University of Maine News
Bangor’s first Startup Weekend will be Sept. 19–21, focused on jump-starting companies and networking entrepreneurs.
Startup Weekend Bangor will be held Sept. 19 at Bagel Central, 33 Central St., Bangor, and Sept. 20–21 at the University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation and the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization (IMRC) Center. Registration is $99 per person ($75 through Sept. 5); $25 for students. Registration and more information is online.
The hands-on, immersive event is part of Startup Weekend Maine, which brings designers, developers and entrepreneurs together to pitch their startup ideas and receive peer feedback. Teams form around the top ideas — determined by popular vote — and spend the remainder of the three days building a business model. Final presentations before local entrepreneurial leaders culminate the weekend.
Startup Weekend Portland was held June 13; Startup Weekend Auburn is Nov. 14. The events take their mission from the global grassroots effort Startup Weekends that helps community volunteers organize the 54-hour events to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups, according to its website.
The community organizers of Startup Weekend Bangor include Jesse Moriarity and Jennifer Hooper of the Foster Center for Student Innovation; Chuck Carter of Eagre Interactive; Gerry Hall of Emera Maine; UMaine students Silvia Guzman and Michael Kennedy; and Erika Allison, winner of Startup Weekend Portland.
UMaine is a Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG) partner and Bangor is one of three regional BxG Innovation Hubs.
UMaine’s Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden on Rangeley Road will be closed Monday–Tuesday, Aug. 18–19, for maintenance.
The University of Maine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture (CCAR) in Franklin was mentioned in an Aquaculture North America article about Acadia Harvest Inc. of Brunswick, Maine, reaching the final pilot phase of its work on land-based re-circ aquaculture of California yellowtail. The company also is laying the groundwork for commercial production of yellowtail, and hopes to add black sea bass in the future, the article states. Taylor Pryor, a chief scientist and marine biologist at Acadia Harvest Inc., said the company wouldn’t have accomplished as much in the past three years without the expertise at CCAR, which supports aquaculture business incubation. “The CCAR staff are wonderfully competent in their hatchery work,” Pryor said. “Having their expertise and the CCAR facility can vastly reduce the time needed to move projects forward.”
Reuters interviewed Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, for the article “Maine campaign finance law challenged as unfair to independents.” Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler recently filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Portland that claims the state’s campaign finance law violates First and 14th Amendment rights to free speech, equal protection and political expression by allowing individuals to donate twice as much to major-party candidates as to independents. “We’ve had the two major parties writing our campaign laws, and they’ve really stacked the deck in their favor, making it difficult for third parties to compete. This could change things,” Brewer said. The Courant and Yahoo News carried the Reuters report.
The Bangor Daily News spoke with University of Maine economist Philip Trostel for an article about enrollment at community colleges. Trostel said it’s common during difficult economic times for community college enrollments to increase. “Going to college is expensive, especially when going means you have to take off time from work,” he said. He said when it’s hard to find a job, some people see an opportunity to go to school, and they’re likely to look for an affordable option.
The following days have been designated as Go Blue Fridays, a chance to show your UMaine spirit and campus pride by wearing blue and/or UMaine clothing: Aug. 29; Sept. 19; Oct. 3 and 17; and Nov. 7 and 21.
William Livingston, School of Forest Resources, has received a more than $77,700 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study Caliciopsis in white pine. Many white pine stands in southern Maine and New Hampshire have suffered from declines and diebacks in the past 15 years. A fungal disease, Caliciopsis canker, has been frequently observed in these stands. Typically, the white pines stands suffering from Caliciopsis canker are those that are very dense, and foresters recommend that the stands should be thinned to improve tree growth. However, it is uncertain if stands infected with Caliciopsis canker will respond to stand thinning and improve growth; the uncut trees may not recover from the disease. The objectives for the study are to identify areas at greatest risk of Caliciopsis canker damage, assess effects of thinning in stands affected by Caliciopsis canker and develop management guidelines for reducing damage related to Caliciopsis canker.
Since 1800 — two decades before the Pine Tree state existed as a state — the most rapid rate of land protection in northern New England (NNE) occurred from 1999 to 2010.
Forty-four percent of all the protected area (PA) in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire was added during those 11 years, says Spencer Meyer, former associate scientist for forest stewardship with the University of Maine Center for Research on Sustainable Forests.
Conservation easements on privately owned land fueled an abrupt increase in the protection rate from 1999 to 2010, he says. Conservation easements became financially appealing to both landowners and conservationists who partnered to save landscapes from development to ensure forests and ecosystem services — including water purification — remained intact.
