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Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions

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Sustainability Lightning Talks

November 15, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

| Free

Lightning talks will be held virtually via Zoom and in-person at 107 Norman Smith Hall, UMaine.

Student Presentations:

Lightning Talks will focus on student sustainability research in Maine. Seven students will have five-minutes for their talk. PowerPoint presentations are allowed but are limited to 10 slides.

Welcome – David Hart, Director, Mitchell Center

Zachary Davis (graduate student), Resource Economics & Policy, UMaine
Outdoor Place Attachment Influences Future Residential Aspirations of Rural Youth

Jasmine Lamb (undergraduate student), Communication Science & Disorders, UMaine
Promoting Health for Sipayik through Alternative Energy Solutions

Jared Entwistle (graduate student), Business Administration, Ecology & Environmental Sciences, UMaine
Exploring the Potential for Cost Savings and Waste Reduction of Reusable Packaging Systems in Maine’s Restaurant Industry

Jessica Hutchinson (undergraduate student), Environmental Horticulture, UMaine
Implementing Biochar to Decrease Peat in Soilless Substrates for Lowbush Blueberries

Alissa Miller-Gonzalez (graduate student), Resource Economics & Policy, UMaine
Maine priorities for sustainable aquaculture expansion: Minimizing community conflicts to promote resilience in Maine seafood networks

Food Rescue MAINE Team (undergraduate students): Kalina Kinyon, UMaine; Hannah Crayton, Thomas College; Hannah Mathieu, UMaine; Ryan Fitzmaurice, UMaine; Ariana Walker, UNE
A Triple Bottom Line Approach to Food Waste Management through Interdisciplinary Teamwork

Kate Follansbee (graduate student), Economics, UMaine
Management of shoreline change at Maine’s Popham Beach State Park

Group Q&A

Student Abstracts

Jasmine Lamb (undergraduate student), UMaine
Promoting Health for Sipayik through Alternative Energy Solutions

The aim of my mini-project is to co-produce information about what issues Passamaquoddy citizens at Pleasant Point face inside of the home by conducting semi-structured informal interviews. Possible alternative energy or technology solutions that can be implemented in the home to address these issues will be explored, as well as the preferences and willingness of citizens to implement possible solutions. Another goal of this research is to assess in a general way how the public health of the community is affected by climate change and drivers of climate change such as pollution. The public health of the community will be looked at through an indigenous lens, addressing all directions of the medicine wheel (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental health) and looking at the problem holistically. The health of indigenous communities who rely on traditional ways of subsistence is inextricably tied to the health of the environment; this coastal community faces unique challenges to public health and economic security because of their use of natural resources, such as elvers, brown ash for basket making, blueberry harvesting, clamming, etc., which are all affected by climate change. Documenting the needs and preferences of the community will help inform future projects of the alternative energy solutions that are appropriate for and preferred by the community.

Zachary Davis (graduate student), UMaine
Outdoor Place Attachment Influences Future Residential Aspirations of Rural Youth

Rural youth out-migration, sometimes called the “rural brain drain,” is a common issue for rural communities in the United States. Youth often leave rural areas due to a perceived lack of educational and job opportunities, with only some returning. This can cause workforce shortages and population decline in rural communities, as well as other social and economic issues that threaten rural community sustainability. Despite significant concern, the factors most important to the future residential aspirations of rural youth remain relatively understudied. In this research, we examine the relationships between place attachment, community attachment, outdoor recreation engagement and future residential aspirations of rural youth. We make use of survey responses provided by middle school and high school students in the rural areas of Piscataquis County, Maine and Coos County, Oregon. Using t-tests, we analyze how outdoor recreation influences place attachment in rural youth. We also use multinomial logistic regression to analyze how attachment and outdoor recreation engagement influence the residential aspirations of rural youth. Results indicate that place attachment in rural youth is influenced by engagement with outdoor recreation, and that place and community attachment can influence the residential aspirations of rural youth. By building place and community attachment in youth, rural communities may be able to enhance their sustainability by influencing youth to stay in their communities for the long term.

