University of Maine News
Mick Peterson, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, was mentioned in the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary article, “Do what is best for the horse: Drug testing, doping agents, racing surfaces, and more.” Peterson was cited for his research on racetrack surfaces to reduce horse injuries. Peterson said that while tracks are only one factor, they can improve safety and build confidence in racing, according to the article. “Peterson and his colleagues have applied significant advances in the science of racing surface management and the tools for tracking the condition of a racing surface, be it synthetic, turf or dirt,” the article states.
The Bangor Daily News published the opinion piece, “The Kon-Tiki man at 100 — and his kindred spirits in Maine,” by Dan Sandweiss, a professor of anthropology and quaternary and climate studies at the University of Maine.
The Bangor Daily News, WABI (Channel 5) and WVII (Channel 7) covered Gov. Paul LePage’s visit to the University of Maine. The Republican governor, who is campaigning for re-election, spoke on the steps of UMaine’s Fogler Library with a group of about 20 students standing behind him. He shared two ideas for programs he said would reduce student debt and would encourage graduates to stay in Maine, according to the BDN. UMaine junior Lee Jackson introduced LePage, calling him a friend and mentor. The Sun Journal also carried the BDN report.
The Bangor Daily News published an article about University of Maine graduate student Travis Blackmer and his study on pay-as-you-throw programs in Maine. In the program, households must purchase special trash bags for a fee, otherwise their waste is not collected by the town, according to Blackmer. “The purpose of this research is to provide insight into how citizens in Maine view pay-as-you-throw programs, including their behavioral changes in response to this program being implemented at the town level,” Blackmer told the BDN.
Nearly 700 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students and their teachers from 13 area schools will take part in the 2014 Northern Maine Children’s Water Festival at the University of Maine from 9:30 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Students will spend the day at the New Balance Field House learning about clean water, wetland ecosystems and the importance of stewarding Maine’s most rapidly renewable resource.
Activities include a quiz show on water issues; classroom activities led by some of the state’s leading environmental educators; a stage show presented by Tanglewood 4-H Camp & Learning Center; and a tour of the exhibit hall that will contain interactive displays explaining topics such as what makes soil healthy, how pollution gets into water, and how to find leaky pipes.
The Northern Maine Children’s Water Festival is organized through a partnership of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s 4-H; Maine Sea Grant; UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions; Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Maine Drinking Water Program; as well as other agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Participating schools include Hichborn Middle School in Howland, Dr. Lewis S. Libby School in Milford, Hermon Middle School, Brewer Community School, Glenburn Elementary School, Union Elementary School, Fort Fairfield Middle School, Enfield Station School, Surry Elementary School, Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School, All Saints Catholic School in Bangor, Sedgwick Elementary School and George B. Weatherbee School in Hampden.
The Associated Press reported that Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King announced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is giving nearly $500,000 to the Maine Sea Grant Program at the University of Maine. The money will be used to help coastal communities protect themselves against the challenges caused by climate change, according to the article. The funding is part of a larger $15.9 million announcement that will support more than 300 projects nationwide, the article states. Designated as a Sea Grant College, the University of Maine is one of 33 NOAA Sea Grant Programs throughout the coastal and Great Lakes states. Maine Public Broadcasting Network, WABI (Channel 5), The Republic, WLBZ (Channel 2) and Portland Press Herald carried the AP report.
The St. John Valley Times reported John Rebar, executive director of the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension, will present an informational session on Question 2 of the November ballot as part of the University of Maine at Fort Kent Board of Visitors’ Business Breakfast Series on Oct. 15. The bond would give $8 million to UMaine Extension to build a new animal and plant disease and insect control laboratory. WVII (Channel 7) also carried a report on the bond question and interviewed Jim Dill, a pest management specialist with UMaine Extension. Dill said the facility would be a resource that a large percentage of Mainers would use for services such as tick-borne disease monitoring.
Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for the report, “New poll indicates gains for Cutler, LePage in Maine governor’s race.” Brewer spoke about the latest polls and some possible race outcomes. “I’ve thought all along that if it were a Michaud-LePage, or for that matter a Cutler-LePage, that LePage would be on the short end of the stick by a relatively substantial margin and he’s not — at least according to this poll,” he said.
