More than 480 middle school girls from around the state are expected to take part in the annual University of Maine conference that aims to provide a safe and encouraging environment to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The 28th Expanding Your Horizons conference takes place March 12 on the UMaine campus and features workshops for students, as well as teachers of the 25 participating schools.
The conference is coordinated by the UMaine Women’s Resource Center with support from the Maine Girls Collaborative Project. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is the event’s Healthy Start Partner and the UMaine College of Engineering is the Fun Futures Sponsor. The Maine School of Science and Mathematics summer camp also donated to the conference. The event involves volunteers, including university faculty, staff and more than 35 UMaine students, as well as community professionals.
The student activities begin at 9 a.m. in Hauck Auditorium with a keynote address by UMaine graduate students LeeAnne Thayer, who studies marine science, and Brianne Suldovsky, who studies communications. The students will share their personal experiences as women working in and around STEM.
Throughout the day, groups of girls will be guided by UMaine students and staff through three workshops around campus. Two of the workshops are STEM-related, while the third focuses on gender equity and confidence building.
Topics of the STEM-related workshops include computer science, engineering, wildlife biology, forestry, math, physics, horticulture, veterinary medicine and GIS/GPS remote sensing. Students also will have the opportunity to meet and hear stories from successful women working in science and math fields throughout the state.
Jennifer Dunham, special projects assistant at the Women’s Resource Center, says the day is designed to introduce girls to new areas and future career possibilities. Organizers say they hope there is a topic for everyone.
“If just one girl walks out of a workshop excited, that’s one more girl who may decide to be an architect, or an electrical engineer, or a computer programmer, or a forester, who may not otherwise have ever considered that field,” Dunham says.
The gender equity workshop, designed by graduate assistant Ashley Burns, will focus on the stereotypes and barriers women face in STEM and beyond.
“Ultimately, we want the girls walking away not only knowing and possibly being excited about fields they weren’t before, but also having the confidence to pursue them; whatever challenges they may encounter,” Dunham says.
Teachers attending the conference will participate in professional development sessions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wells Conference Center.
The professional development forums will be divided into two sections. At 10 a.m. UMaine Extension and 4-H will lead a hands-on workshop that will explore how using the 4-H Experiential Learning Model can enhance student understanding of STEM. Participants also will learn about free resources offered by 4-H to educators statewide.
After lunch in the Bear’s Den, teachers will hear about how to bring science into the classroom from Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and the Challenger Learning Center of Maine.
CEU’s are available for those who attend the educational forums. CEU costs are covered by the conference registration fee.
Mainebiz and the Bangor Daily News reported the National Science Foundation awarded $657,000 to Acadia Harvest Inc. (AHI), which is working to achieve a commercial-scale, land-based, indoor Maine seafood farm with low to zero waste. AHI will use a controlled environment to study how aspects of aquaculture can be applied to land-based agriculture, according to Mainebiz. AHI works in partnership with the University of Maine and the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin, where the research will be performed, the article states.
Kathy Hopkins, a maple syrup expert with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was quoted in a Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal article on the start of the maple sugaring season and how weather affects sap flow. After a cold winter, there is a perception that the season is starting late, but Hopkins said that may be based on the early seasons that maple syrup producers have enjoyed over the past few years, according to the article. If a cold winter is followed by a quick warm-up, the season will be short and less syrup will be produced, the article states. “That’s the biggest thing about the amount — having perfect weather for six weeks or so,” Hopkins said. “If it gets too hot too fast, it can close the season down fast, and you run the risk of getting a buddy tasting syrup that tastes like green twigs.”
A 2012 Maine Policy Review report by Janet Fairman, an associate research professor of education at the University of Maine, and Christine Donis-Keller, an education consultant, was cited in the VTDigger article, “School district consolidation: Will Vermont go where Maine has been?” The Maine Policy Review report, “School District Reorganization in Maine: Lessons Learned for Policy and Process,” focused on the state’s objective to reduce 290 school districts to 80. The article states that according to the report, by the 2011–12 academic year, the districts had been reduced to 164 and the success of the effort “is still open to debate.” Gordon Donaldson, professor emeritus of education at UMaine, also was quoted in the article. He recalled his perspective on the legislation that led to school district consolidation under Gov. John Baldacci’s administration.
