Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Digital Journalism Class, BDN Collaborate on Bangor 2020 Project

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The future of Bangor, Maine, is the focus of a multimedia project that pairs University of Maine journalism students with mentors at the Bangor Daily News (BDN).

UMaine professor Jennifer Moore is leading CMJ 481: Digital Journalism students in the project called Bangor 2020. The journalism juniors and seniors are conducting research, doing journalistic fieldwork and producing news packages using a variety of technologies for the online, multimedia project in partnership with the BDN.

The goal of the course is to create a discussion about the future development of the Greater Bangor Area. The class is about providing students with a learning environment both in and out of the classroom, and experience working on a project that can significantly add to their professional portfolio and make them competitive on the job market.

The theme of the project is “livable cities,” a term associated with promoting economic growth while maintaining sustainable living environments.

“Students will gain valuable, hands-on experience reporting on important issues facing Bangor,” Moore says. “We’re focusing reporting and production in a ‘digital-first’ mindset that’s so important for anyone who wants to enter the world of professional journalism.

“Working this closely with mentors at the BDN — in a collaborative learning environment — is new in CMJ curriculum, and we hope to continue this relationship in future classes.”

Anthony Ronzio, BDN director of news and audience, says the course will “challenge the students into conceptualizing, analyzing and, ultimately, storytelling an issue of great local importance, with advice and guidance from professionals along the way. The final product would be of high enough quality to publish in the BDN.”

At the end of the semester, students also will give a public presentation to showcase their work.

“This project requires curiosity and hones the information-gathering skills that you need to satiate that curiosity. It also gives you, as a student journalist, a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the different ways to tell a story while sharpening the basic journalistic skills we’ve developed in our other courses,” says Jonathan Ouellette, a senior in the class.

Ronzio says UMaine’s journalism department and the BDN can learn from each other. “By working together, we can make a brighter future for UMaine journalism students and help the BDN adapt to the new journalism that must be done in the 21st century,” he says.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

Press Herald Reports on UMaine Offshore Wind Project’s Push for Federal Funding

Monday, March 10th, 2014

The Portland Press Herald reported on the University of Maine-led proposed offshore wind pilot project and its fight for federal funding. Maine Aqua Ventus, a group made up of UMaine and partner companies, is competing  against Seattle-based Principle Power for up to $47 million in matching federal energy funds to demonstrate the technology for next-generation offshore wind turbines. The Press Herald also reported members of Maine’s congressional delegation have been actively involved in promoting UMaine’s project.

UMaine Offshore Wind Project Focus of ASME Article

Monday, March 10th, 2014

A proposed offshore wind pilot project and floating test turbine created by Maine Aqua Ventus, which includes the University of Maine and partner companies, was the focus of the ASME article “First offshore wind turbine for the U.S.” Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, said university experts recognized renewable energy was a leading growth area for composites, and the amount of wind available off the Gulf of Maine has the potential of being a useful resource.

LePage Points to Gabe’s Maine Maple Industry Study, Media Report

Friday, March 7th, 2014

WMTW (Channel 8 in Portland) and the Associated Press reported on Maine Gov. Paul LePage citing a maple industry study by University of Maine economist Todd Gabe. Gabe found the state’s maple industry directly contributes nearly $28 million to the state’s economy every year. LePage said the industry has a “huge potential for additional job creation.” MPBN and Boston.com carried the AP report.

DMC’s Work with Damariscotta River Association Mentioned in Boothbay Register Article

Friday, March 7th, 2014

The Darling Marine Center and its resources were mentioned in a Boothbay Register article about the Damariscotta River Association’s Estuarine Monitoring Program. The program offers community members a chance to get out on the water and become part of a data-gathering effort that will help determine the health of the estuary. Water samples collected during the program are taken from seven locations beginning at the DMC. The salinity, temperature and other data from the samples are then entered into a DRA database at the DMC. “We’re grateful to the Darling Marine Center for their expert partnership and continued technical consultation on this project,” said DRA Executive Director Steven Hufnagel.

UMaine Grad Student Develops an App for Measuring Water Quality

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

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

Gabe’s Maine Maple Industry Study Cited in BDN Article

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

A new study by University of Maine economist Todd Gabe was cited in a Bangor Daily News article titled “LePage says Maine could lead the nation — and maybe Quebec — in syrup production.” Gabe’s study, which received financial support from the Maine Agricultural Development Grant Fund and the Maine Maple Producers Association, showed the state’s syrup industry contributes nearly $49 million to Maine’s economy and supports more than 800 jobs. The figures include multiplier effects. The Sun Journal also carried the BDN report.

USGS Grant will Fund Research in San Francisco Bay

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Emmanuel Boss, professor of oceanography, received a $23,445 U.S. Department of the Interior (USGS) grant for the proposal, “Suspended sediments in the San Francisco Bay: Algorithm development and validation.” The objective is to map the nearshore magnitude and distribution of suspended sediments in the Suisun/Grizzly Bay region of the San Francisco Bay — as close to the shoreline of Rush Ranch as possible. In their approach, Boss’ research team will use several remote sensing platforms — airplanes and satellites — with fine-scale spatial resolution to alleviate land adjacency effects. Employing a suite of different fine-scale platforms will increase the possibility of successful overflight imagery collection, since fine-scale remote sensors do not have advantageous return times. This approach will demonstrate the utility of using remotely sensed suspended sediments for providing input into a model for regions where continuous monitoring of turbidity may not exist or where discrete suspended sediment values are not available.

UMaine Economist Details Maple Syrup Industry’s Impact on Economy

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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

Dagher Quoted in Bloomberg Businessweek Article on Floating Wind Farms

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, was quoted in a Bloomberg Businessweek article about the offshore wind pilot project proposed by Maine Aqua Ventus, a consortium that includes UMaine and partner companies. In the article, “Floating wind farms venture farther out to sea,” Dagher said Maine Aqua Ventus companies will save tens of millions of dollars by using floating concrete platforms as opposed to renting barges and cranes to install fixed-foundation turbines. He said ideally the unit will be towed back to shore every 20 years to have a next-generation turbine installed.