Archive for the ‘At a Glance’ Category

Helping Farmers Make Informed Soil Health Decisions Focus of Mallory’s Research

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Ellen Mallory, a sustainable agriculture specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and a professor in the School of Food and Agriculture, is leading a project that aims to help inform farmers’ decisions about adopting soil health strategies.

The yearlong project, “Building knowledge, skills and networks for soil security in Maine,” received a $44,442 grant from the University of Vermont which administers funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Protecting and improving soil on farms is critical to the long‐term productivity of agriculture in Maine, according to the researchers. However, many agriculture service providers say they are ill-equipped to help farmers and cite a lack of region‐specific information and concrete local examples of successful cover cropping, reduced tillage and rotational practices.

The project will establish teams of agricultural service to increase their ability to help farmers make informed decisions about adopting specific soil health strategies for three farm types: potato‐grain in northern Maine, dairy in central Maine, and mixed vegetable in south‐central Maine, according to the proposal.

Team members will participate in training, work with farmers on demonstration trials, and create video and written profiles of successful soil health/cover cropping practices with how‐to information that will be made available to the public on a project website, the researchers state.

Oceanographer Tracks Gulf of Maine Changes From Orono Lab

Friday, October 31st, 2014

satellite imageAndrew 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.

Three Students Receive Top Honors in Forestry, Wildlife Ecology

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Lara Katz, a senior from Arlington, Virginia majoring in wildlife ecology, with minors in anthropology and psychology, is this year’s Robert I. Ashman Scholar, the top academic award in UMaine’s forest resources and wildlife programs.

Growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., Katz began her wildlife career volunteering at the Smithsonian National Zoo where she discovered her passion for conserving wildlife and their habitats. At UMaine, she is involved in research focused on fish ecology and river restoration. Her career goals include working as a wildlife biologist and effectively communicating wildlife science to the public for sound conservation.

Also selected for recognition as top students in forest resources and wildlife as Dwight B. Demeritt Scholars are Lucas Lamond and Tabatha Hawkins.

Lamond is a senior from Brewer, Maine majoring in forest operations, bioproducts and bioenergy. He is a student employee working in the University Forests and plans to start his own business managing Maine woodlands for improved wildlife habitat.

Hawkins is a senior from Norway, Maine majoring in wildlife ecology. She also in the Honors College, conducting thesis research on the factors affecting the reintroduction success of the federally endangered tiger beetle in Nantucket. Hawkins is co-president the UMaine Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and is a student ambassador for the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology.

Upward Bound Math Science Students Selected to Attend National Conference

Friday, October 17th, 2014

In celebration of the national Upward Bound program’s 50th anniversary, three students from the University of Maine Upward Bound Math Science (UBMS) program were selected to attend the Council for Opportunity in Education’s 33rd annual conference, “Achieving College Success through Vision and Action,” and second annual student poster presentation exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Justin Chan, a 2014 graduate of Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, along with Ariana Alers and Chris Stewart, seniors at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, were three of five high school students selected across the country to present their research posters. Nineteen posters were chosen out of the 50 that were submitted by both pre-college and college-level students.

Alers and Stewart traveled to Washington, D.C. in September with Kelly Ilseman, UBMS assistant director and academic curriculum coordinator. Preparing to leave for Greece for his first semester experience through Northeastern University, Chan was not able to attend, but his research poster was displayed.

In addition to presenting their posters and research at two COE receptions, Alers and Stewart also were guests at the National TRIO Achievers’ awards banquet where they met TRIO Upward Bound alumnus John Quinones from the ABC show “What Would You Do?”

The students also met U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, Sen. Angus King and Sen. Susan Collins. As Michaud’s guests, they toured the U.S. Capitol and sat in legislative sessions.

The students’ posters were based on their six-week summer research with mentors at the UMaine UBMS program.

Chan worked with Matt Dube, a Ph.D. student in spatial information science and engineering, to complete his research on gerrymandering titled “Partitioning New England to Represent Republican Populations.”

Interning in Thane Fremouw’s neuropsychology research lab, Alers studied the “Cellular Mechanisms of Chemotherapy-Induced Cognitive Impairment.” Her research involved testing treatments to reduce severity of post-radiation cancer treatment effects known as “chemo fog.”

Stewart worked with Finley Richmond to create a biodegradable plastic in the study “Cellulose Nanofibers in the Synthesis of Bioplastics.”

