University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering a six-session course that covers moving a specialty food product to market.
The class, which meets 5:30–9 p.m. each Tuesday, April 8–29, will be held in two locations — 7 County Drive, Skowhegan, and 165 East Main St., Dover-Foxcroft. Two May class sessions will include individual business consultations and a tour of the Dr. Matthew Highlands Pilot Plant, a state-of-the-art UMaine facility that assists food processors, entrepreneurs, farmers, researchers and students in the food industry.
Topics to be covered include licensing, safe preparation and packaging of food, assessing potential profits and locating resources to support a developing business. The class is for people operating a value-added business and those seriously considering one; participants must have a specific food product or recipe in mind and are expected to attend all sessions. Presenters include: Beth Calder, UMaine Extension food science specialist; James McConnon, UMaine Extension business and economics specialist; and Kathy Hopkins, Debra Kantor and Donna Coffin, UMaine Extension educators.
Cost is $35 per person. Partial scholarships are available. Registrations must be received by April 1 to reserve a space. More information, including online registration is online. For questions, or to request a disability accommodation at the Skowhegan site, call 207.474.9622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions, or to request a disability accommodation at the Dover-Foxcroft site, call 207.564.3301 or email email@example.com.
A new app developed by a University of Maine graduate student allows iPhone users to take water quality measurements.
“The end result we want is to crowdsource water quality data,” says the 23-year-old oceanography student from Lincoln, Vt.
As part of his master’s thesis, Thomas Leeuw developed HydroColor, an app that uses three photos to measure the reflectance of natural water bodies. Based on the reflectance values, the turbidity or level of suspended sediment in a given water body can be measured.
“What we’re measuring is the reflectance of the water and the particles inside it,” Leeuw says. “To make reflectance measurements, oceanographers use precision instruments called radiometers. HydroColor is taking what a lot of ocean scientists do with radiometers and satellites, and applying it to an iPhone camera.”
The process requires three photographs, beginning with a photographer’s gray card, which calibrates the app based on how much ambient illumination is present. Gray cards reflect 18 percent of the light in the area, giving the app an initial reading of how much light is entering the water.
Next, the app directs the user to take a photograph of the sky. The app uses this image to control for the amount of light from the sky that is being reflected by the surface of the water. Surface reflection — such as the blue color seen when looking at a body of water on a clear day — offers no information about the turbidity of the water because it is light reflected by the surface of the water, not reflected from particles suspended in it.
The final photograph taken is of the water itself, which the app evaluates after controlling for surface reflection. The magnitude of reflected light in the red portion of the visible spectrum can be used to assess turbidity.
The reflected light can also offer information about the type of particles in the water.
“Turbidity actually is a measure of sidescattering, but you can use it to estimate the concentration of particles, in grams per meter cubed, so we’re able to convert turbidity to physical values,” Leeuw says.
In addition, the makeup of particles can be inferred based on the color of light reflected. Organic particles typically contain pigments that absorb light only in certain regions of the visible spectrum. This will cause the reflectance signal to vary across the visible spectrum. Inorganic particles do not contain pigments and their reflectance signature does not vary greatly across the visible spectrum.
By aggregating data from many people over large spatial and temporal scales, HydroColor can determine the typical turbidity or chlorophyll values for different environments. The interactive online database can then be used by laypeople or lake association officials to help monitor for changes, such as increased occurrence of algal blooms or erosion leading to higher suspended sediment.
Turbidity is one of many parameters for measuring water quality. Chlorophyll, for instance, reflects mostly green light and can offer a measure of the amount of algal particles in the water body. Using the different reflectance characteristics, Leeuw says HydroColor could be expanded to offer a more comprehensive readout of water quality measurements.
Leeuw next hopes to find an online host for user-gathered water quality data. “Eventually we’re going to have a button in the app so after you take a measurement, you can upload it to an online database,” he says. “The idea is that the database is open to everyone, it is a place where people can look at and compare measurements from all over the world.”
Understanding how water quality parameters like turbidity change over time is critical for scientists in many fields, Leeuw says. “One turbidity level is not necessarily better than another. We’re just very interested in fluctuations. It’s a tool for looking at changes in the environment.”
Leeuw hopes HydroColor will also provide an inexpensive, accessible learning tool for science classrooms. Compared to a professional radiometer, which can be cost-prohibitive for most classrooms, iPhones are becoming ubiquitous among students, and gray cards generally cost less than $5.
