Archive for the ‘News Releases’ Category

Signs of the Times

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Continuing or accelerating warming of the atmosphere and ocean. Intense precipitation events. Rising sea levels.

These are signs of climate change, and all of them are affecting Maine people, according to Maine’s Climate Future: 2015 Update, a new report from the University of Maine.

Recent consequences include: a record number of reported Lyme disease cases; a white pine needle disease epidemic; erosion of beaches, farmland and roads; and a Gulf of Maine heat wave in 2012 that resulted in a glut of lobsters on the market and an ensuing price crash.

“This report goes beyond global and national climate change assessments to what is happening in Maine,” says one of the report’s authors, Ivan Fernandez, a professor in the UMaine School of Forest Resources, Climate Change Institute and School of Food and Agriculture.

“We want to encourage cost-effective adaptation by citizens, businesses and communities in Maine using the best available information and tools. Being informed about how climate change affects the state is vital to developing cohesive plans to lessen its negative effects and capitalize on resulting opportunities.”

The new report builds on the report Maine’s Climate Future 2009. In 2008, at the request of then-Gov. John Baldacci, the University of Maine Climate Change Institute began assessing climate-related changes in the state. More than 70 scientists contributed to that report.

The 2015 update, say its authors, highlights researchers’ grasp of past, present and future trends of changing climate in Maine given their understanding and the accumulating evidence in 2015.

It also provides examples of how Mainers, including community planners and business people, are adapting to existing realities and preparing for future expected changes.

Noted in the 24-page report:

  • Rockland’s mapped flood zone has been moved inland 100 feet.
  • The city of Portland assigned $2.7 million to elevate Bayside neighborhood streets two feet so building foundation heights would meet new insurance regulations that anticipate flooding and sea-level rise.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its Plant Hardiness Zone Maps because boundaries have shifted north by half a zone.
  • Maine ski resort operators have signed the Climate Declaration to advocate for national action on climate change.

It’s important for stakeholders to continue proactive and preemptive preparation, say the report’s authors.

“Mitigation is also important, even as we engage in adaptation, since little has been done to reduce the rise in greenhouse gas emissions,” Fernandez says.

While the Northeast is experiencing a bitterly cold and snowy winter of 2015, the average temperature on the planet in 2014 was the warmest in 135 years of record keeping. Last year was the 38th consecutive year that Earth’s yearly temperature was above average, and nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000.

While it may not feel like it now, the average annual temperature in Maine has warmed about 3 degrees since 1895.

Sean Birkel, Maine State Climatologist and a research assistant professor with the Climate Change Institute, analyzed Maine’s future climate using models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which account for both natural and human impacts.

His findings indicate by 2050 the annual temperature in Maine will rise another 3–5 degrees F.

Also, Maine’s warm season — when the average daily temperature is above freezing — has increased by two weeks since 1914 and is expected to lengthen another two more weeks by 2050.

The longer warm season, which now extends from mid-March to late November, has translated into longer growing seasons for farmers. In the future, it could mean the prime time to tap maple trees for sap will be in early February.

Warming temperatures also have provided a more suitable environment for ticks and their hosts, resulting in the northward spread of Lyme disease in Maine.

Reported cases of the bacterial infection hit an all-time high in the state in 2013, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control

The global climate system changes that have resulted in the temperature rise also have impacted the seasonal distribution and amount of precipitation in Maine.

Since 1895, total annual precipitation in the state has increased by approximately six inches, or 13 percent; most increases occur in the summer and fall. Precipitation is expected to increase another 5–10 percent across Maine by 2050.

Precipitation also has become more frequent and intense. In the last century, nine of 11 meteorological stations in Maine have registered the highest frequency of extreme events — defined for this analysis as two or more inches of rain or snow falling in a 24-hour period — in the last decade.

In August 2014, a record-breaking 6.44 inches of rain flooded Portland streets. The downpour caused $200,000 in damage to infrastructure in Brunswick, including culverts and roads. In May 2012, six inches of rain fell in Auburn in 24 hours. Due to erosion and nutrients flushing into Lake Auburn, an excessive algae bloom developed, oxygen levels plummeted and many trout died.

The report’s authors say the warming ocean surface water, which puts more water vapor into the atmosphere, is one factor that fuels extreme precipitation events, including this winter’s record snowstorms.

The report also points to adaptation efforts by agencies and communities in Maine that highlight the importance of communication and coordination regarding the climate change challenge.

