University of Maine economist Philip Trostel was cited in a WalletHub article that ranked school systems in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. School systems were ranked using 12 metrics — including student-teacher ratios, dropout rates, test scores and bullying incident rates. WalletHub found New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont, respectively, have the best school systems. Schools in Washington, D.C. were ranked last. Those in Mississippi and Alabama rounded out the bottom three. Maine tied for 17th with Illinois. Trostel said from a public finance perspective, tax exemptions for school items are bad public policy because they benefit nonpoor families more than poor families and come with a high public cost. “There are probably about $20 in tax benefits to nonpoor families for every $1 of tax benefits to poor children,” he said. “If we really want to help poor children with their education, we should take those $21 and use them for programs that directly help them, and just them.” Peers are the single most-important factor of a top school, he said. When it comes to student success, Trostel said both family and school are important, but in general, family matters more.
James Breece, an economics professor at the University of Maine, was interviewed by the Portland Press Herald for an article about a report recently released by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis that found Mainers spent more than the national average on goods and services including gasoline, groceries and health care in 2012. Nationally, Maine ranked 13th in consumer spending and 32nd in median household income, according to the article. Being a relatively low-income state, the spending trends probably mean many Mainers are cutting back or forgoing savings, Breece said, adding “Mainers can’t afford to save money.” He also said many of the statistics make sense, including that Mainers spend more per capita on health care, most likely because of Maine’s higher population of older citizens.
WABI (Channel 5) spoke with participants in the Way to Optimal Weight, or WOW, program offered to children through a partnership between the University of Maine and Eastern Maine Medical Center. The program is designed to get children and their parents involved in building a healthier and more active lifestyle by offering instructional components on eating right and physical activities at the New Balance Student Recreation Center. Miles Gagnon, a UMaine student and physical trainer who works with WOW participants, told WABI he has seen improvement and more confidence among the children.
The Portland Press Herald, WABI (Channel 5), Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Bangor Daily News and Mainebiz reported a $20 million National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant will establish a Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program in Maine. Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine will use the grant to mobilize the collective capacity of Maine’s coastal science resources to establish SEANET, a research network focused on sustainable ecological aquaculture. The public-private partnership led by UMaine, in collaboration with the University of New England and other institutions, will use the state’s 3,500-mile coastline as a living laboratory to study physical oceanography, biophysical, biogeochemical, socioeconomic and policy interactions that have local, bioregional, national and global implications. Paul Anderson, director of SEANET at UMaine, told MPBN the grant offers a good opportunity to look at how aquaculture can be part of the seafood sector by working with the commercial fishing and tourism industries.
The University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) was mentioned in a Working Waterfront article about wood chips that will be shipped from Eastport to Killybegs, Ireland. Phyto-Charter LLC will be in charge of exporting the wood chips after heat treating them as required by the European Union, the article states. The company will phytosanitize the chips on board the shipping vessel with a heat-treating system developed with FBRI. Phyto-Charter recently received certification for its system, the first such certification in the U.S. for the wood chip product, according to Chris Gardner, port director.
The Sun Journal reported the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond is teaming up with Mahoosuc Pathways, an organization that promotes outdoor adventure and connects communities in the Mahoosuc Mountain range of western Maine and northeastern New Hampshire, to offer leadership training for 10 high school students. A Mahoosuc Pathways employee told the Sun Journal the two organizations are paying students to get leadership training by helping build trails on local public conservation lands in August. The project, called the Oxford County Conservation Corps, began two years ago, after Mahoosuc Pathways began looking for a way to get students involved in building and maintaining local trails.
WABI (Channel 5) reported on a five-week program sponsored by the Maine Department of Labor’s Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired and held at the University of Maine. Six students are taking part in the Vision Quest program on the Orono campus where they stay in dorms, attend class, eat in dining halls and participate in learning labs. The program aims to strengthen skills such as self-advocacy, test taking and time management, according to the report.
Richard Judd, a University of Maine history professor, was quoted in a New York Times article about Millinocket titled, “A paper mill goes quiet, and the community it built gropes for a way forward.” In the late 1970s and early ’80s, between 4,000 and 5,000 people were employed by Great Northern in the area, and Maine was among the leading papermaking states, according to the article. “I don’t think there’s any question that Millinocket, right through the ’70s, was one of America’s leading centers for paper production,” Judd said.
James Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was featured in the latest installment of the “Backyard Gardener” series on WVII (Channel 7). Dill spoke about common garden pests and diseases such as beetles, woodchucks and late blight and offered advice on easy ways to prevent damage. For beetles, Dill suggests plucking them off plants and placing them in a cup of water with liquid soap detergent, or using traps. The ideal solution for dealing with larger wildlife such as woodchucks and groundhogs is to trap and release them, Dill says.
Scientific American spoke with James McCleave, a University of Maine professor emeritus of marine sciences and a leading expert on eels, for the article “Glass eel gold rush casts Maine fishermen against scientists.” Maine fishermen have been catching glass eels, or elvers, and selling them at modest market prices for years, but demand from Asia has caused prices to skyrocket, according to the article. Some fisheries biologists are now worried about the eel’s survival because of a decline in population, the article states. “We’re supposed to manage fisheries on the precautionary principle. If the trend is down, we don’t say it’s OK,” McCleave said, adding eels were once abundant in East Coast freshwater ecosystems. He called eels a “keystone species,” and cautioned that if they are removed, many predator–prey relationships will fall apart. The Maine Public Broadcasting Network also cited the Scientific American article.
The Portland Press Herald previewed the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s sixth annual Backyard Locavore Day on Aug. 9. Several UMaine Extension experts will be on hand during self-guided tours of six backyards in Freeport and Brunswick. Visitors can learn do-it-yourself strategies for becoming a locavore, or a person who eats food locally grown and produced. Demonstrations and talk topics will include vegetable and square-foot gardening, backyard composting, greenhouses and beekeeping. Each garden session will feature food-preservation methods, including drying, hot water bath canning and making herbal vinegars and jam. Complimentary food samples will be provided.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Kennebec County will offer the Cooking for Crowds food safety training workshop twice in September on the third floor of the UMaine Extension Kennebec County office, 125 State St., Augusta.
Crystal Hamilton, nutrition and food systems professional, will instruct volunteer quantity cooks on methods for safely preparing, handling and serving food for large groups of people, including at soup kitchens, church functions, food pantries and community fundraisers. The workshops will be held 1–5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11 and Tuesday, Sept. 23. The workshop meets the Good Shepherd Food Bank food safety training requirements. Guideline topics include planning and purchasing, storing food supplies, preparing food, transporting, storing and serving cooked foods, and handling leftovers.
Cost is $15 per person; scholarships are available. Register online or call 207.622.7546. For more information, or to request a disability accommodation, call Diana Hartley at 207.622.7546 or 800.287.1481 (in Maine).
The Curiosity Rover took a selfie June 24 to celebrate its one Martian-year anniversary — 687 Earth days — on the Red Planet.
If NASA perfects its Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD), a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy, one day people also may be taking selfies on the fourth planet from the Sun.
The HIAD slows a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. The technology, says NASA, is intended to make it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars — 34,092,627 miles from Earth — and beyond.
Bill Davids, Joshua Clapp, Andrew Goupee and Andrew Young — engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center — are working with NASA to accomplish that mission.
The out-of-this world opportunity isn’t the first impressive inflatable technology to be worked on by UMaine Composites Center engineers.
First there was the groundbreaking Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM, so named because each deflated bridge arch fits into a Black Bear hockey equipment bag.
The award-winning, patented Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM has earned the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ certification. Bridges similar to those in Belfast, North Anson and Pittsfield, Maine, as well as those in Massachusetts and Michigan, can be built around the country and world. One was built in the Caribbean, says Habib Dagher, Bath Iron Works Professor and founding director of the world-renowned research and development center.
The bridges — stronger than steel and able to be built in a couple of weeks — are made of light, portable carbon-fiber tubes that are inflated, formed into arches and infused with resin. Concrete is poured inside the carbon fiber tubes, which protect the concrete from water and other natural elements, thus extending the bridge’s lifespan to double or triple that of a traditional bridge.
Following Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM, Davids, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department and the John C. Bridge Professor, led a UMaine group that worked on portable, lightweight, rapidly deployable inflatable fabric arch-supported structures for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center.
Designed for military forces, the tents supported by inflatable arches also can be used for disaster relief shelters, temporary medical facilities and storage.
The research involving inflatable fabric arch-supported structures caught the attention of NASA scientists several years ago. NASA officials working on HIAD inflatable technology contacted Davids about possible research collaborations.
