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University of Maine News
News from the University of Maine
Updated: 18 hours 12 min ago
MaineBiz reported that the company Revolution Research Inc. — founded by UMaine graduates Nadir Yildirim and Alex Chasse — is receiving a $225,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for the development of a new environmentally friendly foam board insulation product.
University of Maine director of athletics Karlton Creech said in an article in the Bangor Daily News that it is unlikely that the athletic department will be able to provide cost-of-attendance funds to student-athletes. At UMaine, the calculated cost-of-attendance number after scholarship expenses is $2,400.
Creech estimated that if about 200 of UMaine’s 400 athletes are receiving some form of scholarship, it would cost the department an estimated $480,000 for 2015–16.
“There’s no way, right now, that I have a way of affording that for everybody,” he said.
The State Department has chosen Portland to host an international forum on the Arctic next year, reports the Portland Press Herald. This will be the first time a meeting in the United States will be held outside of Alaska.
Approximately 250 delegates are expected to attend the forum including scientists, business leaders and senior government officials from eight Arctic nations.
Gordon Hamilton, a professor at the Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences at the University of Maine, says the meeting presents an opportunity for scientist to share their expertise.
Pctonline.com picked up a University of Maine release about a group of researchers testing pathogenic fungi as a way to manage invasive fire ants spreading through Maine.
The Bangor Daily News reported that Anna Helper, with the help of a few volunteers, dropped her floating sculpture off a footbridge into the Kenduskeag Stream behind the University of Maine Museum of art.
Hepler’s solo exhibit “Blind Spot” — featuring more than 25 sculptures and two-dimensional artworks — is scheduled to open June 19 at the University of Maine Museum of Art, according to museum director and curator George Kinghorn.
Hepler said she hopes to move the floating sculpture elsewhere in Maine once her exhibit closes Sept. 19.
UMaine Composites Center Awarded $77.4 Million for Research and Development of New Blast-resistant Material
According to an article in the Portland Press Herald, The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $1 billion toward the construction of an additional DDG-51 destroyer, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced Thursday. If the funding bill becomes law, the additional destroyer would likely be built at Bath Iron Works.
The defense appropriations bill will also provide $77.4 million for the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center to research and develop blast-resistant materials.
Increased funding for defense purchases, including $7.27 million for the construction of a Secure Hybrid Composite Container and the creation of a pilot production line in the United States. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the Composites Center has developed a shipping container in response to secure shipping guidelines.
Revolution Research Inc., an Orono-based company founded by UMaine graduates Nadir Yildirim and Alex Chasse, will receive $225,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to create a prototype for the first 100 percent eco-friendly thermal insulation foam board, reported in an article in the Portland Press Herald. The award will allow the team to rent space and buy equipment for their own laboratory.
Chase, who graduated from UMaine in 2013 with a degree in civil engineering, is working as a researcher at the university’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The company — founded last year — won the UMaine Business Challenge, and a $5,000 award for their business plan.
Yildirim credited the UMaine Foster Center for Student Innovation for the skills he learned that enabled him to be an entrepreneur.
“They taught me not to fear and how to feel the passion. The passion is the strongest part,” he said. “You should believe in what you’re doing, focus on it. No fear. Otherwise, you will get stuck at some point. You need to trust in yourself 100 percent.”
An event on June 16 at the Lithgow Public Library will feature Kate McCarty, master food preserver for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Centralmaine.com reports. The free workshop will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the program room of Lithgow’s temporary quarters at the Ballard Center, 6 East Chestnut St. and will give participants tips on garden planning and optimal canning techniques.
McCarty manages 40 volunteer educators through UMaine Extension, teaches canning classes, maintains a food blog and authored the book “Portland Food: The Culinary Capital of Maine.”
For more information, call Lithgow Library at 207.626.2415 or visit lithgow.lib.me.us.
