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Sustainability Lightning Talks

December 2, 2019 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Sustainability Lightning TalksSix students will present seven-minute talks on their sustainability research in Maine. PowerPoint presentations are allowed but will be limited to 10 slides.

Schedule

3:00pm-3:02pm
Welcome – Linda Silka, Interim Director, Mitchell Center

3:03pm-3:10pm
Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Teams: Challenges and Solutions
Tony Sutton, PhD candidate, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

3:11pm-3:18pm
Improving Weed Management for Organic Vegetable Farmers
Rebecca Champagne, PhD student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

3:19pm-3:26pm
Linking Hydrodynamics to Pollution Management in Maine Estuaries
Sohaib Alahmed, Graduate student, Civil and Environmental Engineering

3:27pm-3:34pm
Investigating the Environmental Impacts of Abscisic Acid Levels in Soybean Drought
Abigayl Novak, Undergraduate student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

3:35pm-3:42pm
A Decision Support Tool for Hydropower Dams in Maine’s Penobscot River
Emma Fox, PhD student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

3:43pm-3:50pm
A Sustainable Approach to Food Waste Management: The Triple Bottom Line for Food Based Businesses in Maine and Beyond
Undergraduate student presenters: Peter O’Brien, Economics; Stephanie Ayotte, Civil & Environmental Engineering; Katie Tims, Biology & Ecology

3:50pm-4:00pm
Group Q&A

Abstracts

Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Teams: Challenges and Solutions
Tony Sutton, PhD candidate, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

Siloed research starts at the undergraduate level when students become immersed in their programs and learn disciplinary jargon and methodological procedures. However, as young professionals prepare for the workforce, employers expect candidates to communicate across demographics and disciplines. Conducting interdisciplinary research during undergraduate years provides an opportunity for students to work across different fields of study while pulling from discipline specific experiences. We highlight the challenges of creating undergraduate interdisciplinary teams and describe ways to encourage commitment and success. One substantial challenge is the ability to consistently attend team meetings because disciplinary schedules vary. For example, engineering students typically fill afternoons with laboratory classes that are scheduled up to 3 times a week, and nursing students can begin 8 – 12-hour clinical courses at 6:00 am. Our undergraduate team describes overcoming challenges through personal team commitment and flexible meeting times. Team commitment is supported by creating a virtual space to meet which provides an incentive for students to stay engaged. Ongoing meeting “platform” conversations provide an interdisciplinary venue to avoid siloed work as students are exposed to research findings and data and learn about perspectives using various research methods. Additionally, collaborating on team presentations and writing projects creates a supportive atmosphere where students work together to meet deadlines and produce high-quality products. Despite obstacles, undergraduate interdisciplinary research provides a valuable way of thinking, is essential for workforce development, and provides an experience with benefits lasting well beyond graduation.

Improving Weed Management for Organic Vegetable Farmers
Rebecca Champagne, PhD student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

Organic farmers face many production challenges, citing weed management as a top constraint. Weeds compete with crops for nutrients, light, and water, reducing crop yield and therefore farm profitability. Because conventional herbicide application is not permitted in organic production, farmers place heavy reliance on physical weed control (PWC). However, the effectiveness of PWC can be quite variable, and farmers must look to other options for weed management. According to the USDA, Maine currently has around 500 organic farms which occupy over 55,000 acres. These farms are important for Maine’s economy and improving their ability to control weeds is critical for farm profitability and success. We recently initiated a multi-year cropping system experiment at the University of Maine’s Roger’s Farm looking at the effects of various weed management strategies on weed control, crop yield, and farm net returns. This past season, we examined several strategies for controlling weeds in organic vegetable production, recording both the effectiveness and also the labor and inputs required for each. PWC with different mechanical tools is being coupled with cultural strategies to target weeds before they set seed, such as cover cropping and tarping. When multiple steps are taken to ensure weeds do not produce seed over the course of a season, the amount of seeds residing in the soil can be reduced over time. This can lead to a decrease over time in the management, time, and costs required for their control and therefore improved farm profitability.

