Archive for April, 2013

Drummond Receives 2013 Presidential Research & Creative Achievement Award

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

University of Maine President Paul Ferguson announced that Professor of Insect Ecology Francis “Frank” Drummond is the 2013 Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award recipient.

Entomologist Frank Drummond has been a member of the UMaine community for a quarter-century. He is a professor in the School of Biology and Ecology, and University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The breadth of his career is reflected in his research interests that range from pollination ecology to insect pest management, and scientific techniques that span statistical modeling and computer simulation to molecular genetics. His research venues range from Maine’s blueberry and potato fields to Australian sugarcane plantations. Drummond has always worked in cooperative research with other researchers at UMaine and beyond. Today, his productivity and project diversity involves 60 research colleagues. Drummond has been the principal or co-principal investigator on more than $15.7 million in research funding. That funding includes USDA grants investigating the genetics of blueberry production and pollinator conservation to address colony collapse disorder in honeybees. Since joining the UMaine community, Drummond has been leading bee research, focused on their health, conservation and role as crop pollinators. As an applied entomologist, Drummond finds solutions to important agricultural insect problems, especially in Maine. One of his many successful efforts to help farmers manage the blueberry maggot fly, an effort that saved growers money and reduced the environmental impact of insecticide applications. With several UMaine colleagues, Drummond has researched and developed organic methods for blueberry production — the only complete organic insect pest management plan for wild blueberry production in North America. Drummond also created a model to predict the impact of human activity on streams, which became the basis for Maine law and informed national Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

President’s Research Impact Award

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Presidential Impact Award

A team of University of Maine graduate students and their faculty adviser Jennifer Middleton are the recipients of the 2013 President’s Research Impact Award for the research project “What Happens Next? Examining Child Protection Outcomes in a Cohort of Opioid-Exposed Infants.”

Alison Mitchell, Meagan Foss, Leah Agren, Jenifer Koch and Middleton won the annual President’s Research Impact Award at the 2013 GradExpo where Mitchell presented the project. The award is given to a graduate student and adviser who best exemplify the UMaine mission of teaching, research and outreach. The $2,000 award will be split among the grad students and their adviser.

The community-engaged research project, part of a research methods series for the Master in Social Work curriculum, is being conducted by the graduate students in collaboration with Middleton.

“The Graduate Student Leadership and I created this award last year to recognize the high-quality research of University of Maine graduate students occurring in so many academic areas across the campus,” says UMaine President Paul Ferguson. “I wanted to specifically recognize the research that has tangible impact for our state with the potential to make a difference — in this case, in the lives of some of Maine’s youngest citizens. This is an outstanding example of the research excellence that a land grant university offers to the people it serves.”

Though the population of infants born with prenatal opioid exposure in the Greater Bangor region is growing — from 23 in 2003 to 183 in 2012 — little is know about what happens to the infants after they leave Eastern Maine Medical Center, Mitchell says.

The project aims to clarify what happens, from a child welfare system perspective, after the infant is discharged. The team plans to explore rates and reasons families with opioid-exposed infants become subsequently involved with child protective services through the Office of Child and Family Services, or OCFS, at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently, there are no other studies tracking the child protection outcomes of opioid-exposed infants in Maine, Mitchell says, and the project represents the first attempt to share data between EMMC and OCFS.

“Winning this award is enormously gratifying,” says Mitchell, noting that the project is a team effort. “Social workers in general aren’t particularly recognized for their research very often so for that it’s really exciting.”

The project was proposed to Middleton by EMMC contact Mark Moran, a graduate of UMaine’s Master’s in Social Work Program who works with families of substance-exposed infants.

There has been a significant increase in the number of drug-exposed babies born in Maine, from 165 in 2005 to 667 in 2011, and Maine’s opiate addiction rate is also the highest in the country per capita at 386 per 100,000 as opposed to the national average of 45 per 100,000, according to data collected by the research team.