A University of Maine researcher, a doctoral student and an undergraduate are at Wind Cave National Park in Hot Springs, South Dakota excavating cave fossils that date back 11,000 years to the end of the most recent ice age.
Scientists say preliminary samples from the material — which includes at least 22 species — will help them understand how the region, including climate, has changed.
The UMaine contingent includes Jacquelyn Gill, assistant professor of paleoecology and plant ecology; Jeff Martin, a Ph.D. student affiliated with Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT); and Chason Frost, an undergraduate.
The UMaine trio has partnered with the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs for the project centered around a cave that is 27 feet long and less than two feet high.
“What’s really cool about the cave is that it includes these animals that are both extinct and animals that are survivors of the Ice Age,” Gill told the Rapid City Journal as she sifted through fossilized teeth, vertebrae and rib bones the size of fingernail clippings.
“When you can put all these different pieces of ecosystem together it basically gives you a sense of how an environment changes as the climate changes.”
Gill is working with plant fossils and Martin is interested in bison fossils.
Marc Ohms, a physical science technician at the park, discovered Persistence Cave, as it has been dubbed, in spring 2004; its presence was kept a secret until now so amateur explorers wouldn’t damage the material inside.
Jim Mead of East Tennessee State University is head of the crew that also will screen-wash the material and prepare it for curation.
The UMaine contingent will take part in live-tweeting sessions (twitter.com/hashtag/cavebison), in partnership with UMaine’s Follow a Researcher, at 1 p.m. EST Tuesday, June 16, and Thursday, June 18. The expedition hashtag is #cavebison.
In addition, Martin is blogging about the experience at bisonjeff.weebly.com/bisonlarge-blog.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Mark Dwyer is a staff member and graduate student.
After high school in Hampden, Maine, Dwyer enrolled in chemical engineering at the University of Maine. He quickly realized chemical engineering wasn’t a good fit and decided to leave school to pursue real-world experience.
He worked as a carpenter, a pipe welder and a night janitor, which gave him perspective, experience and hands-on skills he would eventually use to renovate his own home. Eventually, Dwyer realized that in order to have the career he wanted, he would need to return to school.
After researching possible options, he decided that a civil engineering degree would best cover all the areas he was interested in. In fall 2011 he again enrolled at UMaine.
Dwyer was familiar with the Advanced Structures and Composites Center from newspaper articles and was impressed with the center’s research. It seemed like a good fit for his skills, so he toured the facility, submitted his resume, and by his second semester, was working as an undergraduate employee.
Dwyer was recognized as the student employee of the year for UMaine and statewide for the year of 2013–14. The award reflected his exceptional performance on two sets of engineering drawings. In 2012–13, he led production of a set of engineering drawings that detailed the construction and assembly sequence of VolturnUS 1:8, the first grid-connected floating wind turbine in the Americas. In 2013–14, Dwyer led the production of another set of engineering drawings for a full-scale VolturnUS.
Though he was an undergraduate student at the time, he handled work usually reserved for full-time staff, earning the respect of center staff and students.
In May 2014, Dwyer graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and is now a full-time research engineer. He also is pursuing a master’s degree in civil engineering. Dwyer is currently investigating how steel hull designs for floating wind turbines compare to concrete hulls.
Ali Abedi, University of Maine associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, was cited in a Portland Press Herald story about radio frequency emissions from a cell tower on the Deering High School roof that will be tested after a biology teacher reported fish in a room below the tower kept dying. Abedi said radio frequency waves barely penetrate water and do not damage DNA. He said they generate heat and that hypothetically an excessively high concentration of radio waves from a cell tower could cause a burn or excessive heat. “Maybe if (the fish) spent a lot of time on the surface,” Abedi was quoted as saying, adding that conclusions cannot be reached unless experiments on the fish are done in a controlled, scientific manner. “I really doubt this is the cause of the fish dying,” he was quoted in the article.
Phys.org picked up a University of Maine release about university researchers testing pathogenic fungi as a way to manage invasive fire ants spreading throughout Maine.
