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.

Zikomo Barr: Master’s student focused on leadership, first-generation college experience

Growing up in New York City, Zikomo Barr had no notion that he’d one day end up in Maine, pursuing a degree and career in post-secondary student affairs.

“It’s not an industry or a field that you aspire to go into when you go to college. It’s something that you stumble upon or realize that it exists as a career through your undergraduate experience,” says Barr, now in his second year as a higher education master’s student at the University of Maine.

As an undergraduate at the New York Institute of Technology, near where he grew up in the Bronx, Barr bounced between majors. He started out studying information technology, before deciding it wasn’t for him. Ultimately, he earned his degree in business administration with a concentration in management. But he credits his experiences outside of the classroom in campus activities for getting him interested in working with college students.

“Student government, president of my fraternity chapter, and just a plethora of different experiences that kind of allowed me to realize that I wouldn’t mind working in a collegiate atmosphere with students, and giving them the same opportunities,” Barr says.

When it came time to apply to graduate school, Barr looked at some of the top schools for higher education in some more highly populated areas — among them Indiana University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Connecticut. But he still wasn’t sure if he wanted to go directly from his undergraduate education to a graduate program, so he missed the priority deadline to apply to any of them. Then he got an email from the University of Maine, complete with an offer to apply for a graduate assistantship that would cover his tuition costs.

“That was a big thing, because my entire undergrad was afforded to me through a program that allowed low-income students to pursue an education. So, as long as I kept my grades up I had that opportunity. The same thing is afforded to me with the graduate assistantship,” Barr says.

The other major benefit of the GA position is that it’s helping prepare him for the workforce. His job with the office of Campus Activities and Student Engagement has given him invaluable experience, Barr says. He attends student government meetings and advises other student-led organizations. Last year, he attended two conferences put on by national organizations involved with college student activities and student workers. In the spring, he helped organize a leadership summit at UMaine, attended by students from throughout the state.

“The intent of the conference was to get people to understand that there are different types of leadership and to identify what kind of leader they are,” Barr says. “Leadership in society is typically viewed as something that’s associated with a position of power. But understanding yourself and knowing what qualities you bring to your current role or position can help people become leaders, even if they aren’t in a position of power.”

Leadership is one area that Barr is interested in academically, as well as professionally. Another is the first-generation college student experience. As the first in his family to attend college, Barr says it’s important to him personally. He hopes to one day earn his doctorate in the field of higher education, and says he’d like to do research that helps first-generation students in some way.

“I’m just in a fortunate position right now, and I try to wake up every day and be as humble as I can and realize that I’m better off than I was the day before. And also, try to reach a hand back and help those who aspire to be in the same position,” he says.

Why UMaine
It gave me the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree with financial assistance. And, it gave me the opportunity to gain work experience while I pursue that master’s degree, because I know that’s something that a lot of potential employers down the line are going to want — two year’s work experience and a master’s degree.

How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?
It’s great. Dr. Elizabeth Allan is amazing. Dr. Leah Hakkola, she’s great. Susan Gardner, she’s amazing as well. The College of Education and Human Development does a good job of providing the support to students that they need, realizing that students are coming from different backgrounds. But also, allowing those students to be challenged.

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor, or role model who has made your UMaine experience better? If so, how?
The higher education program has the SDA — Student Development Association — that’s run by second year master’s students. Last year I was matched with a second-year student, Meredith Hassenrik, who was there as a resource to answer any questions that I had related to the academic experience, or with the graduate assistantship, any committees that I may be involved in around campus. And then, academically, Dr. Allan, she’s my faculty adviser. So she’s definitely an amazing resource as far as reaching out to her network and letting them know that I’m looking for internships, that I’ll be looking for jobs later. In all aspects, she’s been a great help.

Have you had an experience at UMaine, either academically or socially, that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
I’m appreciative of the fact that my master’s cohort is extremely diverse — ethnically, sexual orientation-wise, geographically. Just in terms of how people identify and where people come from, we have a good mix of students, and we all support and learn from each other.

Describe UMaine in one word
I’m between two words right now. The first one I’m thinking of is prideful. The second I’m thinking of is community. There’s a strong sense of community here, but I feel like pride can also encompass that. So, I’m going to go with prideful.

What’s your most memorable UMaine moment?
I think it was developing the leadership program, and being able to pitch that to student government. I attend their meetings every Tuesday, and being able to get that out there to them and hear what they think about it, I think that’s definitely one of the most memorable moments, because I worked really hard on it, taking into account everything I’m learning in the classroom so putting theory to practice.

