Archive for May, 2012

Column Lauds UMaine’s Magnolia ‘Butterflies’

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A column in the Bangor Daily News about the beauty and fragrance of Magnolia “Butterflies” garden ornamentals cites the author’s impressions of the magnolias in the University of Maine’s Lyle E.Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden as a source of inspiration. The cultivar is slow growing, but worth the wait, the writer noted.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

McConnon Interviewed for Tourist Season Report

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Comments from University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialist and School of Economics professor Jim McConnon about the coming tourist season were included in a Maine Public Broadcasting Network report. McConnon and others involved with the tourism industry agreed the improving economy likely will mean a strong tourism season.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

Blog Cites UMaine Lamprey Eel Research

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

University of Maine researchers’ work studying lamprey eel spawning was cited in a Bangor Daily News blog about Atlantic salmon by outdoors writer John Holyoke. Holyoke wrote that UMaine researchers informed him that lamprey spawning in tributaries of the Penobscot River could benefit spawning salmon, since lampreys clear silt during their nesting process, which could create streambed spawning areas suitable for salmon.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

Gabe Creative Class Research Cited in Huffington Post

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A column in the United Kingdom’s Huffington Post about disparity in earnings among various occupations cited research by University of Maine economist Todd Gabe, whose research has shown that people in many creative jobs, like physicists, writers, artists and actors, are paid less than people in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. Gabe’s observation that UMaine engineering graduates can earn $25,000 more a year than liberal arts graduates speaks to the phenomenon, the column notes.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

Marine Scientist Discusses Cod Colonization

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

codNew evidence suggests that Atlantic cod may have the ability to affect entire food webs in both benthic and pelagic marine ecosystems, according to a University of Maine marine scientist, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Not only are (cod) strong interactors capable of limiting the abundance of their prey and their prey’s prey, but also the prey themselves may limit the recovery of this predator,” says Robert Steneck of the large carnivore that, prior to overfishing, was “widespread, abundant and possibly the most important predator throughout the coastal regions of the North Atlantic.”
“In most countries where fisheries management exists, the focus is on the dynamics of single species,” says Steneck, “and often there is no consideration of how two or more managed species interact or how such interactions can affect the entire ecosystem.”

In his PNAS commentary published May 14, Steneck points to an event in which an overabundance of Atlantic Cod in the Baltic Sea spilled over into the Gulf of Riga, as reported by a research team led by Michele Casini of the Swedish Board of Fisheries. The “predator pulse” — in-migration of juvenile and adult cod — into the gulf lasted a decade, causing a trophic cascade in the marine food web. Cod ate the herring, causing the herbivorous zooplankton population normally eaten by herring to increase. Because zooplankton consumed phytoplankton, water in the Gulf of Riga cleared, but only for the decade when cod spilled into the region.

This example of successful, albeit serendipitous, cod colonization provides clues as to how cod repopulation occurs and why it isn’t as simple as closing large areas to fishing when Atlantic cod stocks collapse, Steneck contends. In the case of Canada and the United States, fishing managers expected a full recovery of cod stocks within a decade after the closures in the early 1990s; nearly two decades later, cod stocks remain historically low. It is possible that colonization of new or depleted areas occurs by influx of larger cod rather than cod larvae when adjacent populations reach high population densities, which has not happened in New England for at least decades, says Steneck.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, (207) 581-3745

Ancient Rocks Provide Critical Clues About Modern Earthquakes

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

At first glance, there’s nothing remarkable about the rocky Maine blueberry field in which University of Maine graduate student Nancy Price does her research. But those rocks are crucial to our understanding about how faults work nearly 10 miles below the surface of the Earth. Indeed, that’s where rocks are supposedly the strongest.faults

Price’s findings suggest that geophysical assumptions about the strength of faults at different depths may need to be reevaluated. And if we better understand faults, we may be able to better predict the behavior that causes large earthquakes.

