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University of Maine News
News from the University of Maine
Updated: 4 hours 52 min ago
Marcella Sorg, University of Maine research associate professor, is collaborating with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner to examine information about people involved in deaths resulting from shootings, stabbings, beatings and hangings in order to develop an understanding of circumstances that may have led to the violence.
Sorg and retired state of Maine chief medical examiner Margaret Greenwald will spearhead the project that probes the relationship between domestic abuse, homicide and suicide so that intervention efforts can be tailored to save lives.
They will lead Maine and Vermont’s participation in the federal CDC’s surveillance system that studies circumstances associated with violent deaths. Twenty-nine other states also are participating. Greenwald and Sorg are particularly interested in looking at domestic violence and its effect on suicides that are not part of a murder/suicide incident.
Maine and Vermont have higher-than-average rates of violent deaths, specifically firearm and poisoning suicides, Sorg says.
Although Maine and Vermont officials have goals to reduce violence and injury, they lack surveillance systems that can gather and aggregate high-quality circumstantial and incident-based information and disseminate it to agencies and organizations that might implement appropriate prevention strategies to reduce the rate of death and injury, she says.
An additional technical problem, says Sorg, is rooted in Maine and Vermont’s low-density, rural population distribution and the resulting suppression of some vital records totals, even at the state level, due to small numbers.
A nearly $1 million five-year grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will fund the analyses. Sorg and Greenwald will dig into the “who, what, when, where and how” of violent deaths — homicides, suicides and undetermined — in the Pine Tree and Green Mountain states.
Beginning in 2015, Sorg and Greenwald will send data to the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) to link details from medical examiners files and law enforcement reports of those who perished in violent manners.
They’ll review evidence about victims and perpetrators, including age, income, education, method of death, relationship between offenders and victims and whether depression, financial stressors, job loss and alcohol and other drugs were present.
“We’ll collect data on the circumstances surrounding the entire event,” Sorg says. “We’ll be looking for characteristics of all the people involved, including the perpetrator, even if the perpetrator doesn’t die. Our surveillance will focus not on the individual but on the whole incident.”
Such information is powerful, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said when announcing the grant.
“Knowing the circumstances of violent deaths will help identify the very best prevention efforts,” she said.
The CDC, says Sorg, views violent death as a public health problem. And this project at the interface of public health and public safety provides a promising opportunity for intervention and prevention, she says.
That opportunity will be welcome in Maine, where 12 of the 25 homicides in 2013 were categorized as domestic homicides and 11 of the 25 homicides in 2012 were characterized as such.
Of 21 cases reviewed of homicides that occurred between 2009 and 2013, 17 of the 27 victims were female and 20 of the 21 perpetrators were male, according to “The 10th Report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel — Building Bridges Towards Safety and Accountability,” released in April 2014.
Victims ranged in age from 6 weeks to 76 years old and perpetrators ranged in age from 17 to 85 years old.
Of the 21 perpetrators, 14 exhibited suicidal behavior prior to committing or attempting to commit homicide. And, of the 14 who had exhibited suicidal behavior before the crime, seven did kill themselves after attempting to commit or committing the homicide, according to the same report.
Sorg and Greenwald also teamed up in 2001 to compile data on the relationship between substance abuse and drug-related mortality in Maine. Then-Attorney General Steven Rowe described their resulting report as “the foundation upon which to build future drug abuse policy” in Maine.
For decades, Sorg, a research associate professor with the Department of Anthropology, Climate Change Institute and the Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy, has shared her expertise in Maine and around the world.
In 2012, she led a nine-member international forensic team to search for remains of former Grenada Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who was executed in a coup in October 1983. She directed the two-week dig in an attempt to locate the body of the slain leader, at the request of the Grenada Conference of Churches. The team uncovered bones in an unmarked grave at a public hillside cemetery on the Caribbean island, but they were not Bishop’s.
This fall, Sorg, the forensic anthropologist for the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware and Rhode Island, has worked with anthropology students to examine skeletal remains unearthed adjacent to the Cornish Town Hall in Cornish, Maine. Authorities have indicated the building was built on a cemetery; records indicate one grave there was dug in 1810.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
To help forest managers prepare for the next spruce budworm outbreak, the University of Maine’s Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU) is hosting a Spruce Budworm Workshop on Thursday, Oct. 30 at the Wells Conference Center.
Nearly 150 foresters from more than 25 CFRU member organizations will attend the conference to hear about the latest research on the insect.
