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.
Archive for the ‘At a Glance’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
The University of Maine is piloting an interdisciplinary course based on Maine tidal power development research that aims to better understand the process of applying a comprehensive approach to renewable energy projects.
The course, Marine Renewable Energy: Engineering, Oceanography, Biology and Human Dimensions, is coordinated by Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor of marine biology, and is offered as an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course.
The course examines the basic science and field methods of understanding power generation, potential changes to the marine environment and effects on other users of marine resources, and how these disciplines intersect to provide a comprehensive understanding of coastal ecosystems.
Teaching is shared between Zydlewski; Michael Peterson and Raul Urbina from the Mechanical Engineering Department; Huijie Xue, an expert on physical oceanography; and Jessica Jansujwicz and Teresa Johnson, experts on human dimensions and sustainability science.
The last two weeks of the course are devoted to field work and final projects, where students are given the framework to apply concepts and “put it all together,” Zydlewski says.
Fieldwork is conducted on the Penobscot River, where students use acoustics, or sounds in water, to research and collect data about fish and water currents for their final project, which ties together what they learned in the field and in the classroom.
As part of the human dimensions aspect of the course, students visit Cianbro’s manufacturing facility in Brewer to learn about the company’s use of the river and the protocols it follows for development projects.
Since 2009, a group of UMaine researchers have been studying tidal power development independently while coming together to discuss their research, according to Zydlewski. The collaborative effort has resulted in integrated research approaches to better understand the marine environment and contribute to sustainable development through data-driven science with stakeholder input, Zydlewski says.
The focus of the class, she says, is to pass on the collective knowledge and information to the students, whose generation will be faced with all aspects of renewable energy development in coastal systems.
The majority of the 10 students in the course’s pilot year are engineers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Two students are marine science majors. Hometowns vary from York, Maine, to towns in Canada, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with half of the students coming from Brazil.
Even though the course is framed around what is happening with renewable energy in Maine, Zydlewski says, various forms of renewable energy development are also being considered in Brazil, and the students would like to be able to transfer and apply what they learn back home.
Why do some landowners embrace sustainability and conservation in their environs while others ignore these concepts altogether? This was one of the main questions Michael Quartuch explored in his doctoral research at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI).
It’s a complex query. As part of SSI’s People, Landscape and Communities team (PLACE), Quartuch, a recent Ph.D. graduate of SSI and UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, wanted to know what lurked beneath the surface of land use decision-making.
“At a broad level, my research focused on understanding and predicting the ways in which humans interact with and shape the surrounding environment. I was very interested in identifying why people are motivated to act sustainably. Specifically, I wanted to explore whether and to what degree landowner stewardship ethics influence individual land use decisions. Similarly, I wanted to test the role landowner place attachment and sense of community play in terms of influencing behavior,” Quartuch said.
Led by associate professors Kathleen Bell and Jessica Leahy, the PLACE team studied small landowners in Maine to develop solutions on key fronts. The team surveyed landowners in an effort to better understand their concerns, attitudes and behaviors. The responses are helping the team to identify outputs of interest to landowners and key stakeholders who frequently interact with them, including local businesses and local and state governments.
“The ability to tap into landowners’ moral and ethical connections with their land, including sense of place and community, has the potential to influence attitudes and behavior. Research findings suggest that landowners feel real responsibility for their property, a sense of stewardship that is evident in both their environmental attitude and their perception of their ability to act on these beliefs,” Quartuch said. “With this information in hand, we can deviate from traditional outreach and education efforts, concentrating on future conservation and sustainable development initiatives.”
Quartuch, a native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has accepted a postdoctoral research associate position at Cornell University in the Department of Natural Resources, Human Dimensions Research Unit. Quartuch’s research will focus on a variety of social aspects associated with wildlife management and conservation.
Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.
Two recent University of Maine graduates have been named the 2014 Higher Education Student Art Educators of the Year by the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA).
Elizabeth Miller of Kittery and Hilary Kane of Concord, New Hampshire, both graduated in May 2014. Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in art education with minors in studio art and art history. Kane received a bachelor’s degree in art education, as well as studio art.
The award is given to MAEA members who have completed their art student teaching internship within the academic year and have demonstrated outstanding evidence of professional leadership in schools and the community, use of new technology, and innovative teaching performance and written curricula. An award ceremony will be held in September during the 2014 MAEA conference at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine.
MAEA is the state chapter of the National Art Education Association, the leading professional membership organization for visual arts educators.
Miller, who is searching for a full-time teaching position, currently is an intern at the Piscataqua Fine Arts Gallery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and works at Art with a Splash, also in Portsmouth, teaching painting classes.
“This award is such an honor and I am very pleased to be able to represent the art education program at the university,” Miller said.
Kane plans to move to New Orleans in the fall where she will continue to focus on art education work and community arts.
Samuel Hanes, an assistant professor of anthropology, received a $28,444 grant from the National Science Foundation for the proposal, “Social capital and policy networks: Exploring the factors that influence adoption of pollinator conservation.”
The project aims to better understand obstacles and influential factors growers face when attempting to diversify pollination sources.
According to the proposal, insect pollination produces about $19 billion worth of crops in the U.S. annually. Farmers rent commercial honeybees to supply most of their crop pollination but the number of hives in the U.S. has dropped by more than 30 percent since 1980, leading to interest in alternate pollination sources.
The project will look at factors affecting lowbush blueberry growers’ use of wild, native bees to supplement honeybees.
UMaine graduate student Kourtney Collum will conduct the doctoral dissertation research project under Hanes’ supervision, and as part of UMaine’s anthropology and environmental policy doctoral program.
Collum will examine the factors that influence farmers’ adoption of pollinator conservation practices through a comparative study of blueberry growers in Maine — where there is an adequate honeybee supply — and Prince Edward Island, Canada — where there is a severe honeybee shortage.
The researchers will look closely at growers’ interaction with and perceptions of agricultural agencies and programs, as well as effects of agricultural policies and overall farm management, according to the proposal.
The RSVP program at the University of Maine Center on Aging was awarded a one-year $14,340 grant by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Paula Burnett, RSVP program director, submitted the proposal to the Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS) within Maine’s DHHS.
RSVP is part of the national Senior Corps — volunteers age 55 and older who serve nonprofit groups, schools and government agencies within their communities. The program is sponsored by UMaine Center on Aging with support from OADS, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the United Way of Eastern Maine and other local funding sources. OADS funding for RSVP partially supports the salaries of two employees.
Volunteer opportunities are available at 40 partnering agencies in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties. About 200 volunteers, who average 75 years of age, are taking part in the program.
RSVP recruits volunteers in four major areas of impact: education, aging in place, access to care, and veteran and military family support services.