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University of Maine News
News from the University of Maine
Updated: 1 hour 6 min ago
Connecting K–12 students in Maine and around the world with researchers in the field is the goal of a new program offered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension with support from UMaine’s Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the Maine 4-H Foundation.
Follow a Researcher aims to give students a glimpse into a scientist’s world by providing live expedition updates and facilitating communication between the youth and scientist.
“Science isn’t just white lab coats and pouring things into beakers,” says Charles Rodda, a doctoral student at CCI and the program’s first researcher. In his case, science means putting on crampons, scaling glaciers and drilling ice cores in Peru and Tajikistan to conduct research focused on abrupt climate change.
In March, Rodda and fellow CCI graduate student Kit Hamley will travel to Peru to collect snow and ice from glaciers high in the Andes. During the summer, he will travel to Tajikistan to join an international team that will retrieve and research samples from the world’s largest nonpolar glacier.
While in the field, Rodda will interact with participating classrooms and students by sharing prerecorded weekly videos and live tweeting in response to questions.
“We’re interested to see what they’re interested in,” Rodda says. “We of course are focused on the science, but we’re hiking in some of the most beautiful regions on Earth.”
To interact with students, Rodda will use the inReach Explorer, a global satellite communicator created by Maine-based company DeLorme. The tool allows him to text or tweet directly to students from the glacier. It also will track his movements and generate an online map so students can follow his trek in nearly real time. To document his journey, Rodda also will take several cameras, including a GoPro; a solar panel and battery pack to charge electronics; an iPad; satellite receiver; and memory cards.
In advance of the weekly question-and-answer sessions, prerecorded videos of Rodda explaining aspects of the expedition and research will be released. The videos were created to spark discussion among students and are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.
Rodda, who has participated in several outreach events around the state as a UMaine Extension 4-H STEM Ambassador, says having a science-literate society is important and getting students interested at an early age is essential.
“I think that’s the time — middle and early high school — when students seem to decide if they’re going to be interested in science or not. There’s great research happening here at the University of Maine and we want to make sure students know about it,” he says.
Several schools from around Maine, as well as schools in Iowa, Ohio, Rhode Island and Connecticut have already signed on to take part in the program, which is funded by the Maine 4-H Foundation. Rodda and Hamley plan to visit participating Maine classrooms after they return from Peru in April.
In Peru, Rodda and Hamley will look at signals that have been captured in the ice during El Nino events, or warming in the waters of the equatorial Pacific. They hope to see what El Ninos look like in climate records to determine if those events may be a trigger that shifts the climate system in Central and South America from one phase to another. Rodda completed preliminary research in Peru in 2013.
This summer in Tajikistan, Rodda will work with researchers from around the world to drill a long core that will be split among teams from the University of Idaho, Japan, France, Germany and Austria who will study a variety of the core’s characteristics. Rodda will focus on the ice’s chemistry makeup while others will focus on topics including physical measurements or biological signals, he says.
In advance of Rodda’s Peru trip, youth in grades six through eight took part in a UMaine 4-H Science Saturday workshop where they were challenged with determining how to keep ice core samples frozen and intact for research. Students were given ice and materials and were tasked with designing a container that would keep ice frozen under a heat lamp for a specific amount of time.
In reality, Rodda says bringing ice cores home from Peru is more like “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” It involves horseback riding, long car rides, even longer airplane rides, and a lot of dry and blue ice, which he describes as heavy-duty freezer packs.
“It’s a great way to get students on campus to sort of demystify the university and show them some of the cool stuff we do at the university and in the sciences,” Rodda says of 4-H Science Saturdays, which are offered by UMaine Extension.
“Follow a Researcher is part of a big effort to connect youth in Maine with current university students. It may be the first time a youth has contact with someone who is going to college, or their first connection to a university,” says Laura Wilson, a 4-H science professional with UMaine Extension. “STEM Ambassadors are working in areas all over the state, from an after-school program in Washburn to programs offered in urban areas of Lewiston and Portland.”
Organizers would like to continue Follow a Researcher after the pilot year, as well as expand it to other disciplines throughout the university.
“By connecting youth to campus, we may be inspiring them to explore higher education, and perhaps come to UMaine in the future,” Wilson says.