The spruce budworm is the most damaging forest insect in North America. Returning to northern Maine every 30 to 60 years in a natural cycle, the budworm kills balsam fir and spruce trees. During the last outbreak in the 1970s through ’80s, the insect killed 20–25 million cords of spruce-fir wood across northern Maine, costing the state’s forest-based economy hundreds of millions of dollars. It also changed the course of forest management for the next 40 years.
The next outbreak is approaching. More than 10 million acres of spruce-fir forest have been severely defoliated by spruce budworm caterpillars in Quebec. Affected forests are within a few miles of Maine’s northern border.
Sen. Tom Saviello, representing Maine Senate District 18, will open the meeting. Saviello received his Ph.D. in forest resources from UMaine in 1978 and spent his early career working in Maine’s forest during the last spruce budworm outbreak.
Thirteen forestry experts from across Canada and the United States will describe what is known about spruce budworm populations, forest risks, management responses, and options for controlling the insect and protecting the spruce-fir forest.
UMaine’s CFRU has been collaborating with the Maine Forest Service and Maine Forest Products Council in leading a joint statewide spruce budworm task force. The group has spent the past year preparing a risk assessment and preparation plan for Maine’s forest landowners and forest products industry. A draft report is complete and includes more than 70 recommendations to help forestry professionals respond to the coming outbreak. The task force will release a draft of the report in mid-November to solicit public review and comment on the plan.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network aired the 7th annual Mitchell Lecture on Sustainability as part of its “Speaking in Maine” public affairs lecture series. This year’s talk, hosted by the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine, featured Harvard University’s William Clark who spoke about “Mobilizing knowledge to shape a sustainable future.” Clark’s research in sustainability science focuses on understanding the interactions of human and environmental systems with a view toward advancing the goals of sustainable development, according to MPBN.
WVII (Channel 7) reported on a University of Maine talk by Steven Kydd, a UMaine alumnus and co-founder of Tastemade, the world’s first global food network built for digital platforms. Kydd, an Orrington native who now lives in California, graduated from UMaine in 1991 with a degree in business administration. “To come back here to Maine and speak with some of the folks at the business school where I got my degree is pretty exciting and fun to see so many bright young students who also want to start businesses,” Kydd said of his talk sponsored by the Maine Business School.
Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, was interviewed by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for the report, “Allegiances shifting in final week of Maine’s 3-way governor race.” The campaign manager of independent candidate Eliot Cutler told MPBN that Cutler made a late surge four years ago, and almost beat Republican Paul LePage, and could do it again this election. Brewer said that despite Cutler’s efforts, some of his supporters will fall into the “anybody-but-LePage” group and vote strategically.
The University of Maine Department of Art will host a talk by painter William Irvine about his life and art at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12 in Lord Hall, Room 100.
Irvine will be introduced by Carl Little, the author of the recently published book, “William Irvine: A Painter’s Journey.”
Irvine’s talk will include a look at his life and career, starting with his first introduction to modern art in Troon, a small village on the Scottish coast, and ending with his current work as a painter living in Down East Maine.
Irvine graduated from the Glasgow School of Art and served in the Scottish army before moving to London where he worked as part of a vibrant and emerging avant-garde scene. His move to Maine in 1968 focused his painting on the new landscapes around him — a world of sea and sky, harbors, islands and boats. Irvine’s work brought together his sense of abstract representation and more natural forms that emerged from the landscape.
Since his move to Maine, Irvine has become widely known for his provocative seascapes, as well as his more figurative paintings and still life work.
This past summer, Maine author Little published the book about Irvine to provide readers with a sense of Irvine’s early abstract work as well as the figurative and suggestive landscapes that have come from his time in Maine, Scotland, England and France.
The lecture is part of the Department of Art’s annual lecture series and is sponsored by the Elizabeth Graves Art Fund. The event is free and open to the public. Lord Hall is wheelchair accessible.
For more information or to request a disability accommodation, call Laurie Hicks at 207.581.3247.
University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck participated in a study that indicates overfishing and climate change have collided to create a new dynamic on Caribbean coral reefs.
The study, led by University of Exeter geographer Chris Perry, was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
It highlights the delicate balance between bioerosion caused by feeding and excavating of bioeroders — sea urchins, sponges and parrotfish — with the natural production of carbonate that occurs on coral reefs.
On healthy coral reefs, bioerosion rates can be high, but more carbonate is typically produced than is lost to biological erosion, say the researchers.
