High-performance computer modeling to tackle fisheries future

Timely forecasts of storms and effective management of commercial fishing are essential in the wake of extreme weather events and unprecedented warming in the Gulf of Maine.

Damian Brady, University of Maine assistant professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the Darling Marine Center, is working to advance both of those goals.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Brady and colleagues a $266,309 grant to advance UMaine high-performance computer modeling tools to do just that.

The project — “Major Research Instrumentation Program Track 1: Acquisition of High Performance Computing to Model Coastal Responses to a Changing Environment” — includes buying a system that nearly triples computing power at the university and acquiring an off-site backup system for project data.

The project is ideal because it joins world-class researchers and experts in cyberinfrastructure to create a platform that advances goals of the research and creates a platform that benefits research and education across all disciplines, says Bruce Segee, the Henry R. and Grace V. Butler Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Advanced Computing Group.

“Computing and storage are the test tubes and microscopes of the 21st century. They support the creation of knowledge, collaboration, communication and economic growth,” he says.

“Maine is fortunate to have a High Performance Computation facility available to its researchers and students, and this grant will help significantly increase the complexity of the questions that can be asked and the number of users it can support. Demand for computing resources is growing at a rapid pace, and this grant provides a great step forward to help meet the demand.”

The tools will help scientists better predict climate changes and extreme weather, as well as understand ensuing ecological and physical consequences, and weigh costs and benefits of adaptation or mitigation.

“The effects of climate change are not likely to be straightforward. There are species and ecosystems that will benefit and those that will not,” says Brady.

“The purpose of running computer models is that they ask the really tough questions like: What will happen to the lobster industry under a 1-, 2-, or 3-degree (temperature) increase? What will the impact of increased rainfall be on shellfish along the coast? Although models will not perfectly predict the consequences of these changes, they can give us a range of potential futures.”

Maine is uniquely positioned physically and economically to be affected by climate change, Brady says. The state is on one of the sharpest latitudinal temperature gradients in the world and has one of the longest coastlines in the United States.”

And the potential impacts of climate change are significant for Maine, where the economy is linked to marine resources and infrastructure. The aquaculture industry (predominantly salmon and shellfish) doubled in value from 2005 to 2013. And Maine’s commercial fisheries were valued at a record $585 million in 2014, says Brady.

Boosting computing capacity at UMaine will allow coastal modelers to inform local decisions and increase undergraduate and graduate student access to high-performance computing, Brady says.

UMaine colleagues Huijie Xue, professor of oceanography; Fei Chai, professor of oceanography; Qingping Zou, assistant professor of coastal engineering, and Sean Birkel, research assistant professor with the Climate Change Institute, are taking part in the three-year project with Brady and Segee.

Allan to testify on hazing prevention before U.S. Senate Committee

University of Maine Professor of Higher Education Elizabeth Allan will provide expert testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. Allan’s testimony will be part of a roundtable discussion entitled “Campus Safety: Improving Prevention and Response Efforts.”

The roundtable will examine a range of campus safety issues including bullying and hazing at institutions of higher education and efforts designed to reduce and prevent incidents. Allan will discuss the occurrence of hazing on college campuses and its impact on student learning. In addition, she will offer recommendations for how campuses can improve student safety through hazing prevention, including further research about hazing and evaluation of prevention strategies.

Allan was principal investigator for the National Study of Student Hazing and is currently directing the national Hazing Prevention Consortium — a research-to-practice initiative designed to contribute to an evidence base for hazing prevention. Her research and perspectives on hazing have informed hundreds of news articles for numerous outlets including the Associated Press, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, PBS, CNN, CBS and others.

The Senate HELP committee’s roundtable starts at 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday. It will be live-streamed and archived on the committee’s website.

From UMaine News.

Chantel Banus: Exploring consumer acceptance of seaweed products

Chantel Banus, second-year master’s student in human nutrition at the University of Maine, is working to determine the factors that influence consumer purchase of seaweed products in the United States.

Banus is conducting a survey to see what consumers are looking for in seaweed products and what influences their decision to purchase them. She wants to inform Maine seaweed farmers and aquaculture industry members in order to better market their products. Her research is advised by Mary Ellen Camire, professor of food science and human nutrition.

“Although seaweed, also known as macroalgae, has long been wild-harvested along the Maine coast, several species now form an emerging aquaculture industry in the state,” said Banus.

Though there are more than 250 species of sea vegetables in the Gulf of Maine, only 11 species of seaweed are commercially harvested.

Banus recently traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a public policy workshop hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She met with Maine legislative offices to discuss nutritional issues such as diabetes, obesity and child nutrition.

“It was rewarding to see dietitians, students and interns from across the country all in one room advocating for our work and the health of America,” said Banus, whose interest in human nutrition was sparked in her high school biology class.