What do you hope to do after graduation, and how has UMaine helped you reach those goals?
Ideally, get a job on the East Coast. I have family between New York and South Carolina, so somewhere in there. But also, being open to different opportunities elsewhere, because I realize that student affairs is a nomadic profession. So working with first-generation students, maybe as a TRIO program director, or doing student activities as a director or assistant director, maybe even Greek life, or admissions. Eventually I’d like to earn my Ph.D., as well.

I think UMaine has helped in a lot of respects. I feel academically prepared, so I have the knowledge base. And then I have two years’ of work experience through my graduate assistantship.

Have you participated in any internships related to your major?
I did an internship last summer at Julliard in the housing office. A lot of people who come into student affairs have background in housing, being a resident assistant in a dorm or something like that. I commuted all four years of my undergrad, so I didn’t have that experience. But at Julliard, I was working under the director of housing, and my main responsibilities entailed making sure I was in contact with the head person of a conference group that would come in during the summer. I was making sure linens were in their rooms, making sure they had access cards, being on-call if there was an emergency. And then also, supervising three student staff members.

I also interned last semester with Dr. Allan and her Stop Hazing organization. That was more of an independent research kind of internship.

What’s the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?
I would say “the American Community College.” We talked about how students are increasingly going to community college before they go to a four-year university, and how everybody’s circumstances are different, and a lot of people who go to community college, it may serve them better to do that before they go to a four-year institution. And then we had one class where we visited Eastern Maine Community College, and we got a tour from the dean of students and we talked with him later. I think actually being at the campus was beneficial, because I got to see it and make that connection in my mind. But just in general, that class was so engaging. Oftentimes we would go over the class time 10, 20 minutes and just kind of talk.

What difference has UMaine made in your life?
UMaine has taught me to appreciate stepping out of my comfort zone. Since it was the opportunity for me to live in Maine for two years, I now have somewhat of a foot in the door to kind of explore other places and be more comfortable with moving around and readjusting. And I think if I can master that, or be OK with that, then regardless of whatever opportunity presents itself at another university wherever, I’ll be able to be successful.

Contact: Casey Kelly, 207.581.3751

From UMaine News.

Colin Bosma: Psychology student mindful of emotion regulation strategies

Colin Bosma gained perspective growing up at an elevation of 8,230 feet in the Rockies in Nederland, Colorado.

Its motto: Life is better up here.

And he has developed mindfulness — a judgment-free, moment-to-moment awareness of his present thoughts, sensations and environment — through his study of psychology.

Mindfulness is central to research Bosma is conducting as a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Maine.

He’s exploring the relationship between cognition and emotion regulation strategies — including mindfulness — and the risk of relapse with depression.

Bosma chose UMaine for his doctoral studies because his academic interests align with the cutting-edge research of Emily Haigh, UMaine assistant professor of psychology and director of the Maine Mood Disorders Lab.

At the lab, researchers examine how people respond or recover from an induced, brief negative mood (transient negative mood).

They examine how response patterns relate to the onset, maintenance and recurrence of depressive episodes — or periods of two weeks or more marked by a profound and persistent sad or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, changes in sleep, loss of interest in hobbies and thoughts about death or suicide.

In addition to learning more about effective treatments for depression, it’s important to Bosma that his findings be published in open access journals for broad dissemination. He also blogs about his research at cmbosma.github.io.

Bosma says he hopes stigmas that people have about seeking mental health treatment are soon eradicated.

“If no one knows about or gets treatment then research related to psychotherapy is fruitless,” he says.

Depression interferes with people’s daily lives and can lead to suicide. The debilitating mental health problem affects approximately 350 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and annually more than 800,000 people die by suicide.

From 2009 to 2012, 7.6 percent of Americans 12 years of age and older were depressed in the prior two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Depression was found to be more prevalent among females and people age 40–59, and the CDC indicated the highest rate of depression (12.3 percent) was in women 40–59.

On a large scale in this culture, Bosma says people aren’t taught how to regulate emotions, and thus learn vicariously from peers and family.

“We’re basically navigating in the dark,” he says.

Bosma is seeking to learn more about and shine light on effective adaptive strategies.

He recently was selected for an American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS)/Psi Chi Junior Scientist Fellowship. APAGS seeks to provide high-quality graduate training experiences for the next generation of practitioners and scientists. And Psi Chi — the International Honor Society in Psychology — strives to produce educated, ethical members dedicated to contributing to psychology and society.

