Archive for the ‘Lincoln County’ Category

Steneck: Understanding Species Interactions Key to Fisheries Management

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck participated in a Florida State University-led study that recommends a paradigm shift for fisheries science and management.

The study spearheaded by FSU biology professor Joe Travis advocates that fisheries experts and managers consider how overfishing and environmental changes disrupt species interactions and alter ecosystems, including pushing some ecosystems past their tipping points.

“In order to succeed, fisheries management must focus on species interactions,” says Steneck, a professor based at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole.

Historically, Steneck says, fisheries science has focused on population dynamics, sustainable yields and influences of biological and oceanographic processes on fisheries.

“By incorporating a more ecological approach, we argue that managers can better understand the dynamics of a fishery, and which species interactions, if affected, can push the ecosystems that house a fishery past its tipping point,” he says.

The loss of one major species from an ecosystem can have severe and unintended consequences because of the connections between that species and others in the system. These changes often occur rapidly and unexpectedly and are difficult to reverse, say the researchers.

“You don’t realize how interdependent species are until it all unravels,” says study co-author Felicia Coleman, director of Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory.

One case study looks at the collapse of sardine and anchovy stocks — partially as a result of overfishing — in the 1970s in the Northern Benguela ecosystem off Namibia. Subsequently, the far less calorie-rich bearded goby and jellyfish flourished. African penguins and gannets that had preyed on energy-rich sardines and anchovies, have suffered, say the researchers. African penguins and gannets have declined by 77 percent and 94 percent, respectively.

In addition, Cape hake and deep-water hake production plummeted from 725,000 metric tons in 1972 to 110,000 metric tons in 1990, say the researchers, and the population of Cape fur seals has dramatically fluctuated.

In Europe, Steneck points to the Atlantic cod stock’s seeming inability to rebound from overfishing. Currently, the cod’s former prey, a small fish called sprat, has become hyperabundant to the point that it preys on larval cod.

Closer to home, the decimation of cod and other large predatory species also resulted in a proliferation of sea urchins. In the late 1980s, a sea urchin fishery subsequently developed and boomed, but by the mid- to late-1990s, overfishing had decimated that industry.

With sea urchin stocks depleted, the macroalgae eaten by sea urchins increased substantially. This, in turn, created an ideal habitat for crabs, which are major predators of sea urchins.

In the same ecosystem, Steneck says declines in soft-shell clams are due to an explosion of non-native green crabs. “All of these examples result from strong ecological interactions that are not captured in most fisheries management models,” he says.

While it’s easy to write off one such case study, Travis says taken all together, the paper is a compelling case that “tipping points are real, we’ve crossed them in many ecosystems, and we’ll cross more of them unless we can get this problem under control.”

Steneck agrees. “Our paper provides case studies from all over the world illustrating how a chain of events taken with an appreciation for species interactions can contribute to complex problems in fisheries management,” he says.

The study, titled “Integrating the invisible fabric of nature into fisheries management,” was published in the Dec. 23, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Travis and Coleman say they hope the research accelerates changes in how fisheries scientists approach ecosystem problems and how fisheries managers integrate system issues into their efforts.

The researchers recommend that more effort be devoted to understanding links between species that set up tipping points in ecosystems and they advised managers be cognizant of data that indicates when a system could be approaching its tipping point.

“It’s a lot easier to back up to avoid a tipping point before you get to it than it is to find a way to return once you’ve crossed it,” Travis says.

Fishing experts generally understand how overfishing affects other species and the ecosystem as a whole but it “needs to be a bigger part of the conversation and turned into action,” Coleman says.

Seven other scientists from the University of Connecticut, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Santa Cruz, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale in France participated in the study.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

DMC Scientist Submits Oyster Bill

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Rep. Mick Devin of Newcastle, a researcher at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole, was interviewed for a Bangor Daily News story about winter wet storage of Maine oysters.

Devin submitted a bill to the state Legislature that would fast-track the wet storage permit application process so aquaculturists could more easily access stocks in the winter and improve the competitiveness of the fishery. The bill, he said, would keep public comment as part of the permitting process.

Oyster consumption has been on the rise, Devin said, and to “compete with other states, our oyster growers have to sell year-round.”