Ultimately, Davids’ research proposal on the structural investigation of the HIAD technology to NASA-EPSCoR through the Maine Space Grant Consortium was accepted. UMaine is now about 17 months into the three-year, $750,000project funded by NASA and EPSCoR. The Maine Space Grant Consortium administers the funds.
Dagher says it’s fascinating how one research discovery gives rise to another idea in a completely different field. “The beauty is you don’t know where you’re going to end up in the discovery process. One research discovery leads to another. It’s a big roller coaster,” he says.
UMaine engineers have weekly telecoms with NASA project officials as they strive to make this promising technology a reality.
“Our role is to fill in holes in NASA’s technical knowledge,” says Davids. “They have developed the technology; we help them advance it through testing the structures in the lab and analyzing stresses and deformations in the HIADs.”
Davids and Clapp say the HIAD technology is viewed as one of the most, if not the most, feasible options for a successful human spaceflight to Mars and has the potential to allow landing at higher elevations on the planet, carrying more payload, or both.
Payloads that have landed on Mars to date have had a mass less than 1 metric ton; 40-80 metric tons likely will be required for a mission that includes people, says Clapp, a doctoral student and research engineer.
Also, all Mars landings thus far have been below -1.4 kilometer Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) elevation due to the vertical distance required for deceleration. A number of scientifically interesting sites are at higher elevations, Clapp says.
UMaine researchers are working on a 6-meter diameter HIAD tested at NASA’s National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex — the largest wind tunnel in the world — in Moffett Field, California.
“The 6-meter HIAD created the most air blockage of anything ever tested in the wind tunnel and pushed the limits of the equipment to the maximum,” Clapp says. “The HIAD diameter needed for a manned mission to Mars is estimated to be on the order of 20 meters, therefore we will not be able to conduct aerodynamic testing in a wind tunnel, which makes a reliable predictive tool (i.e. the finite element models that we’re all working on) that much more important.”
Dr. Neil Cheatwood, principal investigator with the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) — a precursor to HIAD — says in a NASA video that if funding was not a concern, he estimated people could be on Mars, where temperatures range from minus 195 F to 70 F, by 2020.
Keeping with the space theme, Dagher says with a smile that the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, much like Star Trek’s starship Enterprise, allows people to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
A $20 million National Science Foundation EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant will establish a Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program in Maine.
Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine will use the grant to mobilize the collective capacity of Maine’s coastal science resources to establish SEANET, a research network focused on sustainable ecological aquaculture. SEANET will take a multi-institutional, transdisciplinary research approach to gain a comprehensive understanding of how sustainable ecological aquaculture can interact with coastal communities and ecosystems.
This multi-institutional, public-private partnership led by UMaine, in collaboration with the University of New England and other institutions in Maine, will use the state’s 3,500-mile coastline as a living laboratory to study physical oceanography, biophysical, biogeochemical, socioeconomic and policy interactions that have local, bioregional, national and global implications.
Maine has multiple institutions with world-class expertise in marine sciences, engineering, climate change and social sciences. The SEANET research partners will initially include UMaine, UNE, University of Southern Maine, University of Maine at Machias, Bowdoin College, Maine Maritime Academy, St. Joseph’s College, Southern Maine Community College, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the Cobscook Community Learning Center. In addition, dozens of other partners and stakeholder groups will collaborate on the project’s research, education, workforce development and economic development activities.
The SEANET research program will utilize the field of sustainability science to understand the social and environmental connections, and feedback loops among sustainable ecological aquaculture and coastal communities and coastal ecosystems.
“This research project will use various types of science to understand how aquaculture fits in our multi-use working waterfront, while building partnerships and training students, so that we can use similar approaches to other coastal resource management issues in the future.” said Paul Anderson, director of SEANET at the University of Maine.
“I am delighted that the National Science Foundation selected Maine EPSCoR for this Research Infrastructure Improvement grant,” said Sen. Susan Collins. “Through tourism, commercial fishing, and sea farming, our state’s economy is highly dependent on the ecological well-being of the Gulf of Maine. This grant will help fund the vital research performed by faculty and students at the University of Maine and its partners at other research and education institutions in the state as they seek to find new ways to support the cultural and economic traditions of Maine’s working waterfronts and assist local governments in making informed decisions regarding coastal usage.”
“This award is great news for the university, its partners, and indeed, the entire state of Maine,” said Sen. Angus King. “This important funding will help establish a new and innovative network of experts who will work together to advance our understanding of Maine’s working waterfronts, which are a vital part of our state’s economy. It will also benefit countless students who will gain valuable research and field experience, making this a win for everyone involved. I look forward to seeing the good work it will support.”
