Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Maine Edge Publishes Report on 15-Year History of Vernal Pool Management

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

The Maine Edge published a report about an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that documents nearly 15 years of vernal pools research and management by the University of Maine’s Aram Calhoun who is leading an interdisciplinary team at the Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), a program of the Sen. George J. Mitchell Center. In the article, Calhoun and three co-authors analyze a timeline of action and scholarship that spans from 1999 to the present. In that time, the professor of wetland ecology and director of UMaine’s Ecology and Environmental Sciences program has collaborated closely with academic colleagues, government at all levels, nongovernmental organizations, landowners, developers and concerned citizens in an effort to create an environment in which these small, but significant, wetlands can flourish.

UMaine Student Talks with Bill Green About Herons

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

University of Maine student Ray Peck spoke with Bill Green for a segment on WLBZ (Channel 2) about Maine’s declining heron population. This summer, Peck is assisting biologist Danielle D’Auria of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. To study the birds, Peck and D’Auria are visiting dozens of heron colonies and monitoring bird behavior and reproductive rates. “There’s an aura to them — the way they act, the way they look,” Peck said. “They don’t look like they should be able to fly but they do. They’re really beautiful creatures; really amazing.”

Maine Edge Publishes Report on Wireless Leak Detection Research for ISS

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

The Maine Edge published an article about University of Maine researchers receiving funds to design and test a wireless leak detection system for the International Space Station (ISS). The project was one of five in the nation to receive funding from NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for research and technology development onboard ISS. Ali Abedi, a UMaine associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded a three-year, $100,000 NASA grant through the Maine Space Grant Consortium in Augusta for the project. “This will be a great training experience for our students to learn how to take a prototype out of the lab, and not only to the field but also to space,” Abedi said.

Khalil, Mason Awarded Research Funds from Maine Cancer Foundation, AP Reports

Monday, July 21st, 2014

The Associated Press reported Andre Khalil, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Maine, and Michael Mason, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at UMaine, were among seven researchers to receive funds from the Maine Cancer Foundation to study the origins and potential cures for cancer. The foundation awarded a total of $839,000. Khalil received nearly $180,000 to study breast cancer, and Mason was awarded nearly $220,000 to research leukemia. WABI (Channel 5), WLBZ (Channel 2) and The Republic carried the AP report. The Maine Cancer Foundation also published research profiles on Mason and Khalil.

Blomberg Studying Population Dynamics of Ruffed Grouse

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Erik Blomberg, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology at the University of Maine, received a $181,518 grant from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for his proposal, “Understanding population dynamics of ruffed grouse.”

The three-year project aims to better understand how forest management practices and sport hunting influence Maine’s ruffed grouse populations. According to the proposal, the native bird benefits from many forms of forest harvest and is widely used as a game species by Maine residents and visitors.

Blomberg and his team will implement a large-scale field study to evaluate how components of ruffed grouse biology, such as seasonal and annual survival and nest success, respond to different types of forest composition and management. Researchers also will estimate harvest rates throughout the annual hunting season from October to December.

Collected information will close a large gap in the current understanding of ruffed grouse ecology in the region and will contribute to future management of Maine’s popular game bird, as well as contribute to the general understanding of wildlife ecology in forest ecosystems, according to the researchers.

The researchers say they will work closely with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to ensure results provide the greatest benefit to Maine wildlife management.

Seeing the Sea

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

University of Maine oceanographer Ivona Cetinic is participating in a NASA project to advance space-based capabilities for monitoring microscopic plants that form the base of the marine food chain.

Phytoplankton — tiny ocean plants that absorb carbon dioxide and deliver oxygen to Earth’s atmosphere — are key to the planet’s health. And NASA wants a clear, global view of them.

NASA’s Ship-Aircraft Bio-Optical Research (SABOR) mission will bring together marine and atmospheric scientists to tackle optical issues associated with satellite observations of phytoplankton.

The goal is to better understand marine ecology and phytoplankton’s major role in the global cycling of atmospheric carbon between the ocean and the atmosphere.

“Teams involved in this project are working together to develop next-generation tools that will change forever how we study oceans,” says Cetinic, a research associate at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center (DMC) in Walpole, Maine.