Barker Quoted in MPBN Article on Challenging Welfare Fraud Claims

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Sharon Barker, director of the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Maine, was interviewed for a Maine Public Broadcasting Network article on women’s advocates challenging Gov. Paul LePage’s claims of welfare abuse in the state. LePage said during his weekly radio address that he thinks recipients are using taxpayers’ money to buy alcohol and gamble at casinos. Barker said there’s no reason abuses like those LePage claims couldn’t be verified, and she urges him to put his effort into making welfare-to-work programs more effective.

UMaine Marine Scientist Joins Elite International Group of Adventurers

Monday, November 18th, 2013

University of Maine marine scientist Rhian Waller has been named a Fellow in an elite international group of adventurers who encourage scientific discovery while exploring land, sea and space.

Founded in 1904, Explorers Club members attempt to attain new heights and depths; they’ve been the first to reach the moon, North Pole, South Pole, the Mount Everest summit and the deepest part of the ocean.

Waller, an associate research professor in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, fits right in. In 2013, National Geographic Magazine celebrated her as a 21st-century risk taker who presses the limits in this “New Age of Exploration.”

Based at the Darling Marine Center (DMC) in Walpole, Maine, Waller has pushed the limits of diving during more than 40 expeditions around the planet. In a submersible, she has plunged to a depth of 3,600 meters to examine corals on the New England Seamount chain.

“I feel extremely honored to have been voted into the Explorers Club, and really pleased to have been recognized for the scientific exploration work I’ve been doing across the globe,” Waller says.

“There are so many conservation issues surrounding the deep ocean, I hope I can use this opportunity to spread the word more widely that the deep sea is important to our whole planet, and does need our protection.”

As a Fellow, Waller has access to the Explorer’s Club research collections, including a library and map room, and she’s connected with a global network of expertise, experience, technology, industry and support. The Explorers Club supports exploratory expeditions and provides opportunities for the 3,000 members worldwide to carry an Explorers Club flag on voyages that further the cause of exploration and field science. Since 1918, flags have flown at both the North and South poles and aboard Apollo 11.

The seven founders of the Explorers Club were two polar explorers, a curator of birds and mammals at The American Museum of Natural History, an archaeologist, a war correspondent/writer, a professor of physics and an ethnologist. Today its members — including archaeologists, astronomers, entomologists, mountaineers, zoologists and now a new deep-sea researcher — conduct explorations and research in more than 60 countries around the globe, and beyond.

For her research, Waller routinely scuba dives in temperatures 35 F and colder. She studies how environmental factors such as climate change, fishing and oil exploration affect deep-sea coral ecology and reproduction, as well as what effect that altered life cycle could have on the rest of the marine ecosystem.

Last summer, Waller was part of a research team that discovered two deep-sea coral communities in the western Jordan Basin and Schoodic Ridge regions of the Gulf of Maine.

Last month, Waller returned from an expedition to Chile. She had traveled to Huinay Scientific Field Station near the northern Patagonian fjords to collect final samples from a yearlong deep-sea coral monitoring program. She’s examining how climate change, salmon farms, fishing and oil exploration affect deep-sea coral reproduction, and what effect any altered life cycle could have on the marine ecosystem.

In her Oct. 11 blog on that trip, Waller wrote that corals, which she calls the rainforests of the ocean, “are not just beautiful to look at … they’re also extremely important to the health of our oceans, and ultimately the health of the planet.”

Next year, Waller will utilize a $381,384 National Science Foundation grant to investigate how Antarctic corals, which provide habitat for thousands of connected species, are coping with warming ocean water.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

School of Performing Arts Stages Metamorphoses in Pool

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Actors and directors at the University of Maine are embracing change as they rehearse for Metamorphoses, a play that explores transformations.

Many of their adjustments are because the play takes place in an 18-inch-deep, 30-foot-wide-by-14-foot-long pool filled with 8,500 gallons of water. UMaine Associate Professor of Theatre Marcia Joy Douglas directs the production, in which 150 audience members will be seated on stage adjacent to the actors.

“It’s such a unique theater experience,” says Douglas. “I love the magic that takes place in a theater. The lights, the sounds, the costumes — all of it, in particular with this show. I can guarantee people have never seen anything like it.”

