Archive for December, 2011

UMaine Graduate Students Win Awards at Soil Science Meetings

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Two papers written by University of Maine graduate students received first-place awards at the recent International Annual Meetings of the Soil Science Society of America in San Antonio, Texas.

Jay Raymond, who is working on a master’s degree, was awarded first place for his session in the graduate student competition for his paper, “Soil Drainage and Forest Type Influences on Soil Organic Carbon Fractions in a New England Forested Watershed.” His co-authors were UMaine faculty researchers Ivan Fernandez, Tsutomu Ohno and Kevin Simon.

Farrah Fatemi, who recently earned a Ph.D. under Fernandez, authored a paper that was named first place at the 2010 conference. Her paper was titled, “The Effects of Long-Term Forest N Enrichment and Acidification on Soil CNP Dynamics.” The co-authors were Fernandez, Simon, David Dail, Lindsey Rustad and Stephen Norton, all of UMaine.

Fernandez organized and moderated at the conference the “Symposium on Bioenergy and Soil Sustainability: Forest, Range and Wildlands” with Thomas Fox, a UMaine alumnus who is now a faculty member at Virginia Tech. The intent of the symposium was to elicit perspectives from researchers in various geographic regions on the question of soil sustainability with increased utilization of forest resources for bioenergy interests. The talks included both research results, regional perspectives on priorities, and thoughts about the future of this topic.

Presentations from the symposium are posted online.

Contact: Ivan Fernandez, (207) 581-2932 or ivanjf@maine.edu; Jessica Bloch, (207) 581-3777 or jessica.bloch@umit.maine.edu

Coverage of Saros’ Role in Nitrogen Research

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Several media outlets ran the announcement that a group of 19 scientists, including UMaine’s Jasmine Saros, contributed to a study that found a rise in nitrogen levels in remote lakes was likely due to human activity. The Vancouver Sun had a story about the announcement, which came from the University of Washington and was published in the Dec. 16 issue of Science MagazineCTV, Canada’s largest private television network, posted on its website a story from Canada Press.

Contact: Jessica Bloch, 207-581-3777

Saros Involved in Groundbreaking Research on Impact of Pollution

Friday, December 16th, 2011

University of Maine ecologist Jasmine Saros provided research for a groundbreaking finding about the long-term effects of pollution published in the Dec. 16 issue of the journal Science.

The research team, led by Gordon Holtgrieve, a University of Washington postdoctoral researcher, found that nitrogen derived from human activities has polluted lakes throughout the Northern Hemisphere since the late 1800s, and the fingerprint of these changes is evident even in remote lakes located thousands of miles from the nearest city, industrial area or farm. The findings are based on samples taken from 36 lakes ranging from the southern United States to northern Europe.

Saros is the associate director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and an associate professor in the School of Biology and Ecology.

Other collaborators involved in the study were from the Science Museum of Minnesota, National Marine Fisheries Service, University of Alberta, University of Regina, McGill University, Yunnan Normal University, Idaho State University, Lund University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain Studies Institute and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Funding came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alberta Water Research Institute, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Science Foundation and Canada Foundation for Innovation.

A University of Washington news release has more information.

Contact: Jasmine Saros, (207) 581-2112 or jasmine.saros@maine.edu; Jessica Bloch, (207) 581-3777 or jessica.bloch@umit.maine.edu

UMaine Developing Database for ‘Cradle to Grave’ Sustainability

Friday, December 16th, 2011

University of Maine industrial ecologist and certified Life Cycle Assessment professional Anthony Halog has received a $150,000 federal grant to create a comprehensive new online database to allow researchers, scientists and industrialists to assess ecological, social and economic implications of new and emerging products, starting with wood-based biofuels.

Halog says the database will benefit Maine and other states with an economic reliance on forestry, and could become a national model for assessing how “green” new and emerging products are, and what advantages or disadvantages come with the manufacture or provision of various services and products.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a global environmental initiative to assess products from “cradle to grave,” according to Halog. It objectively examines how much the creation, distribution, use and eventual disposal of products affects natural resources and the environment.