Phys.org published a University of Maine article on research by marine scientist Nathan Briggs. Briggs is studying the movement of carbon dioxide into the deep ocean to improve climate projections and understanding of deep-sea ecosystems. He begins a two-year postdoctoral fellowship research project in France that’s funded, in part, by a $194,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). He will collaborate with Hervé Claustre, a senior scientist at Laboratoire d’Oceanographie de Villefranche (LOV) on the Mediterranean Sea.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering its annual sheep and goat seminar from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at Kennebec Valley Community College, 92 Western Ave., Fairfield.
The seminar will focus on animal health and strive to equip producers with skills and knowledge to keep their animals healthy and productive. Topics will include prevention and detection of common diseases, health-related tools and a program used to eradicate Scrapie, a degenerative disease that attacks the central nervous system of sheep and goats. Scheduled instructors are Richard Brzozowski, Anne Lichtenwalner and James Weber.
The fee of $35 per person includes lunch and materials. More information and registration are online. To request a disability accommodation, call 207.781.6099, 800.287.1471 (in Maine).
Announcements of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry honored three recipients and cited other researchers involved in similar pioneering research, including UMaine physicist Sam Hess. Eric Betzig of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry, and William Moerner of Stanford were awarded the $1.1 million Nobel Prize for development of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. The technology, called photoactived localization microscopy (PALM), provides nanoscale views of the molecule. It was developed in 2006. That same year, similar methods were independently developed by Hess (fluorescence PALM or fPALM) and Xiaowei Zhuang of Harvard University (stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy or STORM). Stories about the award-winning research are online, including the announcement from HHMI.
The Bangor Daily News reported members of University of Maine football team and head coach Jack Cosgrove participated in a send off of a Hudson Museum artifact to Seattle’s Burke Museum. The native mask may be the inspiration of the original team logo for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. The wooden Northwest Coast transformation mask depicts a bird of prey when closed and reveals a painted depiction of a human face when opened. The artifact is part of the William P. Palmer III collection and will be on temporary display in Seattle, according to the article.
The Bangor Daily News reported on a University of Maine talk given by environmentalist and author Bill McKibben. McKibben’s lecture, “Making a life on a tough new planet,” was hosted by the UMaine Honors College as part of its Honors Read program. The 2014–2015 Honors Read is McKibben’s book, “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.” He spoke about the importance of coming together to make a difference against climate change. “I can’t promise you that we’re going to win, but I can promise you that we’re going to fight,” McKibben said. “This is by far the biggest problem that humans have ever stumbled into.”
Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel published an opinion piece by Howard Segal, a history professor at the University of Maine. “Rest assured, traditional liberal arts education is alive and well at Colby,” was posted on centralmaine.com.
WLBZ (Channel 2) was one of three news stations to report the University of Maine’s Onward program will no longer accept new students. The program is designed to help students who otherwise might not be able to get into college whether it is due to financial hardships, struggles finishing high school, or other barriers, according to the report. Current Onward students will not be affected by the closing of the program. The university is ending the program after the 2014–15 academic year due to a combination of factors, including the opportunity to meet critical teaching and advising needs in two academic colleges. Current Onward faculty will be reassigned to those units.
Kenneth Palmer, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Governing magazine article that looks at why there aren’t more female governors. In some states, like Maine, Congress is a more attractive office to run for than governor, according to the article. Maine’s small size and powerful state legislature “make it possible for strong women candidates to move directly from the legislature to the Congress, with the governorship less relevant as a career route,” Palmer said.
A University of Maine graduate student who is studying the effects of diet on the eating quality of fresh green sea urchin roe (uni) is seeking participants for a taste test that will take place Thursday, Oct. 16 in Hitchner Hall’s Sensory Evaluation Center.
Volunteers who evaluate all four samples will receive $10. Sessions last no longer than 30 minutes, and appointments are required.
