Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Ian Jones: Diving into Research

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Click here to view more student profiles

Third-year marine sciences major Ian Jones of Canton, Conn., is studying how ocean acidification impacts lobster larvae, an important resource for the Maine economy.

Jones works with American lobsters raised at UMaine’s Aquaculture Research Center (ARC). The lobster larvae were raised last summer at various pH levels, replicating natural environments and the impact of ocean acidification. Jones weighed and photographed approximately 700 lobster larvae to monitor their growth in these different environments. The hypothesis: slower growth and more irregular development occur at lower pH. This creates adaptation problems for lobsters dealing with increased environmental CO2 levels.

“We will certainly see greater ocean acidification in the future as an effect of climate change. As atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to increase from human input, so do the CO­2 levels of the upper ocean,” says Jones.

Along with lobster larvae, Jones also monitored seahorses in Tim Bowden’s lab. The seahorses, which were dealing with a mycobacterial infection, were in the care of Jones while an antibiotic treatment was created. He also raised juvenile seahorses last year. Through this experience, Jones learned about seahorse aquaculture, proper feeding protocols, tank chemistry and more.

“Not much is known about seahorse aquaculture relative to raising other fish, so although information on raising newborns was limited, it was a fun challenge figuring out our own system that worked.”

This fall, Jones will travel to the Darling Marine Center on the Damariscotta River, where he and other UMaine students will further the hands-on work they do in the classroom through the Semester By the Sea program.

Jones plans to attend graduate school to study sensory biology and/or the effect of climate change on marine animals.

Why is your lobster research important?
Research on American lobster growth at lowered pH is incredibly important first, because there has been little climate change study on this particular species and second, any slowing or other adverse effects on lobster growth could have serious impacts on the health of the lobster fishery, which Maine, of course, greatly depends on. Delayed lobster larvae development means it will take longer for lobsters to get to market size, and predation risk may increase as well, causing fewer individuals to grow into adults and lowering the overall abundance of adult lobsters. Changes in lobster abundance can in turn upset ecosystem balance by changing the abundance of organisms that depend on lobster as prey and organisms lobsters prey on. These trophic cascades have the power to reduce the presence of many species in addition to just the lobster, consequently reducing biodiversity.

Are you excited about heading to the Darling Marine Center in the fall?
I am really excited to be able to SCUBA dive in the area on the weekends; there is a dive locker on campus. I’m also excited for many of the courses offered this fall, such as the scientific diving course and the marine invertebrate biology course. I look forward to the seminar class, which teaches students how to tackle job interviews and graduate school applications for pursuing a career post graduation. Generally, I look forward to interacting with the marine environment on a near daily basis as I learn more about it and gain skills for marine research.

Why did you choose UMaine?
My primary reason for choosing UMaine was their excellent marine science program, which was more attractive than those at other colleges due to its emphasis on hands-on experience, such as through their Semester by the Sea program, expert faculty and it covers fundamentals of marine biology, chemistry and physics, not just the area you choose to concentrate in. Also driving me to UMaine were the strong nondiscriminatory policies and minority services on campus, making me confident that I can be myself at UMaine and face minimal to no prejudice, especially from faculty and administrators.

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, if so how?
Working with Tim Bowden has greatly improved my experience here, and the opportunities he’s granted me to assist with seahorse aquaculture and lobster larvae research have not only been very enjoyable but have helped define my research interests and add to my qualifications for future research experience. Additionally, his constructive feedback on my performance in his lab has allowed me to improve as a researcher.

What difference has UMaine made in your life, helping you reach your goals?
My professors at UMaine have made a major impact on what it means to have a career in science and beyond. They share advice on the mentality, skills and process necessary toward being successful in particular research fields. Also, the abundance of research facilities here, such as the Aquaculture Research Center, has allowed me to build a lot of hands-on experience that I can apply to future positions in marine biological research.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
I advise students to get involved with at least a couple student organizations that suit their interests. There’s a club for almost anything you could think of, from fencing to SCUBA diving to various political, academic and religious and social groups. Also I recommend science students look for work in a faculty member’s lab as soon as possible, even if it’s just volunteer work. You don’t need to know what your interests are yet, but any research and lab experience gained early can really help you in the long run. Just ask around.

What is your favorite place on campus?
My favorite place is the Littlefield Garden on the north end of campus. The garden is especially nice to study in, or to just hang out and have a picnic at — given warm weather of course.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped the way you see the world?
Unrelated to marine science, I took the Intro to LGBT studies course offered by the Women’s, Sexuality and Gender Studies department, which vastly increased my understanding of the complexity of the LGBT community. I knew a fair amount about LGBT culture and identities going into the course but I did not realize how much I didn’t know until taking the class. For example, I didn’t know that there is opposition to same-sex marriage within members of the LGBT community and that historically there has been plenty of conflict of interest between feminist and lesbian organizations, as well as lesbian and gay people who have spearheaded “LGBT” movements that often leave the B (bisexual) and T (transgender) out of the equation. I now view the LGBT community differently than before, recognizing that people won’t always get along or share common goals just because they all belong to a minority. I also better understand the importance of full inclusiveness in LGBT organizations, due the diversity and intersectionalities with race, class, etc., of LGBT people.

