Archive for December, 2012

Scientists in Poland name new minerals for UMaine geologist

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Ed GrewRussian geologists at the University of Silesia in Poland have discovered two minerals new to science and have named them “edgrewite” and “hydroxledgrewite” in honor of University of Maine geologist and research professor Edward Grew.

The new minerals were discovered by mineralogists Evgeny Galuskin and Irina Galuskin in the Chegem caldera in the Northern Caucasus, near Mount Elbrus in the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic in Russia. A caldera is a crater-like structure produced by very large explosive volcanic ash eruptions, like those found Yellowstone and Crater Lake national parks.

Grew began working with the Galuskins as associate editor of the journal American Mineralogist, when he helped them prepare papers for publication, and in person at the International Mineralogical Association meeting in Budapest in 2010. The Galuskins were familiar with Grew’s reputation for working successfully with Russian scientists throughout his career.

The honor of having a mineral named for him “is a lifelong dream come true,” says Grew, whose research focuses on rare minerals containing boron and beryllium, and the role of the two elements in the changes that rocks undergo at high temperatures and pressures in the Earth’s crust. “I have always valued my international collaborations in science, and so I was especially honored that colleagues in Europe proposed my name for the new minerals they discovered.”

A UMaine research faculty member for 28 years, Grew has been involved in the discovery and characterization of 13 new minerals, including six from Antarctica. He has been on nine expeditions to Antarctica with researchers from the former Soviet Union, Australia, Japan and the United States, in addition to research projects in Australia, India, Germany, Japan, Tajikistan and Siberia. His first expedition to the Antarctic was in 1972–74, when he wintered at Molodezhnaya Station. He has published extensively on the composition and evolution of minerals, and has served in leadership capacities for national and international professional organizations and mineralogical publications.

Identifying undiscovered minerals involves detailed microscopic analysis. Edgrewite and hydroxledgrewite were found as tiny crystals smaller than the period at the end of a sentence in a newspaper, according to Grew.

“Recognizing a new mineral involves a measure of good luck and familiarity with known minerals,” he says. “Several new minerals I have discovered simply looked different under the optical microscope. Chemical tests confirmed my hunch that the minerals were new. Sometimes a new mineral does not stand out optically under the microscope, but (its) distinctive chemical composition suggests it is new. Once a mineral is suspected to be new, it is studied in detail so its physical, chemical and crystallographic properties are fully characterized and then it must undergo a complex process of approval by an international commission.”

The Galuskins and research colleagues from four European countries discuss the discovery of the new minerals edgrewite and hydroxledgrewite in a peer-reviewed scientific report in the November–December issue of the journal American Mineralogist.

Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756

National Association Honors Plant Pathologist David Lambert

Friday, December 14th, 2012

The Potato Association of America (PAA) has honored University of Maine associate professor of plant, soil, and environmental sciences and of biological sciences David Lambert with an Honorary Life Membership for his commitment and work with potato disease. He was one of only three individuals so honored for 2012. Lambert received the Maine Potato Board’s President’s Public Service Award in 1995 for his work combating late blight and in 2005 the University of Maine Presidential Public Service Award. A research faculty member at UMaine since 1986, Lambert is credited with helping to develop successful control strategies for potato scab and late blight, according to a recent profile in the Maine Potato Board newsletter. Lambert also has been active with the PAA and was a key organizer of the association’s annual meeting in the 1990s when it was held in Maine.

Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756

UMaine professors honored for contributions to science

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Two University of Maine professors have been elected as Fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for their contributions to science and technology.

Joyce Longcore, associate research professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology, and Susan Brawley, professor of plant biology in the School of Marine Sciences and cooperating professor of biological sciences, will be recognized at the AAAS Annual Meeting in February in Boston.

Longcore, Brawley and the other 700 recently elected Fellows will be presented with a certificate and a blue and gold rosette to honor their accomplishments.

Longcore was elevated to the rank of Fellow “for distinguished contributions to mycology/microbiology on aquatic fungi (chytrids), developing extensive collections and isolating and describing Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the cause of global amphibian declines,” according to AAAS.

She is a leading researcher on chytrid fungi, including a fungus believed to be responsible for the worldwide decimation of frogs. In the last 30 years, more than 100 amphibian species have become extinct.

Longcore isolated a pure culture of Bd in 1997 after a die-off of exotic frogs in captivity at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. She and her Smithsonian colleagues described it as a new genus and species, and she and collaborators have studied populations of it throughout the natural world.

Longcore says she is honored to bring attention to the university for her work with chytrid fungi.

Brawley was elevated to the rank of Fellow “for innovative and interdisciplinary approaches in elucidating critical factors in rocky seaweed distribution, and for inspiring and training students at all levels,” according to AAAS.

She is an expert on marine algae and algal reproduction. Brawley and her students focus on adaptations that allow algae to reproduce successfully under natural stresses in the intertidal zone, particularly in rockweeds and red algae. She is also working to foster integrated aquaculture with sea vegetables in Maine, and to increase appreciation for their nutritional and culinary benefits.

