The University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger program was the focus of the latest installment of the “Backyard Gardener” series on WVII (Channel 7). John Jemison, a soil and water quality specialist with UMaine Extension, spoke about the importance of the program that provides produce and recipes for those in need. This week, Master Gardener Volunteers at the Orono Community Garden will harvest greens for about 50 local senior citizens. Since Maine Harvest for Hunger began about 15 years ago, it has provided more than 1.6 million pounds of food for community members, according to the report.
The Bangor Daily News reported on the passing of Richard “Dick” Collins, a major benefactor of the University of Maine. Collins passed away Monday, July 7. He was 77 years old. Collins and his wife, Anne Collins, both UMaine graduates, donated $6 million to the university in 2007. Their contribution supported $5 million in improvements to the then Maine Center for the Arts — now Collins Center for the Arts — and $1 million to the Memorial Gym restoration project. “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of the University of Maine’s most dedicated alumni volunteers and benefactors,” said UMaine President Susan Hunter. “Dick and his wife, Anne, worked tirelessly to make their alma mater the pride of the state of Maine and beyond.”
The St. John Valley Times reported the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Potato Board will sponsor the “Potatoes for the Health of it” potato-cooking contest July 27 at the 2014 Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle. Participants are asked to prepare a heart-healthy recipe using the Maine potato as a primary ingredient. Recipes must contain no more than 30 percent fat and no more than 140 mg sodium per serving, feature Maine potatoes and use ingredients that are readily available. Recipe categories are soups, salads, breads, casseroles, desserts and miscellaneous.
Master Gardener Training Offered in SkowheganUniversity of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers training will be held Mondays, Sept. 8 through Nov. 17, 2014, and Mondays, Jan. 19 through Feb. 9, 2015. Classes will meet 6–9 p.m. at the UMaine Extension Somerset County Office, County Drive, Skowhegan.
UMaine and state specialists will present 15 three-hour gardening sessions focused on vegetables, fruit and volunteerism. Participants are expected to attend all sessions and, following the course, work on educationally based, volunteer projects. Projects may include assisting people taking part in community vegetable gardens and/or school gardens, designing and creating displays for fairs and other public functions and answering public calls and requests.
Cost is $220; scholarships are available. The course features an online manual and requires an Internet connection. For more information, to request an application or disability accommodation, or if interested and do not have reliable Internet access, call Pete Bastien, 207.474.9622, 800.287.1495 (in Maine). Completed applications are due by Aug. 22, 2014.
University of Maine research this summer in the Arctic’s Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) is expected to provide one of the first comprehensive views of the spatial distribution and abundance of phytoplankton under the ice.
UMaine oceanographer Mary Jane Perry, interim director of the Darling Marine Center, was awarded $196,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Naval Research to sample the biogeochemistry of the Marginal Ice Zone from a Korean icebreaker, the R/V Araon, and with underwater gliders. UMaine scientist Cameron Thompson will participate in additional cruises from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay; Ivona Cetinic, also at the Darling Center, will be involved in data analysis.
On July 30, Perry will join an international group of over 40 scientists to study the retreat of sea ice in the Arctic. The Arctic has experienced a dramatic decline in sea ice thickness, aerial extent and age distribution. Changing patterns in sea ice have significant implications for the planktonic food web, and flow of carbon and nutrients in the Arctic, including timing, magnitude and location of plankton blooms.
The Marginal Ice Zone Program, led by the University of Washington, is an Office of Naval Research initiative that will use a combination of autonomous robotic technologies, ships, aircraft and satellites to study the breakup of ice in the Beaufort Sea and its northward retreat in summer. It is expected to contribute to our understanding of ice dynamics, including feedbacks in the ice-ocean-atmosphere system that affect rates of sea ice decline. More about the MIZ Program is online.
Perry will use small underwater gliders to repeatedly sample open water, the MIZ and water under full ice cover. The optical data collected from the gliders over a two-month period will offer the first comprehensive view of the spatial distribution and abundance of phytoplankton under ice in the Arctic. Relatively few observations of under-ice blooms exist, due to the logistical constraints of sampling under thin and melting ice.