Doctoral Student Featured in Soy Biobased Products Article

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Alper Kiziltas, a doctoral student in the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources, was featured in a Soy Biobased Products article titled “Ford interns drive sustainability.” Soy Biobased Products is a website run by the United Soybean Board (USB) — a farmer-led, famer-funded organization that invests in research, development and promotion of soy. The article focused on Kiziltas’ work as an intern at Ford Motor Co. where he worked on expanding the use of soy in vehicles by incorporating various types of nanofillers into soy-based foams. “By using soy-based materials, Ford is able to lessen its environmental impact, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and cut CO2 emissions,” Kiziltas said.

UMaine Graduate Students Showcase Work at Expo, WABI Reports

Monday, April 7th, 2014

WABI (Channel 5) reported on the Graduate Student Government’s 2014 Graduate Academic Exposition (GradExpo) at the University of Maine’s IMRC Center. The GradExpo featured about 106 submissions in four areas of competition — posters, oral presentations, intermedia and fine arts exhibits, and a PechaKucha, or rapid-fire slide show event. More than $8,000 in prizes were awarded to participants. Stanley Levitsky, a graduate student studying intermedia, told WABI it felt great to have his work on display after many hours of preparation.

UMaine Students Creating Demo for Virtual Reality Program, BDN Reports

Monday, April 7th, 2014

The Bangor Daily News reported the University of Maine’s IMRC Center is one of a handful of facilities in the state to own an Oculus Rift. The Rift is a virtual reality headset made by Oculus VR that is poised to revolutionize everything from video games to military, aerospace and industrial training simulations, according to the article. Two UMaine new media majors — Ian Lusk and Lucas Richards — are creating a demo program for the Rift that combines virtual reality with interactive motion sensor technology.

UMaine Recycling Study Cited in Morning Sentinel Article

Friday, April 4th, 2014

A 2012 University of Maine study was cited in a Morning Sentinel article about the Skowhegan Recycling Center agreeing to take Cornville’s recycled cardboard and paper, saving the town from having to truck its items to Dexter. The study suggested Maine was falling short of its goal of recycling at least 50 percent of the trash going to state landfills. A survey of 17 communities found that as much as 60 percent of what’s thrown away could have been recycled or composted.

UMaine Grad Student’s Sap Research Featured in Huffington Post

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The Huffington Post reported on maple syrup research being conducted by Jenny Shrum, a Ph.D. candidate in the ecology and environmental sciences graduate program in the University of Maine School of Biology and Ecology. Shrum is researching the biophysical relationships between weather and sap flow. Her goal is to better understand what drives flow and how expected trends in climate may affect the processes and harvesters in the future. Shrum said she’s also trying to understand the links between people’s relationship with their land, where they get their information from, how they perceive climate change, and their motivation for harvesting. “I’m trying to piece together how those four things are related. I think that also plays into whether people will want to collect maple syrup in the future, and which people,” she said.

WABI Covers Undergraduate Research and Academic Showcase

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

WABI (Channel 5) reported on the 5th annual Undergraduate Research and Academic Showcase sponsored by UMaine’s Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR). Presentations from 149 students in the form of 77 posters, 21 oral presentations or performances, and nine exhibits were featured. Several presentations included multiple students. Ali Abedi, director of CUGR, told WABI the showcase gives students an opportunity to learn how to present themselves and their project, as well as write proposals. Awards were given to students in each presentation category. Ten winners of $3,000 Summer Research and Creative Academic Achievements Fellowships were also announced at the event.

2014 Undergraduate Research and Academic Showcase Winners

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Student research was displayed during the 5th annual Undergraduate Research and Academic Showcase on April 1.

The event, sponsored by UMaine’s Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR), was open to any undergraduate at the university and featured presentations from 149 students in the form of 77 posters, 21 oral presentations or performances, and nine exhibits. Several presentations included multiple students.

