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Silka Talks with MPBN About Innovation, Maine Policy Review

Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for Part 1 of its “Innovation in the Maine Economy” series. Silka spoke about the importance of innovation for the state’s future and the latest Maine Policy Review, which focuses on innovation in Maine’s economy.

Forbes Follows Researchers Tracking Horse Safety

University of Maine researchers Mick Peterson and Christie Mahaffey are featured in an article in Forbes about horse racetrack safety. Peterson, executive director of the nonprofit Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and Libra Foundation Professor at the College of Engineering at the University of Maine, is slated to make a presentation at The Jockey Club’s fifth Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held July 8-9 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Peterson and Mahaffey, an affiliated researcher with the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary engineering at UMaine, analyze racetrack samples and maintenance data from around the United States and make models of how horses’ hooves interact with various surfaces.

They started working with Aqueduct Racetrack in New York after 31 horses died on its surface in 2012 (three per 1,000 starts). In 2013, 21 horses died (1.77 per 1,000 starts). Thus far in 2014, Forbes reports that nine have died. “The lives of horses and riders are on the line here. We have to keep working on it,” Peterson says in the article.

BDN Publishes Report on SSI Research on Fish Advisory for Pregnant Women

The Bangor Daily News reported on two studies conducted by researchers at the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) on women’s knowledge of the dangers and health benefits of eating fish while pregnant. The researchers found pregnant women are learning how to safely eat fish after early warnings about the dangers turned many off from eating it entirely. The first study determined that a Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention advisory led women to decrease their consumption of fish, while a follow-up study found a new advisory led to a healthier, more balanced approach to fish consumption. Mario Teisl, an economics professor at UMaine, will discuss study results at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish in September.

UMaine Researchers Raft Down Penobscot River to Study Changes, BDN Reports

The Bangor Daily News covered a Penobscot River rafting trip by University of Maine researchers and students who are noting changes in the waterway by using sonar technology to study the riverbed. “Primarily, we’re interested in the structure of the bottom of the Penobscot River and the changes to that bottom as a result of everything that’s gone on, including human interventions, floods, dam removals and all the other things that have been a part of the history of the river in the last 200 years,” said Sean Smith, an assistant professor at UMaine’s School of Earth and Climate Sciences. He added rivers can’t be managed effectively unless people know how they work and respond to different influences. Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor at UMaine’s School of Marine Science who studies sturgeon, was also part of the expedition. “Sturgeon would get as far as the Milford Dam, and when the dams went in, they were blocked,” Zydlewski said, adding she wants to know if the fish will use the area and if their population will change now that the dam has been removed.

MPBN Interviews Waring About Local Foods Study

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network spoke with Timothy Waring, an assistant professor of social-ecological systems modeling at the University of Maine, about a consumer survey on local foods. The survey was conducted by Waring and other researchers at the Maine Food Strategy. The survey found Mainers are going out of their way to buy more local produce and seafood. More than a third of people surveyed said they purchased up to a quarter of their food from local sources. Ninety percent said that freshness, flavor and nutrition were their main reasons for seeking out locally raised food. “They’re also eager to do it to support local farmers, so people are doing it out of some sense of commitment to the people who are raising the food,” Waring said.

UMaine Climate Change Research Cited in BDN Editorial

A Bangor Daily News editorial titled “Keeping up with Maine’s changing climate” cited several University of Maine initiatives that aim to mitigate the effects of extreme weather. The editorial mentioned the Maine Futures Community Mapper, an online tool developed by Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) that allows people to see the best locations for development, conservation, agriculture or forestry in Maine, and then shows what future landscapes would look like under different scenarios. Research being conducted by SSI with coastal communities to update stormwater plans and identify problem culverts, as well as a bill sponsored by Rep. Mick Devin, a researcher and shellfish hatchery manager at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center, that will establish a commission to study ocean acidification and how it affects the harvest of shellfish were also mentioned. UMaine’s Climate Change Institute was cited as “one organization with the expertise to guide community leaders in their climate adaptation and sustainability plans.” The CCI will host a workshop at the Wells Conference Center on Oct. 23 to help Maine communities with climate change planning, the editorial states.

Maine Edge Publishes Report on Boss’ Ocean Research

The Maine Edge published an article about research to be conducted by University of Maine professor of oceanography Emmanuel Boss and UMaine master’s graduate Thomas Leeuw. This summer, the pair will board the sailboat Tara to collect data and conduct research on ocean color, composition and pigments of surface particles in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to collaborating with international scientists, they’ll talk with schoolchildren about the ocean.