“It’s an extremely cheap lesson using a lot of technology. You can not only use it to learn about environmental science, but optics, technology and app development,” Leeuw says. “Right now, it is only for iPhone, but we’re thinking about hiring a developer to convert it to Android as well.”
Although he had experience programming before turning to app development, Leeuw had to teach himself Objective-C, the language used for the iOS platform. But developing HydroColor demanded more than learning a new programming language. The project has been in progress for about two years, a time span that has allowed Leeuw and his adviser, UMaine professor Emmanuel Boss, to gather hundreds of photos while on other excursions.
“We’d always be doing our other research, but then we’d run over and snap a few pictures to continue with development,” Leeuw says. “We used (research) trips of opportunity — anywhere we’d go, we’d make sure to grab some data.”
Those “trips of opportunity” have allowed Leeuw to aggregate images from all over the coast of Maine, Georgia and Washington, and many locations in the Arctic. Leeuw sailed to the Arctic with Boss as part of a project to study Arctic phytoplankton.
Now that HydroColor is available in the Apple app store, Leeuw’s goal is in sight. He presented his app to the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu in February and hopes to publish the project in a journal.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
The Maine maple syrup that enhances the flavor of pancakes and ice cream also adds to the statewide economy.
University of Maine economist Todd Gabe says, including multiplier effects, Maine’s maple industry annually contributes about $49 million in revenue, 805 full- and part-time jobs and $25 million in wages to the state’s economy.
Multiplier effects occur when an increase in one economic activity initiates a chain reaction of additional spending. In this case, the additional spending is by maple farms, businesses that are part of the maple industry and their employees.
“The maple producers were really helpful in providing me with information about their operations, which allowed for a really detailed analysis of their economic impact,” says Gabe, whose study was released in February.
Each year, the industry directly contributes about $27.7 million in revenue, 567 full- and part-time jobs, and $17.3 million in wages to Maine’s economy, Gabe says.
Maple producers earn about 75 percent of the revenue through sales of syrup and other maple products, including maple candy, maple taffy, maple whoopie pies and maple-coated nuts, he says.
Retail sales at food stores and the estimated spending of Maine Maple Sunday visitors on items such as gasoline and meals accounts for the remainder of revenue. This year, Maine Maple Sunday will be celebrated Sunday, March 23 at 88 sugar shacks and farms across the Pine Tree state.
Maine has the third-largest maple industry in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, maple syrup is produced in 10 states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin.
In 2013, Maine accounted for 450,000 gallons, or 14 percent, of the 3,253,000 million gallons produced in the U.S. Vermont (1,320,000 gallons) and New York (574,000) were the top two producers. Among the three top-producing states, Maine had the highest growth rate (25 percent) of production between 2011 and 2013, Gabe reports.
In Maine, the maple production industry appears to be dominated by a few large operations; the 10 percent of maple farms with 10,000 or more taps account for 86 percent of the total number of taps in the state, he says.
While the maple producers that participated in Gabe’s study had an average of 4,109 taps, almost 40 percent of Maine’s maple producers had fewer than 250 taps. The study participants have been tapping trees and boiling sap for an average of 24 years.
Depending on temperature and water availability, the length of the sap flow season varies; in 2013 it ran from March 4 to April 12 in Maine.
Close to 40 percent of the maple producers that are licensed in Maine returned surveys for the study, which received financial support from the Maine Agricultural Development Grant Fund and the Maine Maple Producers Association.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Five hundred middle school girls from across Maine are expected to participate in the 27th Expanding Your Horizons conference at the University of Maine on March 13.
The conference features workshops for students and teachers focused on introducing youth to careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. It is coordinated by the UMaine Women’s Resource Center and involves more than 100 volunteers, including university faculty, staff and upward of 40 UMaine students, as well as community professionals.
The activities for students begin at 9 a.m. in Hauck Auditorium with an introductory scientific presentation on traps and vernal pools. Throughout the day, groups of 20 girls will be guided by UMaine students and staff through three workshops. Two of the workshops are STEM-related, while the third focuses on gender equity and the importance of strong friendships.
Topics of the STEM-related workshops range from physics and chemistry to aquaculture and submarines. Throughout the day, girls will have opportunities to meet and hear stories from successful women working in science and math fields.