Jessica Hutchinson (undergraduate student), UMaine
Implementing Biochar to Decrease Peat in Soilless Substrates for Lowbush Blueberries

Along with the Earth’s forests, peatlands are an important factor in sequestering carbon. Peatlands originate from the northern hemisphere, which make up about 400 million hectares of the Earth (USGS, 2017). As peat continues to be harvested for use in the horticulture industry for container production, this process of carbon storage is disrupted. Peat is commonly used in media mixes for its water holding capacity, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and has a low pH that is well suited for acidic soil loving plants such as the Vaccinium angustifolium (Perry, 2016). While a convenient and effective component, harvesting peat has ecological downsides when mass harvested. According to the USGS, about 56 million hectares are used for harvest; 51% used for agricultural purposes and 1% for energy and growing media. While a seemingly small amount has been used, peatlands are slow to regenerate, growing at a rate of about 1/16” per year, while harvesting has increased by 13% from 2016 to 2017 (Higgins, 2017). As efforts continue to reduce carbon emissions induced by humans, protecting peatlands is a crucial component in sequestering carbon to combat this issue.

A sustainable alternative, biochar, was investigated to examine physical and chemical qualities in Dr. Ling Li’s lab during the summer of 2021. Biochar has been found to show benefits in amending soils for its characteristics in water and nutrient holding capacity, improved hydraulic conductivity and reduced nutrient leaching (Atland and Locke, 2012). Results showed that biochar measured up to peats qualities in water retention, aeration porosity and cation exchange capacity for containerized production. Further studies of using biochar in soilless substrates for lowbush blueberries may prove to be a beneficial alternative to using peat, protecting this natural resource in the horticultural industry.

Jared Entwistle (graduate student), UMaine
Exploring the Potential for Cost Savings and Waste Reduction of Reusable Packaging Systems in Maine’s Restaurant Industry

Despite having a stated goal to reduce waste, Maine’s per capita waste generation has increased in recent years. Considering a decades-long uptrend in packaging usage and 78% of single-use packages originating from restaurant and food service applications, there is an opportunity for the restaurant industry to help combat rising waste production. This project looks at the potential for reusable packaging to reduce waste from restaurant to-go services and how those systems might work in Maine. We employ stakeholder engaged research to explore the potential of reusable packaging systems in Maine, the methods to operate such systems, and the potential benefits and challenges involved in their implementation. Preliminary findings from our literature review suggest that high packaging return rates are needed for these systems to successfully reduce the environmental and economic impacts of producing a more durable package. In order to increase participation rates, reuse systems need to maintain a high level of customer convenience and employ incentives to participate, such as charges for failure to return reusable packaging, a deposit charged on initial transactions, and discounts for customers who return the packaging. Stakeholders discussed the findings of the literature review and tended to view the variability of Maine’s customer as the biggest issue in implementing reusable packaging systems.  Differences between the habits of summer and winter customers and the gap in socio-economic status of these customers caused participants to conclude that successful reuse systems would be multi-modal and reliant on third-party logistics.

Food Rescue MAINE Team (undergraduate students): Kalina Kinyon, UMaine; Hannah Crayton, Thomas College; Hannah Mathieu, UMaine; Ryan Fitzmaurice, UMaine; Ariana Walker, UNE
A Triple Bottom Line Approach to Food Waste Management through Interdisciplinary Teamwork

15% of the U.S. population faces food scarcity. Maine has the 12th highest food insecurity rate in the country, and the most in all of New England. The Senator George J. Mitchell Center is charged with identifying triple bottom line solutions for sustainability issues. Within the Mitchell center, Food Rescue MAINE is a multidisciplinary team focused on reducing food loss in Maine. This academically diverse team simultaneously researches, develops, and implements solutions for food waste in Maine. It connects homeless shelters and other charity groups to food providers, tracks and reduces the waste within DOC facilities, spreads awareness of food waste problems, finds ways of preserving overproduced food, and otherwise works towards reducing food waste. Within Food Rescue MAINE, interdisciplinary teamwork enables triple bottom line solutions. The most integrated part is the communications team, as it spreads awareness of all five other solutions. For example, as the track and measure solution intern helped to track the food waste of the Maine DOC’s Women facility, the communications team published the work on their website and social media to spread awareness of large-scale food tracking and its effectiveness. The student interns working within the team come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and bring unique skills and perspectives to help Maine reduce food waste. This allows for each of the 6 food waste solutions to support each other, and to draw on the experiences of their peers.

