To female coastal plain swamp sparrows, male bill size matters.
When looking for a mate outside of their pair bond, female coastal plain swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana nigrescens) choose males with large bills, according to a University of Maine-led study conducted along Delaware Bay.
Small-billed males are more at risk of being cheated on by their mates. Males with larger bills than their avian neighbors, on the other hand, sire a greater percentage of young birds in their territory, says Brian Olsen, assistant professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology and Climate Change Institute.
Thus, Olsen says, sexual selection may explain why males have larger bills than females along the Delaware coast.
“Conventionally, bird bills have been considered one of the premier examples of how diet shapes morphology: the right tool for the right job,” he says.
For the past 40 years, researchers have explained differences between the shapes of male and female bills by differences in diet. But Olsen and his colleagues say their research suggests that female mating preferences alone could do it.
“It really makes me wonder how much of bill shape, or the shape of any other structure for that matter, is due to mating preferences instead of better survival,” Olsen says.
Olsen and his fellow researchers also found that bill size increases with age. So, by selecting males with larger bills, females are picking a mate that has the right stuff to survive and successfully defend a territory over multiple years.
“In other words,” says Olsen, “the genes of older males have been tested and proven worthy, and females who prefer to mate with the largest-billed males can then pass these good survivor genes on to their offspring.”
Since the difference in large and small bills is only a few millimeters, Olsen says he doesn’t know how female swamp sparrows make the distinction. He suspects song may play a role, since male bill shape can greatly influence singing.
Russell Greenberg of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoological Park; Jeffrey Walters of Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences; and Robert Fleischer of the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics at the National Zoological Park also participated in the study.
The team’s research article, “Sexual dimorphism in a feeding apparatus is driven by mate choice and not niche partitioning,” was published in the November 2013 issue of Behavioral Ecology.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
WVII (Channel 7) spoke with Susan Bennett-Armistead, the Correll Professor of Early Literacy at the University of Maine, about the new Literacy to Go program that aims to promote early literacy. UMaine’s Fogler Library and Old Town’s elementary school and public library are teaming up to offer themed kits that include three books inside a pizza box to help children get interested in and excited about reading. Bennett-Armistead said each site is expected to have 20 kits on a variety of topics and librarians will be taught how to use the kits with young children.
James Breece, an economics professor at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for an article about the future of Maine’s economy. Breece said most economists would agree with the prediction of mild job growth for the next year made by Charles Colgan, a professor at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. Breece added that the continuing decline in manufacturing in the state is slowing the economy and there’s a disconnect in Maine between strong economic gains and high corporate profits and the slow return of jobs that were lost during the recession.
A University of Maine alumnus and faculty associate in the Department of Anthropology recently won an international prize for his ice age research related to the first human settlement in the high Peruvian Andes.
Kurt Rademaker, who is also an associate graduate faculty member at UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, won the Tübingen Research Prize in Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology. The award is open to recent doctoral recipients around the world in in a variety of areas including archaeology, ecology and human evolution.
The goal of Rademaker’s research is to better understand the timing, environmental setting and adaptations related to the early settlement.
“Human colonization of the Americas was the most rapid and extensive geographic expansion in our species’ history, in which hunter-gatherers successfully settled some of the most challenging environments on Earth,” he says.
Rademaker and his team discovered humans lived at 14,700 feet elevation in southern Peru about 12,000–12,500 years ago, making the Andes settlements the highest known ice-age archaeological sites in the world.
“The fact that hunter-gatherers were physiologically capable of living in high-altitude mountains at the end of an ice age is an example of how amazingly adaptable our species is. My team and I are trying to learn more about how people managed this initial settlement and how Andean environments, ecology and culture have changed since then,” he says.
Rademaker collaborates with researchers from throughout the United States, Canada, Peru, Chile and Germany.
“Many different skill sets are needed to do interdisciplinary work, and archaeology is labor-intensive, so this means building teams of people with varied specializations,” he says.
Rademaker considers his work somewhat nontraditional because he uses an interdisciplinary systems approach that combines archaeology and other earth science techniques to investigate the long-term evolution of landscapes in which people play an important role.
Rademaker and his team can sometimes estimate the age of settlements by tools found at sites. Other times the researchers excavate areas in rockshelter sites used as camps and retrieve organic material such as animal bones that people discarded then radiocarbon date the bones to determine their approximate age.
Research conducted by Rademaker and his team suggests that the first people in the Peruvian Andes settlements hunted Andean camelids — ancestors of today’s alpacas and llamas — and Andean deer. The people may have also eaten plants, but a complete picture of their diet awaits further study, Rademaker says.