The Bangor area, which is home to three methadone clinics and a hospital equipped to handle drug-exposed infants, has a concentration of opioid-exposed births compared to more rural areas. Drug-exposed babies who are delivered in regional hospitals get transferred to EMMC for treatment, Mitchell says.

When a substance-exposed infant is born at or transferred to EMMC, the hospital makes a notification and sends it to OCFS, she says.

“All of those infants in our cohort were already in the OCFS database so what this project is trying to do is just match cases,” Mitchell says.

By using the name and birth date of the drug-exposed infants from the EMMC record and having OCFS run a query on the infants one year from their birth date, the team was able to see if the child showed up in protective services’ database again, Mitchell says.

“It really is a three-way partnership,” Mitchell says of the involvement of the UMaine School of Social Work graduate students, EMMC and OCFS. “Each of the partners has had quite a bit of influence in shaping how the project has evolved.”

From their data collection, the team has determined that 68 percent of their sample does not show up again in child protection, while 32 percent showed up as having an open case with OCFS within their first year.

The students expect to receive information from the hospital on the severity of the 60 cases once the hospital eliminates identifying information and clears the data for release.

In the remaining weeks of the semester, the students will conduct statistical analyses. Agren and Koch will graduate in May 2013, while Mitchell and Foss, who are scheduled to graduate next year, will continue to do analyses over the summer once they find out where the cases fall in terms of severity.

Mitchell says she believes one of the reasons the project won the President’s Research Impact Award is because it’s a community-engaged partnership.

During the course of the class, the region received a $4 million federal grant for the Penquis Regional Linking Project, a five-year effort aiming to enhance the network of over 25 agencies in the Penobscot and Piscataquis counties supporting trauma-informed services for substance-exposed children and their families. Middleton is the lead researcher and co-director of evaluation for this project.

The team members think their research will help the agencies in the project reach their goal, and Mitchell says they have already received positive feedback from project members.

“What Happens Next?” also aims to generate knowledge useful in advancing local practice and policy efforts and pave the way for future collaborations.

“The primary aim is right in the title, ‘What happens next?’” Mitchell says. “The goal of the study is to see if we can figure out what happens from a child protective perspective and to establish those precedents of how to come together as a service-providing community.”

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Nearly Four Decades of Research Data Shows Gulf of Maine Ecosystem Not Recovering From Sea Urchin Overfishing

Thursday, April 11th, 2013


An ecological chain reaction triggered by the boom and bust of sea urchin fishing in the Gulf of Maine demonstrates the importance of comprehensive ecosystem-based ocean management, says a University of Maine marine scientist.

Conventional fisheries management regulates for a “maximum sustainable yield” for each managed species. However, this usually ignores strong interactions between predators and their prey that can affect the entire ecosystem, says Robert Steneck, a professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center.

Steneck and three university graduates pooled 36 years of Gulf of Maine ocean data to examine how a stable ecosystem state composed of green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) and a pavement of crustose coralline algae switched, or “flipped,” to an alternate stable state dominated by erect macroalgae, or kelp and other seaweed.

When fishermen began abruptly removing large numbers of sea urchins from the Gulf of Maine in the late 1980s, the seaweed on which they grazed began to flourish, Steneck says. The abundance of seaweed, in turn, created a nursery habitat for Jonah crabs (Cancer borealis). The crabs, say the researchers, subsequently preyed on the sea urchins that remained.

The entire coastal ecosystem flipped and “locked” into a seaweed-dominated alternate stable state that has persisted for nearly 20 years.

In 2000 and 2001, Steneck and crew tried to “break the lock” of erect macroalgae by reintroducing 51,000 adult sea urchins into plots off the coast of Cape Elizabeth. But both years, large crabs migrated to the plots and wiped out the reintroduced urchins.

The consequences of sea urchin decimation “can be costly, and recovery may be difficult or impossible to achieve” for decades, Steneck says.

Fisheries management may need to focus on increasing the number of crab predators in order to return to a stable state of crustose coralline algae and sea urchins, he says.

The Gulf of Maine crab population increased in density because the seaweed nursery habitat became abundant and because, over time, commercial fishing has reduced the population of crab predators, including Atlantic cod.

