Seed grant winners of Portland Gateway’s CONVERGE Maine program announced

Three interdisciplinary projects focused on meeting Maine needs have been awarded competitive seed grants through UMaine’s Portland Gateway. Funded projects facilitate convergent research across the University of Maine System.

The CONVERGE Maine program brings together UMS experts with an interest in transdisciplinary work, developing and strengthening partnerships with other institutions and organizations within the state, and addressing a societal challenge or scientific question facing Maine today.

This is the first round of awards through the program, which satisfies Portland Gateway’s goal of preparing the knowledge and innovation workforce, contributing to societal advancement and propelling economic development.

Faculty and professional research staff and scientists were invited to submit proposals in late 2021. Proposals that engage community members in a meaningful manner were given special consideration. Brief summaries of the funded projects follow.

Building Sustainable Transdisciplinary Networks to Support Just and Equitable Energy Transitions

This project will establish a cross-campus network to advance research on energy transformation, with a particular focus on inclusive, equitable and just approaches to that process.

Collaborators from UMaine include Jessica Jansujwicz, research assistant professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology; Linda Silka, a senior fellow at the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions; and Sandra De Urioste-Stone, assistant vice president for research and an associate professor in the School of Forest Resources.

Transdisciplinary One Health Approach to Zoonotic Canid Parasites in Maine

The primary goal of this research is to better understand the risk of parasites to wild and domestic canid health, as well as to human health.

Collaborators from UMaine include Pauline Kamath, assistant professor of animal health, and Sue Ishaq, assistant professor of animal and veterinary sciences, both in the School of Food and Agriculture; and Darren Ranco, associate professor of anthropology and chair of Native American Programs. External collaborators include Michele Walsh, state veterinarian for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The following University of Maine One Health National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship (NRT) graduate students also are participating in this project: Elizabeth Pellecer Rivera, Alaina Woods and Tegwin Taylor, Ph.D. candidates in ecology and environmental sciences; and Remy Babich, a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry and biomedical sciences.

Farm-to-Product: Creating Sustainable Kelp-Based Bioplastics

The project researches how to create fully vertically integrated kelp-based bioplastic production in Maine, propelling development in the blue economy by leveraging the plastics and aquaculture expertise in the area.

Collaborators from the University of Southern Maine include Asheesh Lanba, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Composites Engineering Research Laboratory, and Eklou Amendah, an assistant professor of marketing. Collaborator Adam St. Gelais is an aquaculture innovation specialist at the UMaine Aquaculture Research Institute. External collaborators include Katie Weiler, founder and CEO of Viable Gear Company; Davis Lee, chief technology officer at Clocktower Engineering; and Andrew Schoenberg, serving as technical advisor.

For more information on the CONVERGE Maine seed grants, contact Pips Veazey; or