Archive for November, 2011

Mayewski comments in Voice of America climate series

Monday, November 28th, 2011

A five-part series by Voice of America News about how climate change and rising temperatures are affecting Africa includes an extensive interview with University of Maine Climate Change Institute Director Paul Mayewski, who provided perspective on the increasing pace of climate change globally. South Africa is about to host an international conference on climate change.

McConnon comments in small business retail story

Monday, November 28th, 2011

James McConnon from the UMaine School of Economics faculty was quoted in a Bangor Daily News story based on “Small Business Saturday,” a movement encouraging consumers to patronize small, local businesses.  McConnon says he sees indications that the owners of such businesses can expect a slightly better holiday season than they experienced in 2010.

Climate Change Institute Hosting Talk About South Pole Centennial

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

The University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the taking of the South Pole with two days of events including a keynote address by polar explorer Olav Orheim.

Orheim will speak at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21, at the Collins Center for the Arts on the UMaine campus. He will discuss new knowledge on the attainment of the South Pole on the occasion of the 100th anniversary, and reflections on the personalities of legendary explorers Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, who were three legendary polar explorers involved in the race to the South Pole. Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole.

The celebration continues Tuesday, Nov. 22, with a day of activities sponsored by UMaine’s Hudson Museum, including several events designed for school-aged children. All activities, including Orheim’s talk, are free and open to the public.

“We’re very excited to have a celebration of the first taking of the South Pole and to have Olav Orheim coming to speak,” said Climate Change Institute Director Paul Mayewski, who has spent more than 40 years working in Antarctica. “He’s very, very prominent in European glaciology.”

UMaine President Paul Ferguson and Mayewski will introduce Orheim at the Collins Center.

Orheim is a glaciologist, climatologist and polar expert who spent more than 30 years studying the effects of global warming in the polar regions. He was managing director of the Norwegian Polar Institute from 1993 to 2005 and taught glaciology as a professor in the University of Bergen’s Department of Geology from 1989 to 2005.

Since 2005 Orheim has managed polar research at the Research Council of Norway. He is the chair of the board of the Fram Museum in Oslo, which houses the ship that carried Amundsen to Antarctica during the 1911-12 expedition. Orheim was knighted in 2007 under the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf.

“He’s going to talk about this remarkable feat 100 years ago, when the world was very different, and focus on the Norwegian, Amundsen, but also talk about Shackelton and Scott,” Mayewski said. “It’s not clear how many people nowadays remember what happened, because it happened 100 years ago, but the taking of the South Pole was part of an era that lasted up until the early 1950s with people conquering places where no one had been before.”

Several well-known polar explorers, including several with UMaine connections, are expected to attend the talk, which is being sponsored by the Norwegian Embassy and the Climate Change Institute.

The Hudson Museum will host “Explore the Ends of the Earth,” which will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday in the museum, which is located in the Collins Center. The program includes a display in the World Cultures Gallery of the museum’s Arctic holdings, Inuit games, and viewings of an ethnographic film on the hunting traditions of the Iglulingmuit people and newsreel footage of an expedition to Antarctica. The Climate Change Institute will also set up in the Collins Center’s Miller’s Café a display of typical gear used on research trips, such as a large tent used in high mountain regions for ice coring, equipment used in lake sediment drilling, computers that show climate modeling, and posters about Climate Change Institute research.

The Climate Change Institute has been involved in polar research and fieldwork in Antarctica.

“Maine has a very, very long history of polar exploration that includes whalers, fishermen, and a host of Arctic and Antarctic explorers, and UMaine is one of the most intensely involved institutions in the field of polar exploration,” Mayewski said. “We send students and faculty to Antarctica on a regular basis.”

To see a UMaine video featuring Mayewski discussing the South Pole anniversary, go to http://youtu.be/lvuvywDedV4.

Contacts: Betty Lee, (207) 581-3406 or bliqcs@maine.edu

Working Waterfront Features Scallop Research

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Research by UMaine scientists Rick Wahle and Paul Rawson was included in a Working Waterfront story about the upcoming re-opening of several scallop fishing grounds in Maine. Rawson’s work is in connectivity among different scallop grounds, while Wahle has been conducting a study of whether scallop density on the sea floor affects spawning effectiveness. The article was co-written by Catherine Schmitt, the communications coordinator for Maine Sea Grant, which is based at UMaine.

Contact: Jessica Bloch, 207-581-3777

McConnon Interviewed for Rising Food Price Article

Monday, November 14th, 2011

University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialist and School of Economics professor Jim McConnon was interviewed for a recent Ellsworth American article about rising food prices taxing budget-strapped consumers. McConnon explained that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has predicted a 3-4 percent increase in food prices in 2011, largely due to escalating energy costs.

UMaine Researcher Developing Database of Environmental Reactions

Monday, November 14th, 2011

ORONO, Maine – University of Maine geochemist Amanda Olsen is part of a national research team that is starting a database to help scientists understand the speed at which environmental reactions take place.

Olsen is partnering on EarthKin – the name of the database, which alludes to reaction kinetics, the study of the rates at which chemical processes occur – with researchers from Saint Francis, Penn State and Columbia universities. The project is being funded by a $103,137 National Science Foundation grant, of which UMaine received $66,145.

The researchers will compile EarthKin will be a one-stop database that will allow access to researchers working on a range of projects, from the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently storing it in the ground to cleaning up contaminated environmental sites.