Participants must be at least 18 years of age and eat uni at least twice a year. Those who do not eat uni; are allergic to uni, eggs or other seafood; or do not want to eat raw seafood are asked not to participate.
For more information, or to make an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207.581.1733.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering a workshop for those interested in starting a small specialty or value-added food business from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Oct. 23, at the UMaine Extension Penobscot County Office, 307 Maine Ave., Bangor.
Workshop topics include personal goals, key business concepts, product development and licensing. Scheduled presenters are Extension faculty Louis Bassano, small business educator; Beth Calder, food science specialist; and Jim McConnon, business and economic specialist.
Cost for the workshop is $15. To register or request a disability accommodation, call 207.942.7396 or 800.287.1485 (in Maine). More information is available online.
Studying the movement of carbon dioxide into the deep ocean to improve climate projections and understanding of deep-sea ecosystems will be the focus of a two-year research project by a University of Maine marine scientist.
Feb. 1, Nathan Briggs begins a two-year postdoctoral fellowship research project in France that’s funded, in part, by a $194,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). He will collaborate with Hervé Claustre, a senior scientist at Laboratoire d’Oceanographie de Villefranche (LOV) on the Mediterranean Sea.
Climate change may alter patterns of carbon movement in the mesopelagic ocean layer (depths ranging from about 300 feet to 3,000 feet), Briggs says. And the change in patterns could result in climate feedbacks (magnification or lessening of the change) and/or threaten deep ecosystems.
The mesopelagic layer, sometimes called the twilight zone because the light that penetrates to this depth is so faint, plays an important role in the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, he says.
Carbon dioxide that reaches the bottom of this zone remains trapped in the ocean for hundreds to thousands of years.
Briggs’ research will focus on “marine snow” — clumps of organic matter that form in the surface ocean and drift through the twilight zone like falling snowflakes, taking carbon with them.
The 10-day or so journey through the twilight zone is a dangerous one for a marine snow particles, Briggs says. They are a major food source for giant squid and other creatures, — some of which are bioluminescent — in the twilight zone, which is too dark to produce its own food.
The amount of marine snow that makes it through and the amount of carbon dioxide trapped in the deep ocean depend on the sinking speed of marine snow, as well as its “palatability,” and the population of consumers waiting for a meal to sink from above, he says.
Briggs became interested in marine snow during a 2008 research cruise south of Iceland led by his UMaine graduate adviser, Mary Jane Perry.
Researchers deployed low-power underwater robots to explore the twilight zone. The robots carried particle sensors designed to detect concentrations of microscopic plankton.
The researchers observed a large bloom of microscopic algae at the surface and suddenly the particle sensors in the twilight zone appeared to go haywire, periodically jumping to abnormally high readings, then immediately returning to normal, Briggs says.
While some scientists initially thought the instruments were malfunctioning, Briggs says Perry suspected the abnormal readings were caused by marine snow particles, which are hundreds of times larger than the microscopic particles that the sensors were designed to measure.
Perry tasked Briggs with further investigation. In 2010, he was awarded a fellowship from NASA and later he received a UMaine doctoral research fellowship to develop and test methods for using underwater robots to measure marine snow.
The work paid off. With Perry and other collaborators at UMaine and the University of Washington, Briggs demonstrated the high particle readings in 2008 were indeed caused by marine snow. And he used the readings to estimate how much carbon the marine snow carried to the deep ocean.
In his new position, Briggs will use the techniques he developed at UMaine to track marine snow on a much larger scale.
Briggs, whom the NSF refers to as a promising scientist, will conduct the two-year research project with Claustre, who operates a fleet of more than 50 underwater robots deployed across the North Atlantic Ocean (one is 800 miles off the Maine coast), the Mediterranean Sea and the Southern Ocean that circles Antarctica.
Briggs says the robots are producing the richest dataset in the world for scaling up his robotic analysis of marine snow, and he’s thrilled to be joining Claustre’s team.
The feeling is mutual. Claustre says Briggs, “will bring valuable experience in analyzing large, bio-optical datasets acquired by autonomous platforms, including the specific, innovative methods he has developed…” to the French team.