The Maine Edge published a University of Maine news release announcing the 2015 Maryann Hartman Award recipients. Three Maine women and a teenager who are leaders in social justice, community advocacy and cultural preservation will be honored at the 29th annual Maryann Hartman Awards on March 24 at UMaine. This year’s recipients are Maria Girouard of Orono for her advocacy for the preservation of the cultural heritage and rights of the Penobscot Nation; Deborah Thompson of Bangor for her work on recognizing and preserving the rich architectural history of Bangor; and Florence Reed of Surry, for her initiative in creating Sustainable Harvest International, connecting Maine to the global community. High school senior Nicole Maines of Portland will receive the Young Women’s Social Justice Award.
The Village Soup reported a tractor safety course will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. April 8 at Union Farm Equipment in Union. The course is offered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Knox-Lincoln Farm Bureau and Union Farm Equipment, according to the article.
The Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal reported Maine artists, 50 and older, are invited to participate in the Senior College at Belfast 13th annual Festival of Art May 21–24 at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast. The event is co-sponsored by Senior College at Belfast and the University of Maine Hutchinson Center. Amateur and professional artists are welcome. Registration ends March 31.
Craig Russell and Kristen Russell, two members of the University of Maine’s event safety team in the Department of Safety and Environmental Management, will be among those honored as “Real Heroes” by the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross of Maine. The Real Heroes program recognizes “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” going above and beyond to serve others. The Russells were cited for their quick actions that saved the life of a man attending the Sportsmen’s Show on campus in 2014. The two were the first responders on the scene when one of the attendees went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. The Russells radioed for an ambulance, performed CPR and used an AED on the man, who was breathing and talking by the time medical personnel arrived. This year’s Heroes Breakfast will be April 15 at Jeff’s Catering and Event Center, Brewer. More information is online.
Damian Brady, assistant research professor in the School of Marine Sciences, has been awarded $25,294 to improve a sediment model of the Chester River in Maryland in order to enhance the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Modeling Package that is utilized to clean the bay. Water-quality models provide information about how much pollution — in the form of nutrients from wastewater treatment plants and inorganic fertilizers — it takes to create dead, or hypoxic, zones, in Chesapeake Bay. Brady says models are proficient at determining the relationship between pollution and ecosystem damage, but they’re less proficient at predicting the impact of nutrient pollution on shallow water connected with sediment underneath. The University of Maryland is administering the funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The project began in June 2014 and continues through May 2016.
Jesica Waller, a University of Maine graduate student, spoke about her research with The Boston Globe for the article, “Rising acid levels in oceans imperil region’s shellfish.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists found a surge of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fossil fuels has made oceans on average 30 percent more acidic at the surface since the Industrial Revolution, and they predict oceans will become 150 percent more acidic by 2100, according to the article. Waller and researchers at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay are studying the effect of more acidic water on lobster larvae and copepods. Initial findings have shown a decline in respiration rates of the larvae and copepods in waters that simulate the chemistry of the oceans that scientists predict for the next century, the article states. Lower breathing rates could reduce swimming speeds, according to Waller. “That shows us some part of their physiology may be compromised, and that they may be experiencing internal stress,” she said.
Renae Moran, a tree fruit specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, gave her predictions on this year’s apple season for the Kennebec Journal article “Maine’s cold winter and slow-starting spring are good for apple crops, expert says.” Moran said the colder and snowier winter has been good for apples, and she is “optimistic” about the season, which typically runs from August through October. She said the snow cover hasn’t been deep enough to be a problem for apple trees across Maine, and temperatures have remained stable and freezing without often reaching dangerously low levels that could harm trees, according to the article. A forecasted slight rise in temperatures over the next couple weeks also will benefit the trees, Moran said. She did caution that the deep snow could crust in spring, which would harm trees by breaking off low-hanging branches. It “could be bad,” she said, but it’s too early to tell, the article states.