University of Maine researcher Jacquelyn Gill and student Chason Frost were mentioned in a story about an excavation at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota in the Rapid City Journal. The story compared Frost to a Gold Rush-era prospector who “carefully bathed a pan full of rock and course (sic) sediment in a small pool of water to reveal the tiniest pieces of treasure” as he searched for remains of small animals that lived 11,000 years ago. The excavation project, according to the story, has revealed fossil remains of at least 22 different species recovered from a dug-out section of the cave 27 feet long and less than two feet high. “What’s really cool about the cave is that it includes these animals that are both extinct and animals that are survivors of the Ice Age,” said Jacquelyn Gill, assistant professor UMaine assistant professor of paleoecology and plant ecology, who was sifting through tiny fossilized teeth, vertebrae and rib bones. “When you can put all these different pieces of ecosystem together,” Gill was quoted as saying, “it basically gives you a sense of how an environment changes as the climate changes.”
The University of Maine was listed as one of several universities nationwide that offer free tuition to American Indian residents, in an online piece in Indian Country Today Media Network.com. In February, two Colorado senators introduced the Native American Indian Education Act; it would provide funding to states to fulfill the federal mandate that colleges and universities cover the cost of tuition for out-of-state American Indian students. The mandate was a condition under which the college or state received its original grant of land and facilities from the United States. The bill, it was reported, has 37 co-sponsors from 17 states.
The University of Maine was mentioned in a WVII (channel 7) story about Blackstone Accelerates Growth’s (BxG) newest Innovation Hubs — the York County Innovation Hub and the Lewiston Auburn Innovation Hub. Innovation Hubs are cornerstones of the BxG initiative in Maine. They’re designed to connect entrepreneurs and businesses, provide access to resources and to accelerate growth. UMaine is partner of BxG.
Steven Barkan, a criminologist and professor of sociology at the University of Maine, co-authored a column for the Bangor Daily News that refutes what has been labeled as the “Ferguson effect” — that in response to protests about policing shootings, officers in cities are less proactive, which results in a rise in urban violence. The authors refute the claim, saying crime rates fluctuate, a number of factors account for why crime rates rise and fall, and that crime in some major cities has decreased. “The recent accounts of a ‘Ferguson effect’ are not based on scientific evidence but on nothing more than lazy — at best, nefarious at worst — journalism. They smack of the old tools used to disguise racially charged arguments. In the future, such staunch claims must be backed by science, if they should be made at all,” they wrote. Barkan is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network that addresses public challenges and policy implications.
The Bangor Daily News carried a University of Maine Cooperative Extension press release announcing it would give away more than 400 cherry tomato plants as part of the One Tomato Project — “to grow healthier communities, one tomato at a time.” Tomato plants will be distributed in June at county food cupboards in Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford and Greenville; June 13 at the Black Fly Festival in Milo; and the week of June 15 at the UMaine Extension office at 165 East Main St. in Dover-Foxcroft.
Conserving nature’s stage — the physical features such as landform, soil and bedrock that contribute to species biodiversity — is the focus of a special section of the June issue of the international journal Conservation Biology that includes research by two internationally recognized scientists at the University of Maine.
The special section emphasizes the value of incorporating a variety of geophysical settings into conservation planning when managing diverse species adapting to climate change.
Malcolm Hunter, UMaine’s Libra Professor of Conservation Biology; Paul Beier of Northern Arizona University; and Mark Anderson of The Nature Conservancy are the guest editors of the journal section, which includes 10 research papers by 33 co-authors on the conservation approach known as conserving nature’s stage (CNS).
The approach provides a structure for creating conservation plans that recognize that nature is dynamic and resilient, and needs arenas for evolution.
In 2013, Hunter, Beier and Anderson led a three-day international workshop on the CNS approach to conservation management, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The result is the collection of papers now featured in the Conservation Biology special section.