Following are the winning presentations:

Exhibits

  • Nicole Curtis-Bray (electrical and computer engineering), “Remote Excitation of the Resonant Transverse Shear Mode in AT-cut quartz;” adviser: John Vetelino

Oral Presentations

  • Paige Martin (molecular and biomedical sciences), “Exosome-Mediated Drug Delivery for Treatment of Brain Cancer;” adviser: Carol Kim (first place)

  • Christine Gilbert (Honors), “Sustainability Inconvenient Discourse;” adviser: Mark Haggerty (second place)

Posters

  • Samuel Hatch and Emily Blackwood (anthropology), “Native American Plant Use: Pollen Analysis of Shell Middens;” adviser: Brian Robinson (first place)

  • Chi Truong (chemical and biological engineering), “Separation of Sodium Acetate from Maine hardwood extract via Electrodialysis;” adviser: Joseph Geneco (second place)

  • Elizabeth Chenevert, Rebekah Flanders, Lindsay Thornton and Sylvia Paradis-Reynolds (nursing), “Radon Detect To Protect;” adviser: Elizabeth Bicknell (third place)

Also announced at the showcase were the 10 winners of a $3,000 Summer Research and Creative Academic Achievements Fellowship:

  • Danielle Walczak (communication and journalism), “Fresh Light: Maine’s Young Small Diversified Farmers Growing Hope in Maine;” adviser: Margaret Nagle

  • Gwendolyn Beacham (molecular and biomedical sciences), “Towards Understanding Cluster E Phage Integration and Maintenance of Lysogeny;” adviser: Sally Molloy

  • Marissa Bovie (anthropology), “Landscape Evolution and Human Agency Along Croatia’s Adriatic Coast;” adviser: Greg Zaro

  • Tyler Roy (psychology), “Activated Microglia in a Mouse Model of Chemo-Brain;” adviser: Thane Fremouw

  • Julia Sell (physics), “Platinum-Zirconium Diboride (Pt-ZrB2) Multilayer Thin Film Structures for Sensor Applications in Harsh High;” adviser: Robert Lad

  • Torey Bowser (marine sciences), “Arsenic Exposure of Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Embryos and the Potential to Affect Adult Fish Behavior;” adviser: Rebecca Van Beneden

  • Katrina Harris (molecular and biomedical sciences), “Identification of Genome and Integration Morphology of Mycobacteriophages ChipMunk and EvilGenius;” adviser: Keith Hutchison

  • Amy Fish (food and agriculture), “Evaluation of Persistence Factors in C.pseudotuberculosis;” adviser: Anne Lichtenwalner

  • Taylor Merk-Wynne (mechanical engineering), “Micromechanical Modeling of Fiber Reinforced Composites;” adviser: Senthil Vel

  • Juliana Tavora (marine sciences), “Satellite-Measured Bio-Optical Measurements of Lagoa dos Patos, Brazil;” adviser: Andrew Thomas

Phage Genetics Course for Honors Students

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Phage Genomics is a two-semester course offered to 16 UMaine first-year biology, microbiology, biochemistry or molecular and cellular biology majors in the Honors College each year. Students learn techniques in DNA isolation and analysis by studying novel bacteriophages, or viruses, infecting a bacterial host.

Students work alone or in pairs to culture their own phages, document the interaction between phage and host, isolate a DNA sample from the phage and sequence its genome. In the spring semester, they use computer-based analytical tools to explore and understand the structure of the phages. The procedures used throughout the process are nearly identical to those used for studying more complex genomes, including the human genome.

The active research component is integrated with group activities and reflective assignments that encourage students to develop interpersonal skills and thinking, strategic project development, and persistence.

The curriculum is provided through an association with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Alliance, and funded through a partnership between the Honors College and the Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences.

UMaine Animal Health Laboratory Researchers Studying Maine Moose

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The health of Maine’s moose is a top priority for researchers and students at the University of Maine’s Animal Health Laboratory. The lab’s director, Anne Lichtenwalner, was approached five years ago by a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) moose biologist who wanted to know what was causing occasional calf deaths.

In the past two years, Lichtenwalner, an assistant professor of animal science, and her students examined 150 sets of lungs from Maine moose. Many were infected with lungworms, winter ticks and lung cysts. Lungworms, which can cause pathology, pneumonia, and may even contribute to death, were found in about 24 percent, Lichtenwalner says.

Echinococcus granulosus (EG), the intermediate stage of a tapeworm, was found in the form of lung cysts. The form of EG found in moose is unlikely to affect humans, but it can still infect dogs, making it important to inform the general public, especially hunters and dog owners, about the parasite. The lab published information about EG online and informed state veterinarians to remind clients that tapeworm medication is advised for dogs that may eat infected moose meat or viscera.

The lab is also part of a two-year tracking study assessing the health of moose in Maine and New Hampshire. The lab conducts blood work and processes tissues from the 90 radio-collared Maine moose in the study to test for diseases and parasites.

UMaine operates the Animal Health Lab with support from Cooperative Extension as a service to the state’s veterinarians, livestock producers and animal owners. The lab is used to perform diagnostic services such as necropsy, microbiology, virology and pathology.