Bosma will receive $1,000 to use conducting his doctoral research. And feedback that professional reviewers provide will be valuable as he applies for a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

This past summer, Bosma was a group facilitator and individual project mentor with the Upward Bound Math-Science summer program.

Before attending UMaine, he was a senior research assistant at the Langer Mindfulness Institute at Harvard University and was a research collaborator with the Psychiatry Department at Harvard Medical School.

At the 2015 Mind and Life Summer Research Institute in New York, Bosma examined fear, trust and social relationships. The conference included academic presentations, breakout groups, meditation sessions and a silent retreat. His poster presentation was titled “Mindfulness as a protective factor for the burden of caregivers of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.”

Bosma earned a bachelor’s in psychology in 2012 at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he was a research assistant in Dr. Sona Dimidjian’s Clinical Research for Evidence-based Service and Training Lab.

Bosma became interested in psychology while attending an alternative high school in Colorado, where he received credit for working in a psychology lab.

After earning a doctorate, he plans to pursue postdoctoral studies, conduct independent research and teach.

“As a scientist and educator, I aspire to make substantial contributions to the field of psychological science through the study of emotion and emotion regulation,” Bosma says.

“Furthermore, throughout my career, I intend to actively disseminate my research in a manner that will effectively bridge the gap between research and application in treating mental health.”

From UMaine News.

DMC, Bigelow Study: Rising ocean temperatures threaten baby lobsters

If water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine rise a few degrees by end of the century, it could mean trouble for lobsters and the industry they support.

That’s according to newly published research conducted at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

The research is the only published study focused on how larvae of the American lobster will be affected by two aspects of climate change — ocean acidification and warming.

The study found that acidification had almost no effect on survival of young lobsters.

But lobster larvae reared in water 3 degrees Celsius higher in temperature, which is predicted by 2100 in the Gulf of Maine, struggled to survive compared to lobster larvae in water that matched current temperatures typical of the western Gulf of Maine.

“They developed twice as fast as they did in the current temperature of 16 C (61 F), and they had noticeably lower survival,” says Jesica Waller, a graduate student at the DMC and lead author of the study published this month in the “ICES Journal of Marine Science.”

“Really only a handful made it to the last larval stage,” says Waller. “We noticed it right from the start. We saw more dead larvae in the tank.”

Waller also found that acidification can cause changes in larval size and behavior.

“We recognized this could be really important to Maine and may help us understand the future of the lobster industry,” says Waller.

“But,” she cautions, “these short-term experiments don’t account for the possibility that lobster populations may adapt to changing conditions over many generations. We need to do much more research to understand that.”

“It’s critical to know how climate change will affect the future of our most important fishery,” says Rick Wahle, UMaine research professor, Waller’s co-adviser and co-author of the paper.

“Last year, Maine harvested nearly half a billion dollars in lobsters. With lobsters now comprising over 80 percent of the state’s overall fishery value, Maine’s coastal economy is perilously dependent on this single fishery. We only need to look to the die-offs south of Cape Cod to see how climate change is having an impact.”

Waller’s research began in early June 2015. For two weeks each morning at sunrise, she checked 10 egg-bearing female lobsters at the Darling Marine Center.

“They all began hatching at once,” says Waller, who scooped the peppercorn-size hatchlings out of the water with a net, put them in a container and took them to the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in nearby West Boothbay Harbor.

At Bigelow, Waller raised more than 3,000 lobster larvae, from the day they were hatched until the day they grew out of the larval stage, which takes about 30 days in current ocean conditions.

She took measurements daily for a month, assessing their survival rate, development time, length, weight, respiration rate, feeding rate and swimming speed.

“We wanted to do all different types of measurements to provide a basis for our own research and for future work,” she says.

Because of the lack of this type of research, before Waller could begin she had to figure out how to run the experiment. So in summer 2014 she conducted a small trial.

The biggest challenge was that baby lobsters like to eat each other. “The cannibalism was hard to understand at first,” she says. “We figured out how much space they needed and how much food they needed.”

Waller, from Sagamore, Massachusetts, is earning her master’s degree in marine biology at the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences and is based at the Darling Marine Center.

She became interested in the research in 2014 while working as a lab technician with co-adviser David Fields at Bigelow.

Fields, a senior research scientist, was doing similar experiments on copepods, a small crustacean that lives in the open ocean.

“How copepods respond to climate change has important consequences for local fisheries in the Gulf of Maine,” says Fields.