At UMaine, Banus has worked closely with Adrienne White, professor and director of the internship program in the School of Food and Agriculture. Part of Banus’ graduate work is an accredited dietetic internship, which focuses on nutritional services and professional advocacy.

When she doesn’t have her head in the books, Banus can be found at the UMaine New Balance Student Recreation Center doing crossfit, yoga, pilates or running. She also loves to travel.

Hailing from Ashby, Massachusetts, Banus graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a B.S. in dietetics. After she graduates from UMaine in August 2017, she will be qualified to take the National Registration Examination to become a Registered Dietician. Although she is unsure what her future career holds, she aims to find a position that combines her interests in human nutrition and policy.

Contact: Amanda Clark, 207.581.3721

From UMaine News.

Brichacek receives $1.2M NIH grant to study glycans

University of Maine research to provide molecular-level understanding of glycan-associated disorders, such as inflammation, pathogen infection and cancer, has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Matthew Brichacek, UMaine assistant professor of chemistry, leads the research to develop methods to synthesize glycans — a family of carbohydrates — that can attach to a wide variety of biological molecules. Ultimately, the glycans produced by Brichacek and his team would enable investigations of numerous glycan-binding proteins in glycan-associated disorders.

“As a new investigator, I am poised to approach the complex field of glycoscience in innovative ways that will aid in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases,” says Brichacek.

Glycans play an integral role in cell signaling, immune response and modulation of protein activity. Though researchers have long understood the importance of glycans in biological processes, the ability to study such structures has been inhibited by the complexity of the molecules, and by available tools and technologies.

Brichacek aims to develop tools for studying carbohydrates that will enable researchers in all biomedical fields to dramatically advance their understanding of the roles these complex molecules play in health and disease.

The technology being developed by Brichacek would enable scientists from a wide variety of disciplines interested in carbohydrates to acquire the desired molecules inexpensively and without highly specialized training.

Brichacek, who joined the UMaine faculty in 2014, received his doctorate from Cornell University and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Contact: Amanda Clark, 207.581.3721

From UMaine News.

Vekasi selected for the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future Program

A University of Maine political scientist is one of 12 scholars selected to participate in the two-year U.S.-Japan Network for the Future program, designed to identify and support American professionals with the potential to become Japan specialists and policy experts.

Kristin Vekasi, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and the School of Policy and International Affairs, is a member of the network’s fourth cohort. Established in 2009, the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future is sponsored by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

During the two-year program, Vekasi and the 11 other newly selected scholars will participate in a Washington, D.C.-based workshop and meetings, and a weeklong Japan study trip. They also will conduct research and write on U.S.-Japan policy issues.

Vekasi’s research focuses on international political economy, and the dynamics of political conflict, foreign direct investment and nationalism. She specializes in northeast Asia, and has spent years conducting research in Japan and China. Her current research looks at how Japanese multinational corporations mitigate political risk in China.

Last October, Vekasi was a member of the Maine trade mission delegation to Japan and China. Vekasi received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2014. Prior to joining the UMaine faculty, she taught at New College of Florida, was a visiting research fellow at the University of Tokyo and a Fulbright Fellow at Tohoku University.

A news release about the new cohort of the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future is online.

From UMaine News.

Emerging environmental leader earns prestigious Switzer fellowship

Kimberley Rain Miner, Ph.D. candidate in Earth and climate sciences at the University of Maine, was recently selected as a Switzer Environmental Fellow by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.

This year, the Switzer Foundation awarded 20 fellowships of $15,000 each for emerging environmental leaders who are pursuing graduate degrees and are dedicated to positive environmental change — which is pretty much Miner’s motto.

Focusing on communication between cultures and disciplines, Miner is a knowledge broker for scientists, policymakers, and the public in order to develop solutions to address climate change.

The second-year doctoral student has traveled to some of the world’s coldest climates to study pollutants that are trapped — and released during a warming event — from glaciers.

Between the years of 1960 and 2004, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as DDT, dioxin and PCB have been released into the atmosphere and deposited by precipitation in glaciers around the world. Although this family of compounds is released in very small amounts (think parts per million), they are extremely resistant to environmental degradation.

Miner’s research focuses on developing risk assessment models for the release of legacy pollutants — chemicals released into the environment that have long-lasting effects — in glacial outflows. She aims to develop a framework to assess the conditions under which glacial release of POPs are a risk to the health of downstream communities.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Miner received a B.A in environmental science from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a M.P.A in environmental science and policy from Columbia University.

Miner was recently awarded numerous grants and fellowships including a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant, a Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation (SMART) Graduate fellowship. She’s currently a fellow in the Climate Change Institute’s Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT).