For example, in 2001, the Pingree Forest Partnership — a landmark working forest conservation project — was forged. The 762,192 protected acres is bigger than all of Rhode Island and is still the largest of its kind in the nation.
The 11-year span from 1999 to 2010 was one of three distinct eras of PA growth, says Meyer, who earned his Ph.D. at UMaine in 2014. The other two were 1800–1979 and 1980–1999. All, he says, are characterized by new policies and an expansion of conservation tools.
To inform successful future conservation planning, a research team led by Meyer sought to explore socioeconomic and policy factors that influenced the rate, type and distribution of previous land protection.
“It is important to take pause occasionally and revisit our past,” he says. “This conservation history research was especially rewarding because it gave us a chance to examine how much has already been accomplished by conservationists. The frequent innovation and accelerating protection we have documented bodes well for the future of ecosystems and people in the region.”
Researchers found there has been a “significant influence of expanded policy and economic drivers guiding protection” and that it is important to develop “new conservation innovations for achieving future gains in protection.”
Short-term constraints — including real estate market conditions — impact conservation action, says Meyer, now a NatureNet Fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he collaborates with The Nature Conservancy.
Thus, the team recommends that conservation groups focus on priority areas and take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to protection, and be ready to capitalize on financial market conditions that make large conservation deals attractive to landowners.
Much of NNE is privately owned, Meyer reports; 16 percent of New Hampshire is federally or state owned, while eight percent of Vermont and five percent of Maine are. All three states are heavily forested. Maine has 84 percent forest cover, while Vermont and New Hampshire both have 67 percent.
A group of conservation scientists, led by the Harvard Forest, have proposed protecting 70 percent of New England’s forests from development to achieve a sustainable landscape by 2060. If the protection rate realized from 1999 to 2010 continues, Meyer says the 70-percent goal could be achieved in 2089.
Broad objectives of PAs in NNE include conservation of biodiversity, retaining benefits of ecosystems, public open space, recreation, and natural resource removal, such as timber harvesting, he says.
Tension exists due to people’s increasing demand to use land and the need to conserve land and ecosystem services, and land protection has been a global conservation strategy of a number of public and private groups for more than 100 years, Meyer says.
Land protection from 1800 to 1979 had an “evolving suite of conservation objectives,” he says, including watershed protection, open space and recreation. The 179-year era consisted of slow, incremental expansion of PAs, including (Acadia National Park, the Appalachian Trail and Baxter State Park) and multiple-use forests.
The middle era of conservation of PAs — beginning around 1980 and lasting until 1999 — included a surge in land trusts to protect private land from development. Public acquisitions, continued in a linear fashion during that time, according to researchers.
The rate of protection in NNE between 1999–2010 was four times what it was during the 19-year span from 1980 to 1999 and 20 times the rate between 1800 and 1979, says Meyer. During the span from 1999 to 2010, the accelerating rate of protection was the fastest in Maine, where 71 percent of the state’s total PA was safeguarded from development.
“Regardless of what the future holds, the 200-year history of conservation innovation in New England offers hope for future efforts to protect ecosystems and their myriad ecological, social and economic benefits in the face of rising human populations,” the team writes.
The Maine Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) and the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program supported Meyer’s Ph.D. fellowship in UMaine’s School of Forest Resources.
Researchers from UMaine working with Meyer included Christopher Cronan of the School of Biology and Ecology, Robert Lilieholm of the School of Forest Resources and Michelle Johnson of the Ecology and Environmental Science Program, as well as David Foster of Harvard University.
The team’s findings are reported in “Land conservation in northern New England: Historic trends and alternative conservation futures,” published in May on the Biological Conservation website.
Meyer and another team earned the 2014 University of Maine President’s Research Impact Award for spearheading creation of the Maine Futures Community Mapper — an online mapping tool for planners to visualize future landscape scenarios. The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and SSI funded the Maine Futures Community Mapper.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Bangor Daily News article about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s most recent visit to Maine to show support for Gov. Paul LePage and his re-election campaign. “Christie is about as big as it gets right now for a Republican fundraiser. He’s certainly an A-lister,” Brewer said.
The Foster Center for Student Innovation at the University of Maine was mentioned in a SeacoastOnline opinion piece titled “Innovators key to Maine’s economy,” by Rep. Deane Rykerson. “The collective efforts of the Foster Center at the University of Maine, the Maine Center for Entrepreneurship, the Maine Center for Creativity, Maine Technology Institute, Envision Maine, Accelerate Maine and others are building a base of innovators and entrepreneurs, and establishing a Maine brand as the place to be if you want to innovate,” the article states.