“One interesting finding is that there are stone tools in the shelter that do not come from the highlands but from lower-elevation canyons,” Rademaker says. “So these people may have been moving between low and high elevations, perhaps seasonally.”
The Tübingen Research Prize is administered by the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology housed in the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory and Archaeology of the Middle Ages at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. The prize, in its 16th year, was created to promote innovative research among scholars studying ice age archaeology, Quaternary ecology and human evolution.
“It is such a great honor to win this award,” Rademaker says. “Tübingen has one of the premier archaeological departments in the world. The Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology is renowned for its archaeological sciences expertise and groundbreaking work on human prehistory and evolution throughout Africa, Asia and Europe.”
In accepting the award, Rademaker is slated to deliver the prize lecture Feb. 6 at the Fürstenzimmer of Schloss Hohentübingen, where he will receive 5,000 Euros ($6,800). As the winner, he is also expected to contribute a research paper summarizing the major aspects of his research for the journal Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Urgeschichte.
“I have lots of ideas for future research, so I hope to have the opportunity to continue in academic archaeology,” Rademaker says.
Rademaker has been researching early human settlements in the high Peruvian Andes for about 10 years and has made 13 trips to Peru to complete his master’s and Ph.D. research.
“In total, I have spent about a year of my life camping in the high Andes while doing fieldwork,” he says.
Rademaker, who has been interested in the settlement of the Americas since he began his career in archaeology in 1996, became involved in Peruvian archaeology and climate change through the Climate Change Institute when he came to UMaine in 2003.
“I had the good fortune to have Dan Sandweiss as my graduate adviser,” Rademaker says. “Dan invited me on his field project in Peru in 2004, and I have been hooked on the Andes ever since.”
In 2008, Rademaker won the Society for American Archaeology’s Douglas C. Kellogg Geoarchaeology Award and the Geological Society of America’s Claude C. Albritton Archaeological Geology Award for research by a graduate student. Rademaker is the second person to win both awards and the only person to win them in the same year, according to his former adviser Sandweiss, the dean and associate provost for graduate studies and a professor of anthropology and quaternary and climate studies.
Rademaker earned a doctoral degree in Quaternary archaeology from UMaine in 2012 and a master’s degree in Quaternary and climate studies in 2006. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Kentucky. He is expected to teach archaeology courses at UMaine during the spring semester.
“In addition to being a unique source of information about our own species’ development, archaeology also is a tremendous source of information about past climate and environmental change,” Rademaker says. “Future environmental change is the most serious challenge our civilization faces. Archaeology can help us understand the development of Earth’s landscapes and our current situation.”
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
A University of Maine graduate student is researching ways to use lobster shell waste to create a pigment extract as a green alternative to synthetic versions found in fish food.
Beth Fulton, a Ph.D. student in food science, is working with other researchers on the project that aims to use environmentally friendly solvents and methods to develop a carotenoid pigment extract from lobster shell waste generated by processing facilities. The extract would be used in food for farmed salmonid fish, such as salmon and trout.
“I feel this project could lead to a really simple answer to a lot of problems that we have in Maine at the same time,” Fulton says, noting that decreasing waste and disposal costs by recycling secondary processing resources could have a positive effect on the fishing industry and communities.
Lobster shells are rich in carotenoid pigments — yellow to red pigments found in plants and animals — that can’t be synthesized in salmonid fish but can be used as a natural colorant in food. Farmed salmonid fish get their color from their diet, which contains commercial pigments that may include synthetic carotenoids from petroleum products, dried copepods, whole yeast and algae, or oil extracts from krill. Fulton says 15 percent of salmon feed cost comes from the commercial pigment alone.
“This pigment can potentially replace artificial color in common food products like farmed salmon feeds, and increase the value of whole lobsters,” Fulton says.
Fulton of Lee, N.H., has been working on the project since 2011, primarily with her faculty adviser Denise Skonberg, an associate professor of food science at UMaine. After citing Skonberg’s research in her master’s thesis at the University of New Hampshire, Fulton decided she wanted to attend UMaine to earn her Ph.D. under Skonberg’s guidance. Fulton also has a bachelor’s degree in food science from Cornell University.
When Fulton first came to UMaine, Skonberg suggested she look at what seafood byproducts are getting thrown away in the state and determine usable and efficient food uses for them.
“When we process lobsters — which are 70 percent of this state’s fishing income — we throw away almost 80 percent of the animal, including shell and organs,” Fulton says.
Fulton took Skonberg’s advice and related it to what she had learned while completing her master’s work on green crabs. During that research, she was fascinated by the adult crabs’ ability to change color from orange to green-blue every year.