An additional 32 UBMS students were mentored across campus with professors, graduate students and UBMS summer staff. The students attended from Central High School in Corinth, Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, Portland High School, Stearns High School in Millinocket, and Schenck High School in East Millinocket.

The Upward Bound Math Science Program is affiliated with the UMaine College of Education and Human Development and offers a six-week college preparatory program to first-generation college students from eight Maine high schools. The program specifically targets students who are interested in pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors and careers.

The Washington, D.C. trip was paid for by donations made to the Upward Bound Math Science Gift Account, as well as a scholarship from the College of Education and Human Development.

More information about the Upward Bound Math Science program is online.

Canadian-American Center Receives $1.4 Million as a National Resource Center on Canada

Monday, October 6th, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a four-year, $1.4 million grant to the Canadian-American Center at the University of Maine to support a National Resource Center (NRC) on Canada and provide Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for graduate students studying North American French. The Canadian-American Center will use the NRC funds to further the study of Canada and Canada-U.S. relations by supporting outreach to American K–12 teachers and faculty, faculty teaching and research, expansion of library holdings, public lectures and academic programing, and administration of the center. NRC and FLAS programs are the U.S. government’s principal means of supporting international and foreign language education at the university level. The Canadian-American Center has been a federally designated National Resource Center on Canada since 1979. It is the lead partner in a consortium with the Center for the Study of Canada, SUNY-Plattsburgh. The University of Maine is the only state institution in New England to have a National Resource Center and Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships.

USDA Northeast Climate Hub Announces New Partnership with UMaine

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

The USDA Northeast Climate Hub, a collaboration of United States Department of Agriculture agencies, has announced new partnerships with the University of Maine and 11 other land grant universities in the Northeast. The agreement will give the region’s farmers, foresters and land managers better access to information and tools for adapting to climate and weather variability, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station. Based in Durham, New Hampshire, the Northeast Climate Hub is one of seven regional hubs nationwide formed to address increasing climate and weather-related risks to agriculture, broadly defined to include farms and forests. The partnership is focused on creating a network of information sharing designed to provide stakeholders with resources to both mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the challenges of a changing climate. The universities will be active partners in developing, implementing and evaluating materials that describe how to best cope with increasing weather variability and longer-term trajectories of change in the climate system. Ivan Fernandez, professor with the School of Forest Resources, the Climate Change Institute and the School of Food and Agriculture will serve as the University of Maine’s point of contact for the Climate Hub.  The full news release is online.

University of Maine Foundation Scholarship Recognition

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

University of Maine President Susan Hunter joined University of Maine Foundation President Jeffery Mills for the University of Maine Foundation Scholarship Recognition Reception Aug. 20 in Falmouth. The reception was held to thank scholarship donors and honor recipients from southern Maine. UMaine 2014 graduate Kimberly Dao was the guest speaker. Dao spoke about her personal experiences with scholarship support and her transition to medical school at Tufts University. Gorham Savings Bank President Chris Emmons represented the Southern Maine Executives Club of the University of Maine and provided the welcome. A similar event is planned on the University of Maine campus Oct. 17 as part of Homecoming weekend.

Walker Receives Grant to Expand Speech Therapy Telepractice Program

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Judy Walker, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Maine, received a three-year $174,000 grant from Next Generation Foundation of Maine to support the expansion of an innovative graduate-level training program in speech therapy telepractice.

The UMaine Speech Therapy Telepractice program, which started in 2011, uses a secure Web-hosted video conferencing system to provide speech therapy services to adults and children anywhere and at any time through computers or other devices connected by high speed internet.

Telepractice is an efficient way to provide speech therapy services to underserved children and adults with disabilities in the state while reducing costs, Walker says.

The grant will go toward hiring additional supervisors and increasing the number of graduate students who are able to train, while providing services to more people in need of speech therapy services.

“We want to branch out and develop partnerships with community health centers, public schools and state organizations in Maine,” Walker says.

The first phase of the program was successfully completed with positive clinical outcomes, according to Walker. The program was piloted on children and adults with a variety of communication disorders including aphasia, apraxia of speech, fluency disorder, articulation and language delay and voice disorders. Telepractice services were provided to eight areas in Maine throughout Aroostook, Penobscot, Kennebec, Cumberland and York counties, as well as to a school in Fiji.