A Portland Press Herald article about Maine bakeries using more local grains mentioned the Northern New England Local Bread Wheat Project, a USDA-funded collaboration of researchers, farmers, millers and bakers in Vermont and Maine that aims to help farmers increase organic bread wheat production and quality. For the past four years, Alison Pray, co-owner of the Standard Baking Co. in Portland, has been working with the Northern New England Local Bread Wheat Project at the University of Maine and the Northern Grain Growers Association. The groups occasionally send her new heritage wheat varieties to bake with so she can evaluate their properties and flavor, according to the article.
The University of Maine’s Aroostook Farm in Presque Isle is celebrating 100 years of service to the state and Maine’s potato industry with a centennial celebration and alumni social on Aug. 13.
As the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture’s potato research facility, the farm is the center for agricultural research and development for Maine’s potato industry. Research and outreach programs at Aroostook Farm aim to provide essential information for Maine’s potato industry to remain competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace.
The farm’s celebration will include tours, a program commemorating the anniversary, and a social and picnic.
Invitations were mailed to more than 1,000 individuals and organizations including growers, producers and other representatives from the agricultural community; local, state and federal policymakers; university administrators; and alumni.
More information about Aroostook Farm and its centennial celebration is online.
The University of Maine is piloting an interdisciplinary course based on Maine tidal power development research that aims to better understand the process of applying a comprehensive approach to renewable energy projects.
The course, Marine Renewable Energy: Engineering, Oceanography, Biology and Human Dimensions, is coordinated by Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor of marine biology, and is offered as an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course.
The course examines the basic science and field methods of understanding power generation, potential changes to the marine environment and effects on other users of marine resources, and how these disciplines intersect to provide a comprehensive understanding of coastal ecosystems.
Teaching is shared between Zydlewski; Michael Peterson and Raul Urbina from the Mechanical Engineering Department; Huijie Xue, an expert on physical oceanography; and Jessica Jansujwicz and Teresa Johnson, experts on human dimensions and sustainability science.
The last two weeks of the course are devoted to field work and final projects, where students are given the framework to apply concepts and “put it all together,” Zydlewski says.
Fieldwork is conducted on the Penobscot River, where students use acoustics, or sounds in water, to research and collect data about fish and water currents for their final project, which ties together what they learned in the field and in the classroom.
As part of the human dimensions aspect of the course, students visit Cianbro’s manufacturing facility in Brewer to learn about the company’s use of the river and the protocols it follows for development projects.
Since 2009, a group of UMaine researchers have been studying tidal power development independently while coming together to discuss their research, according to Zydlewski. The collaborative effort has resulted in integrated research approaches to better understand the marine environment and contribute to sustainable development through data-driven science with stakeholder input, Zydlewski says.
The focus of the class, she says, is to pass on the collective knowledge and information to the students, whose generation will be faced with all aspects of renewable energy development in coastal systems.
The majority of the 10 students in the course’s pilot year are engineers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Two students are marine science majors. Hometowns vary from York, Maine, to towns in Canada, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with half of the students coming from Brazil.
Even though the course is framed around what is happening with renewable energy in Maine, Zydlewski says, various forms of renewable energy development are also being considered in Brazil, and the students would like to be able to transfer and apply what they learn back home.
Jeff Lord concedes he does a lot of sitting, watching and waiting along the herring ladder at Highland Lake. But when gangs of alewives begin to leap and flop their way upriver from Mill Brook, his patience is well rewarded.
“It can get a little boring, so I really appreciate when there is action,” the Falmouth resident said as he gazed at the rushing waters. “It’s a chance to put my biology background to work at something that matters.”
Lord and about 13 other volunteers keep count of migrating herring, mainly alewives, as they make their way up fish ladders to traditional freshwater spawning areas. The newly established volunteer monitoring program is a joint research project of UMaine and University of Southern Maine (USM). Scientists want to see if volunteers can help government managers and university researchers amass important data on spring run alewife — something likely too expensive to accomplish otherwise.
The now-retired Lord, who has a Ph.D. in entomology, saw a chance to use his biology knowledge in a public service capacity. He sees citizen programs as a way to engage the public by introducing projects that affect their home turf: “I think that as more people get involved in this type of project and communicate with others, there will be more support for these kinds of conservation efforts,” Lord said.