“That color change is not very well understood, but has been attributed to interactions between proteins and carotenoids in the shell,” Fulton says. “So I started reading a lot about the pigments in lobster shell because they are similar to the ones seen in green crabs.”
In lobster shell, the main pigment is a red-colored carotenoid called astaxanthin, which when bound to a protein called crustacyanin is a blue-green color, she says.
“I started reading a lot about astaxanthin and found there is a very large market for this pigment, and most of the stuff we use in our salmon food is made artificially from petroleum products that are not extracted from natural sources. Consumers are becoming aware of that and are demanding natural colors,” Fulton says.
Fulton is currently examining different methods of removing minerals from lobster shells. She studies a variety of factors, such as how fine the shell needs to be ground, what type of food-grade chemicals should be used, how the shell should be exposed to the chemicals and what type of agitation should be used to maximize the removal of minerals.
She plans to determine the best treatment for pressurized liquid extraction and then look at the effect removing the minerals has on both cooked and high-pressure shucked waste.
Once the extract is developed, it will be assessed for total carotenoid content, carotenoid profile and antioxidant activity. The researchers also propose the extract will then be added to food for rainbow trout, and the effectiveness of the extract in coloring the fish will be studied in comparison to a conventional synthetic pigment.
After Fulton graduates in 2016, she plans to work in the seafood industry.
The project has received a $4,800 Maine Agricultural Center grant, and Fulton has received a $3,000 graduate student award from the Northeast Section of the Institute of Food Technologists for related research. The group recently applied for a grant to fund the project titled “Green production methods for a high-value product from lobster shell waste.” The proposed study would last two years starting in June 2014.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
Graduate School Solicits Nominations for 2014-15 Graduate Fellowships, Assistantships, and Scholarships
To: Department Chairs, Graduate Board Members, Graduate Coordinators, and Administrative Assistants
From: Dean Sandweiss and Associate Dean Delcourt
Date: January 7, 2014
RE: Open Nominations for 2014-15 Financial Awards
The Graduate School is currently accepting nominations for competitively-awarded fellowships, assistantships and scholarships for the 2014-15 academic year (see HERE for 2014-2015 Award Nomination Guidelines). The nomination deadline for the fellowship and assistantship awards is Friday, February 7, 2014, and the nomination for scholarships and the teaching fellowship is Monday, March 3, 2014. All nominations must be submitted by the graduate program coordinator via the Graduate School website. Graduate Coordinators will need to create an account, and apply for a "faculty" role in order to access the e-nominationforms. If there are any questions, please send an email to email@example.com and Crystal will assist you.
Information about the Financial Awards is also available on the Graduate School website within the Faculty Hub. Faculty members will need to create an account (http://www.umaine.edu/graduate/user/register) to view this information, if they have not done so already.
Paul Mayewski, a professor and director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, spoke to NPR for a segment titled “Can’t stand the cold snap? Don’t go to Antarctica.” Mayewski was interviewed by phone from Kennedy Airport where he was on his way to Antarctica to study ice cores, columns of frozen water that researchers use to determine what the climate used to be like. He said the coldest place he has been was the interior of East Antarctica where daily temperatures were about -55 C (-67 F) without the windchill. Mayewski added if you wear plenty of layers, keep all skin covered and try to move around as much as possible, being out in the cold can be enjoyable.
House Speaker Mark Eves is expected to speak about the University of Maine’s efforts to promote research on aging issues across various departments during the opening address of a daylong summit Jan. 17, according to the Portland Press Herald. More than 300 people are expected to attend the Maine Summit on Aging to help develop an action plan to address the challenges Maine faces in relation to its aging population. Eves and the Maine Council on Aging will host the event at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Portland Press Herald spoke with Robert Rice, a professor of wood science and technology at the University of Maine, for an article about the potential effects of Verso Paper Corp. acquiring NewPage Holdings Inc. The merger will create a company that will employ about a third of all paper industry workers in Maine. Rice said the deal is good for Verso because by buying a direct competitor, the company will be able to monitor and control its production more precisely. He also said he doesn’t expect the consolidation to affect the price of paper.
Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for an article about a bipartisan bill in front of the Maine legislature that seeks to ensure that military recruiters can wear their uniforms in schools. A similar Republican-backed bill was narrowly defeated in the last session. Brewer said “it sounds like people have taken a deep breath” to work in a bipartisan way and believes they will get a piece of legislation passed. However, he added that bipartisan support can easily move into party politics, especially when the military is involved.
