University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network about his recent alga research. Steneck is part of an international team studying arctic algae for answers about the world’s changing oceans. The researchers say recent experiments conducted on algae growing in coral-like reefs in Alaskan waters indicate the ocean has been acidifying at a rate that corresponds with rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the 19th century, according to the report. “The coralline alga can tell us something about ocean acidification, it can tell us about ocean composition. We’re learning a lot about the changing ocean conditions over the last one to 200 years,” said Steneck. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Jim Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and Andrei Alyokhin, a professor of applied entomology at UMaine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for an article about how Maine insects survive, and sometimes thrive, during the winter. Experts say some pests, including ticks, black flies and browntail moth caterpillars have acclimated well to harsh winters and deep snow, which acts as an insulating blanket against the frigid air, according to the article. “This really cold weather we’ve had, it would really be nasty to overwintering insects, but unfortunately, most of them are 3 feet under, fat and happy,” Dill said. According to Alyokhin, cold winters are usually bad for insect mortality if the conditions — bare ground with prolonged cold — are right.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported on the new Follow a Researcher program offered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension with support from UMaine’s Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the Maine 4-H Foundation. The program aims to give K–12 students a glimpse into a scientist’s world by providing live expedition updates and facilitating communication between the youth and researcher. “The paper-pushing aspect is what I think gets represented. It’s what youth think science is,” said Charles Rodda, a doctoral student at CCI and the program’s first researcher. While in the field, Rodda will interact with participating classrooms and students by sharing prerecorded weekly videos and live tweeting in response to questions. “It just gives youth a sense of how this research actually looks,” said Laura Wilson, a 4-H science professional with UMaine Extension.
The University of Maine’s Fogler Library was mentioned in a Bangor Daily News “Family Ties” column about old newspapers. “Speaking of old newspapers, there is a wonderful collection on microfilm in the microforms room on the first floor of Fogler Library at the University of Maine,” the author wrote. Newspapers, vital records microfilms and U.S. Census microfilms are available for use anytime the library is open, including evenings and weekends. Newspapers on film range from the Bangor Daily News to the Piscataquis Observer to the London Times, the article states.
Youth in grades 6–8 are invited to explore ocean waves and develop sensors at a UMaine 4-H Science Saturday workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 28 at Darling Marine Center, 193 Clarks Cove Road, Walpole.
Participants will be introduced to sensors, learn how sensors are used in marine science applications and develop and test a light or temperature sensor. They will also explore shellfish aquaculture with a tour of an active oyster/mussel hatchery. Scheduled activities include water-quality sampling from the dock, viewing algae with a microscope and dissecting oysters.
The $5 fee includes the science program and lunch. Registration materials are available online. Maximum enrollment is 15 and March 19 is the deadline to register. For more information, or to request a disability accommodation, call Jessica Brainerd, 581.3877. The program is supported, in part, by the Maine 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees and a National Science Foundation award to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.
A grant-writing workshop designed for people interested in submitting federal applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program will be offered 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m Monday, March 23, at Viles Arboretum, 153 Hospital St., Augusta.
The training is free; registration is required by March 16. Lunch will be provided. Register online or contact Caragh Fitzgerald, 207.622.7546, email@example.com. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, call Fitzgerald, 800.287.148 (TTY 800.287.8957).
University of Maine Cooperative Extension is conducting the workshop under the Agricultural Marketing Service Technical Assistance Project, in collaboration with the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Susan MacKay of Cerahelix, a current tenant in the Target Technology Incubator in Orono, Maine, is one of the four finalists for the East Coast campaign of Google’s Solve for X — one of 12 worldwide Solve for X events that feature technology “moonshots” addressing key global problems with innovative technology solutions. Cerahelix uses DNA to make ceramic coatings that filter contaminants 100 times smaller than a virus while using less energy than competing technologies. Initially, this technology is being used to treat highly contaminated water from fracking, currently a multibillion-dollar problem. Cerehelix has had the business and technical support of UMaine since its inception. Incorporated in 2011, Cerahelix employs five scientists and engineers, all of whom are UMaine graduates, including the project scientist who is an inventor on all five of the company’s issued patents.
Continuing or accelerating warming of the atmosphere and ocean. Intense precipitation events. Rising sea levels.
These are signs of climate change, and all of them are affecting Maine people, according to Maine’s Climate Future: 2015 Update, a new report from the University of Maine.
Recent consequences include: a record number of reported Lyme disease cases; a white pine needle disease epidemic; erosion of beaches, farmland and roads; and a Gulf of Maine heat wave in 2012 that resulted in a glut of lobsters on the market and an ensuing price crash.
“This report goes beyond global and national climate change assessments to what is happening in Maine,” says one of the report’s authors, Ivan Fernandez, a professor in the UMaine School of Forest Resources, Climate Change Institute and School of Food and Agriculture.
“We want to encourage cost-effective adaptation by citizens, businesses and communities in Maine using the best available information and tools. Being informed about how climate change affects the state is vital to developing cohesive plans to lessen its negative effects and capitalize on resulting opportunities.”
The new report builds on the report Maine’s Climate Future 2009. In 2008, at the request of then-Gov. John Baldacci, the University of Maine Climate Change Institute began assessing climate-related changes in the state. More than 70 scientists contributed to that report.
The 2015 update, say its authors, highlights researchers’ grasp of past, present and future trends of changing climate in Maine given their understanding and the accumulating evidence in 2015.
It also provides examples of how Mainers, including community planners and business people, are adapting to existing realities and preparing for future expected changes.
Noted in the 24-page report:
- Rockland’s mapped flood zone has been moved inland 100 feet.