Thinner ice and greater abundance of melt ponds facilitate greater penetration of visible light through the ice, allowing planktonic photosynthetic organisms to grow. Perry will use measurements from the icebreaker to calibrate the glider sensors. She hopes to assess how changing ice patterns affect plankton productivity in the Arctic, and better understand the role of phytoplankton on the heat budget under the ice.
Phytoplankton are microscopic photosynthetic organisms at the base of the marine food web; their production of carbon fuels the ecosystem. For more than a quarter-century, Perry has studied marine phytoplankton in an effort to understand its biomass variability and production dynamics. Her research has taken her to the subpolar North Atlantic and North Pacific on several major expeditions, the last in 2008, as well as other regions in the world’s ocean.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
Enhancing green sea urchin egg production to aid Maine’s depressed urchin market is the research focus of a University of Maine marine bioresources graduate student.
Ung Wei Kenn, a second-year master’s student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hopes to increase the egg or roe yield of farm-raised green sea urchins through high-quality feed, a process known as bulking. His research is part of a two-year, more than $215,000 research project funded by the National Sea Grant National Strategic Initiative and led by director Nick Brown and biologist Steve Eddy of UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin, Maine.
“I was always interested in the vertical integration of aquaculture and seafood processing,” says Ung, who completed his undergraduate work at the University of Tasmania, Australia. “I am also passionate about seafood that is popular in Asia. This topic is a blend of all that.”
Ung came to UMaine because he was attracted to the project, but he praises CCAR, where he conducts his research, as a key part in his decision to work at UMaine.
“I always felt that aquaculture is not just a science; it is a business as well,” says Ung. “CCAR is special in that it is specifically set up to assist aquaculture businesses by providing scientific and technical know-how. I would not have this luxury at most other places.”
Ung’s research potentially could have significant economic benefit for the state. Maine exports roe to Japan, where it is considered a delicacy. Since the late 1990s, Maine has suffered a dramatic sea urchin industry decline, dropping to a 2.6 million-pound yearly harvest after 1993’s 42-million-pound high, according to information on the Maine Sea Grant website.
“(Using bulking), we can produce out-of-season urchins, enabling the industry to get the best prices, such as when there is a festival in Japan,” Ung says.
Ung places wild green sea urchins, which are harvested from Hancock County’s Frenchman Bay, in a recirculating aquaculture system, where they are fed fresh and dried kelp and a commercial diet that fosters higher-quality eggs. Harvested sea urchins are usually 57 mm in diameter.
Ung hopes his research will lead to increased roe yield and improved roe quality. After four months of urchin dieting, Ung analyzes roe yield, texture and color data at the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department’s physical properties lab. Taste testing is completed at the UMaine Consumer Testing Center. Roe pre- and post-experimentation aspects are compared to determine if quality has been enhanced.
High-quality roe is sweet, smooth and yellow, gold or orange in color, while poor-quality roe has a watery appearance or bitter taste.
“There is a commercial component where we want to demonstrate that the urchins can be enhanced at a commercial scale,” Ung says. “A higher-quality roe yield would mean better selling prices.”
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
University of Maine researchers will design and test a wireless leak detection system for the International Space Station (ISS) that could lead to increased safety on the ISS and for other space activities, as well as on Earth in the event of gas and oil leaks at industrial plants.
The project was one of five in the nation to receive funding from NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for research and technology development onboard ISS.
Ali Abedi, a UMaine associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded a three-year, $100,000 NASA grant through the Maine Space Grant Consortium in Augusta, which consists of higher education institutions and nonprofit research organizations that are actively involved in aerospace-related research and education.
“We are very excited to be selected among the only five groups in the nation to conduct a flight test on ISS,” Abedi says. “This will be a great training experience for our students to learn how to take a prototype out of the lab, and not only to the field but also to space.”
Leaks causing air and heat loss are a major safety concern for astronauts, according to Abedi.
“It is important to save the air when it comes to space missions; find the leak and fix it before it is too late,” he says.
Abedi’s project involves the development of a flight-ready wireless sensor system that will be able to quickly detect and localize leaks based on ultrasonic sensor array signals. The proposed system is fast, accurate and capable of detecting multiple leaks and localizing them with a lightweight and low-cost system, Abedi says.