Price is studying the Norumbega fault system, a line of ancient faults that cuts across Maine from Calais to Casco Bay. The now extinct faults were seismically active millions of years ago. Today, the Norumbega system is considered an ancient analog for major earthquake faults, such as the San Andreas fault in California and the North Anatolian fault in Turkey, which have produced some of the deadliest quakes in our time.

Like the San Andreas, the Norumbega is a strike-slip fault where only the shallowest parts are exposed or can be reached by drilling. To study deeper fault rocks, an ancient, extinct zone must be found where the depths have been exposed through exhumation and erosion.

Price is studying a part of the Norumbega fault in Windsor, Maine, that more than 300 million years ago was situated about 10 miles below the surface, but is now exposed. In a strike-slip fault, two tectonic plates slide against each other. They do not slide smoothly and stress builds up as the plates snag on each other.

Close to the surface, where the rocks are relatively cold, the plates are brittle and rocks break, easily releasing the stress. Temperature increases with depth in the Earth, and at a certain temperature the rock weakens and stretches like chewing gum. The strongest part of the crust lies at the depth where the rock starts to stretch, but can also still crack, a region called the frictional-viscous transition. This is the depth level Price is studying.

“How this region behaves is the key to how the fault works,” says Price, who earned a master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “If we understood it, we wouldn’t have to rely on how often an earthquake ruptures. We could model the fault based on what we understand of the physics of how the rock will behave and predict what will happen.”

Working with geologist Scott Johnson, chair of UMaine’s Department of Earth Sciences, Price originally set out to model the fault using data collected from hundreds of rock samples that were once in the transition zone. These sheared fault rocks contain thin, gray veins called pseudotachylyte — evidence of ancient earthquakes.

But when Price’s samples revealed more pseudotachylyte than expected, she turned her attention to identifying how much of the rock contained these veins and how this might change assumptions of fault strength at these depths.

Price found the process of pseudotachylyte formation causes the size of the mineral grains in the rock to be smaller and the percentages of the minerals to change, causing the thin gray layer to be weaker than the rest of the rock. If enough pseudotachylyte from earthquakes is created over millions of years, the fault itself becomes weaker than is generally accepted.

“This change in perspective will help drive discussion,” Price says.

Health Article Cites UMaine Blueberry Research

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The Triton newspaper in Florida cited University of Maine blueberry research in an article about the many health benefits of wild blueberries. The article referred to UMaine research establishing that blueberries have antimicrobial properties that can counter foodborne pathogens like salmonella or E-coli.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

UMaine Experts Interviewed for Honeybee Article

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

David Yarborough and Frank Drummond were interviewed for a Bangor Daily News article about the value of bees for pollinating Maine’s wild blueberry and fruit crops. Drummond has been leading a national $3.3 million grant-funded consortium to study native bee populations and biological threats to them. Growers depend upon native and imported honeybees and bumble bees to pollinate crops.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

UMaine’s Hart a Panelist at National Sustainability Symposium

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

David Hart, director of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center at the University of Maine and research leader for the UMaine-based Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), was in Washington, D.C., recently serving as a panelist at the prestigious National Academies Symposium “Science, Innovation, and Partnerships for Sustainability Solutions.”  Hart, a professor of in the School of Biology and Ecology, was to discuss SSI as part of a panel discussion “Science for Sustainability: Case Studies of National and International Research.” The symposium’s objective is to showcase federal investments and institutional structures fostering sustainability and identify opportunities to help promote practices to lead communities toward sustainability. SSI is a partnership among UMaine, University of Southern Maine and other institutions to connect knowledge with action to promote strong economies, vibrant communities and healthy ecosystems.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

Lichtenwalner in TV Report on Pets, Poisonous Plants

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Anne Lichtenwalner, director of the UMaine Animal Health Lab, was interviewed for a Channel 2 (WLBZ) news report warning pet owners to keep potentially poisonous flowers and plants away from family pets. Animals that eat leaves from certain plants, like azaleas, daffodils and hostas, can experience vomiting and possibly kidney failure if untreated, Lichtenwalner said.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756