Contact: Amanda Clark, 207.581.3721

From UMaine News.

Three more UMaine students earn prestigious NSF graduate fellowships

Three University of Maine graduate students have received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which recognizes outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

The three fellows awarded in 2016 — incoming students Anna McGinn and William Kochtitzky in the Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences, respectively, and Kit Hamley in the Climate Change Institute — join two others at UMaine — Anne Marie Lausier, civil and environmental engineering, and Karen Stamieszkin, marine sciences. Five is the largest number of students to be awarded concurrent NSF Graduate Research Fellowships in UMaine history.

For the 2016 competition, NSF received close to 17,000 applications and made 2,000 award offers. The fellowship, which has been directly supporting graduate students in STEM fields since 1952, provides a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, plus $12,000 for tuition and fees and myriad opportunities for international research and professional development.

Short profiles of UMaine’s NSF Graduate Fellows:

Anna McGinn
Anna McGinn is a first-time fellow and incoming master’s student in the Climate Change Institute and the School of Policy and International Affairs. For her project, she hopes to evaluate the elements that make up a conflict-sensitive adaptation project and what the necessary steps are to implement conflict-sensitive projects in countries vulnerable to both climate change and conflict. She plans to travel to West Africa, Mozambique and Egypt to conduct a case study looking at projects currently under implementation and how they may impact the surrounding community. McGinn received her B.A. in environmental studies from Dickinson College in 2014, where she focused on climate change, environmental justice and climate vulnerability.

William Kochtitzky
William Kochtitzky is a first-time fellow and incoming master’s student in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. His undergraduate thesis focused on the volcanic and glacial evolution of the Nevado Coropuna Ice Cap, which sits atop a dormant volcano in the southern Peruvian Andes. The ice cap provides water resources to surrounding communities for drinking water, electricity and agricultural production. His project, in collaboration with the Peruvian Volcano Observatory, is changing regional hazard assessment and resource water planning in southern Peru. Kochtitzky received his B.S. in Earth sciences from Dickinson College in May 2016.

Anne Marie Lausier
Anne Marie Lausier is a continuing fellow and master’s student in civil and environmental engineering. Her research focuses on the inclusion of stakeholder equity considerations in water management and decision-making. She is currently assessing case studies of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) framework and identifying features that contribute to or retract from achieving an environmental stewardship approach. Her goal is to help facilitate the movement of water policy closer to sustainability in a changing environment. Lausier was awarded an NSF graduate fellowship in 2014. Before attending UMaine, Lausier received a bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a double major in geography and environmental studies.

Karen Stamiezkin
Karen Stamieszkin is a continuing fellow and a Ph.D. student in oceanography in the School of Marine Sciences. Stamieszkin was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2012 and will be graduating with her Ph.D. in August. Her research explores zooplankton fecal pellet carbon export in the ocean using modeling, observational and experimental work. Fecal pellet carbon export is the portion of fecal material produced by organisms living near the ocean’s surface, which sinks deep enough into the ocean that it is not mixed back up to the surface for many — up to thousands of — years. By applying the models to datasets that span the North Atlantic Ocean, more than 55 years, she explores how changing plankton communities and oceanographic conditions can change the export of fecal pellet carbon from the surface of the ocean to deeper depths where it can be stored. Her experiments show that feeding by zooplankton, and subsequent fecal pellet production, shifts the mean size of particles in the water to larger sizes. Since larger particles generally sink faster than smaller particles in the ocean, the process of feeding and defecating is a mechanism through which zooplankton can increase the potential for carbon export. She received her master’s in environmental science and her B.A. in environmental studies from Yale University.

Kit Hamley
Kit Hamley is a first-time fellow and master’s student in the Climate Change Institute. For her thesis, Hamley is investigating the origins of an extinct canid — the warrah — that was endemic to the Falkland Islands. She’s working to determine if pre-European humans introduced the foxes to the islands using an interdisciplinary approach that combines the fields of archaeology, paleoecology and paleontology. She also is interested in the effect the introduction and eradication of a top predator had on the remote island ecosystem. Hamley hopes this study will contribute to key questions in conservation and management on islands, such as biological invasions, disturbance regimes and natural variability, and is particularly interested in the role humans play in these interactions. She helped develop the Follow A Researcher (FAR) program at UMaine, which connects K–12 students with active graduate research at the university. She will continue her research at UMaine this fall as a Ph.D. student in the ecology and environmental science program. She received a B.A. in geology from Bowdoin College in 2010.