But due to warming seas and ocean acidification, Steneck says rates of carbonate production have slowed on many Caribbean coral reefs and coral cover has declined dramatically since the early 1980s.
Still, he says, marked shifts to states of net coral reef erosion have not widely occurred because bioerosion rates experienced by corals have plummeted in recent years due to disease and overfishing of bioeroders that rasp away limestone.
The dynamics are opposite in Maine, Steneck says, because shell-crushing crabs (green, Jonah and rock crabs) have increased in recent decades.
“Marine ecosystems continue to surprise us both here in Maine and in the Caribbean because the cast of characters and the climate both keep changing,” he says.
The study, says Perry, shows the future health and growth potential of coral reefs is, in part, dependent on rates of coral carbonate production and the species that live in and on them and act to erode carbonate.
If historical levels of bioerosion were applied to today’s Caribbean reefs, researchers say there would be widespread destruction, threatening many of the benefits that reefs provide to society.
“If bioeroding species increase in number, and erosion rates increase relative to carbonate production, then this could spell trouble for many Caribbean coral reefs,” Perry says.
That trouble, says Steneck, would include if “bioeroded reefs lose their breakwater function to protect shorelines and they lose their habitat value for reef fish on which many people depend.”
Management efforts are directed at protecting one group of bioeroders — parrotfish. Although parrotfish erode reef substrate, researchers say an increase in the number of parrotfish will benefit reefs because the advantages they provide by removing fleshy macroalgal cover and promoting coral recruitment outweigh negative effects of substrate erosion.
“In essence, we need to work towards restoring the natural balance of ecological and geomorphic processes on coral reefs,” Perry says. “From a bioerosion perspective that may seem counterintuitive, but these species also play a critical role in maintaining reef health.”
In addition to the University of Exeter in England and the University of Maine, the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Memorial University in Canada, James Cook University in Australia and the University of Queensland in Australia took part in the collaborative study. A Leverhulme Trust International Research Network Grant funded the research.
To read the research paper titled “Changing dynamics of Caribbean reef carbonate budgets: emergence of reef bioeroders as critical controls on present and future reef growth potential” in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1796/20142018.full.
To read the release published by University of Exeter, where Perry is a professor in physical geography and director of research for geography: exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_416424_en.html.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Elizabeth Allan, a professor of higher education at the University of Maine and director of StopHazing.org, was interviewed by The Intelligencer for the article, “High school hazing: ‘It’s not an isolated problem.’” Allan, who has conducted research on hazing, spoke about the effects and prevalence of the behavior. “It’s not an isolated problem that is just affecting a few students. There are reverberating effects to the family, friends and school — there are so many layers — and that is only when we find out about an incident,” Allan said.
WVII (Channel 7) reported on the 11th annual ESTIA conference held at the University of Maine. The goal of this year’s conference was to inform the UMaine community about international, national and local efforts in sustainability and peace by emphasizing the importance of ethics and social responsibility as foundations for community development. ESTIA (Ecopeace Sustainability Training and International Affiliations) is a Maine-based ecological organization that promotes and facilitates sustainability and peace through education. Emily Markides, president of ESTIA, and Hugh Curran, vice president of ESTIA, spoke with WVII about the conference’s importance. Markides spoke about some of the major questions being addressed during the conference. “How can we transform and how can we heal the planet and its people?” She asked. “How can we help people in need and how can we create sustainable communities that are fair, just and equitable?”
WABI (Channel 5) reported on the University of Maine’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and spoke with several members of the cast who are students in the UMaine School of Performing Arts. “We’ve gotten great reactions and it’s awesome to finally have an audience and have people laughing,” said UMaine student Hope Milne who has a role in the play.
The Portland Press Herald published a review of a book written by Richard Judd, a University of Maine history professor. The review examines Judd’s book, “Second Nature: An Environmental History of New England.” According to the review, Judd’s subject has been historically addressed from two points of view — either the environment determines the culture of those living in it or the culture of those living in it negatively affects the environment. “I resolved to combine these approaches by describing nature and culture not as antagonistic or even as dialectical, but essentially as an ecological whole: a bioregion,” Judd wrote.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension was mentioned in an article published in The Guardian about Northern Girl, an Aroostook County company that processes the area’s surplus of organic crops. According to the article, one of the company’s founders said Northern Girl can now process about 1 million pounds of produce in the six to seven months following the August harvest. The company continues to work with UMaine Extension to learn the best way to store and preserve produce to enable year-round operations, the article states.
