Developing a noninvasive procedure to determine the viability of lobsters for shipping was the goal of a recent cross-discipline research project led by a University of Maine undergraduate student.
Matthew Hodgkin, a fourth-year animal and veterinary sciences major from Colebrook, Connecticut, developed a method to evaluate lobster livelihood based on claw strength while working with Bob Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at UMaine; Michael “Mick” Peterson, a mechanical engineering professor, and Thomas McKay, a fourth-year mechanical engineering technology student.
The inspiration for Hodgkin’s research came from his adviser Bayer who had approached Peterson two years ago as a result of a press inquiry about the strength of lobster claws. Peterson and McKay then built a device to measure the closing strength of a lobster’s crusher claw, Hodgkin says.
Hodgkin has since worked with Bayer to determine if the device could be used to predict the viability of lobsters for shipping. Knowing a lobster’s viability is relevant to Maine’s primary seafood industry because it can determine if the crustacean is most suitable for shipping live or going straight to a processing plant, according to Hodgkin.
“This research would save the distributors money from losses incurred during shipment. If the most healthy and viable lobsters were picked to ship there would be less casualties due to weakness,” he says.
The device is an alternative to the commonly used invasive procedure that calls for measuring serum protein content in lobster blood. Shipping facilities use handheld refractometers to measure the protein once lobster blood is extracted by a syringe, according to Hodgkin.
The serum protein measurement reflects the amount of muscle mass a lobster has. Lobsters with less muscle mass would not be able to handle the stress of shipping, Hodgkin says.
The technique was developed in the 1980s by Bayer and graduate student Dale Leavitt.
The new device allows for muscle mass measurements to be determined by claw strength as opposed to using a blood sample. The prototype contains an aluminum load cell located at the point where the most pressure is exerted by the lobster when it closes its claw.
“In our first trial the gripper was made from plastic, and that did not last long with the lobsters,” Hodgkin says.
Once the rectangular gripper is placed in the lobster’s grasp, the load cell measures the pressure in pounds per square inch. The measurements then appear on an attached electronic reader that looks similar to a digital alarm clock.
Hodgkin examined various lobsters of the same size from different stages of the molt cycle. He tested the lobsters for crusher claw strength using the load cell meter and used a refractometer to evaluate serum protein in the blood. When comparing the methods, he found the closing strength of a crusher claw correlates with serum protein.
The prototype has been field tested at local lobster dealers and seems to work well, Hodgkin says. He adds more testing is needed to study the effects of water temperature on the ability of the lobster to show interest and on its strength.
Funding for the project came from the Center for Undergraduate Research and the Lobster Institute.
Hodgkin also co-owns a lobster-related business with Bayer; Lobster Institute Associate Director Cathy Billings; and Stewart Hardison, a business partner from outside the UMaine community. Lobster Unlimited LLC, formerly LobsteRx, aims to develop products from lobster-processing industry waste, such as shells. The company’s goal is to get more money to lobstermen and improve Maine’s economy.
After graduating in May 2015, Hodgkin plans to stay in the Orono area to continue work at Lobster Unlimited and eventually pursue a graduate degree in food science and human nutrition at UMaine.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
The Bangor Daily News reported on the installation of the University of Maine’s 20th President Susan J. Hunter, where she was formally welcomed to her post during a ceremony in the Collins Center for the Arts. Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York System, gave the keynote address. During President Hunter’s speech, she said the state’s universities are essential to the state’s survival in the face of an aging population spread over a vast area and faltering traditional industries that will need to adapt to survive, according to the report. “UMaine stands ready to work with our sister campuses to meet Maine’s challenges,” she said. President Hunter is the first female president in UMaine’s 150-year history. The installation was part a series of public events during Women’s Leadership Week.
A University of Maine-led child food and fitness study was cited in a USDA news release announcing $9 million in grants that were awarded to develop childhood obesity intervention programs through colleges and universities in 12 states and Puerto Rico. “Successful projects funded in previous years include the University of Maine’s iCook project, which developed online tools to encourage families to cook, eat and exercise together while improving culinary skills and increasing physical activity,” the news release states. The project is a five-state, $2.5 million USDA study designed to prevent childhood obesity by improving culinary skills and promoting family meals.
The Bangor Daily News, Mainebiz and WABI (Channel 5) reported Robert Lilieholm, the E.L. Giddings professor of forest policy at the University of Maine, spoke at a press conference in favor of the Katahdin region’s proposed national park and recreation area. The conference was held to show More than 200 businesses from around the state endorsed the plan. Lilieholm said the national park could create 450 to 1,000 jobs, and that Bangor has made many investments through the years that have benefited northern Maine. “No single act will turn our region around overnight, but bit by bit and piece by piece, we can visualize and build a better future,” he said. The Sun Journal also published the BDN article.
George Markowsky, a computer science professor at the University of Maine, was interviewed for a Bangor Daily News article about the Maine Game Club, a group of 20 students from different area high schools who are interested in digital art and programming. The club aims to educate young programmers and inspire the next generation who could bring tech into the forefront of Maine’s culture and economy, according to the article. Markowsky said it’s important for young students to realize the culture of the tech industry is changing and while Maine may not be home to massive programming campuses “a significant number” of people who live in Maine telecommute. “It isn’t that tech doesn’t happen in Maine, it just hasn’t been realized,” he said. Markowsky also cited Maine’s laptop program as an example of the state helping students pursue computer science. “We need to think about things we can do to keep our young people involved in the cutting edge of technology,” he said. “The more we can do to prepare them for the future, the better.”
