Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

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.

Caron’s 20-Year Study Cited in Huffington Post Piece

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Research by Sandra Caron, a University of Maine professor of family relations and human sexuality, was cited in the Huffington Post article “No, Millennials Aren’t Obsessed with Hooking up.” According to Caron’s research, when it comes to sex in college, Gen Y and Gen X have similar habits. “Today’s college students may think they’re unique, but the data shows that the incidence of ‘hooking up’ — or what used to be referred to as ‘casual sex’ — has remained steady,” she said. Caron added if any aspect has changed, it’s that millennials are better at practicing safe sex than the previous generation. The findings were a result of a sexuality survey Caron administered to 5,000 students over the past 20 years

Working Waterfront, Phys.org Publish Report on Grad Student’s Sea Urchin Research

Friday, July 11th, 2014

The Working Waterfront and Phys.org carried a report on sea urchin research being conducted by University of Maine marine bioresources graduate student Ung Wei Kenn. His research focuses on enhancing green sea urchin egg production to aid Maine’s depressed urchin market. Ung hopes to increase the egg or roe yield of farm-raised green sea urchins through high-quality feed, a process known as bulking. “I was always interested in the vertical integration of aquaculture and seafood processing,” says Ung. “I am also passionate about seafood that is popular in Asia. This topic is a blend of all that.”

Media Report on New Pepper Variety Developed by UMaine, USDA Researchers

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The Associated Press, The Grower, Phys.org, WVII (Channel 7) and Penobscot Bay Pilot reported on a new pepper variety developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maine. The researchers — Robert Jarret from the USDA/Agricultural Research Service in Griffin, Georgia, and Jason Bolton and L. Brian Perkins from the University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture — developed the new small-fruited Capsicum annuum L. pepper to have a high capsinoid content to make it less pungent while maintaining all the natural health benefits of the fruit. Maine Public Broadcasting Network, WABI (Channel 5), Portland Press Herald and seattlepi carried the AP report.

Handley, Moran Interviewed for MPBN Report on Climate Change, Agriculture

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

David Handley, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialist of vegetables and small fruits at UMaine’s Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, and Renae Moran, a tree fruit specialist with UMaine Extension, were interviewed for a Maine Public Broadcasting Network report titled “Climate change presents Maine farmers with new challenges.” Handley spoke about testing new crops for the region, such as grapes, as the climate changes. Moran, who is currently testing several varieties of peaches, plums and cherries, warns climate change is unpredictable and more research is needed before any farmer is recommended to make a big investment in traditionally warmer weather fruits.

Bataineh Awarded Funds to Research Spruce Budworm Effects

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Mohammad Bataineh, an assistant research professor of quantitative silviculture and forest modeling at the University of Maine’s Center for Research on Sustainable Forests, was awarded $69,747 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service for his proposal, “Incorporating spruce-budworm impacts into the Acadian Variant of the Forest Vegetation Simulator.”

Outbreaks of the native spruce budworm insect (Choristoneura fumiferana) cause tree mortality and growth reduction, which negatively affect forest productivity. Outbreaks also cause uncertainty in predicting future wood supplies and forest conditions. Sustainable management of the Northern Forest requires accounting for outbreak effects in forest management planning and wood supply forecasts, according to the proposal.

Bataineh’s five-year project aims to modify the Acadian Variant of the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) to account for spruce budworm effects on tree and stand development.

Aaron Weiskittel, an associate professor of forest biometrics and modeling, is the project’s co-principal investigator.

The FVS is a system of forest growth simulation models that have been calibrated for specific geographic areas, or variants, of the country. The system can simulate a range of silvicultural treatments for most major forest tree species, forest types and stand conditions, according to the Forest Service’s website.

The research project also proposes to establish the Acadian Variant as the base stand growth model in the Spruce Budworm Decision Support System.  The Canadian Forest Service developed the Spruce Budworm Decision Support System to assist foresters in planning and carrying out management activities that potentially reduce the damage caused by spruce budworm.

Researchers will compile a regional dataset on individual-tree growth and mortality under Maine’s most recent spruce budworm outbreak that occurred in the 1970s and ’80s.

The new capability of the Acadian Variant will provide Northern Forest managers with improved growth and yield projections and the ability to assess the potential impact of spruce budworm outbreaks on wood supply and forest level planning through the Spruce Budworm Decision Support System, according to the researchers.

Under the Ice

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

University of Maine research this summer in the Arctic’s Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) is expected to provide one of the first comprehensive views of the spatial distribution and abundance of phytoplankton under the ice.

UMaine oceanographer Mary Jane Perry, interim director of the Darling Marine Center, was awarded $196,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Naval Research to sample the biogeochemistry of the Marginal Ice Zone from a Korean icebreaker, the R/V Araon, and with underwater gliders. UMaine scientist Cameron Thompson will participate in additional cruises from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay; Ivona Cetinic, also at the Darling Center, will be involved in data analysis.

On July 30, Perry will join an international group of over 40 scientists to study the retreat of sea ice in the Arctic. The Arctic has experienced a dramatic decline in sea ice thickness, aerial extent and age distribution. Changing patterns in sea ice have significant implications for the planktonic food web, and flow of carbon and nutrients in the Arctic, including timing, magnitude and location of plankton blooms.

The Marginal Ice Zone Program, led by the University of Washington, is an Office of Naval Research initiative that will use a combination of autonomous robotic technologies, ships, aircraft and satellites to study the breakup of ice in the Beaufort Sea and its northward retreat in summer. It is expected to contribute to our understanding of ice dynamics, including feedbacks in the ice-ocean-atmosphere system that affect rates of sea ice decline. More about the MIZ Program is online, as is a story about the research tracking the breakup of Arctic summer sea ice (http://www.washington.edu/news/2014/07/16/tracking-the-breakup-of-arctic-summer-sea-ice).

 

Perry will use small underwater gliders to repeatedly sample open water, the MIZ and water under full ice cover. The optical data collected from the gliders over a two-month period will offer the first comprehensive view of the spatial distribution and abundance of phytoplankton under ice in the Arctic. Relatively few observations of under-ice blooms exist, due to the logistical constraints of sampling under thin and melting ice.

Thinner ice and greater abundance of melt ponds facilitate greater penetration of visible light through the ice, allowing planktonic photosynthetic organisms to grow. Perry will use measurements from the icebreaker to calibrate the glider sensors. She hopes to assess how changing ice patterns affect plankton productivity in the Arctic, and better understand the role of phytoplankton on the heat budget under the ice.

Phytoplankton are microscopic photosynthetic organisms at the base of the marine food web; their production of carbon fuels the ecosystem. For more than a quarter-century, Perry has studied marine phytoplankton in an effort to understand its biomass variability and production dynamics. Her research has taken her to the subpolar North Atlantic and North Pacific on several major expeditions, the last in 2008, as well as other regions in the world’s ocean.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745