Alissa Miller-Gonzalez (graduate student), UMaine
Maine priorities for sustainable aquaculture expansion: Minimizing community conflicts to promote resilience in Maine seafood networks

Maine’s fisheries and its rural, resource-dependent communities face economic pressures from climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, growth in the aquaculture industry can improve the resilience of these communities and support Maine’s economy (Fernandez et al., 2020). Knapp and Rubino (2016) note that social obstacles and acceptance are important for growth in this industry in the U.S. While public perceptions of the aquaculture industry in Maine are generally positive (Alvarez et al., 2019), little is known about the reasons why people may support this industry.
This study explores the factors that influence Maine residents’ level of support for aquaculture and six priority issues related to growth: aesthetics, environment, politics, product quality, scientific research, and economic impacts. We use data collected from a 2018 mail survey of Maine residents. In addition to individual information (e.g., socio-demographic and environmental attitudes), we asked respondents to rank the three most important issues the state should consider when making decisions about new marine farms. Survey participants reported they were most concerned about environmental/human health risks (76.3%), product quality issues (73.1%), and economic issues (61.4%). However, only 40.1% of respondents reported aesthetic issues as a top-three concern. Next steps include a statistical analysis (rank-ordered logit model) to explore how individual factors (e.g., environmental attitudes and connection with the sea) affect their ranking. Results from this analysis will provide the aquaculture industry and the state information on how to expand production to supply sustainable seafood while minimizing conflicts within communities.

Somerset Ganz (undergraduate student), UMaine
Human / Nature in the Pursuit of Beauty: Seeking Sustainability

When considering the value of nature, it is difficult to dismiss the natural beauty of the wild, and its ability to nurture, to mend, to endure. Like the myriad spirits and traits that encourage biodiversity to flourish; these many characteristics are inherent to humanity as well. Seeking beauty is often synonymous with the intentions of the feminine spirit, and lovers of beauty in general, who are often considered to have close contacts to the natural world and to the divine. How can we be surrounded by such beauty and not try to encompass this soul of nature that brings such inspiration to all those who perceive it? We take nature, and we take the ideal of beauty, and combine them into the physical manifestation that will bring to us the results of enchantment. This is demonstrated by the desire to adorn ourselves in beautiful things. Meanwhile, here comes forth the negative impacts we bring to our environment in the pursuit of beauty. Omnipresent in the actions we make without conscious decision-making, thoughtless action centered around the make-up and fashion industries takes a toll on the integrity of the planet, and thus stirs a disruption between the roles we take on as appreciators of beauty and of sustainability. It is integral to the future of our environment that we take a closer look into the heart of what is beautiful, and realize that we might just be destroying the true beauty of the world.

Kate Follansbee (graduate student), UMaine
Management of shoreline change at Maine’s Popham Beach State Park
Changing shorelines are impacting human and natural systems globally, changing how people live, work, and recreate in coastal areas. Climate change and increased storm events are intensifying shoreline changes and their effects. In response, coastal resource managers are developing a variety of solutions. Yet, many questions remain about these solutions in Maine and beyond.

My sustainability science research focuses on the management of shoreline change at Maine’s Popham Beach State Park. Popham Beach State Park is a popular recreation area for locals and visitors, hosting 162,518 visitors in 2020. Yet, erosion continues to threaten the park’s infrastructure and modify the beach. While coastal managers, including Maine’s Coastal Program, Geological Survey, and Bureau of Parks & Lands, recognize the importance of understanding public awareness of shoreline change and support for management actions, little is known about either.

My research addresses this information gap and uses survey data collected in 2016 and insights from behavioral economics to assess the relationships between beach users’ visitation patterns, awareness of shoreline change, and support for the state taking different actions. Results to date show that years of visitation are positively correlated with awareness of shoreline change, but seemingly uncorrelated with support for management approaches. Respondents were divided as to whether the state should address changing shorelines or let nature take its course, and responses varied greatly when asked which management solutions were highest priority.

Our findings offer insights to coastal managers in Maine and beyond as they engage with the public about coastal management solutions.



November 15, 2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Mitchell Center


107 Norman Smith Hall
Mitchell Center - UMaine
Orono, ME 04469 United States
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