The National Science Foundation and Phys.org reported on new research related to the North Atlantic Bloom, when millions of phytoplankton use sunlight and carbon dioxide (CO2) to grow and reproduce at the ocean’s surface. When phytoplankton die, the carbon dioxide in their cells sinks. “But we wanted to find out what’s happening to the smaller, nonsinking phytoplankton cells from the bloom. Understanding the dynamics of the bloom and what happens to the carbon produced by it is important, especially for being able to predict how the oceans will affect atmospheric CO2 and ultimately climate,” said scientist Melissa Omand of the University of Rhode Island, co-author of a paper about the North Atlantic Bloom published in the journal Science. University of Maine Darling Marine Center researchers Mary Jane Perry, Ivona Cetinić and Nathan Briggs were part of the team with Omand, Amala Mahadevan of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Eric D’Asaro and Craig Lee of the University of Washington that did just that. They discovered the significant role that swirling currents, or eddies, play in pushing nonsinking carbon to ocean depths. “I feel that this project is a wonderful example of the chance discovery of an important process in the ocean carbon cycle,” Perry said.
The University of Maine’s fourth annual 12-hour Bearfest Dance Marathon raised $70,599.99 to help an area hospital support local children. The event surpassed last year’s $55,000 total and became the largest community fundraiser on campus.
About 300 people participated in the event at the New Balance Student Recreation Center. Participants stayed at the center for 12 hours, where they danced, played games and visited with several children who have received treatment at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, an EMHS Foundation Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
Brittany Dipompo and Josh Bellinger, UMaine students and co-chairs of the event, say Bearfest is a yearlong effort, with the executive committee spending the school year spreading the word about Bearfest and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“On the night of Bearfest, local Miracle [Network] children and their families attend part of the dance marathon. They share their inspiring stories with the participants,” the organizers say. “It’s also an opportunity to play and have a carefree time making memories with the University of Maine students who have worked so hard to fundraise in honor of them.”
Money raised from the event will be donated to EMMC’s Pediatrics Department and Rosen Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Officers will be elected at the Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties Extension Association annual meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13, at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office, 24 Main St., Lisbon Falls.
The public meeting will include presentations by UMaine Extension educators Tori Jackson and Kristy Ouellette and Master Chef Tom Poulin. A catered meal and a baking contest sponsored by King Arthur Flour will follow the meeting. All attendees are eligible to participate. The two baking categories — pies and other desserts — each offer two prizes. First place is a $50 King Arthur gift card and second place is a $25 King Arthur gift card.
The ASCEA is recruiting new members. In partnership with UMaine Extension staff, County Extension Association members give input on programming needs and oversee budget appropriations that support education programs for county residents. For more information, to RSVP or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.353.5550 or email email@example.com.
Maine student entries in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Annual Junior Duck Stamp Contest are on display from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, March 27, at Buchanan Alumni House at the University of Maine.
The federal program for K–12 students incorporates scientific and wildlife management principles into a visual arts program. It annually introduces youth across the country to wetlands, National Wildlife Refuges and art concepts.
The winning design is used to create the Junior Duck Stamp the following year, which is sold by the U.S. Postal Service. Proceeds support conservation education and provide awards and scholarships for students, teachers and schools that participate in the program.
More than 1,000 backpacks on a college green can get students talking.
That’s part of what they’re intended to do.
Send Silence Packing is a national traveling public education exhibit of 1,100 backpacks that represent the 1,100 college students who annually die by suicide. It’s a program of Active Minds Inc., a national nonprofit with a mission to engage students in discussions about mental health.
Family and friends of the deceased college students donated the 1,100 backpacks, as well as stories and photos, of their loved ones.
Sharing the students’ stories across the country helps to humanize the sobering statistics, including that suicide is the second-leading cause of death of college students and that while 44 percent of college students report being so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function, two-thirds of those who need help do not get it.
The exhibit thus seeks to increase awareness of mental health and the scope of suicide, eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness so that students do not suffer in silence, and to provide information and resources for students in need of assistance.
The University of Maine and local community are invited to experience Send Silence Packing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 2.
Dr. Kelly Shaw, UMaine outreach coordinator and psychologist at the Counseling Center, advises the university’s Active Minds chapter, which is one of more than 400 nationwide. She says the plan is to place the backpacks on the campus Mall, but if it’s snow-covered, the exhibit will be featured in the Memorial Union Atrium, near the campus bookstore.
At Send Silence Packing, members of Active Minds will have handouts about mental health, suicide prevention and where people can seek help. UMaine Counseling Center staff also will be on site.
“Events like these are very important for us as a campus to come together and acknowledge that people are struggling and they often struggle silently,”says Dr. Robert Dana, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students.
“We strive to be a kind, caring, compassionate community and raising awareness and letting people know that we are a safe place to talk about these serious topics is one way that we can communicate that. We want people to know they are valued and belong here. This is their community and we are here for them.”
UMaine was selected as one of 12 Northeast campuses to be a part of the Send Silence Packing spring 2015 tour. Shaw says she’s grateful for the financial support of the Resident Hall Association and Student Government to bring the exhibit to UMaine.
Alison Malmon started Active Minds in 2003 after her brother Brian died by suicide when he was a senior in college. More than 300,000 people in 75 communities throughout the United States have experienced Send Silence Packing since it was unveiled in 2008 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Anyone in the UMaine community wishing to talk is encouraged to contact the Counseling Center at 207.581.1392 or stop by 5721 Cutler Health Center, Room 125 (facing Gannett Hall) Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Additional resources may be found on the Counseling Center website.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777