“Like the lobsters, copepods in the North Atlantic, have seen their populations move northward over the past three decades.”

Given the importance of lobsters to the local economy, Fields and Wahle mentioned how useful it would be if someone investigated possible effects of rising ocean temperatures and acidification on lobsters.

Waller decided to take it on, utilizing Fields’ ocean acidification system at Bigelow Laboratory and tapping into Wahle’s extensive knowledge about lobsters.

“It just seemed like such a huge gap in our knowledge given how important the lobster industry is to the U.S.,” says Waller, who won a 2016 Vizzies award for her photograph of a 3-week-old lobster larva that she took while conducting this research.

Contact: Melissa Wood, 207.563.8220

From UMaine News.

Faculty, Ph.D. student explore poverty, racial privilege, and reform in rural schools

As Maine students return to the classroom from summer vacation, many will do so in communities facing a host of economic and social challenges. Rural parts of the state have been hit especially hard by declines in the state’s timber industry. When a mill closes in a small, Maine town, more often than not there’s no new business waiting in the wings to hire all of the suddenly out-of-work residents. The result is poverty and all of its attendant social problems, which affect schools in a variety of ways.

Three University of Maine professors and one doctoral student have co-authored an article in the new issue of “Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership that explores the impact of poverty, as well as institutional racism, education reform and other issues on educators and schools in rural areas. “Poverty, Privilege, and Political Dynamics Within Rural School Reform: Unraveling Educational Leadership in the Invisible America,” follows John Mathieu, the newly appointed principal of Burnmont High School, as he tries to address these complex issues with his staff.

Mathieu and Burnmont are fictionalized composites of several educators and schools, but the themes should be familiar to teachers and school leaders in rural areas, says lead author Ian Mette, an assistant professor of educational leadership at UMaine.

“This case draws on many of the realities that educators in a state like Maine do experience,” Mette says. “These include the rising levels of poverty, influx of heroin in communities, school consolidation and changing racial compositions of student populations.”

Like many places in rural Maine, Burnmont was once home to a thriving manufacturing industry that employed a large portion of the town’s residents. The community began to lose those manufacturing jobs in the 1980s as globalization began to impact the local economy, and the town has yet to recover economically.

Racially, Burnmont is predominantly white. However, pockets of minority groups exist, such as the local Native American tribe, the Dawn Waters Tribe. About five years ago, the Dawn Waters School closed, and its students were consolidated into Burnmont High School.

As a teacher and school administrator in the Midwest before coming to Burnmont, Mathieu has experience dealing with poverty and students from diverse racial backgrounds. He also grew up near Burnmont, and yet he struggles with how to address the host of issues presented by poverty and race in this rural setting.

Mette says Mathieu’s case can be instructive for school leaders in rural areas.

“John (Mathieu) had 10 years to examine his own views on poverty and racial privilege while in the Midwest, which was much more diverse and apparent, and, as a result, had to address these issues. What educators might learn from the case and John’s attempt to address these issues is that change takes time and that teachers should be empowered to help lead the change. All that said, the leader does need to help signal that change is coming,” he says.

Mette’s co-authors on the article include Catharine Biddle, UMaine assistant professor of educational leadership; Sally Mackenzie, who recently retired after several years as a UMaine professor in the educational leadership program; and Kathy Harris-Smedberg, a doctoral student in educational leadership, and an elementary principal and Title I coordinator at RSU 18 in Maine.

Biddle’s contribution to the article included teaching notes on rural poverty and race in schools. The piece also includes a series of discussion questions and teaching activities, which educational leadership faculty piloted with students in UMaine’s master’s program. Biddle says many students felt the case accurately reflected their own experience in rural schools.

“One of the things we talked about is how difficult it is to initiate these conversations in the everyday life of the school,” Biddle says. “There are just so many other things going on, and there’s not that many opportunities to take a step back and to really dig into these issues.”

Biddle says the case study does a good job of representing the intersectional nature of issues surrounding poverty, racial privilege and school consolidation that teachers and principals of rural schools face every day. One way faculty try to emulate that in the master’s program is by setting up scenarios like the one described in the article and having students take on the roles of principals or administrators.

“We spent a class brainstorming different strategies in our small, regional groups and then when we all got together as a full master’s cohort, they played this out with each other,” Biddle says.

Some strategies worked better than others, she says.

“One of the things that went really well is that one of the groups did an activity called a privilege walk, where a series of statements are read out loud, and then people step forward if the statements apply to them. And each of the statements represents some type of privilege, so you can physically see in the room how those privileges compound to create a certain type of experience or give people certain types of advantages,” says Biddle.