The gender equity workshop, led by UMaine student volunteers, is a discussion focused on gender dynamics and, this year, will be linked to the issue of cyberbullying.
Girls also will have the opportunity to explore the university campus. “A lot of times, these girls are just so excited to be on a college campus,” says Sharon Barker, director of the Women’s Resource Center. “Many of them may have never been here before, so one of the things we try to do is demystify and try to make them feel comfortable here.”
Teachers attending the conference will participate in a forum featuring a series of professional and educational development discussions in collaboration with the Maine Girls Collaborative Project. This forum, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wells Conference Center, is open to the public. Registration fee is $20.
Teachers who attend this event will learn about model programs, available grant funds and how to obtain them, and resources available to them in Maine. Erika Allison of the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education will offer a workshop with strategies for extending the impact of one-time events into successive learning experiences. Kay Stephens, co-author of the book “Cyberslammed,” will present on how to understand, prevent, combat, and transform the most common cyberbullying tactics.
To register for the teachers’ forum or request a disability accommodation, contact Sharon Barker at 207.581.1501.
More information about Expanding Your Horizons is online or available by contacting Sharon Barker, firstname.lastname@example.org; 207.581.1501.
|Schools EYH 2014|
|Brewer Community School, Brewer|
|Caravel Middle School, Carmel|
|Caribou Middle & Limestone Community Schools, Caribou and Limestone|
|Central Aroostook Jr/Sr High School, Mars Hill|
|Dedham Middle School, Dedham|
|Ella Lewis-Pennisula, Prospect Harbor|
|Fort Fairfield Middle School, Fort Fairfield|
|Fort Kent Middle School, Fort Kent|
|Fort O’Brien, Machiasport|
|Greely Middle School, Cumberland Center|
|Helen S. Dunn School, Greenbush|
|Hermon Middle School, Hermon|
|Hichborn Middle School, Howland|
|Houlton High School, Houlton|
|Jonesboro Elementary School, Jonesboro|
|Lyman Moore Middle School, Portland|
|Mountain View School, Sullivan|
|Old Town Middle School, Old Town|
|Orono Middle School, Orono|
|Penquis Valley School, Milo|
|Presque Isle Middle School, Presque Isle|
|Rose Gaffney Elementary School, Machias|
|Seabasticook Valley, Newport|
|Surry Elementary, Surry|
|Trenton Elementary, Trenton|
Alan Majka, associate Extension professor at the University of Maine, received a $3,500 grant from the Healthy Acadia Coalition to fund “Dining with Diabetes Down East.” Majka will work in Washington County, providing diabetes self-management support through diet-related education at several sites. The program will address basic diabetes and diet concepts, and practical skill development regarding planning and preparing meals through hands-on cooking. In Washington County diabetes prevalence is at 10.4 percent. It is estimated that 3.1 percent of Maine adults are unaware that they have diabetes.
University of Maine researchers are studying the most efficient way to commercially thin regenerating clearcuts from the spruce budworm outbreak of the 1980s that are starting to reach profitable size throughout northern Maine. With no consensus among foresters and those in the logging industry about how best to thin stands, the researchers are investigating commercial thinning treatments that are silviculturally effective.
Jeffrey Benjamin, associate professor of forest operations, and Robert Seymour, the Curtis Hutchins Professor of Forest Resources, teamed with Emily Meacham, now with American Forest Management, and Jeremy Wilson, executive director of the Harris Center for Conservation Education, to compare thinning methods.
In the team’s recent study, they compared two whole-tree and two cut-to-length systems in terms of residual stem damage, retention of downed woody material, product utilization and production cost. While initial results were mixed in terms of residual stand damage, more than four times more biomass was produced from the whole-tree operations. The study also found commercially available equipment can conduct these treatments with skilled operators, but at a high production cost. The best system silviculturally was also the most expensive.
The researchers say efforts to develop cost-efficient harvesting machines to treat the stands should continue. No matter what technological advances are made, logging contractors carry the biggest responsibility for success because they need to balance residual stem damage and crop tree selection with production costs, according to the researchers.
Details of the study were published in the December 2013 issue of the Society of American Foresters’ Northern Journal of Applied Forestry.
University of Maine researchers have designed a handheld device that can quickly detect disease-causing and toxin-producing pathogens, including algal species that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.