Playwright Mary Zimmerman earned a Tony Award for best direction in her Broadway hit Metamorphoses, which she based on David R. Slavitt’s translation of Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Ovid wrote the poem of 15 books and more than 250 myths, circa A.D. 8, the same year that Augustus exiled him. It explores transformations undergone from the beginning of time until Julius Caesar was deified.

During rehearsals, Douglas says she kept inventing ways to best use the water — which represents cleansing, dying, change and emotion. “It’s a character in the play,” she says.

Each central character — whether it’s King Midas or Myrrha — imparts a lesson. “Myths teach us about what it is to be human,” she says.

Douglas chose Metamorphoses after asking UMaine Assistant Professor and set designer Daniel Bilodeau for titles of plays he would like to design. “I like to get input,” she says. “I’ve never had a designer take me up on it before. I asked Dan about five times, ‘Are you sure we can do the pool?’”

Technical Director Joe Donovan constructed the pool, which is almost completely drained after each night’s rehearsal. Each afternoon it’s refilled with hot water and a chlorine tablet is added. Bilodeau said structural engineers rated the stage floor, which is directly above the costume shop, to ensure it could safely sustain the weight of the filled pool.

The water was a big draw for Nellie Kelly, a junior theatre and history major from Boothbay, Maine, who plays Myrrha. “I’ve done a lot of shows but the idea of working in a pool was an awesome opportunity,” says Kelly. “When we added costumes it became more challenging. The fabric gets heavy and your movement slows but that adds interest.”

Approximately 50 students are taking part in the School of Performing Arts’ production, in which 13 actors don 85 costumes designed by Jonna Klaiber. “It’s challenging with the costumes getting wet every night,” Klaiber says good-naturedly. “I painted some of the costumes in an artistic way and that got washed out.”

There will be seven performances — at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 17 and 24. Content is mature. Tickets are $10, free with a student MaineCard. Tickets may be purchased at or at the door one hour before the show. To request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.1781.

Media Advance Public Meetings on Offshore Wind Demonstration Project

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

The Penobscot Bay Pilot and the Associated Press advanced three public meetings in Friendship, Bristol and Port Clyde that will be held by the University of Maine to share updates on the planned 12-megawatt offshore wind demonstration project by Maine Aqua Ventus GP LLC., Daily Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Portland Press Herald, WGME (Channel 13), WABI (Channel 5) and WLBZ (Channel 2) were among news organizations to carry the AP report.

UMaine to Host Public Meetings on Offshore Wind Demonstration Project

Friday, November 8th, 2013

The University of Maine will hold three public meetings in Friendship, Bristol and Port Clyde to share updates on the planned 12-megawatt offshore wind demonstration project by Maine Aqua Ventus GP LLC.

The meetings, from 6–8 p.m., will be held: Nov. 12, Friendship Town Office; Nov. 14, Bristol Consolidated School; and Nov. 25, Herring Gut Learning Center, Port Clyde. Moderating the meetings will be Maine Sea Grant Director Paul Anderson.

Community members interested in learning more about the offshore wind demonstration project are urged to attend.

UMaine to Meet with Communities About Offshore Wind Transmission Line Plans, BDN Reports

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

The Bangor Daily News reported officials connected to the University of Maine’s offshore floating wind turbine will meet with residents of three coastal towns — Friendship, Bristol and Port Clyde — to outline early plans for a power transmission line that might pass through one of their communities in the future. Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, said UMaine representatives will present possible locations of where the line could come ashore and that research is continuing to determine a location. He added the line is a “fairly small transmission line, not too different from what you’d see on a utility pole.”

Living on Earth Interviews Rasher About Copepods

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Rachel Lasley Rasher, a biologist at the University of Maine’s Marine Darling Center, was interviewed for a Living on Earth segment titled “Copepod Love.” Rasher spoke about how the tiny crustaceans track down suitable mates for the report by Public Radio International’s environmental news magazine.

UMaine, Department of Education Launch Autism Resource, Research Institute

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development has partnered with the Maine Department of Education to create a statewide system of supports for Mainers who serve children with autism and their families. The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) will open Jan. 1, 2014 on the UMaine campus. Deborah Rooks-Ellis, an assistant professor of special education at UMaine, will be the institute’s full-time director. She will oversee the institute’s efforts to increase statewide capacity to improve outcomes for children with autism. The full DOE news release on the collaboration is available online.