Teachers interested in following Rodda on his expeditions may call Jessica Brainerd at 800.287.0274 (in Maine), 581.3877; or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More about Follow a Researcher is online.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
WABI (Channel 5) and WVII (Channel 7) reported on events held in Orono and Augusta in celebration of the University of Maine’s 150th anniversary as the state’s land grant university. Faculty, students and representatives from businesses that partner with UMaine had displays in the Hall of Flags in the State House while a proclamation declaring Feb. 24 as University of Maine Day was read. On that day in 1865, the Maine legislature passed a bill to create the state’s land grant university. UMaine President Susan Hunter spoke to WVII in Augusta about the university’s history and future, as well as planned events to mark the anniversary throughout the year. In Orono, the UMaine community marked the day with a birthday cake and the dedication of the Spirit Room, an exhibition paying tribute to the university’s mascot, Bananas. “The University of Maine is a place for all people of the state of Maine, people nationally and across the world. This is a place where difference matters and we’re making a difference so we’re very excited about it,” Robert Dana, UMaine’s vice president for student life and dean of students, told WABI. The Augusta event also was mentioned in a Bangor Daily News political blog post.
Nancy McBrady, the new executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald about her position, as well as the important role played by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. McBrady, who is expected to help grow and advocate for Maine’s wild blueberry industry, will work closely with UMaine Extension on research and development issues, according to the article. “The University of Maine and the Cooperative Extension are the backbone” of what the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine does, providing an “invaluable service” in terms of scientific research, she said.
WVII (Channel 7) reported on a new project created by the University of Maine’s Cohen Institute for Leadership and Public Service. The Cohen Journal provides UMaine students and alumni the opportunity to publish original research in a peer-reviewed journal. It will also highlight and promote the student research found at Maine’s flagship university.
Barbara Murphy, coordinator for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Harvest for Hunger program, is scheduled to speak at a food security forum in Wiscasset, according to the Boothbay Register. “Local Food, Local Hunger” takes place March 7 and is open to the public. It is sponsored by the Morris Farm in Wiscasset, a working farm and education center that promotes sustainable agriculture and stewardship, and Chewonki, an environmental education organization that promotes sustainable living, according to the article. The forum will address the current state of food insecurity in Lincoln County among families, individuals, children and seniors, the article states.
The University of Maine was mentioned in a WVII (Channel 7) report about the inaugural Maine Science Festival set for March 20–22 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The event aims to teach participants of all ages about science while bringing them together with Maine’s science and technology experts, including UMaine. “The Maine Science Festival is our chance to let people know about the remarkable, world-leading research that happens every day in Maine,” said Kate Dickerson, the festival’s founder and director. “We are going to spend the weekend talking about all of the amazing work that is happening in Maine and beyond, done by innovative scientists who are leaders in their fields and who want to share their love of science to all.”
An upcoming Andy Warhol exhibit at the University of Maine Museum of Art in downtown Bangor was advanced in Maine Home + Design Magazine. The museum owns more than 150 photographs, six screenprints and one stamp print created by the artist, according to the article. The pieces will be on display in Maine for the first time as part of the exhibit, “Andy Warhol: Photographs and Screenprints,” which runs from April 3 until June 6. “Warhol was the leading figure of American Pop Art, and these works provide our visitors a greater understanding of this pivotal period in modern and contemporary art” said George Kinghorn, the museum’s director and curator.
Mark Hutchinson, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator and professor, was interviewed for the Associated Press article, “How to manage animal manure.” Organic and synthetic fertilizers are the most common way to add nutrients to the soil, but animal manure also works well if it can be transported and applied correctly, according to the article. “You’re no longer going to apply fresh manure and two days later do your planting. Rather, you should apply it in the fall, let a cover crop grow and allow the manures to mature,” Hutchinson said. “It’s a food safety issue rather than a nutrient issue. We’ve all seen the outbreaks of E. coli over the past couple of years.” Hutchinson also advised to use manure in moderation and to apply it just before a rain. ABC News ran the AP report.
The Working Waterfront published a University of Maine news release about marine scientist Bob Steneck’s alga research. Steneck is part of an international team that unlocked an underwater time capsule in the North Pacific that has been monitoring the climate for centuries. The time capsule is the long-living, slow-growing alga Clathromorphum nereostratum that creates massive reefs in shallow coastal regions of Alaska’s Aleutian archipelago. These solid calcium carbonate structures have fine growth rings — similar to tree growth rings — which Steneck says contain historical environmental information. The team used a cutting-edge microisotopic imaging technique to reconstruct 120 years of seasonal changes in ocean acidification (pH) in the region. Phys.org also published the UMaine release.