Mette says there’s a need for rural educators and communities to be able to address their own issues surrounding poverty, racial privilege and school policy, which often differ from issues in more urban settings.

“Often research is very urban centric, however rural students make up a third of the national student population,” Mette says. “So just being given space to address these issues is important and often neglected.”

Read the article online.

Contact: Casey Kelly, 201.581.3751

From UMaine News.

President Obama’s Mandela Washington Fellowship at UMaine

This summer the University of Maine hosted 25 emerging public management leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF), the flagship program of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

The Mandela Fellows spent six-weeks — June 17–July 31 — in Maine, participating in academic, professional and recreational activities statewide.

MWF is an academic and leadership program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, which provides opportunities for outstanding young African leaders to hone their skills at the nation’s top universities.

This year, the University of Maine was one of 37 universities chosen to partner with the fellowship.

The Maine Mandela Fellows were part of a larger group — 1,000 young African leaders, ages 25 to 35 who were selected from more than 43,000 applications — to study at institutes focused on business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, public management or energy.

They are all emerging leaders and experts in their fields with established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries.

The cohort of fellows who attended UMaine were from Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

The Institute on Public Management hosted at UMaine offered overviews of regional, economic and workforce development, financial management in public and nonprofit organizations, environmental policy management, and the global knowledge economy.

The institute was supported by faculty and staff from the School of Economics, School of Policy and International Affairs, Foster Center for Student Innovation, Climate Change Institute and School of Marine Sciences.

Carol Kim, the vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, served as the program director and co-led the institute with Jonathan Rubin, professor of economics with the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, and Daniel Dixon, sustainability director.

Rubin, academic director of the institute, was inspired by the cohort’s vision and energy.

“Each of the fellows has a strong desire to make their country better,” said Rubin adding, “They are the next generation of African leaders.”

During their stay, the fellows followed a rigorous agenda that included academic coursework, site visits, community service activities and cultural experiences.

The fellows participated in academic sessions with UMaine faculty on topics including leadership, climate change, renewable energy, water resource management, fiscal policy and accountability, governance, and Maine culture and history.

They toured the Maine Public Utilities Commission, Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine International Trade Center, and met with governmental leaders including, the Deputy Commissioner of Finance Michael Allen, the Public Utilities Commissioner Bruce Williamson and U.S. Ambassador Pamela White.

Gov. Paul LePage hosted the fellows for tea and a discussion about leadership at the Maine State House in Augusta.

“We met with businesses and business leaders all over the state,” said Rubin. “These [fellows] are men and woman with real influence in their home countries and it is important to show them what Maine businesses can do.”

Some of the businesses that participated were E2Tech, ReVision Energy, Exeter Agri-Energy, EcoMaine, Casella Resource Solutions and Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners.

Rubin hopes that the connections the fellows made during their stay translate into potential business partnerships between Maine and African nations.

Cultural and community engagement activities were also an important focus of the institute, allowing the fellows an opportunity to better understand the unique cultural landscape of Maine outside the professional and academic experience.

The Penobscot Nation welcomed the fellows during a visit to Indian Island, where they learned about Maine’s history and cultural heritage from native leaders, including Chief Kirk Francis, Tribal Historian James Francis and Tribal Representative Donna Loring.

The fellows explored Acadia National Park on foot and by boat, toured the state’s lakes and rivers, ate lobster on the coast, experienced candle-pin bowling, and attended a Sea Dogs baseball game in Portland after learning to play with the UMaine athletics staff.

A brave few even sampled lobster ice cream in Bar Harbor.

The fellows volunteered their time at UMaine’s Roger’s Farm where they learned organic farming techniques and assisted with manual pest control, weeding, planting, pruning, composting and cultivation.

Each fellow’s visit included a weekend home stay with the family of a local resident.

As much as the fellows learned from the community, the institute provided an invaluable opportunity for them to learn from one another and build a network of African leaders for the future.

Mandela fellow Karine Rassool, from Seychelles, an island nation nearly 1,000 miles off the coast of Kenya, applied to the fellowship to not only study in the U.S., but also for the invaluable opportunity to meet and network with young leaders from other African nations.

“I am one person from a country of 90,000 people — I am a dot on the map, but I sincerely believe that I can make a change,” said Rasool. “Together we are a continent, can we not make a change?”