More than 90 percent of the clients made satisfactory progress toward achieving their therapy goals, Walker says. On a consumer satisfaction survey, more than 90 percent said the program met their expectations and they were satisfied with the outcomes. All of the clients said they would recommend the program to others.

“Thus far, the telepractice program has exceeded my expectations,” Walker said. “This grant will now enable us to help even more people in the state.”

The UMaine Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is one of only a few programs in the country that offers speech therapy telepractice training in a university setting, she says. The program complies with American Speech-Language-Hearing Association guidelines for demonstrating competencies and skills in speech telepractice services.

The department hopes the program will serve as a model for other CSD graduate programs, and Walker has already consulted with faculty at a North Dakota institution to build a speech therapy telepractice program of their own.

The University of Maine Speech Therapy Telepractice program is accepting new clients this fall. Telepractice is covered by many insurance plans, including MaineCare. For more information or to make an appointment, call the University of Maine, Madelyn E. & Albert D. Conley Speech, Language and Hearing Center, 207.581.2003, or visit the telepractice website.

Past, Present Hemlock Declines Focus of UMaine Research Project

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The impact that hemlock tree die-offs have had — and continue to have — on freshwater forest ecosystems is the focus of a research project at the University of Maine.

Hamish Greig, a UMaine assistant professor of stream ecology, and Jacquelyn Gill, an assistant professor of terrestrial paleoecology at the Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the School of Biology and Ecology, are leading a research team that is studying past and present declines of the conifers known for their dense shade. The resulting biomass the dying trees introduce into the watershed, as well as the other tree species that take their place on the forest floor, affect freshwater systems, including streams and lakes.

Understanding those implications is particularly important in Maine, where hemlocks are now being threatened by the same exotic pest that, in recent years, has decimated the tree species in the southeastern United States.

“People in Maine have a huge affinity to their rivers and lakes. It’s huge economically; it’s huge socially, and through recreational activities,” says Greig, who is joined on the research team by research assistant professor Krista Caps, postdoctoral scientist Robert Northington, as well as several graduate, undergraduate and high school students.

About 5,500 years ago, the hemlocks of eastern North America sustained a massive die-off that lasted about 1,000 years, brought on by severe drought and the hemlock looper, a native pest, Gill says. Today, the tree species has been nearly decimated in the southeastern United States by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect from Asia.

Maine’s cold winters typically protect against exotic pests. However, warmer temperatures have allowed exotic pests to thrive and move north. Since 2004, the hemlock woolly adelgid has been in southwestern Maine. This year, it has made it as far north as Owls Head, according to the researchers.

“As the climate warms, there won’t be anything preventing the woolly adelgid from hitting our hemlocks in Maine as hard as they’ve been hit elsewhere,” Gill says.

As part of their study, the research team has set up 36 livestock water tanks as experimental freshwater mesocosms, or isolated experimental environments. Hemlock needles, along with rhododendron and maple leaves, have been added to the ecosystems to observe what happens when a hemlock dies.

The mesocosms allow the scientists to study these isolated environments as they develop over time — in this case, into the fall.

“You can’t really control something in a natural lake,” Greig says. “And if you do experiments in the lab, you’re really simplifying things down to two or three species of invertebrates. By having this happy medium, we can have natural complexity with the controlled replication of a true experiment.”

Next, Gill and Northington will study radiocarbon-dated records from the bottom of lakes and bogs in southeastern, coastal and central Maine regions to help understand how aquatic systems were affected by hemlock die-off in the past. By linking the paleo record with a modern experiment, the team hopes to will new light on hemlock’s role in changing ecosystems.

USDA Grant Funds Study of Caliciopsis Canker in White Pine

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

William Livingston, School of Forest Resources, has received a more than $77,700 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study Caliciopsis in white pine. Many white pine stands in southern Maine and New Hampshire have suffered from declines and diebacks in the past 15 years. A fungal disease, Caliciopsis canker, has been frequently observed in these stands. Typically, the white pines stands suffering from Caliciopsis canker are those that are very dense, and foresters recommend that the stands should be thinned to improve tree growth. However, it is uncertain if stands infected with Caliciopsis canker will respond to stand thinning and improve growth; the uncut trees may not recover from the disease. The objectives for the study are to identify areas at greatest risk of Caliciopsis canker damage, assess effects of thinning in stands affected by Caliciopsis canker and develop management guidelines for reducing damage related to Caliciopsis canker.