Brawley is a former editor of the Journal of Phycology and former president of the Phycological Society of America. She led a National Science Foundation project from UMaine that won a New England Board of Higher Education’s Regional Excellence Award for effective science outreach in Maine schools.

She is currently on sabbatical in California.

“I am delighted that Dr. Susan Brawley and Dr. Joyce Longcore were named AAAS Fellows,” says Edward Ashworth, dean of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture, and director of the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station.

“Being an AAAS Fellow is a distinct honor and certainly a well-deserved recognition for two outstanding scientists who have contributed much to their fields of study. I am very proud of these accomplished faculty members and their association with our college and UMaine.”

Four other UMaine faculty members also are AAAS Fellows: Edward Grew, Irving Kornfield, Paul Mayewski and Malcolm Shick. The late Bruce Sidell was also a Fellow.

Grew is a research professor of geological sciences in UMaine’s School of Earth and Climate Sciences; Kornfield is a professor in the School of Marine Sciences; Mayewski is director and distinguished professor in UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, professor of Earth sciences, and a cooperating professor in the School of Marine Sciences and School of Policy and International Affairs; and Shick is a professor of oceanography and zoology, cooperating professor of biological sciences, and associate director of the School of Marine Sciences.

Sidell, founding director of the university’s School of Marine Sciences, died in 2011.

Founded in 1848, AAAS has 120,000 individual and institution members. Fellows are nominated by their peers and chosen by the AAAS Council. The mission of the international nonprofit is “to advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.”

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Student-run greenhouse growing greens for campus dining halls

Monday, December 10th, 2012

UMaine Greens Small

Snowflakes floated toward the frozen ground while University of Maine students snipped salad greens inside a campus greenhouse where the temperature approached a balmy 50 degrees.

The greens were a hit with salad bar customers the next day at Maine Marketplace in Memorial Union.

Sonja Birthisel, a graduate student in the sustainable agriculture program, said the red, blue and green leafy mix was tasty and mild. Megan Berthiaune, a senior from Eddington, Maine, majoring in nutrition, described the Elegance Greens Mix as fresh and appealing.

It would have been difficult for the greens to be any fresher or local; they traveled a mere half-mile from the greenhouse to the salad bar.

The Elegance Greens Mix, which includes Pac Choi, red mustard, mizuna and leaf broccoli, was the first harvest of the UMaine Greens Project, supervised by Eric Gallandt, associate professor of weed ecology and chairman of the Department of Plant, Soil and Environmental Sciences.

Gallandt says the inspiration to start a student greenhouse project came from visiting Michigan State University last year. UMaine’s project, which involves growing greens for the UMaine dining commons, builds on the university’s Sustainable Agriculture Program.

UMaine Greens, headquartered in a greenhouse off Rangeley Road, was funded with $11,500 from UMaine’s Unified Fee.

“I wanted to do something where sustainable agriculture students and students interested in local foods, and food enthusiasts could have a hands-on experience,” Gallandt says.

More than $7,700 was invested in a 26-foot by 96-foot greenhouse, purchased from a farmer in New Hampshire.

Gallandt also purchased a piece of equipment he initially didn’t dream he would need — a snowblower to prevent buildup around the double-layer plastic walls of the greenhouse. (He got it on sale in July.)

Daniel Blanton, a senior majoring in sustainable agriculture from Stow, Mass., one of the 25 students involved in the UMaine Greens Project, helped build the greenhouse.

“It was like a really big puzzle,” he says. “This has been one of my favorite experiences at UMaine. Hoop houses are the future in Maine for sustainable farmers. Winter production is exciting.”

In September, project participants had a “greenhouse raising”; they gathered at 7 a.m. one calm Friday to pull the two layers of plastic over the metal tubing frame.

Oct. 12, students planted rows of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Nov. 29, about 20 pounds of the tasty greens crop became lunchtime salad bar fare for students and staff.

The idea of growing and eating healthy, local food is logical and appealing to many in the college community, Gallandt says. Frequent themes in agriculture classes include reducing the number of food miles — the distance food travels to reach the table — and the ability to control and extend the growing environment. This project addresses both topics in a hands-on, positive manner, he says.

And there is room, literally, to grow.

“It might not be possible to feed the campus, but we can plant one bed of greens at a time, so to speak,” Gallandt says.

Glenn Taylor, director of Maine Culinary Services and a champion of the UMaine Greens Project, says 15 percent of all food served in campus dining halls is harvested at Maine farms from meat to beets. That equates to the university spending $700,000 annually with area businesses.

Taylor says in two years, the goal is to increase the proportion of locally grown food served at the university to 25 percent.

Purchasing vegetables from the UMaine Greens Project won’t displace any other local grower, Taylor says, and will help the project become financially self-sustaining.

“We focus on local foods and this is about as local as you can possibly get,” says Taylor, carrying a tote of just-clipped salad greens to his vehicle.

Gallandt says it’s also fitting the greenhouse is adjacent to the university’s new composting facility. Compost from the vegetables that feed the students will subsequently nourish the greenhouse soil where the greens are grown.