When completed, EarthKin will be available to scientists free via the Internet at www.earthchem.org, an NSF-supported website and community-driven effort to facilitate the preservation, discovery, access and visualization of the widest and richest geochemical datasets. The web site will not only include existing data, but researchers will be encouraged to upload new results into the database.

EarthKin will be one of the first attempts to include experimental data in a web-based data management platform. In order to accomplish this, the researchers will build news tools and data structures that will allow the existing EarthChem platform to incorporation a new type of data.

The concept of EarthKin was made possible by recent advances in geoinformatics – the field of developing technological and computational tools to facilitate information dissemination in the geosciences – that have significantly increased access that researchers have to geological information. Recent endeavors include the online publishing of large data sets to make the data available to a larger community.

Contact: Amanda Olsen, (207) 581-2194 or amanda.a.olsen@maine.edu; Jessica Bloch, (207) 581-3777 or jessica.bloch@umit.maine.edu

MPBN Story on Garbage Study

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Maine Public Broadcasting Network radio has a story about a study of Maine’s garbage being done by George Criner, a professor in UMaine’s School of Economics. Criner told MPBN the aim of the study is to document what is in the household waste stream of 17 Maine communities so that municipalities and state policy-makers can make wise decisions. UMaine economics undergraduate Travis Blackmer and Karl Chandler, who are working with Criner, were also interviewed for the story. The Village Soup website ran a UMaine news release about the study.

Contact: Jessica Bloch, 207-581-3777

Economics Researchers Probe Potential Savings in Trash

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

A fully functional table saw, a $45 flashlight, a bag of canned food, baby strollers, car seats, plastic toys, bowling balls and returnable bottles and cans are some of the things residents of Maine communities have thrown in the trash this past summer and fall.

Those discarded items could have been reused or recycled, according to George Criner, professor and director of the University of Maine School of Economics, who is overseeing a statewide trash analysis project to determine the contents of Maine’s residential trash.

The research, commissioned by the Maine Office of State Planning, will help state and municipal policymakers understand for the first time in more than a decade just what people are throwing away that might be reused, recycled or composted, instead of buried or incinerated. The economic implications of recycling and composting more and discarding less could influence consumer behavior in addition to policy.

Early results have revealed that almost 20 percent of the household waste recently examined in 17 communities in 14 counties could have been recycled. If food and miscellaneous non-recyclable paper were composted, the household sector could divert roughly one-half of all waste from the landfill or incinerator, says Criner, the principal investigator of the state-funded project.

“Solid waste management is costly, and is not going to get any less expensive,” Criner says. “One purpose of the study is to update previous estimates on the content of Maine household garbage. Knowing the contents of the waste stream is helpful in designing effective and efficient recycling programs. Once all the data is in, we will correlate recycling rates with municipal programs. For example, does the data bear out our expectation that municipalities with pay-as-your-throw systems have higher recycling levels, and if so, by how much?”

The study is particularly important as more municipalities consider moving to single-stream recycling, and as many communities in the greater Bangor area are beginning to weigh the future of local solid waste management as waste-to-energy plant contracts are due to expire in 2018, says Criner, who has researched solid waste management issues since the late 1980s.

Whether trash is recycled, composted or burned in waste-to-energy plants, each option has an economic consequence. Some alternatives are more profitable than others, and some are extremely costly.

Economics undergraduate Travis Blackmer of Dedham, one of the students coordinating the analysis, compares selling a tractor-trailer load of recycled materials, such as compacted milk jugs, to a recycler for thousands of dollars with paying out thousands of dollars in hauling and disposal fees.

Once people understand “this is what’s in Maine’s trash and this is the money we’re leaving on the table,” more people will embrace recycling and waste stream reduction, he says.

“Towns are glad for the waste composition assessment,” says Karl-dieter Chandler, a civil engineering student from Bartlett, N.H. who is coordinating the project with Blackmer and David Silver, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and environmental science from Orono. “They want the data in hand to get townspeople on board.”

The project is mid-way through its second sort. On designated sorting days at each site in July and August, researchers analyzed 400-700 pounds waste per day in the 17 participating municipalities — separating, sorting, weighing and documenting 65 subcategories of materials in the garbage. A second team is now revisiting and combing through trash in the same communities to compare “seasonal” garbage variations.

The project will end in early 2012 with each participating municipality getting a report, in addition to the publication of a paper outlining the study results.

“We will always have garbage, but we don’t have to keep the status quo in dealing with it,” Criner says. The research is showing that while the content of the trash is different from town to town, a general theme is emerging. “Maine can do better with recycling,” he says.

Contact: George Criner, (207) 581-3151; Karl Chandler, (207) 461-3516; Travis Blackmer, (207) 735-4574

Coverage of Red Tide Grant

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Several news outlets noted the news that UMaine has been awarded a grant to study early detection methods for red tide, a toxin found in some mudflat where shellfish are harvested and which can lead to a potentially fatal human illness. Portland’s WGME TV station covered the announcement, and the Boston Herald ran an Associated Press story on its website. Laurie Connell of UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences is the lead researcher on the grant.

Contact: Jessica Bloch, 207-581-3777

Gabe in El Paso news story

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Todd Gabe of the UMaine School of Economics faculty was quoted in an El Paso Times story based on his research study “Knowledge in Cities,” published in 2010.  The study labels El Paso as a “Comforting Region” where the economy is based on “above average knowledge in customer and personal service and mental-health-related fields, and below average knowledge in engineering and production fields.”