In 2013, Gov. Paul LePage established the Environmental and Energy Resources Working Group to develop a coordinated strategy to address climate change issues.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s report from that working group recommended greater coordination among state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, Native American tribes, municipalities, researchers and UMaine to improve the state’s “ability to respond and adapt to changing physical conditions in the environment due to climatic influence.”

In spring 2014, the UMaine School of Policy and International Affairs, the Maine National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard co-hosted a conference that addressed political, military, economic and environmental challenges and opportunities related to diminished sea ice in the Arctic.

And last fall, at a University of Maine Climate Change Institute conference, researchers unveiled online tools, including the Climate Reanalyzer, to help community planners develop local solutions for specific consequences they are likely to experience.

“The University of Maine is uniquely capable of exploring the challenges associated with climate change in our state through research, education and community engagement and the complex themes encompassed in climate change-related studies are closely aligned with the recently developed signature and emerging issues related to climate change and marine science,” says Paul Anderson, director of the Maine Sea Grant program, which helped produce the report.

“Maine, the nation and the world stand at a crossroad imposed by our changing climate, but we have an amazing opportunity to reduce uncertainty about the future of climate and its impact and in so doing understand, address and deal with the challenge through rational and productive action,” says Paul Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute and another author of report.

Other authors of the report are: Catherine Schmitt, communications director, Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine; Esperanza Stancioff, educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Sea Grant; Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Joseph Kelley, professor, UMaine School of Earth and Climate Sciences, Climate Change Institute; Jeffrey Runge, research scientist, UMaine School of Marine Sciences, Gulf of Maine Research Institute; and George Jacobson, UMaine Professor Emeritus, Climate Change Institute, UMaine School of Biology and Ecology.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Follow a Researcher

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Connecting K–12 students in Maine and around the world with researchers in the field is the goal of a new program offered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension with support from UMaine’s Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the Maine 4-H Foundation.

Follow a Researcher aims to give students a glimpse into a scientist’s world by providing live expedition updates and facilitating communication between the youth and scientist.

“Science isn’t just white lab coats and pouring things into beakers,” says Charles Rodda, a doctoral student at CCI and the program’s first researcher. In his case, science means putting on crampons, scaling glaciers and drilling ice cores in Peru and Tajikistan to conduct research focused on abrupt climate change.

In March, Rodda and fellow CCI graduate student Kit Hamley will travel to Peru to collect snow and ice from glaciers high in the Andes. During the summer, he will travel to Tajikistan to join an international team that will retrieve and research samples from the world’s largest nonpolar glacier.

While in the field, Rodda will interact with participating classrooms and students by sharing prerecorded weekly videos and live tweeting in response to questions.

“We’re interested to see what they’re interested in,” Rodda says. “We of course are focused on the science, but we’re hiking in some of the most beautiful regions on Earth.”

To interact with students, Rodda will use the inReach Explorer, a global satellite communicator created by Maine-based company DeLorme. The tool allows him to text or tweet directly to students from the glacier. It also will track his movements and generate an online map so students can follow his trek in nearly real time. To document his journey, Rodda also will take several cameras, including a GoPro; a solar panel and battery pack to charge electronics; an iPad; satellite receiver; and memory cards.

In advance of the weekly question-and-answer sessions, prerecorded videos of Rodda explaining aspects of the expedition and research will be released. The videos were created to spark discussion among students and are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

Rodda, who has participated in several outreach events around the state as a UMaine Extension 4-H STEM Ambassador, says having a science-literate society is important and getting students interested at an early age is essential.

“I think that’s the time — middle and early high school — when students seem to decide if they’re going to be interested in science or not. There’s great research happening here at the University of Maine and we want to make sure students know about it,” he says.

Several schools from around Maine, as well as schools in Iowa, Ohio, Rhode Island and Connecticut have already signed on to take part in the program, which is funded by the Maine 4-H Foundation. Rodda and Hamley plan to visit participating Maine classrooms after they return from Peru in April.

In Peru, Rodda and Hamley will look at signals that have been captured in the ice during El Nino events, or warming in the waters of the equatorial Pacific. They hope to see what El Ninos look like in climate records to determine if those events may be a trigger that shifts the climate system in Central and South America from one phase to another. Rodda completed preliminary research in Peru in 2013.

This summer in Tajikistan, Rodda will work with researchers from around the world to drill a long core that will be split among teams from the University of Idaho, Japan, France, Germany and Austria who will study a variety of the core’s characteristics. Rodda will focus on the ice’s chemistry makeup while others will focus on topics including physical measurements or biological signals, he says.