Contact: Amanda Clark, 207.581.3721

From UMaine News

Press Herald interviews Walker about Speech Therapy Telepractice Program

Judy Walker, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for an article about the Speech Therapy Telepractice program she founded five years ago. In her former role as the chairperson of the department, Walker said she was regularly getting calls from schools asking for help with speech therapy for students with autism and other special needs. In a rural state like Maine, it can be prohibitively expensive for schools to provide that kind of support for students, she said. “It’s very clear no matter how fast we produce bodies, we’re never going to keep up with demographic trends of both aging and incidents of childhood disabilities and so on,” Walker said, noting the program has a waiting list of patients. “We had to think about a way we could deliver speech therapy in a very efficient way.” The program connects people who need speech therapy with professional therapists through online video conferencing technology. It now serves 40 clients — schoolchildren and adults — who work with four or five UMaine students and a supervisor, according to the article. Walker said she hopes to expand the program through UMaine’s age-in-place initiative that aims to help seniors stay in their homes, such as those who have suffered from strokes that left them with aphasia, a term for brain damage that affects the ability to communicate. Sarah Hunt, a UMaine graduate student who works primarily with schoolchildren in the program, said her challenge was translating her “three-dimensional skillset” into a computer program. “The telepractice piece has a higher focus (that) comes back to innovative problem-solving and engaging a child in a different way,” she said.

From UMaine News.

Ph.D. student writes BDN article on sea lampreys

The Bangor Daily News published Zachary T. Wood’s outdoors article about sea lampreys. Wood is a Ph.D. student in the ecology and environmental sciences program at the University of Maine. In the article, “What you should know if you see this toothed monster in a Maine river,” Wood described the long, eel-like creatures that use their teeth to attach to fish to extract blood and body fluids. Adult lampreys, some up to three feet long, spend their lives at sea and move up large rivers like the Penobscot in late spring to breed, according to the article. “At no point in their freshwater lives are lampreys in Maine a risk to us or our fish,” Wood writes. “As adult lampreys move into freshwater to breed, they lose their digestive system, tooth enamel and vision. Any lamprey that makes it to Bangor is equipped only to swim and breed.”

From UMaine News.

Kent speaks with MPBN about benefits of writing for student-athletes

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network interviewed Rich Kent, an associate professor of literacy education at the University of Maine, for the report, “UMaine professor: Writing boosts performance of Maine’s student-athletes.” “Writing is a powerful way to learn,” said Kent, who also is a coach with more 30 years of experience guiding athletes in more than half a dozen sports, including soccer, skiing, running and cycling. Kent’s book “Writing on the Bus,” and several other guides he has produced, are helping coaches and athletes make writing part of their postgame analysis and pregame strategy, according to the report. “Having multiple pathways into learning and including writing is a very smart thing to do for athletes, for coaches, for the workplace,” he said.

From UMaine News.

Grigholm: Ice cores indicate increases in atmospheric heavy metals

Glacial ice core records indicate that humans have significantly altered the atmosphere in Central Asia during the 20th century, say climate scientists from the University of Maine.

Climate Change Institute researchers say evidence from ice cores extracted from Inilchek Glacier in the Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan reveals that rapid growth of industry and agriculture since the 1950s has led to large-scale increases in atmospheric concentrations of heavy metals.

Elevated levels of pollutants began appearing in the glacial ice during the 1950s and rapidly increased during the late 1970s and early 1980s, says Bjorn Grigholm, a recent UMaine doctoral graduate and lead researcher who examined high-resolution ice core evidence from 1908 until 1995.

Subsequently, there were abrupt declines during the 1980s and increases during the 1990s. These late 20th-century patterns reflect the decline of the Soviet Union, as well as the rapid growth of industry and agriculture in western China, says Grigholm.

The pollutants — from metal production, fossil fuel combustion, fertilizer use and waste incineration — threaten natural ecosystems and human health, say scientists.

Research has shown that people exposed to these pollutants have sustained damage to nervous system development and severe respiratory, kidney and bone disorders.

The Inilchek Glacier is an ideal natural archive for reconstructing regional evolution of human-made pollutants because of its proximity to Soviet and Chinese industrial and agricultural centers that expanded quickly during the mid-to-late 20th century, says Grigholm, a former research assistant and IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) fellow.

In addition to providing historical evidence of the rapid industrialization of Central Asia, Inilchek ice core element records provide a baseline for future regional monitoring of atmospheric composition, he says.

Paul Mayewski, Karl Kreutz, Kirk Allen Maasch, Michael Handley and Sharon Sneed, all from CCI and the School of Earth and Climate Sciences, conducted the research with Grigholm.

Vladimir Aizen and Elena Aizen from the University of Idaho and Cameron Wake from the University of New Hampshire, as well as Shichang Kang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also joined CCI explorers for the collaborative project.

Their article, “Mid-twentieth century increases in anthropogenic Pb, Cd and Cu in central Asia set in hemispheric perspective using Tien Shan ice core,” was published in Atmospheric Environment.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

From UMaine News.