The Portland Press Herald, WABI (Channel 5), Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Bangor Daily News and Mainebiz reported a $20 million National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant will establish a Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program in Maine. Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine will use the grant to mobilize the collective capacity of Maine’s coastal science resources to establish SEANET, a research network focused on sustainable ecological aquaculture. The public-private partnership led by UMaine, in collaboration with the University of New England and other institutions, will use the state’s 3,500-mile coastline as a living laboratory to study physical oceanography, biophysical, biogeochemical, socioeconomic and policy interactions that have local, bioregional, national and global implications. Paul Anderson, director of SEANET at UMaine, told MPBN the grant offers a good opportunity to look at how aquaculture can be part of the seafood sector by working with the commercial fishing and tourism industries.
Understanding why phytoplankton — the base of the food web — are not able to use all the iron in seawater is the focus of a three-year study by University of Maine researchers.
Mark Wells, a marine science professor at UMaine, is leading the project that will look at how the chemistry of iron in seawater is controlled by tiny particles, where the particles are most important, and how the chemistry of the particles affects the ability of phytoplankton to grow on iron in seawater.
Oceans contribute about 50 percent of the world’s photosynthesis, with the majority coming from marine phytoplankton, Wells says. The growth of the single-celled organisms in many ocean regions is limited by the availability of micronutrient iron.
The researchers will meld chemistry, physics and biology to learn more about dissolved iron in the ocean that is tied up in colloidal particles, which are too small for gravity to control, and therefore don’t sink in seawater.
“The question is whether the marine colloids are releasing iron, or gathering it up, and this pattern almost certainly will change for different waters,” Wells says. “It is like a Tic Tac container. The Tic Tacs are there but you have to wait for the container to release them before you can eat them.”
Bioavailable iron is an essential nutrient for shaping the distribution and composition of marine phytoplankton production, as well as the magnitude of ocean carbon export, the researchers say. Iron exists in many phases in the ocean and colloidal, or nonsoluble, phases account for a significant portion of dissolved iron.
The colloidal phase of iron may serve as a biological source of stored iron, according to the researchers, but the physical and chemical characteristics of these phases are presently poorly understood.
“We know the particles are there, but we haven’t had the techniques to really see them in a technical way, and that’s what makes this project unique,” Wells says.
To better understand this key part of iron cycling, researchers will use new analytical chemistry methods to quantitatively separate the colloidal iron sizes present in a sample and measure the composition of the colloidal portions in shelf and oceanic waters.They will use flow field-flow fractionation (flow FFF) with multi-angle laser light scattering to make measurements of the uniformity or uniqueness of the colloidal size spectrum, as well as the physical and chemical characteristics of the phases. Flow FFF, according to Wells, uses flow in thin streams along a membrane to separate small particles by size.
“Researchers in the past have just used filters, but filters aren’t a very efficient way to separate size,” Wells says.
Using this method will allow the researchers to learn more about the shape, size range and chemical composition of the particles.
“A mixture of particle sizes go in one end of the channel but particles come out the other in order of their size. We can use the method to determine what particle sizes have the most iron in them,” Wells says.
The findings will aid future studies to better link the source and fate of iron in the marine environment, according to the researchers, who also expect the project will have broad implications in the fields of marine ecology and biogeochemistry and to modeling studies of ocean-atmospheric coupling and climate change.
“This study will help us understand where iron will be more available and less available in the oceans, which will help us understand why ocean productivity is lower in some areas than others,” Wells says.
The project, “Assessment of the colloidal iron size spectrum in coastal and oceanic waters” recently received a $269,334 grant from the National Science Foundation.
A former UMaine postdoctoral researcher, who is now a Texas A&M University professor, will serve as a principal investigator on the project that also will support the education and research training of one undergraduate student each year. The researchers plan to conduct outreach activities to K–12 students and teachers.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
The Associated Press, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, WLBZ (Channel 2), WABI (Channel 5) and WVII (Channel 7) reported on an event held at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor on Aug. 4 where Sen. Susan Collins joined leaders from colleges and research institutions across Maine as well as dozens of Maine college students to celebrate the receipt of an $18.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The five-year award aims to strengthen biomedical research and hands-on workforce training in Maine through the continuation of the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), a collaborative network of 13 Maine research institutions, universities and colleges led by the MDI Biological Laboratory. The University of Maine and UMaine’s Honors College are part of the network. Anne Campbell, who graduated from UMaine in 2012 with degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, spoke with MPBN about her experience with the program. As a member of UMaine’s Honors College, she took a weeklong course at MDI Bio Lab on functional genomics, which was paid for by Maine INBRE. Campbell said during that course she met her thesis adviser, and was able to develop a thesis project. The Portland Press Herald carried the AP report.
