University of Maine News
The Maine Edge published an advance of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s annual Sustainable Agriculture Field Day to be held Thursday, June 26, at Rogers Farm in Old Town. The free event is designed for farmers, crop advisers and others interested in agricultural production. UMaine agricultural researchers and Extension faculty will present field research highlighting current applied agricultural research projects, including alternative weed management strategies in vegetable production, opportunities and challenges with winter grains and evaluating plants to support native pollinators.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering a Cooking for Crowds workshop 1–5 p.m. Monday, July 7, at the UMaine Extension Somerset County office, 7 County Drive, Skowhegan.
Learn up-to-date methods for safely preparing, handling and serving food for large groups, including at soup kitchens, church functions, food pantries and community fundraisers. The class meets the Good Shepherd Food Bank food safety training requirements. The workshop covers the following food safety guidelines: 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.
For more information, to register or to request a disability accommodation, call Crystal Hamilton at 207.622.7546 or 800.287.1481 (in Maine). Details about future workshops are online.
Two studies by researchers at the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) uncovered compelling data on women’s knowledge of both the dangers and health benefits of eating fish while pregnant.
The first study found that Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory led women to decrease their consumption of fish, while a follow-up study found a newly designed advisory led to a healthier, more balanced approach to fish consumption.
Mario Teisl, professor in the School of Economics, will present and discuss results of the studies, which were published in two peer-reviewed journals, as a featured speaker at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2014 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish.
Both journal papers are among the first to examine how information about methylmercury in fish is conveyed to pregnant women in specific states and how that information is used, which is information the EPA has indicated it needs.
Teisl has been part of two research teams from SSI’s Knowledge to Action Collaborative that have closely examined CDC’s methylmercury advisories sent to pregnant women. He will lay out how the successive sets of data tracked an evolution in the way information is conveyed to and interpreted by pregnant women in Maine.
“CDC suspected that the original advisory was not working as best as it could and our initial study confirmed the state could do better,” Teisl said.
In the first study, published in 2011 in the journal Science of the Total Environment, Teisl and colleagues found the advisory was changing pregnant women’s eating habits, but not always in the intended manner.
Instead of limiting high-mercury fish and switching to a careful diet of low-mercury fish, many pregnant women were dramatically decreasing consumption of all fish, thus missing out on the benefits of eating fish. The misinformation seemed to stem from the fact the advisory was aimed at wild caught fish and mainly focused on the risks of eating fish.
“The old pamphlet was targeted more toward anglers. On the cover, there was a photo of a family fishing. The problem is that very few women eat sport-caught fish. Most eat fish from the grocery store. A lot of pregnant women didn’t understand how the information pertained to them,” Teisl said.
In 2006, the CDC, with the assistance of a health literacy expert at the University of New England, redesigned its advisory, adding specific information about fresh, frozen and canned fish.
The new literature contains recipes, meal plans and colorful charts, informing women of fish to avoid, fish to limit and fish that are low enough in mercury to eat twice a week while pregnant. The pamphlet emphasizes the importance of fish in the diet, including the fetal/maternal health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids and protein.
In the second study, published in 2013 in the journal Environmental Science, Teisl and colleagues found women who read the updated advisory were knowledgeable about healthy fish consumption in pregnancy.
For instance, informed women could distinguish between similar products such as canned white tuna, which is high in mercury, and canned light tuna, which is not. People who did not read the advisory generally lacked essential knowledge about healthy fish diets.
“Our evaluation of the Maine CDC’s updated fish consumption advisory suggests that it successfully improved women’s specific knowledge of both the benefits and risks of consuming fish while pregnant. This improved knowledge has the potential to minimize methylmercury health impacts and maintain, if not increase, overall low-mercury fish consumption,” said Haley Engelberth, who received a master’s of science in ecology and environmental science from UMaine in 2012. Engelberth was on both SSI methylmercury research teams and the lead author of the 2013 paper.
Other researchers on the teams included: Kathleen P. Bell, associate professor, UMaine’s School of Economics; Eric Frohmberg, (then) toxicologist, state of Maine; Karyn Butts, research associate, University of Southern Maine; Sue Stableford, director of the Health Literacy Institute at University of New England; Andrew E. Smith, director, Environmental and Occupational Health Programs, Maine CDC; Kevin J. Boyle, (then) professor of ecology and environmental sciences, UMaine.
Teisl will make his presentation at the Sept. 22–24 conference in Alexandria, Virginia.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
The Associated Press and WABI (Channel 5) reported on the five-day Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) Institute at the University of Maine. About 70 high school students and teachers and representatives of tribal communities are gathering to come up with ideas for solutions related to stormwater management. UMaine scientists and students, city water planners, and representatives from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and businesses including Woodard & Curran and IDEXX will also take part in the institute. At the end of the week, participants will install wireless sensors at the Arctic Brook watershed in Bangor and collect data as citizen scientists. Mohamad Musavi, associate dean of the College of Engineering, told WABI he hopes students who participate can focus on their education, get into a STEM field, and spread the word in their community about their work toward improving the environment. SFGate, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, seattlepi and WLBZ (Channel 2) carried the AP report.
