University of Maine News
Andrew Thomas has a bird’s-eye view of the Gulf of Maine from his lab in Aubert Hall at the University of Maine in Orono.
The oceanography professor directs the University of Maine Satellite Oceanography Data Lab, which receives daily real-time high-resolution data from NASA’s meteorological satellites.
In this Sept. 27, 2014 satellite image of the Gulf of Maine, Thomas observes several points of interest, most notably the contrasting green summer foliage near the coast and to the south and the developing fall foliage in northwest regions.
He also points to cumulus clouds (concentrated white dots), cirrus clouds (white wisps) and color patterns in the ocean. At the head of the Bay of Fundy, huge tides stir considerable suspended sediment and the water appears brown. Greener ocean waters are indicative of shallow banks and phytoplankton (microscopic plants). Clearest ocean waters are blue.
The images and the collected data, including sea surface temperature and ocean chlorophyll concentrations, allow Thomas to track developing and long-term changes in the ocean, including the impact of water temperature variability on the number and distribution of fish as well as summer algae blooms.
Thomas says tools can be developed for management in the face of those changes.
The lab is part of the University of Maine Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Applications — a cross-disciplinary initiative funded by UMaine and NASA’s Earth Sciences Division).
For more information and to view additional satellite images and data, visit seasurface.umaine.edu.
The University of Maine’s College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture formalized its relationship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) by signing a memorandum of understanding Oct. 30.
Edward Ashworth, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture, and William Karp, NOAA Fisheries Northeast science and research director, met to establish a framework to formally recognize previous research collaborations and help initiate new opportunities between UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences; Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology; School of Biology and Ecology; and NOAA scientists.
The agreement lays the foundation for more collaborative research projects between the institutions as well as increased NOAA participation in graduate projects, undergraduate research internships and mentoring.
“I fully expect that this agreement will strengthen and build upon our history of successful collaboration, increase our collective understanding of the fisheries and ecosystems of the Gulf of Maine, and result in new opportunities to mentor students,” Karp says.
Members of the involved UMaine departments and NOAA Fisheries attended the document signing to discuss future opportunities that could result from the agreement.
A new cooperative undergraduate research internship program also was announced during the meeting. NOAA will fund up to five undergraduate research internships for students at UMaine to work with its staff to experience what it is like to work in the fisheries field.
The memorandum of understanding offers broad guidelines for pursuing mutual interests, and shows that NEFSC and UMaine recognize the need for enhancing research collaborations. The institutions are interested in partnerships that expand cooperation, collaboration and the exchange of ideas related to applied research in the Gulf of Maine, its watersheds and the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf.
“Enhanced collaboration between university and government science enterprises will leverage the strengths of both groups to better understand these ecosystems while training the next generation of scientists,” according to the memo.
Karp directs the NEFSC, a federal research institution. NOAA Fisheries’ mission is to ensure vital and sustainable fisheries, safe seafood, recovery and conservation of protected species, and healthy marine ecosystems. For its part, the center gathers and analyzes data and conducts research to develop ecosystem-level knowledge of marine life in waters off the Northeastern U.S. The center has facilities in Orono, Maine; Woods Hole, Massachusetts; Narragansett, Rhode Island; Milford, Connecticut; and Highlands, New Jersey.
Departments within UMaine’s College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture strive to develop scientific understanding of the Gulf of Maine and its watersheds and marine environment, to integrate and communicate knowledge through interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate studies, and to apply it toward the stewardship of the region’s living resources and its habitats.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
The Bangor Daily News reported on a march held at the University of Maine to raise awareness against domestic violence and advocate for change by educating classmates and the community. UMaine President Susan Hunter spoke at the event. She mentioned several statistics, including that almost half the homicides in Maine involve domestic violence, and mentioned campus programs that offer help. “You are not alone. We have your back. I have your back,” Hunter said. “No one in this community is alone. The UMaine community is here.” The Maine Business School hosted the march in collaboration with UMaine Athletics and the Student Women’s Association.
Hudson Museum Artifact, Possible Inspiration for NFL Team Logo Arrives in Washington, Seattle Times Reports
The Seattle Times reported an artifact from the University of Maine’s Hudson Museum that is on loan to Seattle’s Burke Museum has arrived in Washington. 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 Hudson Museum’s William P. Palmer III collection. It will be on temporary display for the public in Seattle starting in late November, according to the article.
Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, was interviewed by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for a report titled, “Cutler campaign faces collapse as supporters retreat,” about independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler. Cutler held a press conference six days before the election where he said he intends to stay in the race, but that he’s a realist and understands his chances of winning are slim. He told supporters who worry he cannot win to vote “their conscience.” Brewer said the timing of Cutler’s statements and the close race between Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud will push many of his supporters to vote for Michaud if their primary goal is to defeat the incumbent. Brewer said Cutler’s main message was, “I can’t win this race, so if you need some kind of a release from me to go ahead and change your vote — go ahead and do it.”
The University of Maine’s Department of Art is accepting scholarship applications from current high school seniors who will be applying to enter UMaine as art majors in the fall of 2015.
The Visual Arts Awards are $1,000 and $2,000 scholarships that are renewable for eight semesters and must be used within a five-year period. The awards are given based on merit and evidence or accomplishment in the study of studio art, art history or art education.
Applicants must be accepted to UMaine’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and choose an art major to receive a scholarship. Applications must be received by Jan. 28, 2015.
More information, including how to apply, is online and available by calling 207.581.3245.
The Bangor Daily News published an opinion piece written by University of Maine President Susan Hunter, titled “‘Yes’ on Question 2 is a vote for Maine’s health, safety.” Question 2 on the November ballot will ask Maine voters to approve an $8 million bond for animal and plant diagnostic services. The bond would allow the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to build a new facility on campus to house labs for the monitoring and testing of insects and pests that affect domestic and wild plants and animals in Maine. “What’s needed in Maine is a facility devoted to pest management and animal health, where public health threats can be monitored through research and diagnostics,” Hunter wrote.
WABI (Channel 5) spoke with author Stephen King and musician John Mellencamp about “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” a Southern gothic supernatural musical written by King that debuts Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine. King, a best-selling author and UMaine alumnus, teamed with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp and Grammy Award-winning T Bone Burnett to create the tale of fraternal love, lust, jealousy and revenge. King spoke about what it’s like to kick off the 2014 leg of the tour right near his hometown of Bangor. “It’s wonderful because you know, I’ve lived here going on 40 years now. It’s my hometown. It’s kind of like, come on out and see what I did because it’s almost like when you are in the first grade and your parents come to your show or something like that so, I hope everyone comes and everybody really likes,” King said. “I’m excited. Let’s put it that way.”
Jean MacRae, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Portland Press Herald article about a rotten gas smell that came from construction work under the Casco Bay Bridge and spread into downtown Portland. According to the article, the smell was most likely from mercaptan, a chemical that’s added to natural gas to make it smell. Mercaptan is harmless and dissipates quickly in the air, the article states. MacRae said the chemical is often confused with hydrogen sulfide, which smells the same but is a much stronger and more dangerous chemical. MacRae said it’s also possible the smell came from natural substances in the soil breaking down slowly until they were exposed to oxygen, but she doubts enough organic material has built up at the site for that to be likely, the article states.
WVII (Channel 7) spoke with John Rebar, executive director of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, about Question 2 on the November ballot that will ask Maine voters to approve an $8 million bond for animal and plant diagnostic services. UMaine Extension’s current facility was built in the 1940s and is not biosecure, according to the report. “Right now if you remove a tick from yourself, loved one, or a pet, we can identify the tick,” Rebar said. “There’s 14 different species in Maine of ticks, but we can’t tell you whether that tick contains microorganisms that will cause disease because we don’t have a biosecure lab in order to do that testing in.”
The University of Maine’s offshore wind project was the focus of the Real Clear Politics article, “Offshore wind power’s promising but complicated future.” The article mentioned the first successful year of VolturnUS, a prototype that’s one-eighth the scale of a full-size offshore wind turbine that was deployed off the coast of Castine. VolturnUS was created by the UMaine-led DeepCwind Consortium. Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at UMaine, spoke about the turbine’s first year. “We’ve had excellent results with the program,” he said. “The unit is essentially a floating laboratory — there are 60 sensors on it that measure the motion of the unit, stresses in the unit. We compared the data to our predictive models and it turned out very accurate.”
The University of Maine Page Farm and Home Museum will hold four wreath-making workshops in November and December.
First-time wreath-makers and seasoned professionals are all invited to make a lush, fragrant, double-sided holiday wreath with trimmings. Two sessions will be held Saturday, Nov. 29 — from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and 3–5 p.m. Sessions also will be held 5–7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2 and 6–8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4.
To register or for more information, call 207.581.4100. The fee is $18, which covers the cost of boughs, instruction and decorative trimmings.
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.