Foster’s Daily Democrat published a University of Maine news release about Doles Orchard in Limington and Portland-based Allagash Brewing Co. donating money to Maine AgrAbility. Doles Orchard owners Nancy and Earl Bunting began working with Allagash in 2010 when brewers inquired about purchasing their sour cherries to use in a fermented beer. The farmers have since provided the company with more than 6,000 pounds of cherries, as well as custom-built wood crates to ship the beer. In honor of the Buntings, the brewery named its October 2014 limited edition beer “Nancy.” When Allagash officials asked Nancy, who severed four fingers in a table saw accident two years ago, which group she’d like a portion of the beer’s proceeds to be donated to, she did some online research. She stumbled upon AgrAbility — the nationwide U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded program established to assist farmers, ranchers and other agricultural workers and farm family members impacted by a limiting health condition. In Maine, the program is a nonprofit partnership between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England and Alpha One. “To educate people about the program is a huge thing,” Nancy said. “I’m happy to be getting the word out about this great program and all the ways it can help people.” Allagash Brewing has gifted nearly $10,000 to the organization.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported on three sheep shearing schools offered by the Maine Sheep Breeders Association and University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The schools, which will be offered in March and April, are designed for people with different levels of experience. Richard Brzozowski, a small ruminant and poultry specialist with UMaine Extension, said as farming continues to grow, a shearing skills gap is starting to be noticed. “Everybody that has sheep wants to have good-quality wool or the highest quality wool they can,” Brzozowski said. “And if the shearer doesn’t know what he or she is doing, they can mess up a nice fleece pretty quickly.”
Sean Birkel, a research assistant professor at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute (CCI), was quoted in a Portland Press Herald article about the Department of Homeland Security partnering with the state of Maine for the first study of the effects of climate change on energy, water, transportation and telecommunications systems. CCI has been researching the effects of climate change for more than a decade, according to the article. Birkel said the work that has been conducted in the last year will help communities better understand the challenges that lie ahead. “We know that climate boundary conditions are changing,” he said. “We can’t provide all the answers yet, though.”
Kate Garland, a horticulturist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was interviewed by the Bangor Daily News for an article about Maine’s increase of community gardens. “I think it’s due to the interest in locally sourced food but also knowing where your food comes from, and a lot of folks are realizing they don’t have the resources they need in their backyard,” Garland said of the increase. The article also included tips from UMaine Extension on how to organize a community garden.
Tim Godaire, a graduate student in the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, wrote an opinion piece for the Bangor Daily News titled “There’s a better option than Keystone XL pipeline to create jobs.” Godaire also is a member of the Bangor chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
Lois Berg Stack, an ornamental horticulture specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, spoke at the 2015 New England Grow trade show in Boston, according to the latest column in the Portland Press Herald’s Maine Gardener series. Stack spoke about research she is conducting on what native plants are most beneficial to bees and how those plants could attract younger gardeners, according to the article. “Young people are not gardening, but they are concerned about the environment and concerned about bees,” she said. “If we can get them to plant a little place for pollinators, there is huge potential.”
Youth in grades K–12 are invited to learn about horses with large animal veterinarians at a University of Maine 4-H Science Saturday workshop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 4 at the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center, 160 University Farm Road, Orono.
Youth will learn to use stethoscopes on a model of a horse heart and learn to understand sounds as a basis for a physical exam, focusing on digestive, heart, percussion of feet and hoof sounds. Participants also will learn about training a Standardbred for riding, conformation and judging.
Anne Lichtenwalner, UMaine Extension veterinarian, and Robert Causey, associate professor, animal and veterinary sciences, will lead the workshop.
The $8 fee includes the program and lunch. Registration materials are online. Maximum enrollment is 40; March 27 is the deadline to register. For more information, or to request a disability accommodation, contact Jessica Brainerd, 581.3877. The program is supported by the Maine 4-H Foundation.
The National Science Foundation awarded $657,000 to Acadia Harvest Inc. (AHI), which is working to achieve a commercial-scale, land-based, indoor Maine seafood farm with low to zero waste. AHI, which formed in 2011, has conducted collaborative research at the University of Maine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin, to advance the technology of recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) used to raise fish, including California yellowtail and black sea bass. The grant will enable AHI to increase the scale of its research project and to add new species for studies in an integrated saltwater system. The goal, says AHI officials, is to deliver fresh seafood from Maine to people throughout the U.S., perhaps by 2017–2018.