Shilda Cardoso, a fellow who works to find renewable energy solutions for the oil industry in his home country of Angola, was inspired by his colleagues.

“It is amazing how many brilliant minds our motherland Africa has,” Cardoso said.

Over the course of the program, each of the fellows developed an Ignite talk — an up to five-minute presentation meant to inspire — discussing an issue they felt most important to themselves and their countries. The talks focused on themes of equality, ethics or opportunity.

Some of the topics included education, water resources, elephant preservation and climate change.

“During the presentations, the passion they showed was amazing,” said Jeff Auger, a UMaine graduate student and program coordinator for the institute. “I learned so much from them that day. I saw the leaders they were and how they were going to use what they learned at UMaine in their home countries to make change.”

One of the Ignite talks was chosen to be presented in Washington D.C., alongside other talks selected from each of the 36 other host universities.

Rassool was selected to share her talk on the uncertain future of her island home in the face of climate change and rising sea level.

In a speech at the closing ceremony of the institute, Mandela fellow Denis Munuve, from Kenya, challenged the university to look for — and explore — more ways to collaborate with other universities and institutions in Africa. Manuve encouraged young American leaders to visit Africa, a place he calls “the next frontier for growth” to build partnerships that can effect positive change across the continent.

Following their six-week stay at UMaine, the cohort was invited to Washington D.C., to join the rest of the Mandela Washington Fellows for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Presidential Summit.

The three-day event marked the culmination of the program and featured a town hall with President Barack Obama. During his address to all 1,000 Mandela Fellows and representatives from host institutions, he recognized the brave few who tried the lobster ice cream in Bar Harbor.

“So you’ve got a taste of America, which, for some of you, apparently included something called lobster ice cream, which I’ve never tasted myself,” President Obama remarked. “But I have to admit, it sounds terrible. But that’s okay. You were very brave.”

In his address, President Obama stressed that the answers to the issues facing Africa are in the hearts and minds of the young African leaders the Mandela Washington Fellows represent.

“Part of the reason why I love this program is this isn’t a matter of what America is doing for you, this is us being partners, but mainly seeing what you can do yourselves to change, transform, and build your countries,” said President Obama. “At the end of the day, your vision will have to be won by you and by your fellow countrymen and women.”

Contact: Walter Beckwith, 207.581.3729

From UMaine News

Grad student’s art featured on cover of annual climate report compiled by NOAA

Art created by University of Maine graduate student Jill Pelto is featured on the cover of an international climate report compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Pelto’s environmental artwork appears on the front and back of the State of the Climate in 2015, an international, peer-reviewed publication released each summer as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The annual summary of the global climate is compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information and is based on contributions from scientists from around the world, according to the AMS.

The report provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice and in space.

The front cover features Pelto’s piece, “Landscape of Change,” which uses data about sea level rise, glacier volume decline, higher global temperatures, and the increasing use of fossil fuels. The data lines compose a landscape shaped by the changing climate, “a world in which we are now living,” according to Pelto.

“Salmon Population Decline” is on the back of the report and uses population data about the Coho species in the Puget Sound, Washington, to depict the struggle the population is facing as their spawning habitat declines.

Pelto graduated from UMaine in December with a double major in Earth science and studio art, as well as honors. In the fall, she will return to UMaine to pursue a master’s degree in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences.

During graduate school, she plans to work with geology professor Brenda Hall on a paleoclimate research project that will include five weeks in the Antarctic.

“I am looking forward to the experience of working on an intensive research project and paper for my master’s. I know it will be a really rewarding and challenging two years,” Pelto says.

This summer, Pelto participated in the Rozalia Project, a program that protects and cleans the ocean using technology, innovation, solutions-based research and engaging STEM programs. She spent a week onboard the project’s 60-foot sailing research vessel; cleaning the ocean and educating others about the work.

For the eighth consecutive year, she also spent part of her summer working with the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project. The program is led by her father, a professor of environmental science at Nichols College in Massachusetts.

“This is a project my father, Dr. Mauri Pelto, started — and still runs — when he was working on his Ph.D. at UMaine in the ’80s,” she says. “It is a long-term monitoring project of a series of glaciers in the North Cascades in Washington state.”

In the past year, reports about Pelto and her artwork have been published by local and national news organizations, including Climate Central, GlacierHub, onEarth, Public Radio International (PRI), Co.DesignPBS NewsHour and Bangor Daily News. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio also shared Pelto’s art on his official Instagram account, which focuses on climate issues. Most recently she was featured in National Geographic as part of the series, “20 Under 30: The Next Generation of National Park Leaders.”