The Almagest reported on blueberry health benefits research by Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, a clinical nutritionist and professor at the University of Maine, that was recently published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. The study found diets rich in blueberries may improve conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Will Biberstein, University of Maine’s associate athletic director for internal operations, spoke with the Bangor Daily News about the renovations being made to the New Balance Field House. He said construction is expected to be complete late this month and “there’s a lot of work being done” on the building he says will be beautiful.
The Associated Press reported that George Jacobson, Maine’s state climatologist and professor emeritus of biology, ecology and climate change at the University of Maine, will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of Rhode Island’s Nursery and Landscape Association on Jan. 16 and 17 at the University of Rhode Island. Jacobson plans to discuss the likely effect of climate change on “green” industries in New England and what can be done to prepare. The Republic, Daily Journal and Times Union carried the AP report.
The Bangor Daily News published an opinion piece titled “How did Maine towns, cities respond to state funding cuts? With reduced spending, higher taxes, more debt,” by Emily Shaw, an assistant professor of political science at Thomas College in Waterville. The complete version of the article first appeared in Maine Policy Review, published by the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.
The Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies at the University of Maine has received a 2013 Exemplary Program Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) for its 22 years of commitment to community engagement.
Each year through a competitive proposal process to receive the $20,000 C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award, four-year public universities are recognized for outreach and engagement efforts by the C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award and the Engagement Scholarship/W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award, sponsored by APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium. Dr. Lu Zeph, associate provost, dean of lifelong learning, and director of the Center for Community Inclusion and Dr. Claire Sullivan, associate dean for community engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, prepared the proposal for consideration.
UMaine was among eight universities nationwide honored for exemplary proposals for the Engagement Scholarship/W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award. Finalists for the 2013 C. Peter Magrath Award were the Young Scholars Program at Ohio State University, the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship Program at Pennsylvania State University, the Nuestra Case Initiative at the University of Texas at El Paso and the McCall Outdoor Science School at the University of Idaho. The awards were presented at the 14th Annual Conference of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium Oct. 8 at Texas Tech University. The recipient of the 2013 C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award — Ohio State University — was honored at the national APLU Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Nov. 12.
University of Maine women’s basketball coach Richard Barron has pledged for the third consecutive year to shave his head if Black Bear fans contribute $10,000 for women’s cancer research.
If the goal is reached, Barron will be bald following UMaine’s Play 4Kay game with the Bearcats of Binghamton University on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Sandra Kay Yow, the inspiration for Play 4Kay, coached women’s basketball for 34 years at North Carolina State University and earned more than 700 wins (737–344) during her 38-year collegiate coaching career. Yow also guided the 1988 gold medal-winning U.S. women’s basketball team and in 2002 was inducted into the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Yow died in January 2009 during her third battle with breast cancer.
Annually, as part of Play 4Kay, coaches across the country raise breast cancer awareness and money for research. Since 2007, Play 4Kay has raised more than $2.5 million. UMaine fans have contributed just shy of $17,000 to that total. In 2012, Barron shaved his head after fans donated $10,277. Last year, the Black Bear community raised $6,678.
Barron said he admired Yow and is honored to participate in the effort. Barron was an assistant coach for the NC State women’s basketball squad for two seasons following Yow’s death.
“Few coaches have had such an impact, not just with her players but with her peers as well,” Barron says. “Kay was incredibly brave, determined, positive and grounded. During her very long and public battle with breast cancer, and after watching her friend and fellow NC State basketball coach, Jim Valvano die of cancer, Kay decided that she would help start this charity to raise money and awareness for breast cancer and cancer research. I am very excited about having Maine participate in this cause.”
To donate, visit play4kay.org/faf/teams/groupTeamStats.asp?ievent=1081067 and search for Maine Black Bears.
Russian cellist Alexander Lvovich Volpov will be the guest performer at the University of Maine School of Performing Arts faculty concert Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Minsky Recital Hall.
Volpov, born in Sverdlovsk, Russia and educated at Sverdlovsk School for Musically Gifted Children, will join UMaine music professor Phillip Silver on stage. Volpov will play violoncello and Silver will play piano. The recital will include works by Boccherini, Davydov, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Rachmaninoff, and will feature “Sonata for Cello and Piano” by Rachmaninoff.
Volpov is principal cellist of the Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra and has been guest principal cellist with the Scottish Opera and London Concert Orchestra, among others.
Silver has performed at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Wigmore Hall in London; Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in Scotland; Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Germany; Mozarteum in Salzburg; and Henry Crown Symphony Hall in Jerusalem.
Admission is $9, free with a valid student MaineCard. For tickets, or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.1755. Tickets also may be purchased at the door one hour prior to the show.