The Maine Edge published a report about University of Maine scientists working with agencies to improve the accuracy of forecasts of hurricanes, superstorms, blizzards and floods that endanger people and animals and destroy property. UMaine received $1.5 million of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s $5.5 million award to increase the precision of predictions of extreme weather events and coastal flooding in the northeastern United States. “This project allows us to develop rapid response capability and deploy ocean observing assets before extreme weather events, and use these targeted observations to constrain ocean models and issue timely forecasts for coastal cities and towns in the Northeast United States,” said Fei Chai, professor and director of UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, and one of four university co-investigators taking part.
Sen. Susan Collins joined leaders from colleges and research institutions across Maine as well as dozens of Maine college students at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor on Aug. 4 to celebrate the receipt of an $18.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The five-year award aims to strengthen biomedical research and hands-on workforce training in Maine through the continuation of the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), a collaborative network of 13 Maine research institutions, universities and colleges led by the MDI Biological Laboratory. The University of Maine and UMaine’s Honors College are part of the network.
“The INBRE program is a powerful instrument for bringing educational institutions from Fort Kent to South Portland together to build on their collective strengths and help our state be more competitive nationally,” Collins said at the event. “Since it began in 2001, INBRE has brought more than $100 million in federal funds into Maine. It has strengthened our state’s research infrastructure and trained more than 2,000 Maine students in biomedical research techniques.”
The full MDI Biological Laboratory news release is online.
The Associated Press cited University of Maine research in an article about marine scientists and lobster harvesters saying some fishermen may be abandoning a key conservation method, called v-notching, which requires lobstermen to mark the tail of any egg-bearing lobster they catch and let it go. State officials say about 66 percent of egg-bearing females surveyed in 2013 were v-notched, down from nearly 80 percent in 2008. The article states that according to an annual UMaine survey of young lobsters in 11 locations in the Gulf of Maine, the number of young lobsters found in 2013 was less than half what was found in 2007. Yahoo News and the Daily Reporter carried the AP report.
The Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News interviewed Julie Gosse, an assistant professor of molecular and biomedical sciences at the University of Maine, about her research on how a synthetic antimicrobial common in soaps and deodorants inhibits cells that sometimes fight cancer. Gosse told the Press Herald the chemical triclosan is added to many over-the-counter products advertised as antibacterial, such as soaps, toothpaste, body washes and facial cleansers. The chemical also is used in fabrics and plastics to help prevent mold growth, and has become so common that it’s now in the water supply. “This is not a chemical people need to have every day,” Gosse said. The National Institutes of Health awarded Gosse more than $420,000 for the three-year project. “We’re not going to be able to resolve the public health question, but we will be one piece of the puzzle,” she added. The Maine Edge also published an article on Gosse and her research.
Aram Calhoun, a professor of wetland ecology at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Portland Press Herald article about research being done by Bowdoin College biologist Nat Wheelwright, who says he has found evidence of a mass die-off of wood frog tadpoles. “The die-off is significant; however, in warm weather, we do see mass mortalities of wood frogs from ranavirus in some years,” Calhoun said. “We don’t know enough about the synergistic effects of all the stressors in a frog’s environment.” Calhoun told the Press Herald that UMaine is using a four-year National Science Foundation grant to study the effects of urbanizing landscapes on pool-breeding amphibians. Calhoun said she agrees with Wheelwright that researchers should encourage citizen scientists to monitor vernal pools. “However, these events happen quickly and in our experience, the carcasses are scavenged in less than 24 hours so people could easily miss die-off events,” she cautioned.
University of Maine scientists are partnering with multiple agencies to improve the accuracy of forecasts of hurricanes, superstorms, blizzards and floods that endanger people and animals and destroy property.