Rep. Mike Michaud said: “This significant investment is wonderful news for the University of Maine, all of those involved with EPSCoR, and the entire state. Maine has established itself as a leader in innovation when it comes to better understanding how we can both support our valuable ecosystems and ensure they are strong drivers of our economy, and I’m excited that this grant will further that work. I know this grant will allow that innovation to continue, and I look forward to following the project.”
“The coast of Maine is not only a big part of our economy but it’s an important part of what makes our state unique,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree. “Our history and our future are wrapped up in our coastline, and this grant is going to help us better understand the risks and opportunities for our coastal economy. It’s a big investment in the university and coastal communities that will pay big dividends in the future.”
University of Maine President Susan Hunter affirmed the project’s importance, saying, “This NSF grant recognizes the leadership and contribution of University of Maine scholars and students who aim to support coastal ecosystems, economies, and communities by promoting sustainable policies and practices in Maine.”
University of New England President Danielle Ripich said, “UNE is committed to building research and programs to support the marine economy of Maine. This public-private partnership brings two great institutions together to improve our coastal enterprises. Together with all the partners, we can do good things for Maine.”
EPSCoR is a federal program directed at states that have historically received less federal research and development funding. The program provides states with financial support to develop partnerships between their higher education institutions, industry, government, and others in order to effect lasting improvements in its research and development infrastructure, capacity, and national academic competitiveness. Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine is responsible for administering and implementing the NSF EPSCoR program for the state.
The National Science Foundation release is online.
More information about Maine EPSCoR is online.
Contact: Andrea Littlefield, 207.581.2289
The Associated Press, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, WLBZ (Channel 2), WABI (Channel 5) and WVII (Channel 7) reported on an event held at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor on Aug. 4 where Sen. Susan Collins joined leaders from colleges and research institutions across Maine as well as dozens of Maine college students to celebrate the receipt of an $18.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The five-year award aims to strengthen biomedical research and hands-on workforce training in Maine through the continuation of the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), a collaborative network of 13 Maine research institutions, universities and colleges led by the MDI Biological Laboratory. The University of Maine and UMaine’s Honors College are part of the network. Anne Campbell, who graduated from UMaine in 2012 with degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, spoke with MPBN about her experience with the program. As a member of UMaine’s Honors College, she took a weeklong course at MDI Bio Lab on functional genomics, which was paid for by Maine INBRE. Campbell said during that course she met her thesis adviser, and was able to develop a thesis project. The Portland Press Herald carried the AP report.
David Yarborough, a blueberry specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, spoke with the Kennebec Journal about blueberry picking and this year’s harvest. Yarborough said the season started last week in central Maine, with reports of a good crop. Down East barrens will likely be ready for harvesting next week, he added. “The season is running a little later than usual because of the cold spring,” he said. “I think the pickings are pretty excellent.” He recommended picking berries that are fully blue. “When you pick your own, you know it’s fresh,” he said.
Mark Brewer, a professor of political science at the University of Maine, was interviewed for the Bangor Daily News article, “Pundits ponder why Eliot Cutler is so eager to debate Michaud, LePage.” According to the article, independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler has been urging his major-party opponents — Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud — to debate with him. Brewer said Cutler’s actions could benefit him. “Any little bit of information that the citizenry can glean about a political candidate for office, as long as it’s not an absolute blatant falsehood, is of value,” he said. “If people think Gov. LePage and Congressman Michaud don’t want to debate and Cutler does, they may think that says something positive about Cutler.” Brewer added that with absentee voting beginning, it’s unfortunate that some Mainers may vote before ever seeing or hearing a debate.
The Maine Edge published a report about University of Maine scientists working with agencies to improve the accuracy of forecasts of hurricanes, superstorms, blizzards and floods that endanger people and animals and destroy property. UMaine received $1.5 million of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s $5.5 million award to increase the precision of predictions of extreme weather events and coastal flooding in the northeastern United States. “This project allows us to develop rapid response capability and deploy ocean observing assets before extreme weather events, and use these targeted observations to constrain ocean models and issue timely forecasts for coastal cities and towns in the Northeast United States,” said Fei Chai, professor and director of UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, and one of four university co-investigators taking part.
The University of Maine’s Office of Student Records has published its most recent newsletter. The August–October 2014 issue of the quarterly newsletter “For the Record” is available online.