents, including Hugh French, director of the Tides Institute & Museum of Art in Eastport; and Laura Lindenfeld, an associate professor of communication and journalism at UMaine; as well as national leaders of humanities advocacy, such as Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance; and Theda Skocpol, director of the Scholars Strategy Network and Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University.
UMaine President Paul Ferguson; Jeff Hecker, UMaine’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost; and Hayden Anderson, executive director of the Maine Humanities Council, are slated to give opening remarks.
“Anyone interested in humanities will gain something from the summit,” Wolff says. “It’s meant to initiate lasting partnerships and collaborations. We want to throw possibilities out and see them take root. It offers a place for people to share ideas for coherent and effective advocacy.”
The summit is one of several UMHI events planned for 2014 and serves as a key program in the initiative’s outreach efforts. The initiative, housed in UMaine’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and established in 2010, advances the teaching, research and community outreach of the arts and humanities to enrich the lives of all Maine residents.
The mission of UMHI is twofold: To support and promote the excellent humanities scholarship being created on campus, and to bring that research and scholarship into contact with all Maine residents through an aspect known as public humanities, according to Wolff.
“UMHI is a very strong advocate of the public humanities and efforts to break down walls between the university and the community at large,” Wolff says, adding that UMaine humanities professors and students are working on behalf of all Maine residents.
More information on the Maine Humanities Summit and UMHI is online.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747