Dr. Jeff Hecker, University of Maine Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, is enthusiastic about his role in facilitating implementation of the Blue Sky Plan — the university’s blueprint to become a nationwide leader among America’s research universities in student success, achievement and community engagement.
UMaine President Paul Ferguson named Hecker to this position in July. He replaces Susan Hunter, who was named Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.
Provost Hecker, the former Dean of the UMaine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says his challenge is to manage the day-to-day operations of the Academic Affairs division while keeping an eye on the big picture — communicating long-range, mission-driven goals, and moving Blue Sky Plan initiatives forward in collaboration with faculty, other Cabinet members and the broader UMaine community.
Hecker describes the Blue Sky Plan unveiled in October 2011 as unified, ambitious, focused and inclusive. He is primarily focused on those initiatives that relate to the academic affairs agenda that are integral to each of the five major Blue Sky Pathways.
“The heart of UMaine’s mission is undergraduate education. As we pursue our research, community engagement and graduate education goals, we can’t lose sight of that core mission,” he says. “The beauty of the Blue Sky Plan is that it is at once aspirational and pragmatic. We are committed to growth as Maine’s land grant research university and equally committed to pursue excellence in our core mission.”
Provost Hecker and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Jeff St. John are leading the campus in addressing a number of the Blue Sky Strategic Initiatives related to academic affairs. The newly reconstituted University Teaching Council and several Blue Sky Advisory Teams are assisting them in addressing a number of priority issues.
Faculty Development is at the top of the list. Those initiatives include promotion of best practices in the classroom, labs and studios, creating faculty development opportunities for the more than 100 adjunct faculty UMaine employs every year, enhancing online teaching quality, and launching the new Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program to develop the next generation of faculty leaders and university spokespeople.
Due to significant enrollment increases, particularly in engineering and sciences, Provost Hecker is also exploring a new initiative to bring postdoctoral fellows to UMaine as Visiting Assistant Professors.
During their two- to-three-year fixed-length appointments, the visiting faculty will hone their teaching and research skills to prepare themselves for careers in academia. At the same time, they will help address the need for high-quality instruction in high-demand areas, such as mathematics, English and laboratory sciences.
The idea, Hecker says, is to create opportunities that benefit both the postdoctoral faculty member and UMaine. “These positions could be an important piece of the puzzle,” Hecker says. “We are exploring cost-effective ways of meeting our students’ needs for quality, innovative instruction.”
A second Blue Sky emphasis for Provost Hecker is student success. He is leading a multipronged approach to improve the four- and six-year graduation rates by 10 percent by 2017. “Relative to our peers, we do well,” he says, adding that UMaine’s four-year graduation rate is about 40 percent and its six-year rate is about 60 percent. “But we can do better.”
An advisory group is gathering data about factors that impact whether students remain enrolled, including affordability; timely access to courses they need; and quality of their campus experience.
Dr. St. John, says Provost Hecker, is also working on the UMaine Blue Sky Plan Pathway 2 initiative to improve annual student retention by 5 percent by 2017. From 2011–12, UMaine succeeded in that effort — 81 percent of the 2012 cohort of first-time, full-time students stayed in school, which was a 5 percent improvement from the 2011 cohort, according to the University of Maine Office of Institutional Research. The challenge is to maintain that improvement.
Lastly, Provost Hecker and Faculty Senate President Harlan Onsrud are working collaboratively to create a process of inventorying UMaine’s academic programs to better define UMaine’s strengths and opportunities. By jointly hosting Academic Affairs Faculty Forums in which faculty members discuss academic initiatives and how to best advance strategic goals, the university is engaging in an open process that will help to guide investments central to future success.
“It’s fantastic having an opportunity like this,” Hecker says. “This is my 28th year of employment here and I am thrilled to be in a leadership role, helping UMaine achieve its goals.”
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The Associated Press, Bangor Daily News, WVII (Channel 7), Kennebec Journal, WLBZ (Channel 2) and Portland Press Herald were among news organizations to report that Karlton Creech has been named the University of Maine’s director of athletics. UMaine President Paul Ferguson named Creech to the position, effective Feb. 10. Creech is currently the senior associate director of athletics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The San Francisco Chronicle, News & Observer, Boston.com, Seacoast Online, MPBN, Ocala Star-Banner and Winston-Salem Journal carried the AP report.
The December 2013 issue of Impact, a Maine State Chamber of Commerce publication, featured an article on the University of Maine’s involvement with the Maine Invention Convention. The event is a statewide competition that promotes problem solving and inventing by students in grades five through eight throughout the school year and ends with the statewide contest hosted by UMaine in May. The next two issues of Impact are expected to include articles on more of UMaine’s innovation, research and economic development initiatives.