“The trend is to make any product environmentally sustainable,” says Halog, a School of Forest Resources faculty member. “Any product, existing or emerging, if you want the product to be greener, and more ecologically benign, you can apply a life cycle assessment. At every stage of the supply chain, there are stakeholders. Each has specific environmental, social and economic interests. This database looks at every stage of the supply chain.”

Halog’s database is being created as an XML (extended markup language) database with assistance from Ph.D. students Nana Awuah Bortsie-Aryee and Binod Neupane. It will be a computer-based, standardized decision support system to help supply chain stakeholders understand the sustainability of developing forest-based bioenergy in the Northeast.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Bioenergy Grant program is funding the project. Halog expects the preliminary database to be available on the Internet in the summer of 2012.

The “one-stop database,” Halog says, will include environmental emissions data, in addition to economic and social data, which include jobs creation, for biofuels development.

A standardized and publicly accessible LCA database also will curb the practice of “greenwashing,” when manufacturers make false claims about a product’s sustainability.

The database is starting with life cycle sustainability assessments of forest-based biofuels being developed at the University of Maine.

“The usefulness of this database is if you scale up the technology, is it environmentally competitive with corn-based fuels?” Halog says. “Here in Maine, we’re interested to know if we scale up production, will it be profitable and sustainable?”

Corn-based fuels, for instance, were once considered a technological breakthrough in the emerging field of ethanol and biofuel development, but detrimental effects on food production, land and water use, and the energy needed to produce it, has resulted in decreasing interest and research funding for its development, Halog says. An LCA might have projected the product’s long-term deficiencies, he says.

The database will be one of the latest attempts to contribute to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiative on “Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: (LCSA) Making Informed Choices on Products.”

Contact: Anthony Halog, (207) 581-2944

Warmer Winters Bad for Beeches

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Maine’s beech trees have been under attack for decades by a disease that typically shows up as disfiguring cankers on a tree species that is supposed to have a smooth and silvery bark. Affected trees grow slowly and can survive for years. Unfortunately, the diseased trees produce few beechnuts, a loss of an important food source for the Maine black bear.

Beech TreeAccording to University of Maine researcher William Livingston of the School of Forest Resources, warmer winter temperatures from 1999 to 2002 allowed populations of the invasive, bark-feeding scale insect to explode, resulting in beech trunks turning white with millions of scale insects. Insect feeding and the severe drought at that time weakened the trees’ resistance to fungal infection and many trees died, including those along the Quebec border.

Beech bark disease has been recorded and monitored in Maine since at least 1932. It is now widespread in southern and eastern areas of the state. However, for 70 years trees along the border between western Aroostook County and the Canadian province of Quebec were free of disease and maintained healthy growth.

But in 2003, beech tree mortality in that area increased 31 percent over the year before. Mortality rates in northern Somerset, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties also increased sharply. Both diseased and healthy trees that had survived for decades began to die.

Livingston and Matthew Kasson, a former UMaine graduate student now at Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Plant Pathology, sampled hundreds of trees in the study area. They found a heightened incidence and severity of beech bark mortality and widespread presence of the fungus Neonectria. By taking core samples of the affected trees and comparing growth patterns to meteorological records, the researchers determined that the diseased and dying beeches had been weakened by dense populations of the invasive scale insect Cryptococcus fagisuga, which was favored by drought conditions and warmer winter temperatures from 1999 to 2002.

After 2002, typical sub-zero winter temperatures and normal summer rains returned, and the scale populations disappeared. However, the damage was done and beech trees died from 2003 to 2005.

“Even though [beech bark disease] has been in Maine for decades, combinations of warmer winters and droughts are associated with unprecedented levels of beech tree mortality,” according to Livingston and Kasson, who published their findings in the journal Forest Pathology.

If the warm start to the 2011-12 winter is an indicator of moderate temperatures for the coming season, forest health specialists will closely monitor beech scale populations in the year ahead. Tough times may be coming again to the beech forests of Maine.