Media Report on Gabe’s Updated Waterfront Concerts Study

The Bangor Daily News and WLBZ (Channel 2) reported on an updated study conducted by University of Maine economist Todd Gabe on the economic impact of Bangor’s Waterfront Concerts series. Gabe first released the study in early 2013, which estimated the first three years of the concert series brought more than $30 million into the local economy. Gabe recently released an update to include data from the 2013 season, which surpassed each previous year in terms of attendance, number of performances, impact on local businesses and people’s willingness to travel long distances to see a show, according to the article. The 19 shows in 2013 had a total economic impact of nearly $17.5 million — more than half the total of the first three years combined, according to the study. Gabe’s journal article on the study is scheduled to be published in the Review of Regional Studies. Mainebiz also cited the BDN report. 

Gabe’s Economic Impact Study for Downeast LNG Cited in Press Herald Article

An economic impact study by University of Maine economist Todd Gabe was cited in a Portland Press Herald article about Downeast LNG altering plans for a proposed liquefied natural gas import terminal in Washington County. Downeast LNG commissioned Gabe to conduct the study. Gabe found the new project would create 2,350 jobs and $375 million in labor income during its three-year construction period. He also estimated the terminal would support 337 jobs in the state and have an annual economic impact of $68 million.

Studies Lead to Improved Fish Advisory for Pregnant Women

Editor’s note: This version has been updated

Two studies by researchers at the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) uncovered compelling data on women’s knowledge of both the dangers and health benefits of eating fish while pregnant. The first study found that Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (MeCDC) advisory led women to decrease their consumption of fish, while a follow-up study found a newly-designed advisory led to a healthier, more balanced approach to fish consumption.

Mario Teisl, professor in the School of Economics, will present and discuss results of the studies, which were published in two peer-reviewed journals, as a featured speaker at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2014 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish. Both journal papers are among the first to examine how information about methylmercury in fish is conveyed to pregnant women in specific states and how that information is used, which is information the EPA has indicated it needs.

Teisl has been part of two research teams from SSI’s Knowledge to Action Collaborative that have closely examined MeCDC’s methylmercury advisories sent to pregnant women. He will lay out how the successive sets of data tracked an evolution in the way information is conveyed to and interpreted by pregnant women in Maine.

“MeCDC suspected that the original advisory was not working as best as it could for this audience and our initial study confirmed the state could do better,” Teisl said.

In the first study, published in 2011 in the journal Science of the Total Environment, Teisl and colleagues found that the advisory was changing pregnant women’s eating habits, but not always in the intended manner. Instead of limiting high-mercury fish and switching to a careful diet of low-mercury fish, many pregnant women were dramatically decreasing their overall consumption of all fish, thus missing many of the benefits of eating fish. The misinformation seemed to stem from the fact that the advisory was aimed at sports fishermen and mainly focused on the risks of eating sport-caught fish.

“The old pamphlet was targeted more toward anglers. On the cover, there was a photo of a family fishing. The problem is that very few women eat sport-caught fish. Most eat fish from the grocery store. A lot of pregnant women didn’t understand how the information pertained to them,” Teisl said.

In 2006, the MeCDC redesigned its advisory, adding specific information about fresh, frozen and canned fish. Sue Stableford, a health literacy expert at the University of New England, worked closely with the MeCDC on both advisories, providing extensive assistance with research, focus group testing, and use of ‘easy-to-read’ techniques.

The new literature contains recipes, meal plans and colorful charts, informing women of fish to avoid, fish to limit and fish that are low enough in mercury to eat twice a week while pregnant. The pamphlet emphasizes the importance of fish in the diet, including the fetal/maternal health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids and protein. In the second study, published in 2013 in the journal Environmental Science, Teisl and colleagues found women who read the updated advisory were knowledgeable about healthy fish consumption in pregnancy. People who did not read the advisory generally lacked essential knowledge about healthy fish diets.

“Our evaluation of the Maine CDC’s updated fish consumption advisory suggests that it successfully improved women’s specific knowledge of both the benefits and risks of consuming fish while pregnant. This improved knowledge has the potential to minimize methylmercury health impacts and maintain, if not increase, overall low-mercury fish consumption,” said Haley Engelberth, who received a master’s of science in Ecology and Environmental Science from UMaine in 2012. Engelberth was on both SSI methylmercury research teams and the lead author of the 2013 paper.

Other researchers on the teams included: Kathleen P. Bell, associate professor, UMaine’s School of Economics; Eric Frohmberg, (then) toxicologist, state of Maine; Karyn Butts, research associate, University of Southern Maine; Sue Stableford, director of the Health Literacy Institute at University of New England; Andrew E. Smith, director, Environmental and Occupational Health Programs, Maine CDC; Kevin J. Boyle, (then) professor of ecology and environmental sciences, UMaine.

Teisl will make his presentation at the Sept. 22–24 conference in Alexandria, Virginia.

Funding for this research was provided by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention through the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention National Public Health Tracking Grant and U.S. EPA Cooperative Agreement #CR82628301-0.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745


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The University of Maine
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