“Methods that will be developed during this experiment are something like 3-D glasses. They will allow us to see more details on the surface of the ocean and to see deeper into the ocean, helping us learn more about carbon in the ocean — carbon that is fueling oceanic ecosystems, as well as the fisheries and aquaculture.”

Cetinic will be a chief scientist aboard RV Endeavor that departs July 18 from Narragansett, Rhode Island. She received $1,043,662 from NASA’s Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry program for her part in the three-year project.

Cetinic’s crew, which includes Wayne Slade of Sequoia Scientific, Inc., Nicole Poulton of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and UMaine Ph.D. student Alison Chase, will analyze water samples for carbon, as well as pump seawater continuously through on-board instruments to measure how ocean particles, including phytoplankton, interact with light.

Chase, who recently earned her master’s in oceanography at UMaine, will blog about the experience at earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/fromthefield.

Interim DMC director Mary Jane Perry, who is participating in another research cruise this summer (umaine.edu/news/blog/2014/07/08/under-the-ice), will be involved in future data analysis.

Mike Behrenfeld of Oregon State University also will be aboard Endeavor and he and his team will use a new technique to directly measure phytoplankton biomass and photosynthesis.

“The goal is to develop mathematical relationships that allow scientists to calculate the biomass of the phytoplankton from optical signals measured from space, and thus to be able to monitor how ocean phytoplankton change from year to year and figure out what causes these changes,” he says.

Another research team also will be aboard Endeavor, which for three weeks will cruise through a range of ecosystems between the East Coast and Bahamas.

Alex Gilerson of City College of New York will lead a crew that will operate an array of instruments, including an underwater video camera equipped with polarization vision. It will continuously measure key characteristics of the sky and the water.

The measurements taken from aboard the ship will provide an up-close perspective and validate measurements taken simultaneously by scientists in aircraft.

NASA’s UC-12 airborne laboratory, based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will make coordinated science flights beginning July 20.

One obstacle in observing marine ecosystems from space is that atmospheric particles interfere with measurements. Brian Cairns of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York will lead an aircraft team with a polarimeter instrument to address the issue.

From an altitude of about 30,000 feet, the instrument will measure properties of reflected light, including brightness and magnitude of polarization. These measurements will define the concentration, size, shape and composition of particles in the atmosphere.

Polarimeter measurements of reflected light should provide valuable context for data from another instrument on the UC-12 designed to reveal how plankton and optical properties vary with water depth.

Chris Hostetler of Langley is leading that group. He and others will test a prototype lidar (light detection and ranging) system — the High Spectral Resolution Lidar-1 (HSRL-1). A laser that will probe the ocean to a depth of about 160 feet should reveal how phytoplankton concentrations change with depth, along with the amount of light available for photosynthesis.

Phytoplankton largely drive the functioning of ocean ecosystems and knowledge of their vertical distribution is needed to understand their productivity. This knowledge will allow NASA scientists to improve satellite-based estimates of how much atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean.

NASA satellites contributing to SABOR are the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO), which view clouds and tiny particles in Earth’s atmosphere, as well as the Terra and Aqua satellites, which measure atmospheric, land and marine processes.

Analysis of data collected from the ship, aircraft and satellites is expected to guide preparation for a new, advanced ocean satellite mission — Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and ocean Ecosystem (PACE), according to NASA.

PACE will extend observations of ocean ecology, biogeochemical cycling and ocean productivity begun by NASA in the late 1970s with the Coastal Zone Color Scanner and continued with the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view-Sensor (SeaWiFS) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on Terra and Aqua.

SABOR is funded by the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

UMaine Economic Impact Studies Cited in WLBZ Craft Brewery Report

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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

Christine Lamanna: Using plant ecology to study climate change

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

She also values the role introspection plays in SSI projects.

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

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

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

See more about ECCO.

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755

Vernal Pool Conservation

Monday, July 14th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: Tamara Field,  207.420.7755

Segal Talks with MPBN About History of Innovation in Maine

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Howard Segal, a University of Maine history professor, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for Part 2 of its “Innovation in the Maine Economy” series. Segal spoke about what innovation in Maine looked like in the 19th century, and how the state’s economy was more complex at that time than people may think. Segal also wrote an essay on the topic, titled “Economic and Technological Innovation in Maine before the Twentieth Century: Complex, Uneven, but Pervasive and Important,” which appears in the latest Maine Policy Review.