Students in the Spotlight
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.
Posted July 8, 2013
UMaine graduate students are tutoring local area high school students with great results. Nathan Dee and Mary Butler, both students at Bangor High, have won awards for their work: Dee won the Maine 2013 Stockholm Junior Water Prize and will compete in the national competition in Portland, Oregon, while Butler won the state science fair to go on to the national INTEL competition in Phoenix, Arizona. Dee was tutored by doctoral student in chemistry James Killarney and Butler was tutored by doctoral student in chemical engineering Finley Richmond. The connection between UMaine and the Bangor High science department came about largely due to the influence of science teacher Cary James, UMaine alumnus from the Master of Science in Botany and Plant Pathology program. His work building relationships at the University has led to many graduate students working with high school students on projects. The goals, according to James, are primarily to get high school students excited about research and to allow them to have access to the labs and equipment at UMaine. “So many of the professors and students have been instrumental in this process, have been willing to help out, and really make a difference for my students.”
Most of the projects the students work on together have a focus on water conservation and sanitation with the aim to get high school students interested in research that could improve quality of life conditions for people in poverty or disaster situations. Richmond explained the role he played in tutoring Butler’s research as helping her decide what equipment to use, training her on the equipment, answering questions, and monitoring safe use of the equipment at all times. Additionally, he “helps students interpret their results and guides them on the next steps.” Killarney worked with Dee as part of a NASA funded MERITS program that is a development program for exceptional high school students. He said, “The goal of the program and of our lab is to take these gifted students and give them the tools and experience necessary to advance them into future leaders in their chosen field. My role was as a mentor. My job was to guide him so he could study his research question and really understand the process of basic research.” Dee will be listed as a co-author on a paper the lab is submitting to Environmental Science and Chemistry about measuring the interaction of pharmaceutical pollutants with natural organic matter in water.
Posted July 2, 2013
University of Maine graduate students have been assisting the Maine Governor’s STEM Council to create a comprehensive strategy to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives through an effort funded by UMaine’s Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. Laura Millay, a student in the master of science in teaching program through the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, or RiSE Center, and Johanna Barrett, a research fellow at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and student in the master of arts program in economics and international environmental policy, are providing information and resources to the council on how to create a strategic plan and data dashboard. Daniel Laverty, a science teacher at Mattanawcook Junior High School in Lincoln who is also a master of science in teaching student through the RiSE Center, assisted in the initial gathering and presentation of data.
In the summer of 2012, Millay, Barrett and Laverty researched STEM initiatives and strategies used to promote them in states that are comparable to Maine. Millay, Barrett and Laverty presented last summer’s findings to the STEM Council during a daylong workshop. Currently, the state does not have a comprehensive strategy for STEM initiatives. Millay and Barrett hope the information they provide can help the council create a road map for where they are headed. They are working on a mock-up of a data dashboard they plan to present to the council this summer. Creating a dashboard connects to the concept of data-driven decision making, or using data to inform policy, Millay says.
Millay and Barrett are researching data on students, workforce, achievement, interest and teaching practices. They intend to learn what information is and isn’t available and what would be useful in crafting policy. By looking at other states, they also plan to determine the best way to use, present and make publicly available the findings.
For more information on their work, please go here.
Posted June 25, 2013
University of Maine Communication Sciences and Disorders students are participating in one of the first nationwide speech therapy telepractice training programs. The technology and training allow students and practitioners to provide speech therapy services to underserved children and adults in rural areas. The program was developed by Associate Professor Judy Walker in conjunction with the Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast and requires that participants have access to a computer, webcam, and the internet. Only a few programs in the country offer speech therapy telepractice training at the college level. Taylor Rodgers, Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders student, was one of the students in the first class and as a result was able to provide speech therapy from Orono to a woman in southern Maine. She said of the program, "UMaine is one of the first programs to offer this kind of training at the graduate level and also allows students to implement that training and work directly with clients. Telepractice challenges clinicians to make their own materials that are tailored to the client. In my experience, this increases each client's motivation because therapy is tailored to their life and what is meaningful to them. Through telepractice, we can reach clients who may not have access to these services in their community due to their rural location. The ability of the technology to allow for more frequent therapy sessions helps clients progress significantly faster." For more information on the program, please see the Bangor Daily News article here.