Information gleaned from Briggs’ research will inform future sampling strategies. As the robotic fleets of Claustre and others expand to form a permanent, global network, this research will be the start of a global, on-site record of marine snow in the underexplored twilight zone.
The research project, titled “Tracking mesopelagic carbon flux and particle size on a multi-ocean scale using a fleet of bio-optical profiling floats,” was submitted to the Ocean Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship program.
Funding from the Office of International and Integrative Activities also supports the award.
Contact: Beth Staples: 207.581.3777
When planning a trip, travelers often consider their destinations’ peak tourist seasons and weather.
Rhian Waller schedules her voyages around whale migration, glacial melting and ocean clarity.
This spring, the associate research professor in the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences will be chief scientist on an expedition to explore, map and survey underwater habitats and ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (GBNP) in Alaska.
Waller has been awarded $897,504 for the collaborative project with the U.S. National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), University of Connecticut (UConn), University of Hawaii and Rutgers University.
Waller, a Fellow in the international Explorers Club that encourages scientific discovery while exploring land, sea and space, will examine deep ecosystems in some of the as-of-yet-unexplored remote fjords facing the outer Gulf of Alaska within the GBNP park boundaries.
The park’s unique fjord region has complex geological formations that provide a diverse array of marine habitats, says Waller. And what the divers and ROV learn will inform the National Park Service’s marine resource management decisions.
Cold-water corals are ecosystem engineers — they form important habitats and create sanctuaries to support diverse wildlife, she says. Cold-water corals were discovered in the park at scuba-diving depths just a few years ago, but Waller says the biology at the bottom of the deep fjords is virtually unknown.
GBNP’s fjords have been protected since 1925 when the park was created. In 1999, Congress mandated commercial fisheries closures, thereby creating a network of protected areas within the 3.3 million-acre park.
“What is exciting about this research is the potential to find ‘unharmed’ cold-water corals. Almost everywhere we go we see some human influence on the cold-water coral ecosystems we discover, yet here the communities have had 90 years of protection,” Waller says.
“The other exciting part is the applicability to the National Park Service, and its mission of educating the public about the world around us. I’m really looking forward to this large collaboration.”
The researchers will utilize a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and will scuba dive to collect data and samples.
Waller has pressed the limits of diving during more than 40 expeditions around the planet. In a submersible, she once plunged to a depth of 3,600 meters for corals on the New England Seamount chain in 2005.
She frequently scuba dives in temperatures of 35 degrees Fahrenheit and below in the name of science. The celebrated ice water diver was featured in National Geographic Magazine in 2013 as a 21st-century risk taker in the “New Age of Exploration.” So diving in Alaska in March shouldn’t be a problem.
This past summer, she took part in an illuminating 15-day, 21-dive deep-sea coral cruise in the Gulf of Maine aboard the 76-foot research vessel Connecticut.
The $413,562 research project was a collaboration between UMaine, UConn and NOAA. Researchers used the ROV Kraken 2 to explore the Jordan Basin, Schoodic Ridges, northern Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and western Wilkinson Basin.
In the Schoodic Ridges region, scientists were thrilled and amazed to see 40-foot-tall, dense hanging gardens of Primnoa coral at a depth of 656 feet.
“The coral gardens were spectacular,” Waller says. “We knew corals were in these areas from a cruise last year, but to see them in such high densities, covering 30-foot-high walls, was an unexpected and thrilling find.”
During the dive, the researchers collected 134 samples of corals as well as sponges, fishes and other marine life for analysis.
The Schoodic Ridges coral ecosystem, Waller says, likely attracts pollock and herring, which then attract larger prey fish.
For about a century, Waller says fishermen have captured corals along with fish in their gear in the Gulf of Maine. This research, she says, illustrates how much more there is to learn about the ecosystem, which can lead to better conservation and management of its natural resources.
For two years, Waller and UMaine graduate student Steven Auscavitch have worked in the Gulf of Maine as part of a larger deep-sea coral research program funded by NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program.
Contact: Beth Staples: 207.581.3777