The University of Maine Graduate School will host a Graduate and Professional Programs Open House from 4–6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29 in Stodder Hall, Room 42.
Those interested in pursuing a graduate education at UMaine are encouraged to attend.
The school offers doctorate degrees in 30 areas of study and a master’s degree can be earned in more than 75 areas, ranging from the arts, sciences and engineering, to professional degrees in the fields of business, education, nursing, communication sciences and disorders, global policy and social work.
The open house will include refreshments and raffle giveaways.
National Geographic, Live Science, NBC News, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Newsweek, Daily Mail and The Boston Globe were among several news organizations that reported on a study published in Science that was led by Kurt Rademaker, a University of Maine visiting assistant professor in anthropology who received his Ph.D. from UMaine in 2012 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tübingen. In the southern Peruvian Andes, Rademaker and his archaeological team documented the highest altitude ice age human occupation anywhere in the world — nearly 4,500 meters above sea level. Their discoveries date high-altitude human habitation nearly a millennium earlier than previously documented. UMaine researchers Gordon Bromley and Daniel Sandweiss also were members of the team. Discovery News, U.S. News & World Report, The Christian Science Monitor, CBC News and Popular Archaeology also reported on the study.
The Bangor Daily News reported the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), an organization that represents the trash interests of 187 Maine towns, is partnering with the University of Maine to research if new garbage-to-energy technology will work in Maine. The MRC board agreed to hire a team from UMaine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) led by Hemant Pendse, a UMaine professor who leads the FBRI research team focused on creating and commercializing new bioproducts. The team will study the operations of Fiberight, a Maryland company, to determine if its “Trashanol” technology that distills municipal solid waste into ethanol, biogas or compressed natural gas will work in Maine, according to the article. The study is expected to start around Nov. 1, and the MRC would like to have a completed report before the annual meeting in January, the article states.
Kyriacos Markides, a sociology professor at the University of Maine, was interviewed about “spiritual healers and the Western world’s blind eye on health” for the podcast “Not Just Paleo: Making Health and Happiness a Breeze.”
The Missoulian reported Jennifer Moxley, an English professor at the University of Maine, will visit the University of Montana on Friday, Oct. 24 to read her poetry. Moxley’s appearance is part of the university’s fall 2014 UM Creative Writing Program President’s Writers-in-Residence Series. Moxley is the author of five books of poetry, as well as a book of essays and a memoir. She also has translated three books from French.
The Combined Charitable Appeal for University Employees (CCAUE) will kick off the 2014 campaign from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29 in the McIntire Room of the Buchanan Alumni House.
This year’s CCAUE campaign will accept online contributions from Nov. 1–23. Online contributions may be made by payroll deduction, debit or credit card, or by mailing the printed form with a check to Kathleen McIntyre, UMaine’s 2014 campaign chair.
Donations using the paper 2014 contribution form, available from the campaign chair or committee member, will be accepted through Dec. 31.
CCAUE also is hosting Learn at Lunch sessions from noon to 1 p.m. in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union throughout November. Guests are encouraged to bring a lunch and will earn 20 RiseUP Wellness Points by hearing from agencies listed in the CCAUE Donor’s Guide.
Scheduled CCAUE Learn at Lunch sessions (subject to change due to availability of agencies):
- Monday, Nov. 3 — Senior citizens
- Friday, Nov. 7 — Animals and environment
- Tuesday, Nov. 11 — Veterans, peace and literacy
- Wednesday, Nov. 19 — Women and children
- Friday, Nov. 21 — Health matters
- Tuesday, Nov. 25 — Grassroots and gardening
Donations of nonperishable food items or gently used clothing to benefit the Black Bear Exchange food pantry will enter guests into a drawing to win a donated door prize at each session.
Oceanographers, water-quality experts and satellite remote-sensing scientists from around the world will shine light on developments in ocean optics and their application to environmental issues at a conference Oct. 25–31 in Portland, Maine.
Mary Jane Perry, interim director of the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole, is co-chair of the conference, Ocean Optics XXII, being held at Holiday Inn by the Bay.
“The conference gives optical ocean scientists from all over the world an opportunity to meet every two years to share ideas and exchange techniques,” says Perry. “Such communication among professionals and students is key to advancing science and developing new ways to use optics to solve ocean problems.”
Conference co-chair Steven Ackleson, oceanographer at the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., agrees.
