Students in the Spotlight

  • Sonja Birthisel, Master of Science in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Receives Grant from Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station

    Posted October 15, 2013

    Sonja Birthisel studies how both weeds and weed seed predators affect farming in Maine. A Master student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Birthisel works under UMaine’s School of Food and Agriculture to study how local environments influence weed seed predators and the activity and density of particular species. Using a 10 acre organic farm in Dixmont, Maine Birthisel established a 20 meter grid and conducted pitfall trapping to characterize the invertebrate community, and seed feeding assays, with and without invertebrate exclosures. Her results show that habitat features such as vegetative cover and presence of key plant species are more important regulators of seed predation than spatial orientation. Her work led to the development of a method to measure second-order predation of invertebrate seed predators, and to conducting work investigating the effect foodweb dynamics may play in regulating seed predation. This work led to a grant from Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station. Sonja’s results have also been accepted into the publication Biological Control and she has presented her research at the national meetings of the Ecological Society of America and the Weed Science Society of America.

  • Ph. D. Student in Ecology and Environmental Science Participates in Major Study on Impact of Hurricane Sandy

    Posted on September 25, 2013

    Maureen Correll, Ph.D student and IGERT fellow, was involved in a ten-state wide study under the National Science Foundation’s Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research program to assess Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of bird communities in coastal marshes. IGERT is the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship of the National Science Foundation; UMaine’s latest IGERT program is the first of its kind to focus specifically on adaptation to abrupt climate change. Correll’s role in the NSF study, which extended from Maine to Virginia, was coordinating data collection from New York to Maine from 2011 to 2013. For her dissertation, Correll will be taking a look at the change in bird communities both within and outside of Sandy's impact zone. She will work with a large historical survey database covering the same ten-state study area as the current study, but will include some data dating back to the early 1990s as well. Correll said of her work, “I am interested to see how the short-term community change caused by Sandy compares to longer-term change we detect in these bird communities. Do extreme storm events such as Sandy incite community change similar to slower, gradual change occurring over longer timescales? The larger goals of both my dissertation research and my collaborative research program are to inform conservation goals and support management decision-making at local, state and national levels.

    For more information on the NSF study in which Correll participated, please go here. For more information on Correll’s dissertation and research, check out her website.

  • IPh.D. in Communication Candidate Bridie McGreavy Selected to Participate in Doctoral Honors Seminar of the National Communication Association

    Posted September 12, 2013

    University of Maine graduate student Bridie McGreavy was one of 29 doctoral students nationwide who were selected to participate in this year’s Doctoral Honors Seminar of the National Communication Association, July 18–21 in Bar Harbor. For more than three decades, the seminar has brought together the top Ph.D. students and faculty to discuss current topics in communication. The National Communication Association is the largest professional communication organization in the United States. UMaine has had an interdisciplinary doctoral program in communication since 2007. McGreavy is pursuing an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in communication. She is a research fellow with Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), where her work as a member of the KnowledgeAction team focuses on resilience from multiple perspectives. She also studies collaboration in interdisciplinary partnerships. McGreavy said of the experience, “Participating in the National Communication Association’s Doctoral Honors Seminar was one of the most significant experiences in my doctoral program. This was a unique opportunity to advance a chapter of my dissertation and to meet early-career scholars in my field. The seminar provided me with an enhanced focus and sense of clarity about my work, as faculty mentors and fellow students in my session gave supportive and helpful insights for how to strengthen my writing.” McGreavy’s doctoral work seeks to understand on how communication, as a field of study, offers insights into the processes of sustainability and resilience. McGreavy described her research as focusing on, “the concept of resilience, which I approach through three different research projects: interdisciplinary and community partnerships; conservation action planning; and, as a discourse, a system of rules that produce particular ideas about what resilience is and what it is not.” McGreavy has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with the New England Sustainability Consortium (NEST), a collaborative effort led by UMaine and the University of New Hampshire in collaboration with many other academic, governmental and nongovernmental institutions.

  • Wildlife Ecology Doctoral Student, Kristine Hoffman, is the Focus of Television Broadcast

    Posted September 9, 2013

    Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) and Wildlife Ecology doctoral student Kristine Hoffman was featured recently in a news broadcast on Bangor TV stations Fox 22 and ABC 7. The UMaine student is studying researching the breeding ecology, habitat selection and life histories of the blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale), including the distance they emigrate from vernal pools. The broadcast featured highlights from Kristine’s research focusing on the conservation and habitat of the salamander. In recent years, vernal pools have become a topic of discussion and concern due to a worldwide decline of amphibians, some of which breed in the vernal pool in which they were born. Hoffmann says data from her research may inform proposed legislation about zones of consultation in Maine. As Hoffman’s research continues, she will investigate research a new type of blue-spotted salamander to see what effects genotype (different genetic compositions), female body size and environmental factors have on egg mass structure and fertility. Additionally, she will examine which environmental factors — pond depth, canopy density, distance to roads and presence of other breeders in the pool — impact breeding site selection. And she’ll explore whether juvenile habitat choice differs between the genotypes. Kristine is a member of SSI’s Protecting Natural Resources at the Community Scale project. For more information, check out the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s feature on Hoffman here.