Pelto says now that she has professionally begun an art career, she plans to work as an artist for the rest of her life.

“I will always be involved in the sciences, but I don’t yet know the degree to which my work will entail being a research scientist or a scientist communicating art,” she says.

Pelto’s artwork also was featured on the cover of the 2015 issue of MINERVA, a publication of the UMaine Honors College. An article about Pelto and her artwork was included in the annual magazine that highlights current students, faculty, alumni and friends of the college.

More of Pelto’s art can be seen on her website.

From UMaine News.

Ph.D. student featured in Island Institute film series ‘A Climate of Change’

Samuel Belknap, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology and the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, was featured in a four-part film series produced by the Island Institute.

“A Climate of Change” highlights fishing communities threatened by the effects of a changing climate and what they are doing to adapt. The final film in the series focuses on the future of Maine aquaculture, and explores how some fishermen are turning to sea farming to stay afloat in a rapidly changing environment and economy.

Belknap’s research is focused on how climate-driven changes in the Gulf of Maine impact the region’s fishermen. In the fourth film, Belknap comments on the viability of aquaculture in Maine, and the work he is doing to ensure fishermen have the tools necessary to diversify and be successful in their own aquaculture ventures.

“Fishermen are going to want to keep working on the water,” Belknap says in the film. “This allows them a way to invest in their future on the water. And I think that’s huge in maintaining Maine’s cultural identity. Especially when it comes to coastal communities”

UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant partner with the Island Institute and several other fishing and aquaculture nonprofit organizations to offer the Aquaculture in Shared Waters project. The initiative provides classes to help the state’s fishermen diversify their business models to include various types of shellfish and seaweed aquaculture — “an opportunity for Maine’s iconic seafood harvesters to maintain their livelihoods, as well as the identity of their coastal communities, while facing unprecedented environmental changes,” Belknap says.

More about the Aquaculture in Shared Waters project is on the Maine Sea Grant website. “A Climate of Change: The Future of Aquaculture” also can be viewed online.

From UMaine News.

Saving salmon, one embryo at a time

Read transcript

For the past 15 years, aquacultural salmon farmers in Maine have struggled with plummeting embryo survival rates, forcing them to drastically increase the number of eggs they produce — which comes with a hefty price tag. LeeAnne Thayer, Ph.D. candidate in marine sciences at the University of Maine, is determined to find out what is causing the declines. Working with Heather Hamlin, assistant professor of aquaculture and marine biology, the researchers are studying the embryonic development of salmon in order to increase their survival rates, save farmers money and keep Maine’s aquaculture industry afloat.

From UMaine News.

Doctoral student seeks to end trial-and-error aquaculture

Locals and tourists flocking to the coast to eat fresh shellfish may not know about costs and risks that aquaculturists encounter getting the seafood to the table.

One of the biggest issues for aquaculture farmers is selecting lease sites without knowing the physics and biology of the estuary environment, which can result in unpredictable productivity.

With more and better information, the industry could become increasingly sustainable, both economically and environmentally.

Katie Coupland, a doctoral candidate in oceanography at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, is working to make that happen.

Coupland’s mentor, assistant professor Damian Brady, describes her work as “beginning the end of trial-and-error aquaculture.”

“In aquaculture, we’re at a point where there isn’t enough information out there to decrease risk, so what we’re pursuing in the SEANET program is bringing new information to this field so we can make better decisions and decrease the risk,” Brady says.

“What’s really innovative about our approach is to take those same tools that we’ve been using for water quality and start applying it to the aquaculture industry, so that we can make viable predictions about a particular marine species and the environment.”

Coupland utilizes buoys, handheld sensors, computer models and biweekly boat trips to gather water samples that can improve understanding of shellfish growth in different areas of the river and understand the potential for climate to impact the aquaculture industry.

She does a lot of work on a computer in her lab, a small building nestled in the pine trees just up the hill from the Darling Marine Center’s boat launch. Coupland also regularly gets out in the field, or rather, in the water. During her river research cruise, she obtains data and water samples in additional locations over a much larger area.

“Just being out there and feeling — physically — the differences in temperature between the upper and lower river is a lot more meaningful than just seeing the numbers being read out from a buoy,” she says.

“I love being out there in the field and seeing those differences firsthand and being able to get an idea and that instinctual feeling of how the system is different from the head down to the mouth.”

Coupland came to UMaine after earning an undergraduate degree in environmental science and management and a master’s degree in biological oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.