Neil Comins, a University of Maine professor of physics and astronomy, was a recent guest on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s “Maine Calling” radio show. The show, titled “‘Cosmos’ and Space,” focused on space, exploration and the science of astronomy and touched on the latest news from NASA, the International Space Station and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s integrated pest management (IPM) programs were mentioned in a Portland Press Herald article about local organic strawberries being limited in Maine. Cathy Karonis of Fairwinds Farm in Bowdoinham said she has contemplated going organic, but can’t risk crop failure or inconsistent quality on her 14 acres of strawberries. Karonis said she follows UMaine Extension’s IPM reports and sprays when necessary. IPM is a comprehensive, decision-making process for solving pest problems. It is a sustainable approach providing economical control with the least possible hazard, to people, property and the environment.
WABI (Channel 5) reported the University of Maine finished third in the 2014 America East Academic Cup that was released June 18 by the America East Conference. Black Bear student-athletes posted a 3.16 grade point average for the academic year.
Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, was interviewed for a Maine Public Broadcasting Network report, titled “Mike Michaud Courting Support of 1st District Voters.” Brewer said gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud’s coming out could help him with more progressive voters in Maine’s 1st District, but it could hurt him in the conservative 2nd District. “It’s a more rural population,” Brewer says of Michaud’s home base. “It’s an older population. It’s a less educated population and all of those characteristics tend to correlate with being less supportive of same-sex marriage and other equality issues for homosexuals.”
Red Gendron, head men’s ice hockey coach for the University of Maine, was quoted in a Portland Press Herald article about Maine Startup and Create Week. More than 40 events featuring 158 speakers from around the country took place at 15 venues across Portland to celebrate entrepreneurs and startups. Gendron, who attended the week’s “Think Big” kickoff party at Port City Music Hall, said, “For me, thinking big is a national championship for the state of Maine.”
University of Maine marine biology graduate student Skylar Bayer is co-producing a live science storytelling event at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 17, at the Frontier in Brunswick.
Five scientists, including UMaine alums Jennifer McHenry and Ryan Elizabeth Cope, will share true experiences of being caught “On the Hook” for The Story Collider, which produces live shows and podcasts where people tell stories about how science has affected their lives “on a personal and emotional level.”
Bayer was featured in a February podcast for The Story Collider titled “Phoning Home from Alvin.” In the 15-minute podcast, the Massachusetts native shares a touching and humorous experience about facing her fears and taking part in a deep-ocean dive in a submersible named Alvin.
Bayer has dreamed of being a marine scientist since she was 8; she is pursuing her Ph.D. in marine reproductive ecology at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole. Bayer also manages, edits and writes the blog, Strictlyfishwrap. She might be better known as “the lonely lady scientist” from a 2013 feature titled “The Enemy Within” on “The Colbert Report.” Bayer is co-producing the storytelling event with Ari Daniel, who has reported for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and “Weekend Edition.” Daniel earned a Ph.D. in biological oceanography at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Scheduled storytellers also include Jeffrey M. Schell, associate professor of oceanography with Sea Education Association; Meredith White, postdoctoral researcher at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences; and Nick Bennett, an environmental advocate. Tickets may be purchased online at eventbrite.com. The theater is at 14 Maine St., Mill 3 at Fort Andross, in Brunswick.
The Maine Autism Institute for Research and Education at the University of Maine was mentioned in the Bangor Daily News article, “Parents, teachers work to educate rising number of Maine kids diagnosed with autism.” The institute, which opened in January 2014, was created by UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development and the Maine Department of Education. It will offer professional development sessions to give teachers and education technicians specific training in how to work with children who have autism. “Maine definitely has too few professionals and education technicians to work with children with [autism spectrum disorder],” said Deborah Rooks-Ellis, director of institute. She added all students on the autism spectrum need teachers who are trained to work with their seemingly atypical behaviors.
The Bangor Daily News and WABI (Channel 5) reported on the passing of Sandra Hardy, an associate professor of theatre at the University of Maine. Hardy unexpectedly passed away June 19 in Connecticut. She was 76. In her 26-year career at UMaine, Hardy taught acting and literature of the theatre, as well as drama in education. “I am lucky to have had the privilege of standing alongside a person who was so skilled at her craft,” said Danny Williams, executive director of the Collins Center for the Arts whose first show with Hardy was “Pump Boys and Dinettes” in 1997. “She forced you to look inside yourself and find your true self,” he told the BDN. Hardy’s obituary is online.