“It’s symbolic,” he says. “It’s a visual closed nutrient system. Each year, we can use compost to amend the soil.”

Interested students are invited to join the current motivated group of volunteers participating in the project.

“We’re always looking for more help,” said Rose Presby, a fifth-year biology major from Farmington, Maine. “If you’re looking for local food and you care where it comes from, you should definitely get involved,” she said.

Garth Douston, a junior from Arundel, Maine, says there are many benefits to digging in and taking part.

It’s a great opportunity to learn about winter production and extending the growing season and keeping plants alive and thriving,” says Douston, a sustainable agriculture major.

Lincoln, Maine native Bourcard Nesin had a hand in keeping the greens growing this fall. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture from UMaine last spring and says he’s pleased that students are contributing to the university’s reputation as a healthy campus.

In 2011 and 2012, UMaine was one of 16 colleges nationwide named to The Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll.

In addition to getting hands-on farming skills, growing healthy, local food, and helping the environment, Gallandt said a greenhouse is simply an inviting place to be.

“Last Sunday, it was 32 degrees and the wind was howling,” he said. “Inside the greenhouse, it was 54 degrees and there was 85 percent humidity. You can’t help but get happy in a place like that.”

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Three UMaine Aquaculture Research Projects Receive Funding

Monday, December 10th, 2012

A project designed to assess and improve commercial fishermen’s perceptions of aquaculture production is one of three University of Maine Aquaculture Research Institute projects to receive a combined $1.2 million in funding recently from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Sea Grant and UMaine.

The two other funded research projects will help ARI continue its research in the areas of sea lice management efforts and sea urchin production.

Teresa Johnson, an assistant professor of marine policy in the University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences, is the principal investigator of the Aquaculture in Shared Waters project. Commercial fishermen face resistance and challenges to becoming aquaculture producers, but factors such as the decreasing profitability of the lobster industry may improve openness to aquaculture production. The project has received a $299,219 grant, plus $160,058 in matching funds.

Johnson and Dana Morse of Maine Sea Grant and University of Maine Cooperative Extension will combine social science research with community research and an applied education plan to understand the attitudes, knowledge and concerns of both the fishing industry and coastal communities. A better understanding of these issues will help increase aquaculture production nationwide and therefore improve the economic prospects of commercial fishermen.

Investigators from UMaine and Maine Sea Grant will identify two groups of commercial fishermen on the Maine coast to engage in an education program in shellfish and seaweed aquaculture. The program will be designed to prepare participants to file applications with the state and begin production operations.

Project partners include the Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., and Island Institute.

UMaine’s Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI) has also received a $461,438 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with a $236,388 match, to continue sea lice research in collaboration with Cooke Aquaculture.

Ian Bricknell, ARI’s director and a professor in the School of Marine Sciences, will lead the research project that seeks to establish and model where and when sea lice infect migrating or farmed salmon near the shore, and identify potential wild reservoirs of sea lice. The researchers will also investigate the impact of fish farms on the infective pressure of sea lice.

The goal is to provide information to help understand the infectious pressure of sea lice near the coast, the role of wild fish as hosts for sea lice, and sea lice infection dynamics over an aquaculture production cycle. The data gathered will help industry-driven collaborative pest management efforts, and inform lease-granting bodies and marine resource users of sea lice risk factors.

Research will take place in Cobscook Bay, which has a number of active salmon aquaculture operations. Atlantic salmon sentinels, which are used to monitor pathogens in the environment, will be placed at four locations in the bay during an 18-month period to determine the effect of different factors on sea lice infectious pressure. Wild fish in the bay will also be monitored for sea lice infection to establish whether a wild host species exists.

Other investigators include ARI assistant director of research Deborah Bouchard, and Damian Brady and Gayle Zydlewski of the School of Marine Sciences.

The third project to receive funding, which involves researchers in Maine, New Hampshire, Alabama and Texas, will allow researchers to address issues of aquaculture development of sea urchins, both in hatcheries and in sea-based nurseries. The project will be headed up by Nick Brown, director of UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin, Maine.

As stocks of wild sea urchins decline in both the Gulf of Maine and worldwide, the development of green sea urchin aquaculture has the potential to provide a boost to the economy of the Gulf of Maine region. The $51,963 grant will be used to develop cost-effective hatchery and sea-based nursery production of urchins. A team that includes researchers at CCAR will address issues that now hinder the growth of the industry by using both field- and land-based urchin culture systems.

The researchers have a three-stage research plan. In the first stage, they will use two hatchery facilities to develop algal feeding and settlement strategies that maximize larval growth and survival while decreasing costs. In the second phase, the team will use tank-based trials to test variabilities, such as density and diet to promote growth while decreasing variabilities.

In addition, hatchery-reared juvenile urchins from the first stage of the project will be stocked into a field-based nursery system to examine stocking density and site location variables. In the third stage, urchins will be introduced for winter seeding at three lease sites in the Gulf of Maine, where the individuals will be monitored for survival, movement and growth.

Contact: Anne Langston, 207. 356.2982