- The city of Portland assigned $2.7 million to elevate Bayside neighborhood streets two feet so building foundation heights would meet new insurance regulations that anticipate flooding and sea-level rise.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its Plant Hardiness Zone Maps because boundaries have shifted north by half a zone.
- Maine ski resort operators have signed the Climate Declaration to advocate for national action on climate change.
It’s important for stakeholders to continue proactive and preemptive preparation, say the report’s authors.
“Mitigation is also important, even as we engage in adaptation, since little has been done to reduce the rise in greenhouse gas emissions,” Fernandez says.
While the Northeast is experiencing a bitterly cold and snowy winter of 2015, the average temperature on the planet in 2014 was the warmest in 135 years of record keeping. Last year was the 38th consecutive year that Earth’s yearly temperature was above average, and nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000.
While it may not feel like it now, the average annual temperature in Maine has warmed about 3 degrees since 1895.
Sean Birkel, Maine State Climatologist and a research assistant professor with the Climate Change Institute, analyzed Maine’s future climate using models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which account for both natural and human impacts.
His findings indicate by 2050 the annual temperature in Maine will rise another 3–5 degrees F.
Also, Maine’s warm season — when the average daily temperature is above freezing — has increased by two weeks since 1914 and is expected to lengthen another two more weeks by 2050.
The longer warm season, which now extends from mid-March to late November, has translated into longer growing seasons for farmers. In the future, it could mean the prime time to tap maple trees for sap will be in early February.
Warming temperatures also have provided a more suitable environment for ticks and their hosts, resulting in the northward spread of Lyme disease in Maine.
Reported cases of the bacterial infection hit an all-time high in the state in 2013, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control
The global climate system changes that have resulted in the temperature rise also have impacted the seasonal distribution and amount of precipitation in Maine.
Since 1895, total annual precipitation in the state has increased by approximately six inches, or 13 percent; most increases occur in the summer and fall. Precipitation is expected to increase another 5–10 percent across Maine by 2050.
Precipitation also has become more frequent and intense. In the last century, nine of 11 meteorological stations in Maine have registered the highest frequency of extreme events — defined for this analysis as two or more inches of rain or snow falling in a 24-hour period — in the last decade.
In August 2014, a record-breaking 6.44 inches of rain flooded Portland streets. The downpour caused $200,000 in damage to infrastructure in Brunswick, including culverts and roads. In May 2012, six inches of rain fell in Auburn in 24 hours. Due to erosion and nutrients flushing into Lake Auburn, an excessive algae bloom developed, oxygen levels plummeted and many trout died.
The report’s authors say the warming ocean surface water, which puts more water vapor into the atmosphere, is one factor that fuels extreme precipitation events, including this winter’s record snowstorms.
The report also points to adaptation efforts by agencies and communities in Maine that highlight the importance of communication and coordination regarding the climate change challenge.
In 2013, Gov. Paul LePage established the Environmental and Energy Resources Working Group to develop a coordinated strategy to address climate change issues.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s report from that working group recommended greater coordination among state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, Native American tribes, municipalities, researchers and UMaine to improve the state’s “ability to respond and adapt to changing physical conditions in the environment due to climatic influence.”
In spring 2014, the UMaine School of Policy and International Affairs, the Maine National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard co-hosted a conference that addressed political, military, economic and environmental challenges and opportunities related to diminished sea ice in the Arctic.
And last fall, at a University of Maine Climate Change Institute conference, researchers unveiled online tools, including the Climate Reanalyzer, to help community planners develop local solutions for specific consequences they are likely to experience.
“The University of Maine is uniquely capable of exploring the challenges associated with climate change in our state through research, education and community engagement and the complex themes encompassed in climate change-related studies are closely aligned with the recently developed signature and emerging issues related to climate change and marine science,” says Paul Anderson, director of the Maine Sea Grant program, which helped produce the report.
“Maine, the nation and the world stand at a crossroad imposed by our changing climate, but we have an amazing opportunity to reduce uncertainty about the future of climate and its impact and in so doing understand, address and deal with the challenge through rational and productive action,” says Paul Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute and another author of report.
Other authors of the report are: Catherine Schmitt, communications director, Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine; Esperanza Stancioff, educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Sea Grant; Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Joseph Kelley, professor, UMaine School of Earth and Climate Sciences, Climate Change Institute; Jeffrey Runge, research scientist, UMaine School of Marine Sciences, Gulf of Maine Research Institute; and George Jacobson, UMaine Professor Emeritus, Climate Change Institute, UMaine School of Biology and Ecology.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The University of Maine Graduate School is pleased to announce the following award recipients for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Chase Distinguished Research Assistantship (CDRA)Kalyn Bickerman Ecology and Environmental Science Shengen Chen Electrical Engineering Amber Heller Anthropology and Environmental Policy Siglinde Langholz Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Hannah Lawrence Clinical Psychology Erik Reardon History Won Joon Song Earth and Climate Sciences Cong Tian Biomedical Science Daniel Weaver Wildlife Ecology Lisa Weeks Chemical Engineering
Michael J. Eckardt Dissertation Fellowship in MEIF Areas (Formerly MEIF)
Janet Waldron Dissertation Research Fellowship (JWDRF)
Sean Birkel, a research assistant professor at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, was quoted in the Portland Press Herald article, “Ocean scientists report ‘unprecedented’ spike in sea level off Portland several years ago.” Scientists at the University of Arizona, with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found sea levels off Portland rose by 5 inches during 2009 and 2010 as a result of changes in ocean circulation that are tied to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, according to the article. Birkel said he wasn’t surprised by the rise, but it’s not as alarming as it seems. “It’s definitely a significant rise during a short interval, but our research has shown a lot of variability, or ups and downs, and that 2009–10 is likely a peak,” he said. “But the overall trend is certainly that seas are rising. No one disputes that.”