“Optical observations of oceans on Earth are imperative,” he says. Many core environmental issues related to climate change — the carbon budget, harmful algal blooms, environmental-based management and human health and recreation — “require knowledge of how light interacts with the marine environment, the ability to monitor conditions in near real time and the capability to predict future conditions.”
Attendees from 38 countries can attend eight plenary sessions, including one led by Don Perovich of Thayer School of Engineering in Hanover, New Hampshire, who will discuss “Sunlight and Sea Ice in a Changing Arctic.”
There also will be nearly 50 shorter discussions and more than 200 posters presented on a variety of topics involving ocean optics.
UMaine researchers and graduate students are well represented. Perry, UMaine marine scientist Ivona Cetinic, and UMaine graduate Wayne Slade are reporting on their work this past summer in the Gulf of Maine that combined ship, aircraft and satellite measurements to monitor phytoplankton species. They also will report on another summer field project that used robots to study the distribution of phytoplankton under the ice in the Arctic Ocean.
UMaine professors Emmanuel Boss and Fei Chai, and graduate students Nathan Briggs and Alison Chase are also among the conference presenters.
In addition to the scientific presentations, author Robert McKenna will give a talk titled “Smuggling at Sea During Prohibition: The Real McCoy, the Bootleg Queen, Rum Row and the Origin of the U.S. Coast Guard.”
To view the complete agenda, visit, tos.org/oceanopticsconference/welcome.html.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
In the southern Peruvian Andes, an archaeological team led by researchers at the University of Maine has documented the highest altitude ice age human occupation anywhere in the world — nearly 4,500 meters above sea level (masl).
Their discoveries date high-altitude human habitation nearly a millennium earlier than previously documented.
Despite cold temperatures, high solar radiation and low oxygen conditions at that altitude, hunter-gatherers colonized the remote, treeless landscapes about 12,000 years ago during the terminal Pleistocene — within 2,000 years after humans arrived in South America.
“Study of human adaptation to extreme environments is important in understanding our cultural and genetic capacity for survival,” according to the research team, led by Kurt Rademaker, a University of Maine visiting assistant professor in anthropology, writing in the journal Science.
The Pucuncho archaeological site, 4,355 masl, included 260 formal tools, such as projectile points, nondiagnostic bifaces and unifacial scrapers up to 12,800 years old. Cuncaicha rockshelter, featuring two alcoves at 4,480 masl, contains a “robust, well-preserved and well-dated occupation sequence” up to 12,400 years old. The rockshelter, with views of wetland and grassland habitats, features sooted ceilings and rock art, and was likely a base camp.
Most of the lithic tools at Cuncaicha were made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, and are indicative of hunting and butchering consistent with limited subsistence options on the plateau, according to the researchers. In addition to plant remains, bones at the site indicate hunting of vicuña and guanaco camelids and the taruca deer.
Pucuncho Basin was a high-altitude oasis for specialized hunting, particularly of vicuña, and later, herding of domesticated alpacas and llamas. While the Pucuncho Basin could have sustained year-round residence, wet-season storms and the dangers of hypothermia, as well as the need to maintain extended social networks and collection of edible plants, may have encouraged regular descents, according to the research team.
In addition, the lithic tools and debitage included nonlocal, fine-grained rocks — some stream-polished. That would have required the plateau residents to visit high-energy rivers in the lower elevations.
It is unclear whether the high-altitude human settlement required genetic or environmental adaptations. But with evidence of high-altitude human habitation almost 900 years earlier than previously documented, the implication is that there may have been more moderate late-glacial Andean environments and greater physiological capabilities for Pleistocene humans.
“The Pucuncho Basin sites suggest that Pleistocene humans lived successfully at extreme high altitude, initiating organismal selection, developmental functional adaptations and lasting biogeographic expansion in the Andes,” write the researchers. “As new studies identify potential genetic signatures of high-altitude adaptation in modern Andean populations, comparative genomic, physiologic and archaeological research will be needed to understand when and how these adaptations evolved.”
In addition to Rademaker, who received his Ph.D. from UMaine in 2012 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tübingen, the research team members are: Gregory Hodgins, University of Arizona; Katherine Moore, University of Pennsylvania; Sonia Zarrillo, University of Calgary; Christopher Miller, University of Tübingen; Peter Leach, University of Connecticut; David Reid, University of Illinois-Chicago; Willy Yépez Álvarez, Peru; and Gordon Bromley and Daniel Sandweiss, University of Maine.
The team’s research was supported by the Dan and Betty Churchill Exploration Fund at the University of Maine, the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, and the National Science Foundation.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745