Archive for the ‘Statewide’ 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

Maine Army National Guard, MEMA Announce Emergency Preparedness Exercise

Friday, November 1st, 2013

The Maine Army National Guard and Maine Emergency Management Agency announced the Maine Vigilant Guard exercise 2013 will kick off Tuesday, Nov. 5. National Guard soldiers and airmen, first-responders, emergency managers and voluntary agencies will conduct large-scale training exercises at venues across the state.

The University of Maine will host one of the exercises on the Orono campus Nov. 5–6. UMaine will provide a mock laboratory in Holmes Hall where emergency response teams will practice investigating and eliminating risks that might arise in real-life settings. Maine National Guard and local first-responder units, including the Orono Fire Department, will be on campus for the two-day event. UMaine’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) also will be activated.

The Vigilant Guard exercise is part of a series of training sponsored by the U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau aimed at improving command, control, operational relationships and interagency coordination with local, state and regional civilian and military emergency response partners.

A Maine Army National Guard news release describing the statewide exercise is available online.

‘Transforming Leadership’ Girl Scout Conference Nov. 2

Friday, November 1st, 2013

A Girl Scout conference will be held at the University of Maine on Saturday, Nov. 2. The event, titled “Transforming Leadership,” will host more than 80 Girl Scouts ranging from grades 6–12 in the cadets, seniors and ambassador levels. More than 40 adult participants also are expected to attend. The activities will begin at 10 a.m. in the D.P. Corbett Business Building and will include engineering, dance and theater workshops. The UMaine School of Performing Arts will assist in several of the workshops. For more information, contact Natalie Degerstrom at 207.989.7474 or ndegerstrom@gsmaine.org.

President Ferguson Writes Op-Ed for BDN

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

President Paul Ferguson wrote an opinion piece for the Bangor Daily News titled “Why UMaine deserves your vote.” The president urged voters to support Question 2 on Nov. 5. He wrote the bond issue is designed to enhance educational and employment opportunities for Maine students and residents. If approved, the bond will provide $15.5 million to the University of Maine System — $5.5 million to UMaine — for renovations and improvements to existing laboratory and classroom facilities. The BDN also published an editorial titled “Yes on Question 2: Why $15.5 million in renovations at Maine’s universities is a smart investment.”

Symposium for Educators of International Students in Maine Nov. 1

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The University of Maine College of Education and Human Development will host the third Symposium for Educators of International Students in Maine from 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at the Buchanan Alumni House on the Orono campus.

The professional development conference will focus on issues related to the education of international students attending Maine high schools.

Teachers, counselors and administrators of schools with international students, as well as University of Maine faculty and students, are invited to the free event.

Aretha Marbley, visiting professor from Texas Tech University, will deliver the keynote. Breakout sessions will address topics such as dating and relationship customs, the perceived pressure for international students to attend Ivy League universities, and increasing competence as multicultural educators.

At 11:30 a.m., a panel of international students from local high schools will answer questions about their experiences coming to Maine. International UMaine students will also perform musical presentations throughout the day.

Registration is online. For more information, or to request a disability accommodation, contact Roxanne Lee at 207.581.2412 or roxanne.lee@umit.maine.edu.

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.

UMaine Researcher Strives for Effective Innovative STEM Initiatives

Friday, October 18th, 2013

A University of Maine researcher is participating in five projects aimed at improving nationwide science instruction and assessments.

Michelle Smith, assistant professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology, is the principal investigator on four projects and co-principal investigator on another granted $6.8 million in total funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF); UMaine’s portion is $1,012,269.

The projects, three of which are collaborative with other universities, involve UMaine administrators, faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students, undergraduates and area K-12 teachers. “All of these stakeholders … will contribute to national initiatives to improve science education,” says Smith, a member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education (Maine RiSE Center).

In August, Smith was returning from a reunion with family members when she learned about the possible funding. “We stopped for lunch and I looked down at my phone and realized my inbox was full of messages from the NSF requesting that I provide them with more information on four different grants within 48 hours,” she says. “I told my family they had to eat ‘right now’ because we had to get home.”

Susan McKay, UMaine professor of physics and director of the Maine RiSE Center, as well as Smith and several other colleagues, will receive $299,998 to transform K-12 STEM education by restructuring teaching methods courses to align with national standards. They’ll also work to attract and retain STEM majors in college as educators and form partnerships with area school districts.

Researchers say the project could make a difference in Maine, where more than 50 percent of students in more than half the school districts are eligible for free or reduced lunch and the resource-based economy could benefit from more technology jobs.