In advance of Rodda’s Peru trip, youth in grades six through eight took part in a UMaine 4-H Science Saturday workshop where they were challenged with determining how to keep ice core samples frozen and intact for research. Students were given ice and materials and were tasked with designing a container that would keep ice frozen under a heat lamp for a specific amount of time.

In reality, Rodda says bringing ice cores home from Peru is more like “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” It involves horseback riding, long car rides, even longer airplane rides, and a lot of dry and blue ice, which he describes as heavy-duty freezer packs.

“It’s a great way to get students on campus to sort of demystify the university and show them some of the cool stuff we do at the university and in the sciences,” Rodda says of 4-H Science Saturdays, which are offered by UMaine Extension.

“Follow a Researcher is part of a big effort to connect youth in Maine with current university students. It may be the first time a youth has contact with someone who is going to college, or their first connection to a university,” says Laura Wilson, a 4-H science professional with UMaine Extension. “STEM Ambassadors are working in areas all over the state, from an after-school program in Washburn to programs offered in urban areas of Lewiston and Portland.”

Organizers would like to continue Follow a Researcher after the pilot year, as well as expand it to other disciplines throughout the university.

“By connecting youth to campus, we may be inspiring them to explore higher education, and perhaps come to UMaine in the future,” Wilson says.

Teachers interested in following Rodda on his expeditions may call Jessica Brainerd at 800.287.0274 (in Maine), 581.3877; or email More about Follow a Researcher is online.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

A New Frontier

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck is part of an international team that has unlocked an underwater time capsule in the North Pacific that has been monitoring the climate for centuries.

The time capsule is the long-living, slow-growing alga Clathromorphum nereostratum that creates massive reefs in shallow coastal regions of Alaska’s Aleutian archipelago. These solid calcium carbonate structures have fine growth rings — similar to tree growth rings — which Steneck says contain historical environmental information.

The team used a cutting-edge microisotopic imaging technique to reconstruct 120 years of seasonal changes in ocean acidification (pH) in the region. The technique uses lasers to measure isotope ratios of the element boron at the scale of tenths of millimeters.

The technique, Steneck says, provides researchers with a detailed historical timeline, including rate of ocean acidification both seasonally and over hundreds of years. The scientists learned that since the late 19th century, the ocean has been acidifying at a rate that corresponds with rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

“The next frontier is to determine millennial records so we get a better sense of what was normal for ocean acidification in cold water coastal zones,” Steneck says.

The alga grows approximately 1 millimeter every three years, so plants collected last year that are nearly half-meter thick could easily be more than 1,000 years old, he says.

“These and similar types of coralline algae are living in all oceans,” says lead researcher Jan Fietzke of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany. “Thanks to laser ablation techniques, in the future we can use other samples to look much further back into the past…”

In fact, UMaine postdoctoral associate Doug Rasher is currently in Scotland analyzing specimens that he and Steneck collected last year in Alaska.

The team’s seasonal analyses also indicated strong variations of pH in each year.

The researchers, who also hail from the United Kingdom and Canada, say the annual variation is likely due to large kelp forests in the region that consume large amounts of carbon dioxide in the spring and summer as they grow.  The kelp forests then completely die back each winter.

“In a sense, these ecosystems are breathing by inhaling CO2 each summer and releasing it every winter,” says Steneck, who is based at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole.

Each year, more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, some of which is absorbed by the ocean as carbonic acid. This, in turn, decreases the pH and increases acidity of the ocean, say the researchers.

Steneck says 90 percent of marine resource value in Maine involves shellfish, including lobsters, scallops, oysters and clams. Lobsters and other organisms depend on high pH to create limestone shells and it takes metabolic energy to make limestone.

When the ocean is more acidic, the metabolic cost necessary to make shells increases, he says. Some energy that would normally be allocated to organisms’ immune systems could be compromised, possibly increasing their susceptibility to disease.

Lobsters afflicted with shell disease increased fivefold between 2010 and 2012 in Maine; in southern New England during that time, scientists and lobstermen indicated that one in four lobsters caught was diseased.

Steneck says being able to determine if acidification in a specific coastal area might be affected by extreme rainfall events or sewage treatment, for example, could help create more localized ocean management policy.

To retrieve specimens for the research, Steneck dove in 34-degree water off the Aleutian Islands and used a jackhammer to cut off chunks of the Clathromorphum nereostratum. The chunks were loaded into cargo nets, airlifted to the surface, towed to the boat and lifted aboard with a crane. Onboard, Steneck cut the chunks into pieces for research.