The role of citizen science in sustainable river herring harvest is the focus of a $96,600 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Growing out of a project at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, the overall goals are threefold:
- To study volunteer monitoring of river herring in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, assess successes and difficulties and produce a road map useful to other groups interested in similar citizen science programs
- To help pilot communities develop these citizen fish-count programs while assessing the accuracy of the resulting data
- To explore the role of these programs, in local, state and regional fishery management
UMaine co-principal investigators are Karen Hutchins Bieluch, visiting assistant professor of communication and journalism, Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and professor of economics; and Laura Lindenfeld, associate professor of communications and journalism and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. Co-principal investigators from USM are Theodore Willis, adjunct assistant research professor of environmental science; and Karen Wilson, assistant research professor of environmental science. Jason Smith, master’s student at USM, is the project research assistant.
Volunteers for pilot projects in Windham and Pembroke, are already hard at work using good old-fashioned manual clickers to count as many fish as possible. Data from the Windham project is checked against recordings from a video camera installed by researchers. If the video and citizen counts match, the pilot program will be a viable alternative to expensive and difficult to maintain counting equipment, project scientists say.
This past year between 49,000 and 62,000 alewives climbed the Highland Lake ladder in Windham. The huge range occurred because a first wave of fish began leaving the lake before stragglers had finished migrating upstream, researchers say. It created some confusion for the volunteers, they said, something to iron out as the project moves forward. Though researchers hope to eventually have good estimates of newly spawned river herring streaming down the ladder, this first year focused mainly on citizen science group formation and learning methodology. Next year, researchers hope for a deeper pool of volunteers who will be ready to go by the start of migration in May. And if the adult count goes well next year, focus can shift to the little ones leaving the lake, which can number in the thousands per hour.
The big question: Can citizens be engaged in counts long term? USM fisheries scientist Willis thinks herring are charming enough to sustain interest.
“River herring are one of the few marine species that people can interact with because they swim inland to where we live,” Willis said. “There are dry spells in the counting, but then there will be 830 alewife an hour zipping past you. Early in the run there were thousands of fish piled up in the stream trying to work their way up the ladder.”
So much so that half the total count for 2014 was tallied in the first five days, Willis said.
Maine is one of only three states currently harvesting river herring and maintaining a viable fishery has been tough. Though herring fisheries are managed locally, they must comply with criteria issued by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Among the rules:
- Herring harvest populations must be self-sustaining and not supplemented by outside stock. Noncompliance can result in a four-year shutdown.
- Total adult population must be estimated at 235 fish per surface acre.
- A run must demonstrate a healthy spawning survival rate and a good older age population.
“What we’re beginning to learn from our interviews is that these volunteer monitoring programs provide critical data for managers assessing the sustainability of a run for harvesting population trends, and the effectiveness of particular restoration efforts. More than just collection of data, these programs help build a sense of community around a local resource and increase local awareness of the fish. A sense of stewardship is essential for protecting river herring, now and in the future” said investigator Hutchins Bieluch.
Researchers are hopeful that this project will not only help jumpstart new monitoring programs, but will also facilitate communication between volunteers, local government officials, harvesters, and managers.
Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755
The Maine Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI), a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, joins the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), stakeholders and academic partners in recognizing the importance of the pivotal Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) on it’s 50th anniversary.
Signed into law in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, WRRA established a research institute or WRRI in each state and Puerto Rico. In his official statement, President Johnson said the WRRA “will enlist the intellectual power of universities and research institutes in a nationwide effort to conserve and utilize our water resources for the common benefit. The new centers will be concerned with municipal and regional, as well as with national water problems. Their ready accessibility to state and local officials will permit each problem to be attacked on an individual basis, the only way in which the complex characteristics of each water deficiency can be resolved… The Congress has found that we have entered a period in which acute water shortages are hampering our industries, our agriculture, our recreation, and our individual health and happiness.”
Maine’s WRRI “provides leadership and support to help solve Maine’s water problems by supporting researchers and educating tomorrow’s water scientists. Our goal is to generate new knowledge that can help us maintain important water resources,” said John Peckenham, Director of the institute and Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Mitchell Center.
The Maine WRRI has supported the study of problems such as harmful algae blooms in Maine’s rivers and lakes, arsenic in drinking water, stormwater management, lake acidification and water pollution control techniques. The institute also sponsors the annual Maine Water Conference, bringing together people from across Maine who are connected with water resources to share experiences and make new alliances.
Mitchell Center scientists say WRRI grants have facilitated valuable research over the years.