Linking Hydrodynamics to Pollution Management in Maine Estuaries
Sohaib Alahmed, Graduate student, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Sustainability of the shellfishing industry in Maine will partly rely on a better understanding of coastal dynamics that govern patterns of bacteria pollution in harvesting areas. While pollution in the harvesting areas can be delivered by the nearby lands (produced by an offshore source), the capacity of estuaries in containing and evacuating the pollution is determined by the flow dynamics processes. Land-sea connections and tidal circulation and mixing processes in estuaries are two of the most significant factors governing water quality conditions in shellfishing areas. Flow patterns in estuaries dictate the residence duration of polluted water in estuaries, a key time scale for coastal water quality assessment. Given the importance of estuary hydrodynamics to coastal pollution problems, this study aims to better understand land-sea connections, tidal circulation, and estuary residence times in Frenchman Bay and nearby locations. To address this goal, a three-dimensional numerical model is implemented with a Lagrangian particle tracking approach for evaluating. Results of this investigation advance understanding of pollution, delivery, and residence time culprits affecting the sustainability of Maine’s coastal shellfish and will provide a new basis for decision-making that can be used by coastal resource managers.

Investigating the Environmental Impacts of Abscisic Acid Levels in Soybean Drought
Abigayl Novak, Undergraduate student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

Since the frequency and severity of droughts are predicted to increase in many regions of the world, understanding plant drought response is important for securing food production. Although the well-known plant hormone Abscisic Acid (ABA) is related to plant drought response, the detail mechanism remains poorly understood. In this research, the physiological role of ABA in plant drought response will be studied. Two varieties of soybeans will be tested on, PI 41693 and Hutchenson. One is drought resistant while the other is not. The main goal will focus on how ABA interacts with stomatal regulation, transpiration, photosynthesis and turgor loss under drought and during recovery. By using the method known as ABA internal standard, the levels of ABA will be measured and analyzed for the way they use ABA. This research will advance our fundamental understanding of plant drought response and provide a new perspective on breeding of drought-resistant crop varieties.

A Decision Support Tool for Hydropower Dams in Maine’s Penobscot River
Emma Fox, PhD student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

Dam decisions involving hydropower are challenging from a sustainability perspective because in addition to the social, environmental, technical, and economic challenges involved, the hydropower decision space is heavily regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This regulation creates access and capacity barriers to participation for diverse groups, making a process requiring opportunity for public input into an opaque, exclusive environment. We developed a web-based Dam Decision Support Tool, focused on a set of hydropower dams in Maine’s Penobscot River that are approaching relicensing through FERC. The tool provides structure to decision maker considerations about various decision alternatives (e.g., keep and maintain dam, improve fish passage, improve hydropower generation) and criteria (e.g., sea-run fish habitat area, annuitized project costs, CO2 emissions reductions) identified through interviews with stakeholders. The tool weights site-specific data with user preference information to generate a ranked set of alternatives for the decision maker’s use in thinking through possibilities for FERC-licensed hydropower dams. Over two years, we tested our model in both individual and group workshop settings, gathering student, colleague, and stakeholder feedback to enhance the usefulness of the tool prior to public release. Participant input and critique shaped this tool from the outset, and workshop evidence shows that it has potential for supporting early stages of negotiation or preparation around dam decision making.

A Sustainable Approach to Food Waste Management: The Triple Bottom Line for Food Based Businesses in Maine and Beyond
Undergraduate student presenters: Peter O’Brien, Economics; Stephanie Ayotte, Civil & Environmental Engineering; Katie Tims, Biology & Ecology

Approximately 30-40% of food is wasted globally; a trend which is increasing in the United States (Harvard Food Law Policy Testing, 2014). This waste comes with significant economic, environmental and social costs. Our interdisciplinary, student-driven research team is in a unique position to tackle this problem by drawing on our collective knowledge of business, biology, economics, and engineering.  We have identified the need to engage key Maine food producers, and by creating the “Maine Food Production Leadership Council,” we aim to find a sustainable approach to waste reduction that is both feasible and effective. Working directly with stakeholders will allow us to identify the largest barriers to creating more sustainable food production and distribution. Our first workshop with this “Sustainable Food Production Leadership Council” will be held in November 2019. Data obtained at these focus group sessions will direct our second phase of research to identify best practice solutions for a more sustainable food waste management system in Maine. Additional stakeholder workshops in Spring of 2020 will review these proposed solutions to address issues, gain support, and identify next steps. The final solutions and next steps to mitigate food waste environmental impact, reduce business operating costs, and fight food insecurity in the state of Maine will be presented to the Mitchell Center in April 2020.

 

Details

Date:
December 2, 2019
Time:
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:

Venue

107 Norman Smith Hall
Mitchell Center - UMaine
Orono, ME 04469 United States
Phone:
207-581-3195
Website:
http://umaine.edu/mitchellcenter/

Organizer

Mitchell Center
Phone:
207-581-3195
Email:
umgmc@maine.edu
Website:
https://umaine.edu/mitchellcenter/