The device — a colorimeter — could be instrumental in monitoring coastal water in real-time, thereby preventing human deaths and beach closures, says lead researcher Janice Duy, a recent graduate of UMaine’s Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering. Duy is now conducting postdoctoral research at Fort Detrick in Maryland.
The research team, which includes UMaine professors Rosemary Smith, Scott Collins and Laurie Connell, built a prototype two-wavelength colorimeter using primarily off-the-shelf commercial parts. The water-resistant apparatus produces results comparable to those obtained with an expensive bench-top spectrophotometer that requires technical expertise to operate, says the research team.
The instrument’s ease of use, low cost and portability are significant, say the researchers. The prototype cost researchers about $200 to build; a top-shelf spectrophotometer can cost about $10,000.
A touch screen prompts users at each step of the protocol. Researchers say an Android app is being developed to enable future smartphone integration of the measurement system.
Duy says the device almost instantaneously identifies pathogenic organisms by capturing target RNA with synthetic probe molecules called peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). A cyanine dye is added to visualize the presence of probe-target complexes, which show up as a purple solution; solutions without the target RNA are blue.
The versatile instrument can also be adapted to detect other organisms. The researchers say, in theory, any organism that contains nucleic acids could be detected with the simple colorimetric test. They have verified the system works with RNA from a soil-borne fungus that infects potatoes.
The research team’s teaching and expertise spans several UMaine schools and departments, including Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology, the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering, the Department of Chemistry, the School of Marine Sciences and the Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. The Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided funding for the project.
The instrument is being incorporated into fresh and marine water testing in the Republic of Korea and the researchers say they’ll give several devices to state officials to test and use in the field in Maine.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
A team of researchers from the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center won the Best Paper Award from the Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers at the 19th Offshore Symposium, Feb. 6 in Houston. The paper, “VolturnUS 1:8 — Design and Testing of the First Grid-Connected Offshore Wind Turbine in the U.S.A.,” was written by Anthony Viselli, Habib Dagher and Andrew Goupee, and outlines UMaine’s design, fabrication, deployment and testing of the prototype, deployed in June 2013 off Castine, Maine. The prototype serves to de-risk the technology as it transitions to a commercial project planned for 2017.
Michelle Hale of Bangor has been named project leader of Maine Career Connect, a Bangor-based nonprofit program of the University of Maine Rising Tide Center.
Maine Career Connect, funded by a $284,093 grant from the National Science Foundation, will work to network a consortium of employers in central and eastern Maine with newly relocated professional families, with an emphasis on spousal employment.
Hale has a decade of experience in nonprofit work, most recently with United Way of Eastern Maine, where she coordinated local community initiatives. She has a bachelor’s degree in social work and is completing a graduate certificate in business at the University of Maine. Hale also is a participant in the 2014 Bangor Region Leadership Institute.
Maine Career Connect will work with newly relocating professionals and employers of the region to ensure successful integration into the community. Dual career spouses will have access to high-level professional networking with employers that align with their professions in an effort to accelerate their job search process.
Professionals will receive networking assistance, both in seeking employment and also building social connections. Customized portfolios of vetted local resources will be offered to help families meet their particular needs outside the workplace.
The program, based on an innovative model adopted by Tech Valley Connect in Troy, N.Y., will benefit the region by helping to attract and retain talented professionals in a variety of fields.
For more information on Maine Career Connect, call 949.0098.
Contact: Michelle Hale, 207.949.0098; Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center is offering a six-day residential non-partisan training program to educate and empower undergraduate women to become civic and political leaders.
The 2014 Maine NEW Leadership Summer Institute will be held at the University of Maine from May 30 to June 4 at no cost to participants. Graduating seniors are also eligible to apply.
Tailored to reflect Maine’s political culture and climate, the program is based on a curriculum developed by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Participants engage with a variety of women leaders in politics and civic organizations, interact with faculty-in-residence, spend a day at the Maine State Legislature and participate in a hands-on political action project. The program aims to create opportunities for women to become engaged and experienced in public speaking, coalition building, networking, advocacy and running for office.
Applications must be postmarked or hand-delivered by March 21, 2014. Program and application information can be found at the 2014 Maine New Leadership Summer Institute website. For more information, contact Eva McLaughlin, the program coordinator at email@example.com or 207.581.1646.