She enrolled in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences to take part in the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) project to learn numerical modeling, a skill that’s “applicable and has a direct impact on people outside of academia,” more specifically, the community and shellfish growers.

The Damariscotta River grows more than 50 percent of the oysters in Maine, which Coupland says makes it a great laboratory in which to learn about the economic value of shellfish aquaculture.

Coupland’s developing a water current model to estimate the temperature, salinity and the speed of currents in five estuaries of midcoast Maine. The information will enable her to know more about how changes in temperature and precipitation impact shellfish growth differently across the estuaries.

She’s also developing a water quality model to explore how nutrients and light penetration change based on the physics of the estuaries and how this affects algae and shellfish growth in the Damariscotta River.

To do the research, she uses LOBO (land/ocean biogeochemical observatory) buoys, which measure temperature, salinity and pH (acidity of the water), as well as nutrient and chlorophyll levels and turbidity (cloudiness of the water).

Because the models provide hourly high-resolution estimates of both the physics and the biology of the river, Coupland can examine short- and long-term responses to weather and climate change.

Optimally, her research will yield information about variables in aquaculture, which could bolster economic and environmental sustainability in Maine’s changing climate. All of which could help aquaculture farmers reduce their costs and risks as they work to supply seafood for diners on the Maine coast.

More information is on the SEANET website.

Contact: Kristen Doherty, 207.581.2289

From UMaine News.

Building bridges for the future

Without a sound, safe and efficient transportation infrastructure, Bill Davids says we wouldn’t have an economy.

“That truck that just drove over this bridge carrying goods to wherever wouldn’t be able to make its trip; the ambulance wouldn’t be able to get to your house; you wouldn’t be able to get to work in the morning,” says Davids, the John C. Bridge Professor and chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Maine.

“Imagine if it was just you and your feet, or you and your horse. What would the world be like?” he asks.

The Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) has teamed up with the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center to find new and innovative ways to evaluate aging bridges around the state.

The team of engineers is attaching sensors to bridges to take live load readings and deflection measurements to determine the strength of bridges, their lifespans and whether they can allow heavier trucks in the future.

“For the Maine Department of Transportation, the potential savings are very large. We are able to take that data in real time and apply it to damage models of the structures. So not just civil infrastructure projects, like the bridge behind me, we are also able to apply it to buildings, to energy infrastructure, water infrastructure and roadways,” says Scott Tomlinson, research engineer in the Advanced Structures and Composite Center at UMaine.

Researchers will share information they gather with consulting engineers who work for DOT and eventually with the wider engineering community.

The project also will allow for more targeted use of tax dollars in replacing and improving infrastructure that needs it, says Tomlinson, who came to UMaine as a visiting undergraduate researcher in 2001 and now is pursuing his Ph.D. in civil engineering, also at UMaine.

“There are a lot of bridges all across the country and in Maine that are slated to be either repaired or replaced because we don’t know exactly how strong they are,” says Andrew Schanck, an undergraduate civil engineering student at UMaine. “This project will help with that.”

The Pittsfield, Maine native is helping evaluate the strength of the bridges, and how different materials respond to certain stressors. By live load testing the bridges, they are looking at how girders, or support beams, and the concrete slabs within the bridge interact in a composite way, rather than independently.

Having the materials work in a composite fashion could increase the longevity of bridges, factor into the load rating of bridges, and save the state money.

These variables are not classically taken into account when evaluating a bridge, but knowing this information can help engineers plan for the future, explains Schanck.

“If we know that the materials are working in a composite way, we can say, ‘OK, we have this much more strength in this bridge,’ or going forward we can design a bridge with a little less concrete or a little less steel because we know that the composite action will be helping in our favor,” Schanck says.

The project could decrease infrastructure costs and provide advancements in the field that will have significant impacts on our society as a whole, he says.

“The wireless sensors we are using here and the quality of information we get out of these advanced systems are far beyond what we could have done even a few years ago,” Davids says.

Another goal of the project is to involve undergraduate and graduate students in hands-on projects that allow them to apply their classroom knowledge in the field to make an impact on infrastructure in the state.

“Without engineers, our daily lives would be vastly different. A growing economy needs engineering in nearly every aspect. Everything from infrastructure, automobiles, phones, electrical power — you name it, engineers are behind that,” Davids says. “UMaine’s role in training the next generation of engineers is absolutely essential.”

Contact: Amanda Clark, 207.581.3721

From UMaine News.