A paper about the findings will be published Feb. 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

UMaine Working With Information Security, Law Enforcement on Theft of Computer Containing Student Roster Data

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

A University of Maine laptop computer and media card used by a faculty member were stolen from a checked bag on an airline flight earlier this month, potentially exposing the personal information of 941 students enrolled in physics courses dating to 1999.

University of Maine System General Counsel has notified the Office of the Maine Attorney General of the information breach, as required under the state’s Notice of Risk to Personal Data Act.

Feb. 10, the laptop and media card were reported stolen from a checked bag on a flight from Seattle to Boston. The loss was reported to the airline and Massachusetts State Police.

As of Feb. 18, there has been no indication that the data has been used.

The laptop and media card contained student roster data. The records of 604 students enrolled from 1999 to 2007 included names, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, grade data and course information. Records for 337 students enrolled from 2000 to 2014 included names, and course name and year.

The 604 whose records included Social Security numbers will be offered one year of free identity protection. Those services, to be provided by Experian Information Solutions at UMaine’s expense, include credit monitoring, alerts regarding credit changes and identity theft insurance.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

UMaine to Host First Marathon and Half Marathon, Offer Training

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

For years, the University of Maine has hosted popular races such as the Black Bear Triathlon, the Healthy High 5k/10k and the Black Bear Attack Adventure Race. This summer, UMaine will host its first full and half marathon as part of the Black Bear Race series.

The inaugural Black Bear Marathon and Half Marathon will take place at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21.

“We believe that the marathon and half marathon will be the biggest events in our already exceptionally popular race series,” says Lauri Sidelko, director of the Student Wellness Resource Center and co-director of the race.

The 26.2-mile course is a double loop of the 13.1-mile course that begins on the UMaine campus and travels through Orono and Old Town and back to the university’s bike path. The marathon is a certified course, which gives runners the opportunity to qualify for larger races, such as the Boston Marathon.

The race begins at 7:30 a.m. and has a six-hour limit for the marathon course. An early start at 6:30 a.m. is available to those who prefer an extra hour to complete the marathon. The early start is not available for the half marathon. A 7:15 a.m. start also is available for wheelchair entrants.

Registration is open online. Until March 30, fees are $85 for the full and $60 for the half. After March 31, fees are $95 and $75, respectively. The first 1,200 runners to register will receive a logo race shirt, and the first 500 also will receive race logo running socks. Medals will be given to all registered runners who cross the finish line. Participants must be at least 14 years old on race day, as recommended by the Road Runners Club of America.

A race expo and packet pickup will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on campus Saturday, June 20. More information, including the exact location, will be available online.

In advance of the race, Campus Recreation is offering Black Bear Marathon Training for runners who are interested in participating, but would either prefer some coaching or training with others. Participants will run weekly as a group with an experienced trainer and will be given a detailed training plan, handouts on various race topics and $10 off race registration. Training starts Saturday, Feb. 7 at the New Balance Student Recreation Center. To join, runners must currently be able to run at least three miles without stopping. More information on the training is on the Campus Recreation website.

The Black Bear Race series is run by the Student Wellness Resource Center. Proceeds from the Black Bear Marathon and Half Marathon will provide scholarships to Campus Recreation summer camp participants, as well as support student projects and opportunities offered through the wellness program. Race organizers also plan to form a fundraising partnership with charitable organizations to give back to the community.

More about the race is on the Black Bear Marathon and Half Marathon website and Facebook event page. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, contact race directors Sidelko at, 581.1423; or Thad Dwyer at Those interested in volunteering as part of the race committee, at packet pickup or on race day should contact Sidelko.


Cetinić Featured in Oceanography Society Report on Progress of Women in the Field

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

 Ivona Cetinić plays with son Veles
on a beach in Rhode Island
after her four-week research cruise
aboard R/V Endeavor (in background)
in summer 2014.

University of Maine researcher Ivona Cetinić is one of four Maine scientists featured in The Oceanography Society’s “Women in Oceanography: The Next Decade,” a supplement to the December issue of “Oceanography” magazine.

The special report released Jan. 26 reviews progress in career advancement for female oceanographers over the last 10 years and where additional attention is needed.

Three oceanographers from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences — Beth N. Orcutt, Patricia Matrai and LeAnn Whitney — also contributed to this second volume. The first was published in March 2005.

Orcutt and Cetinić, a research associate in the School of Marine Sciences at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole, joined forces to articulate the continuing challenges that women face in the field:

“The ratio of women to men at higher ranks in oceanography still lags, even though women have comprised roughly half of oceanography graduate students during the past decade,“ says Orcutt. “We not only looked at recent trends but tried to identify some of the reasons behind this advancement lag.”