UMaine received $1.5 million of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s $5.5 million award to increase the precision of predictions of extreme weather events and coastal flooding in the northeastern United States.
“This project allows us to develop rapid response capability and deploy ocean observing assets before extreme weather events, and use these targeted observations to constrain ocean models and issue timely forecasts for coastal cities and towns in the Northeast United States,” says Fei Chai, professor and director of UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, and one of four university co-investigators taking part.
The three other UMaine co-investigators are Neal Pettigrew, professor of oceanography; Mary Jane Perry, professor of oceanography and interim director of the University of Maine Darling Marine Center; and Huijie Xue, professor of oceanography. In addition, program manager Linda Magnum, research associate Ivona Cetinic, graduate student Mark Neary and postdoctoral researcher Saswati Deb, will take part in the project.
The UMaine faculty and researchers are among the 39 researchers engaged in the two-year study. The group will build, deploy, garner and analyze data from state-of the-art outfitted floats, gliders and moorings during two winter storms and two summer storms that hit the Gulf of Maine or the area from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
As a severe storm approaches, aircraft will deploy 15 miniature, expendable floats along the forecasted storm track and launch four reusable gliders in the middle of the shallow continental shelf. Researchers will also anchor 10 portable buoy moorings near estuary mouths where storm surge causes significant flooding and damage.
The floats, gliders and moorings are designed to collect three new levels of ocean observations. The new data will be integrated into computer models that predict currents, sea level and turbulent mixing of cold sub-surface water with the surface ocean.
Meteorologists will be provided with a more complete picture about sea surface temperature and upper-ocean heat content, which will result in better-informed storm forecasting, say the scientists.
In addition, more targeted ocean surface data (air pressure, air and sea temperature, ocean waves, sea-level, etc.) collected by the moorings, in conjunction with current coastal flooding models, should enhance forecasting of flooding, they say.
Pettigrew is taking part in the design and manufacturing of the moorings for atmosphere and surface ocean measurements and he and Perry are in charge of glider deployments and data analysis. Chai is heading up ocean ensemble modeling and Xue is specializing in coastal flood modeling.
“Integrated Rapid-Response Observations and Ocean Ensemble Optimization to Improve Storm Intensity Forecasts in the Northeast U.S.” is the name of the study, which is being led by Glen Gawarkiewicz, senior scientist in the Physical Oceanography Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Rutgers University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science are partners, and the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region (CINAR) is the cooperating institute.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Julie Gosse, University of Maine assistant professor of molecular and biomedical sciences, is examining how a synthetic antimicrobial common in soaps and deodorants inhibits cells that sometimes fight cancer.
Triclosan (TCS) was once limited to use in hospitals. But in the 1990s, manufacturers began putting the chemical into antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, body washes, facial cleansers and a multitude of other over-the-counter hygiene products.
TCS also is used in fabrics, plastics and clothing — from yoga mats to kitchenware to socks — to slow or stop the growth of bacteria and mildew. Because of its pervasive presence in products, Gosse says it’s also now in waterways.
When TCS inhibits the function of mast cells in skin, allergic disease may be eased. But Gosse says mast cells are complex players and are involved in both pro- and anti-cancer roles, in fighting bacterial infections and in central nervous system disorders such as autism.
“The results of this study will fulfill an urgent need by providing insights into the impact of TCS on public health, as well as insights into the inner workings of this crucial cell type, and will point to either pharmacological uses for or toxic impacts of this ubiquitous chemical,” she says.
The National Institutes of Health awarded Gosse more than $420,000 for the three-year project that begins Aug. 1.
In 2012, she and several UMaine undergraduate and graduate students published a paper about TCS that concluded it “strongly inhibits several mammalian mast cell functions at lower concentrations than would be encountered by people using TCS-containing products such as hand soaps and toothpaste.”
This grant, she says, will allow continued exploration of the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects. She and her research team will use a variety of methods and tools — including the fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) technique invented by UMaine physicist Sam Hess. The technique images individual molecules.
Hess is participating in the research, as are Lisa Weatherly and Juyoung Shim, graduate students in Gosse’s lab, and students from the Hess lab.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777