The principal paper authors include Jacquelyn Gill, UMaine assistant professor of terrestrial paleoecology, writing on “A 2.5-million-year perspective on coarse-filter strategies for conserving nature’s stage.” Gill, Hunter and four other co-authors explore how geodiversity minimized the number of global extinctions caused by past episodes of climate change, despite many local extinctions. They conclude that CNS accommodates dynamic processes, including extinction, evolution, community turnover and novelty, and acknowledges changes as “intrinsic properties of the very nature we aim to conserve.”
Hunter also co-authored two of the other research papers: “Incorporating geodiversity into conservation decisions” and “Why geodiversity matters in valuing nature’s stage.”
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
University of Maine researchers are one step closer to controlling the ever-growing invasive fire ant populations, Myrmica rubra, that have been spreading throughout Maine for the last 15 years.
Due to the highly competitive and aggressive behavior of these fire ants, eradication has proven to be almost impossible. UMaine researchers are turning their attention to a different kind of control to try and combat these tiny stinging insects. Their weapon — pathogenic fungi.
“We are attempting to try and grow this newly discovered fungi in the lab in order to look at its utility for management of the ants, but it may be too difficult to reproduce which would hamper its development as a biological control mechanism. We aren’t convinced, but we are looking into it,” said Eleanor Groden, UMaine professor of biological sciences. “It has some potential.”
By encouraging the growth of the pathogenic fungi, these researchers hope to scale down the populations of invasive fire ants, which will alleviate Maine residences from the painful stings the tiny insects administer.
In an article that appeared in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, titled “Ophiocordyceps myrmicarum, a new species infecting invasive Myrmica rubra in Maine” researchers Rabern Simmons (now at the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida), Groden, Jennifer Lund and Tamara Levitsky isolated and described a newly discovered fungus which they identified as being a member of the genus Hirsutella. The fungi is the first species in this genus to be isolated from the North American European fire ant in New England, though there are two other pathogens within the genus which infect M. rubra in the United Kingdom.
The researchers suspect that the relatedness of the taxa infers that O. myrmicarum is a native of North America or a relatively recent immigrant along with the invasive European fire ant. They also hypothesize that the dramatic increase in fire ant populations over the last decade could be causing increased transmission of the fungi and could explain why we have only observed the fungi in Maine, not in European ant populations.
Ants were collected live from Acadia National Park near Breakneck Ponds, Mount Desert Island, in fall 2010 and 2011. The researchers isolated and maintained the ants in cultures in order to collect morphological data. They then used techniques such as DNA extraction, amplification, sequencing and phylogenetic analysis to determine if it was, in fact, a new species.
The researchers conducted an exposure trial in seven separate chambers, four of which were inoculated with the fungi. Of the four chambers exposed with O. myrmicarum, all individuals died within 30 days, whereas no ants in the remaining three chambers died during the same period. Once dead, the infected ants were transferred to well plates to be monitored for several weeks, during which 20 of the 73 dead ants produced the reproductive structure of the fungal pathogen.
The exotic ant species was first documented in New England in the early 1900s. According to the researchers, the native populations — ranging from Great Britain to Siberia and the Black Sea to the Arctic — remain relatively low in population density. But in New England and other various locations throughout North America, the population density is high for the invasive species.
“There are a lot of steps between what we are doing and determining if a strategy like this would be viable. But, it’s very exciting,” said Groden.
Contact: Amanda Clark, 207.581.3721
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Lund
A free open house will be hosted at the Target Technology Center on Thursday, June 11 from noon to 2 p.m., according to a Press Release from The Maine Edge. The open house will include tours of the facility, a barbecue and opportunities to meet innovators within the Target Technology Center community.
“The open house is an opportunity to have lunch with us, meet our amazing tenants and take a tour of our great facility,” says Jesse Moriarity, co-director of the TTC.
The center is a partnership of Bangor Area Target Development Corporation, the town of Orono, the University of Maine and the state of Maine.