Contact: Meg Haskell, 207-581-3766
William Livingston, 207-581-2990

SteriPEN Research Noted in Article

Friday, December 16th, 2011

A Bangor Daily News article about the SteriPEN, a compact water purifier which was recently named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 All-Time Gadgets, noted that some of the research for the device was done in laboratories at UMaine in the department of molecular and biological sciences. The article noted that the company turned to UMaine for research in the use of ultraviolet LEDs in water purification and also for product testing.

Contact: Jessica Bloch, 207-581-3777

Liquid Natural Gas Economic Study Noted in BDN

Friday, December 16th, 2011

An article in the Bangor Daily News about a proposed liquid natural gas terminal in Down East Maine cited a UMaine study which found an LNG terminal would create 90 operational jobs, 350 construction jobs and 230 “indirect” jobs in the region. The study was prepared in 2005 by UMaine economists Todd Gabe and Jonathan Rubin, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center’s Charles Morris and Lisa Bragg, who was a UMaine graduate student at the time.

Contact: Jessica Bloch, 207-581-3777

UMaine Programs Mentioned in Container Housing Story

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Efforts by the Knowledge Transfer Alliance (KTA) and Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) to help a Brewer manufacturer that retrofits shipping containers into housing units were mentioned in a Bangor Daily News story. The KTA is an initiative within UMaine’s School of Economics that helps Maine communities and businesses overcome hardships cause by economic or natural disasters, while the AMC provides engineering support and acts as a service center to design and build projects.

Contact: Jessica Bloch, 207-581-3777

Razor Clams are Cutting Edge Research at UMaine and Roger Williams University

Friday, December 9th, 2011

ORONO, Maine  – Clams of all kind are big business in New England, but the razor or jackknife clam, while worth between $2.50 and $6 per pound, has not been a focus of clam diggers. The elongated, elusive bivalve is hard to dig from the mud and usually only accessible at extremely low tides, resulting in an inconsistent supply. Market demand would likely increase if a steady supply of quality razor clams could be developed.

Paul Rawson of the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences is leading an effort to develop ways to grow razor clams on shellfish farms. With a $93,616 award from the Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center (NRAC), Rawson will work with Dale Leavitt of Roger Williams University, Diane Murphy of Woods Hole Sea Grant and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, and Dana Morse of Maine Sea Grant and UMaine Cooperative Extension. The project is entitled: “Optimization of Hatchery and Culture Technology for Razor Clams.”

In previous work, Leavitt evaluated the equipment and techniques needed to culture razor clams. While the approaches showed promise, Leavitt reached a bottleneck in the hatchery.

“We had very promising results with the grow out stage of razor clam production in our earlier NRAC-sponsored research but had trouble supplying seed to the growers. So, with this grant, we hope to solve the early production stage problems that limited us the last time around,” he said.

Earlier trials and data from other countries indicate razor clams can have fast growth rates, making their culture potential even greater. The team hopes to produce 1 million juvenile razor clams in 2012, working at the UMaine Darling Marine Center (DMC), the Roger Williams University Blount Shellfish Hatchery, and the Aquacultural Research Corporation, in Dennis, Mass.

“The razor clam project is very exciting and I am glad that we’ve been asked to help work through several bottlenecks that presently exist in the culture of razor clams,” said DMC Hatchery Manager Michael Devin. “We will be challenged, but I’m looking forward to helping growers and the shellfish industry in general.”

“The shellfish culture industry in the northeast has a reputation for ingenuity and resourcefulness and we are excited to be helping them explore and solve issues related to the culture of alternative species,” Rawson added.

For project information and updates, visit: http://www.seagrant.umaine.edu/resources-for-shellfish-growers/species/razor-clam, or call Maine Sea Grant, at (207) 841-1435.

Contact: Catherine Schmitt, Maine Sea Grant, catherine.schmitt@umit.maine.edu

Village Soup Reports on UMaine Ocean Weather Buoys Grant

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The coastal Knox Village Soup reported comments from U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree about the importance of the Northeast Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems weather buoys, formerly known as GMOOS, managed by a partnership that includes the University of Maine. NOAA has agreed to maintain funding for the program, which informs mariners and fishing vessels off the coast about offshore sea and weather conditions, for five years. The program received $1.77 million for the first year.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756