The Weekly reported the University of Maine will host a National History Day (NHD) research workshop March 3 for middle and high school students who are interested in history. Students, along with parents and-or teachers, will meet with UMaine history faculty, graduate students and library staff to help advance their research. Students can come with a fully developed idea or seek help starting a project for the national competition that encourages independent research. Students who participate in NHD choose historical topics and conduct research related to the annual theme. Students present their work in the form of original papers, websites, exhibits, performances or documentary videos. Projects are evaluated by judges in a statewide competition, and state winners move on to the national contest in Washington, D.C. UMaine will host the Maine National History Day on March 28.
The Portland Press Herald reported University of Maine historian Richard Judd will speak April 12 at Left Bank Books in Belfast as part of the Winter Lyceum lecture series. Judd, a Henry David Thoreau scholar, will speak about Thoreau as an environmental icon, according to the article. The free and informal talk begins at 3 p.m.
Farm tractor safety courses taught by University of Maine Cooperative Extension educators and area experts are scheduled in Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Somerset and Waldo counties. The multi-session courses are designed for new tractor drivers and are appropriate for adults and youth at least 13 years of age.
In Somerset County, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Kennebec County Farm Bureau and Hammond Tractor are sponsoring a five-session 4-H Tractor Safety Course beginning 6–8 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at Hammond Tractor, 216 Center Road, Fairfield. Classes will be held consecutive Tuesdays; the final session April 28 will include a written exam and tractor-driving course. Instructors are Jeff Bragg, co-owner of Rainbow Valley Farm in Sidney; Neal Caverly, owner of Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton; Cliff Kramer, owner of Kramer’s Inc. in Sidney; and Karen Hatch Gagne, UMaine Extension 4-H educator.
Participants will be instructed how to safely handle tractors and equipment, to identify hazards and to minimize chances of accidents. It is open to interested adults and youth; priority will be given to youth 14–16. The course is required for 14- and 15-year-olds operating farm equipment for hire on farms other than their own. A federal Certificate of Training will be issued upon successful completion.
Preregistration is required. For more information, or to request a disability accommodation or registration form, contact Gagne or Diana Hartley at 207.622.7546, 800.287.1481 (in Maine), email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schedules and registration information for Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln and Waldo counties are online. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.781.6099, 1.800.287.1471 (in Maine).
University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck is part of an international team that has unlocked an underwater time capsule in the North Pacific that has been monitoring the climate for centuries.
The time capsule is the long-living, slow-growing alga Clathromorphum nereostratum that creates massive reefs in shallow coastal regions of Alaska’s Aleutian archipelago. These solid calcium carbonate structures have fine growth rings — similar to tree growth rings — which Steneck says contain historical environmental information.
The team used a cutting-edge microisotopic imaging technique to reconstruct 120 years of seasonal changes in ocean acidification (pH) in the region. The technique uses lasers to measure isotope ratios of the element boron at the scale of tenths of millimeters.
The technique, Steneck says, provides researchers with a detailed historical timeline, including rate of ocean acidification both seasonally and over hundreds of years. The scientists learned that since the late 19th century, the ocean has been acidifying at a rate that corresponds with rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
“The next frontier is to determine millennial records so we get a better sense of what was normal for ocean acidification in cold water coastal zones,” Steneck says.
The alga grows approximately 1 millimeter every three years, so plants collected last year that are nearly half-meter thick could easily be more than 1,000 years old, he says.
“These and similar types of coralline algae are living in all oceans,” says lead researcher Jan Fietzke of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany. “Thanks to laser ablation techniques, in the future we can use other samples to look much further back into the past…”
In fact, UMaine postdoctoral associate Doug Rasher is currently in Scotland analyzing specimens that he and Steneck collected last year in Alaska.
The team’s seasonal analyses also indicated strong variations of pH in each year.
The researchers, who also hail from the United Kingdom and Canada, say the annual variation is likely due to large kelp forests in the region that consume large amounts of carbon dioxide in the spring and summer as they grow. The kelp forests then completely die back each winter.
“In a sense, these ecosystems are breathing by inhaling CO2 each summer and releasing it every winter,” says Steneck, who is based at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole.
Each year, more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, some of which is absorbed by the ocean as carbonic acid. This, in turn, decreases the pH and increases acidity of the ocean, say the researchers.
Steneck says 90 percent of marine resource value in Maine involves shellfish, including lobsters, scallops, oysters and clams. Lobsters and other organisms depend on high pH to create limestone shells and it takes metabolic energy to make limestone.