Sea urchins, Steneck writes, were “highly abundant and a highly valued food” in 1987 when Maine fishermen began harvesting them along the southwestern coast before moving northeast toward Canada. The Maine harvest peaked in 1993, then declined rapidly.

In 1995, Maine’s sea urchin industry fishery was second only to that of the American lobster in value, Steneck writes. At that time, the local fishery supported more than 1,500 full-time urchin fishers.

Today, Steneck says the sea urchin fishery in the Gulf of Maine has declined 84 percent in value; no full-time fishers remain.

The study was conducted with nearly four decades of UMaine thesis research, starting with Steneck’s master’s thesis. Bob Vadas, UMaine professor emeritus, was Steneck’s thesis adviser. University graduates who co-authored the paper are Doug McNaught, assistant professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias; Amanda Leland, vice president for oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington D.C.; and John Vavrinec, senior research scientist with the Coastal Assessment and Restoration technical group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Sequim, Wash.

The paper, “Ecosystem Flips, Locks, And Feedbacks: The Lasting Effects on Fisheries On Maine’s Kelp Forest Ecosystem,” is featured in the January 2013 Bulletin of Marine Science and is recommended by peer scientists on the F1000Prime website.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Wu Receives Top Pan-American Award

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Vivian Chi-Hua Wu, associate professor of microbiology and food safety at the University of Maine, has won a 2012 Bimbo Pan-American Nutrition, Food Science and Technology Award.

The award recognizes the best research projects in the fields of nutrition, food science and technology throughout the Americas.

Wu will receive $5,000 for her technology project, “A piezoelectric immunosensor for specific capture and enrichment of viable pathogens by quartz crystal microbalance sensor, followed by detection with antibody-functionalized gold nanoparticles.”

A scientific jury of researchers and experts chose Wu’s project the best of 107 entries.

Creative Value

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

creative economy

Inventive, imaginative, resourceful and innovative are synonyms for creative.

And in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, they also were synonymous with better employment prospects, according to a new study by a team of researchers.

The team, including University of Maine economist Todd Gabe, found that from 2006–11, members of the creative class — including those with careers in knowledge-based, creative fields of computers, architecture, arts, business, health care and high-end sales — had a higher probability of being employed than people in the working and service classes.

Having a creative career was even more valuable in the two years after the Great Recession, which may indicate the U.S. economy is undergoing a structural change, say Gabe, Richard Florida of Martin Prosperity Institute in Toronto, Canada, and Charlotta Mellander of Jönköping International Business School in Jönköping, Sweden.

Florida labels the change resulting from the economic crash “The Great Reset.” In his book of the same name, subtitled How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, Florida says a vibrant future of innovation and dramatic change in lifestyle will result due to the shift in the framework of employment.

Unemployment rates for creative class occupations were lower than unemployment rates in the U.S. economy prior to, during and immediately following the recession, according to the researchers’ analysis of 2006–11 data from Current Population Surveys, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Before the recession (2006–07), the unemployment rate for all occupations was 4.7 percent; for the creative class it was 1.9 percent; for the service class it was 5 percent; and for the working class it was 6.5 percent.

During the recession (2008–09), the unemployment rate for all occupations was 6.9 percent; for the creative class it was 3 percent; for the service class it was 6.9 percent; and for the working class it was 11.1 percent.

In the two years following the recession (2010–11), the unemployment rate for all occupations was 9.4 percent; for the creative class, it was 4.1 percent; for the service class it was 9.3 percent; and for the working class, it was 14.6 percent.”

Working class jobs include those in production, construction, transportation and maintenance. Service class occupations include those in home health care, customer service, food preparation and retail sales.

Researchers say creative class workers may fare better than service and working class members because the work they do is less standardized and thus they are more difficult to replace. They also may be more equipped to reinvent themselves and their jobs are locally driven, rather than export-based, say the three-person team.

The researchers’ article, “The Creative Class and the crisis,” was published in Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777