Smith and colleagues MacKenzie Stetzer, Susan McKay and Jeff St. John will receive $249,851 to establish a UMaine program to broaden use of evidence-based teaching and learner-centered practices in STEM courses. UMaine faculty and area K-12 teachers will observe and document instruction in university STEM courses. Their data will be used to develop workshops targeting faculty members’ needs and implement innovative teaching practices.

Smith will receive $219,966 of a $528,459 collaborative project to develop assessments called Bio-MAPS (Biology-Measuring Achievement and Progression in Science) that gauge whether undergraduate college biology students understand core concepts. The University of Washington and University of Colorado-Boulder are partners in the endeavor “to articulate common learning goals and monitor longitudinal student learning in biology.”

The assessments will identify areas in biology in which students struggle. They’ll also help two-year community colleges evaluate how effectively they’re preparing students to transfer to four-year institutions. Assessment data will inform faculty about where changes need to be made in the biology curriculum.

Smith will also receive $187,968 to expand a national network for open-ended assessments called Automated Assessment of Constructed Response (AACR) in which computer software programs analyze answers of students in large-enrollment science courses. The assessments provide more insight into student thinking on common conceptual difficulties than multiple-choice questions.

Michigan State, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Georgia, and Stony Brook University, are also participating in the $5 million project, in which researchers will create a community Web portal to improve alliances among STEM education researchers and promote nationwide implementation of innovative instruction materials.

Smith will receive $54,486 of a $718,000 collaborative award with four other universities to build a national network of Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) that provide professional development opportunities so more faculty can use constructed response assessments to reform teaching in biology. UMaine faculty members Seanna Annis, Farahad Dastoor and Brian Olsen will work with Smith to develop the UMaine FLC.

The project seeks to provide insight into factors that facilitate or hamper faculty using modified teaching materials and practices. It also lays the foundation for a national network of FLCs and subject-based virtual communities with access to real-time automated analysis of AACR assessment items, faculty-developed teaching resources and support.

Smith, who says she chose a faculty position at UMaine in order to work with fantastic researchers and supportive peers, appreciates that her colleagues helped her think about research questions and mentored her during the grant-writing process.

She’s also grateful for the contributions of K-12 teachers. “The pilot data the K-12 teachers collected about university-level STEM instruction was featured in the grant to broaden use of evidence-based teaching and learner-centered practices in STEM courses,” Smith says. “That grant earned the highest scores of any I submitted. My colleagues and I are incredibly lucky to work with such a talented group of teachers who are also excellent researchers.”

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

 

Maine Development Foundation, UMaine Issue Report on Personal Income in Maine

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

On Oct. 17, the Maine Development Foundation and the University of Maine’s School of Economics and Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center released the second quarterly report analyzing critical economic indicators in Maine. The latest report looks at Maine’s relatively low per capita personal income. The first report, released in August, addressed Maine’s comparatively low level of worker productivity. Ann Acheson, a research associate at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, wrote the new report that analyzes the relative contribution of the three sources of personal income — earned income, investment income and transfer payment income — in Maine and in comparison to the national average. The Maine Development Foundation news release and the full report are online.

 

Engineering Career Fair Oct. 23

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

More than 70 companies that employ engineers will be visiting the University of Maine Oct. 23 for the annual Engineering Job Fair, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the New Balance Student Recreation Center.

Co-sponsored by the College of Engineering and the Career Center, the 2013 Engineering Job Fair is an opportunity for students to learn about some of the engineering firms in Maine, New England and throughout the country, meet company representatives and pass along a resume that could lead to a job after graduation or on-the-job experience through a co-op or internship.

Last year, more than 900 students attended. This year, the College of Engineering is inviting engineering students from other colleges and universities to participate in the event. Students are advised to bring resumes, prepare 30-second introductory pitches and research the companies they plan to speak with prior to attending.

The job fair historically has attracted some of the best engineering companies in the Northeast that are looking specifically for UMaine students. More information, including a list of the companies scheduled to attend, is on the Career Center website.

The event is underwritten by General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works and Pike Industries Inc., with additional support from 11 other industry sponsors.

 

Wilde-Stein Marks Four Decades of Advocating for LGBT Rights

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Three founders of Wilde-Stein Alliance for Sexual Diversity will take part in a panel discussion Oct. 18 to celebrate the organization’s advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights for 40 years at the University of Maine.

The panel discussion will be part of a 4:30-7 p.m. celebratory event at Wells Conference Center that includes hors d’oeuvres and beverages. In October 1973, Wilde-Stein received provisional status as a gay and lesbian student group at UMaine.

Named in honor of Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, Wilde-Stein embraces the spectrum of sexualities and genders, offers students the opportunity to socialize in a safe, accepting place and seeks to support and inform the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

For more information, to sign up, or to request a disability accommodation, contact Chelsea Barker at chelsea.barker@umit.maine.edu.