“The grants help faculty and students conduct meaningful research that aids in the management of streams, rivers, and lakes in Maine,” said Sean Smith, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. “It is difficult or impossible to manage and rehabilitate Maine’s freshwater resources effectively without knowledge of how the freshwater systems work and an understanding of how humans affect them. The WRRI grants provide a mechanism for advancing this knowledge and understanding in Maine.”
In 2014, the Maine WRRI is supporting research at Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for the greater Portland metropolitan area. Led by Smith, the project seeks to quantify connections between geography, land cover, climate and hydraulic conditions within tributaries draining to the lake. The connections between these factors are at the heart of major pollution concerns throughout the Northeast. The research seeks to help guide land use planning, pollution management, aquatic habitat conservation, and public water supply protection.
Another WRRI project in Lake Auburn, a source of drinking water for the Lewiston/Auburn area, is focused on increased levels of phosphorus in the lake. This could compromise public health and eventually result in a water treatment filtration requirement that could result in a greater cost to the community. The work supplements the existing knowledge of the lake and its results will enhance lake and water supply management strategies. The research team is led by Aria Amirbahman, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Stephen Norton, Distinguished Maine Professor, professor emeritus, Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences; Linda Bacon, Lakes Program, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755
Why do some landowners embrace sustainability and conservation in their environs while others ignore these concepts altogether? This was one of the main questions Michael Quartuch explored in his doctoral research at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI).
It’s a complex query. As part of SSI’s People, Landscape and Communities team (PLACE), Quartuch, a recent Ph.D. graduate of SSI and UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, wanted to know what lurked beneath the surface of land use decision-making.
“At a broad level, my research focused on understanding and predicting the ways in which humans interact with and shape the surrounding environment. I was very interested in identifying why people are motivated to act sustainably. Specifically, I wanted to explore whether and to what degree landowner stewardship ethics influence individual land use decisions. Similarly, I wanted to test the role landowner place attachment and sense of community play in terms of influencing behavior,” Quartuch said.
Led by associate professors Kathleen Bell and Jessica Leahy, the PLACE team studied small landowners in Maine to develop solutions on key fronts. The team surveyed landowners in an effort to better understand their concerns, attitudes and behaviors. The responses are helping the team to identify outputs of interest to landowners and key stakeholders who frequently interact with them, including local businesses and local and state governments.
“The ability to tap into landowners’ moral and ethical connections with their land, including sense of place and community, has the potential to influence attitudes and behavior. Research findings suggest that landowners feel real responsibility for their property, a sense of stewardship that is evident in both their environmental attitude and their perception of their ability to act on these beliefs,” Quartuch said. “With this information in hand, we can deviate from traditional outreach and education efforts, concentrating on future conservation and sustainable development initiatives.”
Quartuch, a native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has accepted a postdoctoral research associate position at Cornell University in the Department of Natural Resources, Human Dimensions Research Unit. Quartuch’s research will focus on a variety of social aspects associated with wildlife management and conservation.
Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.
CompositesWorld and The Maine Edge reported engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center are working with NASA to perfect the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) using UMaine’s inflatable technology expertise. The HIAD is described as a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy and is intended to slow a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere, making it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars and beyond. UMaine Composites Center engineers used the same inflatable technology for their groundbreaking Bridge-in-a-Backpack.
James Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was quoted in a Portland Press Herald article about Maine seeing an increase in tick-bite illnesses other than Lyme disease. Cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis, which can seriously affect health if undetected, are at or nearing record levels in the state, according to the article. Dill said the good thing about illnesses from ticks is they can be treated with antibiotics. “That’s why, when we have a tick bite, we always tell the individual to contact their physician, especially if people find a tick that is attached and it has started to feed,” he said. He also stressed the importance of having a dedicated tick laboratory at UMaine, which would be funded if voters support Question 2 on the November ballot.
David Erb, senior R&D program manager at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, were selected as members of the Maine Technology Institute’s executive committee by the institute’s board, according to a Bangor Daily News article about MTI’s interim leader. The executive committee will advise Brian Whitney, director of business development and innovation for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, as he takes over as the acting director of MTI, the article states. The executive committee also will review applicants for the permanent post as president of MTI.
James Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was quoted in an Associated Press article about Northeast berry growers learning how to combat an invasive fruit fly — the tiny spotted-wing drosophila — that wiped out 80 percent of some farms’ late-season fruit two years ago. Growers in Maine, the country’s largest producer of wild blueberries, are spraying and harvesting sooner and planting earlier varieties, the article states. “You take a loss, but the loss is on green berries rather than having to put more pesticides out there,” Dill said. The Portland Press Herald, Yahoo! News and Fox Business carried the AP report.