Small Campus Initiative Research

University of Maine at Presque Isle

The construction of a new greenhouse at the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) will support the university’s new sustainable agriculture concentration and help expand agricultural research, education and innovation across Aroostook County. Agriculture is one of the region’s most important economic sectors. UMPI’s sustainable agriculture program is founded on hands-on approaches and proficiency- based learning in many fields, including soils, energy, natural sciences, traditional agronomic knowledge, management,

marketing and GIS technology. The new greenhouse will be an integral part of several courses in the program.

The greenhouse will be used to support current and future research projects by UMPI faculty and students. Research projects include the development of new potato varieties, nutrient recommendations and crop root studies concerning soil compaction and fertilization. The facility will provide a research venue for visiting scholars, postdocs and scientists. The facility will also provide an opportunity for the University of Maine, UMaine Cooperative Extension and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association to further promote their existing programs in combination with those at UMPI, facilitating academic and community collaboration.

University of Maine at Fort Kent

The University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK) is expanding its GIS and remote sensing research through the use of a new spectroradiometer. The state’s GIS and remote sensing needs are growing, with increased use in satellite, airborne and drone- based imagery to assess forestry, agriculture and urban planning over large areas. The device allows for the precise collection of light reflectance, which can characterize different types of land cover. The data can be used for more accurate mapping, or detection of important features or characteristics on a land surface, including forest and agricultural land structure and composition.

To date, the device has been used to monitor vegetation as part of an ongoing project to monitor and map endangered plant communities on rare rock glacier landscapes in Maine. The device is also being used to leverage more external research funding to UMFK and Maine.

University of Maine at Machias and University of Maine at Farmington

A multiyear project by the University of Maine at Machias (UMM) and the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) aims to produce valuable kelp products for human consumption and for use as fertilizers in organic gardening operations. This effort is providing kelp nursery production training for undergraduate UMM students and molecular research training for UMF students. The project is also providing seaweed-farming experience for members of the Passamaquoddy Nation, as well as students from Cobscook Community High School.

Students at UMF are working to identify and characterize Maine’s kelp populations by using a suite of DNA markers. The identification of kelp population structure in this region will enable growers to identify optimal strains for aquaculture. The team aims to improve yields and possibly speed growing time. Identifying regional kelp population differences could allow growers throughout the state to market geographically branded seaweed products. This pilot project is promoting seaweed farming in Washington County and is providing important experiential training for all who participate in the nursery, grow-out, harvest and post-production phases.

University of Maine at Machias

Soft-shell clams represent the second most important commercial marine resource in Maine, generating approximately $21 million in dockside revenues in 2015. Clam landings, however, are depressed in most areas of the state compared to a decade ago. A UMM project examines potential reasons for the decline with a goal of developing adaptive methods that clammers and elected officials can use to manage wild and cultured stocks. The work is being conducted in southern Maine in Casco Bay, which has recently seen an explosion of both invasive and endemic predators whose population increases have coincided with a protracted warming of ocean seawater temperatures. The work that is ongoing through the end of December 2016 is divided into six discrete areas to examine potential measures to combat declining clam stocks. These include both large- and small-scale field experiments to examine factors affecting growth and survival of cultured clam stocks, as well as factors affecting the distribution and abundance of wild soft-shell clams.

Field trials are being conducted in Freeport, and are engaging local clammers and elected officials in the deployment of gear and collection of data. The field trials are designed to test: 1) the relative importance of coastal acidification versus predation in abundance of wild clam juveniles; 2) factors affecting the distribution of wild clam juveniles at three spatial scales; 3) the efficacy of impounding commercial-size clams during periods of low price/pound and selling them when market prices are highest during the year; 4) effects of mesh size and stocking density of cultured clams on growth and survival in protected boxes placed in the intertidal zone; 5) how to cope with large densities of a native gastropod (mud snail) that lays its eggs on predator-deterrent netting, rendering it ineffective; and 6) bioremediation measures to curb predation on cultured and wild soft-shell clam juveniles by the milky ribbon worm. The applied research effort will shed light on the efficacy of adaptive measures to increase clam stocks, and will play a role in decisions made by shellfish managers at both the local and state levels.