When the ocean is more acidic, the metabolic cost necessary to make shells increases, he says. Some energy that would normally be allocated to organisms’ immune systems could be compromised, possibly increasing their susceptibility to disease.
Lobsters afflicted with shell disease increased fivefold between 2010 and 2012 in Maine; in southern New England during that time, scientists and lobstermen indicated that one in four lobsters caught was diseased.
Steneck says being able to determine if acidification in a specific coastal area might be affected by extreme rainfall events or sewage treatment, for example, could help create more localized ocean management policy.
To retrieve specimens for the research, Steneck dove in 34-degree water off the Aleutian Islands and used a jackhammer to cut off chunks of the Clathromorphum nereostratum. The chunks were loaded into cargo nets, airlifted to the surface, towed to the boat and lifted aboard with a crane. Onboard, Steneck cut the chunks into pieces for research.
A paper about the findings will be published Feb. 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Jonathan Rubin, a professor of resource economics and policy at the University of Maine, was a guest on the George Hale, Ric Tyler Radio Show on WVOM, The Voice of Maine. Rubin spoke about “Energy in Maine,” a report released by the Maine Development Foundation (MDF) and the UMaine’s School of Economics. The study is the fifth quarterly report released by the organizations analyzing critical economic indicators in Maine. It addresses the issues of cost, consumption and production of energy in the state. WVII (Channel 7) also reported on the study.
Research by Michael Socolow, an associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Maine, was cited in the Politico article, “Unsolicited advice for Lester Holt.” Holt is filling in as anchor of “The NBC Nightly News” while Brian Williams completes his six-month suspension, according to the article. Socolow’s journal article, “‘We should make money on our news’: The problem of profitability in network broadcast journalism history,” was cited in the article. According to Socolow, “The NBC Nightly News” was the network’s second most profitable program in 1968. He also said former CBS News anchor Dan Rather’s ego and eccentricities were tolerated as long as his show led the ratings and continued to make profits, the article states.
WVII (Channel 7) reported University of Maine student Marie Miller is planning to take part in this summer’s 4K for Cancer — a 4,000-mile team run from California to New York that aims to raise awareness of cancer and raise money for cancer research. Miller said she was inspired to make a difference after her grandfather died from the disease, according to the report. UMaine student Matt Dexter completed the run last year.
WABI (Channel 5) reported brothers of the University of Maine fraternity Beta Theta Pi held their 22nd annual sleep out to raise awareness and funds for sexual assault services. Members of the fraternity stayed outside from 6 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday. All proceeds from the event go toward Rape Response Services in Bangor, according to the report.
WVII (Channel 7) previewed Dan Estabrook’s exhibit “King & Clown” at the University of Maine Museum of Art (UMMA) in downtown Bangor through March 21. The museum is offering Art @ Noon on March 4. The event is a free, informal gallery talk led by George Kinghorn, director and curator of UMMA, who will discuss Estabrook’s exhibit and selections from the permanent collection, according to the report. WVII also reported UMMA will offer free admission to the public in 2015 as the result of a gift from Penobscot Financial Advisors (PFA). “We are extremely appreciative of PFA’s support and its belief that visual arts and culture are a vital component of Bangor’s continued growth,” Kinghorn said.
Robert Seymour, the Curtis Hutchins Professor of Forest Resources at the University of Maine, was quoted in the Free Press article, “Maine’s top forestry expert debunks the claim that it’s good forestry to overcut for 20 years.” Seymour stated his opposition to the ramped up cutting by Bureau of Parks and Lands that aims to raise money by cutting more wood than the forest can grow for the next 20 years, according to the article. Seymour, who has advised the bureau on how to effectively manage the public forests since its formation three decades ago, said there is no scientific reason to overcut. He called the argument to cut trees before they die from invasive insects hysteria and said the push to cut more wood would only raise money in the short term. “If you need to do this to make money, just say it,” he said.
On Feb. 20, the Maine Development Foundation (MDF) and the University of Maine’s School of Economics released the fifth quarterly report analyzing critical economic indicators in Maine.
The latest report, “Energy in Maine,” addresses the issues of cost, consumption and production of energy in the state. Improvements in efficiency and further diversification can give Maine people and businesses more options and greater flexibility to adjust to changing energy markets, according to the MDF news release.
Mario Teisl, director of the UMaine School of Economics and professor of resource economics and policy, is overseeing the series of reports that further explore the economic indicators in “Measures of Growth in Focus,” an annual report issued by the Maine Economic Growth Council.
The full “Energy in Maine” report is online.