“Our goal is to push the boundaries of hardware and software in order to design a highly accurate, ultra-low-power and lightweight autonomous leak detection and localization system for ISS,” he says.
The lab prototype was developed by UMaine Ph.D. student Joel Castro and postdoctoral fellow Hossein Roufarshbaf as part of a previously funded NASA EPSCoR project and was tested on UMaine’s inflatable lunar habitat, located in the Wireless Sensing Laboratory (WiSe-Net Lab) on campus. The new funding will allow researchers to make the system more rugged and revise it for a microgravity environment through testing at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and then onboard the ISS over the next two to three years.
The testing and verification of the system in a microgravity environment will help determine how well the system performs in space, as well as on Earth.
“Leak detection methods developed for extreme space environments will push the limits of current technology for ground-based leak detection at home and in industrial plants,” says Abedi, who directs the WiSe-Net Lab. The lab conducts research on wireless communications ranging from coding and information theory to wireless sensor networks and space applications, as well as houses the NASA’s lunar habitat.
Vince Caccese, a UMaine mechanical engineering professor, and George Nelson, a former astronaut and current director of ISS Technology Demonstration Office at the NASA Johnson Space Center, also are involved with the project.
Proposals from the University of Kentucky, Lexington; Montana State University, Bozeman; University of Nebraska, Omaha; and the University of Delaware, Newark also were funded. Other research includes improving spacewalking suits by incorporating self-healing polymers that are tested against micrometeor impacts.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
A new pepper variety has been developed with a high capsinoid content to make it less pungent while maintaining all the natural health benefits of the fruit, according to researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maine.
The researchers — Robert Jarret from the USDA/Agricultural Research Service in Griffin, Georgia, and Jason Bolton and L. Brian Perkins from the University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture — developed the new small-fruited Capsicum annuum L. pepper through traditional breeding methods in an effort to make the health benefits of hot peppers available to more consumers.
In hot peppers, capsaicinoids are the compounds associated both with their signature heat and health benefits, which include being a source of antioxidants. But that pungency can limit their use in foods and pharmaceuticals.
Capsinoids, closely related compounds of capsaicinoids, provide the same benefits without the pungency.
Starting in 2006 with a USDA seed grant, Perkins, a UMaine assistant research professor and director of the Food Chemical Safety Laboratory, and Bolton, then a food science graduate student, screened about 500 subspecies of Capsicum annuum. They forwarded their data to Jarret, who selected those with the highest concentrations of capsinoids.
Jarret then began to classically breed the selected varieties at the USDA facility in Georgia. Perkins screened the results and they repeated the process, selecting the best capsinoid producers from each generation.
The culmination of their work is germplasm 509-45-1. The peppers are very small, with each plant producing up to 1,000 peppers. According to Perkins, there will likely be additional selection to prepare the plants for marketability, both as a food product and for medical experiments.
Currently, small quantities of seed are available from the USDA for research purposes.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
Reuters and the Portland Press Herald cited information on the state’s blueberry industry from the University of Maine in articles about a lawsuit alleging labor violations during the state’s 2008 wild blueberry harvest. The Reuters article states Maine harvested nearly $70 million worth of wild blueberries in 2012, and the industry depends on migrant labor to harvest the native crop, which grows on about 60,000 acres of fields, according to UMaine. The Press Herald reported the industry’s economic impact in Maine was about $250 million in 2007. Chicago Tribune carried the Reuters report.
Keri Kaczor, of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and coordinator of Maine Healthy Beaches, spoke with SeacoastOnline about the health of Maine’s beaches following the release of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s annual report on the water quality at beaches throughout the nation. Maine Healthy Beaches is a partnership between the UMaine Extension/Sea Grant, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and local municipalities. The statewide organization is dedicated to monitoring and keeping beaches clean. Kaczor said despite Maine’s low rank in the NRDC report, there are plenty of beaches in the state with nearly spotless records, and most of those beaches are in state or national parks where there is little to no development.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering a youth 4-H club focusing on entomology from 9 to 11 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, Aug. 4–20, at the UMaine Extension office, 28 Center St., Machias. Activities are designed to teach youth ages 8–10 about the environment through bugs. Cost is $10 per child; registration is limited to 10. For more information, to register or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.255.3345 or email email@example.com.
Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for Part 1 of its “Innovation in the Maine Economy” series. Silka spoke about the importance of innovation for the state’s future and the latest Maine Policy Review, which focuses on innovation in Maine’s economy.
The Portland Press Herald reported the number of out-of-state students enrolling at University of Maine System schools is on the rise. The University of Maine is one of four of the system campuses that is seeing an increase in the number of out-of-state students, who pay almost three times more in tuition than in-staters. So far this year, the flagship Orono campus has seen a 13.5 percent increase in out-of-state enrollments for this fall when compared to last fall. Jimmy Jung, vice president for enrollment management at UMaine, said out-of-state recruiting efforts by officials are “paying off quite well.” The Associated Press published a report citing the Press Herald article, which was carried by The Washington Times, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, WABI (Channel 5), SFGate and The Republic.
Rich Kent, an associate professor of literacy education at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for an article about Sam Morse, an 18-year-old skier from Carrabassett Valley Academy who is a member of the U.S. ski development team. According to the article, Morse has been writing journals since childhood and believes the practice makes him a better
Alpine skier by allowing him to reflect on and improve his skills. Kent, who wrote, “Writing on the Bus: Using Athletic Team Notebooks and Journals to Advance Learning and Performance in Sports,” is a leading proponent of journal writing. He has a resource website and works with college coaches to establish journal training among their teams. Kent was introduced to Morse in 2011 by Morse’s English teacher at Carrabassett Valley Academy. “Sam’s writing is huge,” said Kent. “I’ve never seen such a package of writing. In Sam’s writing you see evidence of planning.” Kent added he believes writing gives Morse a psychological advantage over other skiers.
The Bangor Daily News reported Karen Cole, the current executive vice president of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, will take over as the associate director of the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine. “She brings a lot of experience in marketing and in the arts, and she is deeply connected to the Bangor area and the university,” said Danny Williams, executive director of the CCA. “She’s familiar with the landscape and the Bangor scene, and I think she will help the Collins Center position itself appropriately in the new and ever-shifting landscape.”
Barbara Murphy, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator and gardening expert, was a guest on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s “Maine Calling” radio show. The show focused on gardening advice and touched on topics such as soil conditions and crops gardeners should expect to see ready by July.
The Bangor Daily News published the opinion piece, “Eliot Cutler has a leadership problem,” by Tony Brinkley, an English professor at the University of Maine.
A celebration of the life of Associate Professor of Theatre Sandra Hardy will be held Saturday, Aug. 9 at 2 p.m., Minsky Recital Hall, Class of 1944 Hall. A reception will follow in Miller’s Café in the Collins Center for the Arts. Hardy unexpectedly passed away June 19 in Connecticut. She was 76. In her 26-year career at UMaine, Hardy taught acting and literature of the theatre, as well as drama in education. She directed many theatrical main stage productions at UMaine, including her final musical, “Grease,” this past February. Hardy’s obituary is online.
University of Maine researchers Mick Peterson and Christie Mahaffey are featured in an article in Forbes about horse racetrack safety. Peterson, executive director of the nonprofit Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and Libra Foundation Professor at the College of Engineering at the University of Maine, is slated to make a presentation at The Jockey Club’s fifth Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held July 8-9 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Peterson and Mahaffey, an affiliated researcher with the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary engineering at UMaine, analyze racetrack samples and maintenance data from around the United States and make models of how horses’ hooves interact with various surfaces.
They started working with Aqueduct Racetrack in New York after 31 horses died on its surface in 2012 (three per 1,000 starts). In 2013, 21 horses died (1.77 per 1,000 starts). Thus far in 2014, Forbes reports that nine have died. “The lives of horses and riders are on the line here. We have to keep working on it,” Peterson says in the article.
WLBZ2 (Channel 2) reported the University of Maine will institute changes in its stalking and relationship abuse policies in the wake of “Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault” released in April 2014.