Maine Magazine named George Kinghorn, director and curator of the University of Maine Museum of Art, one of the “50 Mainers Shaping our State” in the publication’s July feature article. People in the article were described by the magazine as “those who are moving Maine forward through their innovative business practices, commitment to purpose-driven education, lifelong support of the arts, and groundbreaking medical research. Kinghorn spoke about updates to the museum, his desire to make it “more dynamic, warm and accessible,” and its contribution to the growth of arts in the region. “Bangor is experiencing a renaissance,” Kinghorn said.
The Bangor Daily News article, “UMaine researchers helping coastal communities weather the storms,” focused on a study being conducted by a team of UMaine researchers who are seeking to figure out the effects of climate change on coastal communities. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative. According to the article, the team worked with people from Lincolnville and Ellsworth over 18 months to develop plans to deal with overtapped culverts. The communities were selected as models to generate information that hopefully will have broader applications around the coast. “Culverts are the backbone of infrastructure. They’re super important to communities. When they fail, it can be very expensive and disastrous for homeowners or for businesses, or for people traveling on that road. People have lost their lives,” said team member Esperanza Stancioff, an associate extension professor at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant.
The Portland Press Herald reported on the “Albers & Heirs” exhibit presented by the University of Maine Department of Art. The exhibit showcases the work of artist, educator and color theorist Josef Albers and two of his students, globally recognized artists Neil Welliver and Jane Davis Doggett. The show runs through July 18 in the Lord Hall Gallery on campus.
Research by Marie Hayes, a University of Maine psychology professor, was cited in an NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Notes article, titled “Gene variations reduce opioid risks.” The article sites findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2013 about a study conducted by Hayes and recent UMaine doctoral student Jonathan Paul, in collaboration with Dr. Mark Brown at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and colleagues at Tufts Medical Center. The study found that in substance-exposed newborns, identification of the gene variations associated with risk of opioid addiction could aid the treatment of their withdrawal symptoms in the critical hours after birth.
John Jemison, a soil and water quality specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was featured in the latest installment of the “Backyard Gardener” series on WVII (Channel 7). Jemison spoke about the importance of warm soil for vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash and cucumbers. He said laying out a roll of black plastic can heat the ground and minimize weeds. Jemison also demonstrated how to plant beans.
The University of Maine’s Director of Athletics Karlton Creech and Ryan Taylor, UMaine’s head athletic trainer, were quoted in a Portland Press Herald article about who should pay the medical costs when a college athlete gets injured. According to the article, UMaine is the only school in the state that offers athletic scholarships and it has a staff of six certified athletic trainers and a student assistant to offer free preventive care, treatment for existing injuries or referrals to off-campus physicians to student-athletes.
About 70 high school students and teachers from Portland, Bangor, Auburn and local Native American communities will gather at the University of Maine for a five-day UMaine Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) Institute.
UMaine scientists and students, city water planners, and representatives from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and businesses including Woodard & Curran and IDEXX will also take part in the institute that runs from Monday, June 23 through Friday, June 27.
The SMART Institute aims to engage a diverse group of students and teachers in training for the implementation of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) core values in their schools while addressing an important environmental issue.
The institute is supported by a more than $735,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to empower female and minority high school students, their teachers and communities to create innovative solutions to the environmental problems related to stormwater management.
Throughout the conference, students will talk part in hands-on projects led by STEM professionals in areas such as engineering design, science, computer modeling and information technology to monitor and map water quality. Participants will tour UMaine labs and stormwater areas on campus, hear from guest speakers, and learn how to use wireless sensors to test water, as well as collect, enter and analyze data.
The institute will cap off with a field trip to the Arctic Brook watershed area in Bangor where students will install the wireless sensors they built and collect data as citizen scientists. An awards ceremony will be held on campus before students depart.
The University of Maine BioMediaLab will be spotlighted in a promotional video filmed by one of the lab’s software providers.
The BioMediaLab, an advanced technology-centric science new media lab in Murray Hall, recently started using Wowza, a versatile media streaming server that efficiently allows students access to online course video, prompting Wowza Media Systems to film a promotional video that spotlights the lab’s work.
“Brian Ellis, Wowza’s customer success manager, contacted me about our purchase. He mentioned he received a B.S. in mechanical engineering in 2003 from UMaine and was interested in what the lab was doing with their software,” says BioMediaLab Director Ron Kozlowski. “(The marketing film) is a mutual thing; we’re both promoting each other.”
A cutting-edge technology environment, the BioMediaLab’s main focus is Synapse, a content learning management system. UMaine science faculty in fields use the system to create a collaborative learning environment. Media such as videos, audio, slide shows, PDFs and other course material can be added to its courses. Wowza and Synapse allow easier streaming of video to numerous devices, no matter the file format.
Staffed by three full-time professionals, the lab services thousands of first- and second-year UMaine students across 24 courses.
“The purpose of the lab is to enhance research through technology,” says Kozlowski, a Synapse engineer and the BioMediaLab director for 10 years.