“While there have been positive improvements over the past 10 years, such as increasing numbers of female professors, there are still signs of barriers to women advancing in their careers,“ says Cetinić.

“We hope that our analysis is useful to students and early career women oceanographers, who will have the tools to break the glass ceiling that still exists in oceanography.”

More than 200 autobiographical sketches in the supplement provide a broad view of oceanography. The scientists describe rewarding aspects of their careers, as well as challenges and how they balance work and personal lives.

“I love being an oceanographer. I see the ocean as my playground, and gliders, sensors, and filters as my toys. My play buddies are some of the smartest people in the world,” Cetinić says.

“I wake up every day happy and looking forward to facing issues and solving problems that help us to better understand nature and ultimately to be better inhabitants of this planet.”

“Women in Oceanography: The Next Decade” is available online.

The Oceanography Society was founded in 1988 to disseminate knowledge of oceanography and its application through research and education, to promote communication among oceanographers, and to provide a constituency for consensus building across all the disciplines of the field. It is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization incorporated in the District of Columbia.

The Darling Marine Center, the marine laboratory of the University of Maine, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015. It is located on the Damariscotta River Estuary in Maine’s midcoast region, 100 miles south of the Orono campus. Resident faculty and students are associated with UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences. Their research interests range from biogeochemistry, remote sensing and ocean optics to invertebrate taxonomy and ecology, deep-sea biology, phytoplankton physiology and marine archaeology.

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and enterprise programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

UMaine at 150

Monday, January 26th, 2015

The University of Maine is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2015 with events on campus and statewide, and an interactive website to encourage community engagement by the many constituents of the state’s land and sea grant university.

In a Jan. 23 letter to the community, UMaine President Susan Hunter noted the significance of this anniversary for the state and its many constituents — an opportunity to celebrate UMaine’s legacy and to understand how that history informs the university’s future.

“The University of Maine’s 150th anniversary observance will reaffirm the teaching, research and economic development, and outreach mission of a 21st-century land grant institution, and its potential to change lives,” President Hunter said in her community letter.

“For 150 years, the University of Maine has had a leadership role in the state. Because Maine’s potential is our purpose, UMaine serves as the state’s major research and cultural hub, linking our resources with the needs of industries and businesses, schools, cultural institutions, Maine government and communities. In this, our 150th year, there is more recognition than ever that the land grant university can — and must — play a key role in enhancing the quality of life for citizens all across Maine and beyond,” Hunter said.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the first Morrill Act establishing the land grant mission with the goal to provide “practical education that had direct relevance” to people’s daily lives.

The Maine legislature passed a bill to create Maine’s land grant institution on Feb. 24, 1865. Gov. Samuel Cony signed it the next day.

The first board of trustees, chaired by Hannibal Hamlin of Bangor, addressed the Maine people three months later, noting that “it is by the union of scientific knowledge with physical industry, that labor becomes most productive, and the laborer gains.”

UMaine welcomed its first class of 12 students in September 1868; the first graduation was held in 1872.

Today, UMaine enrolls more than 11,200 undergraduate and graduate students from throughout Maine and the U.S., and more than 65 countries, and has more than 105,000 alumni worldwide.

UMaine’s 150th anniversary events began with the School of Performing Arts benefit production, “150 Years of American Song: A Celebration of the University of Maine,” Jan 23.

Other 150th celebration events during this anniversary year:

  • University of Maine Day at the State House in Augusta, Feb. 24 — the date 150 years ago that the Maine legislature passed the bill creating the Maine State College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.
  • Women in Leadership Week, March 23–27, featuring a Presidential Installation on March 26, Collins Center for the Arts.
  • Maine Day, April 29.
  • Commencement, May 9.
  • Open University Day and Homecoming, Oct. 17–18.

More information about these and other anniversary events will be on the 150th website.

The 150th website provides news, archival photos and historical information, and opportunities for members of the UMaine community and its many constituents to share their memories of the university.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

Smith’s Research Hot Topic for ScienceInsider

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Top 10 lists are compiled annually — last year there were lists for best books, Seinfeld characters, movies and restaurants. In 2014, an article about a University of Maine professor’s research made a best-read list.

Michelle Smith, assistant professor in the School of Biology and Ecology, co-authored a paper about teaching approaches.

Aleszu Bajak penned “Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds,” for ScienceInsider about the research that Smith and others conducted with lead author Scott Freeman of the University of Washington, Seattle. The piece was ScienceInsider’s third most popular of the year, just behind pieces on plagiarism and Ebola.

The researchers re-analyzed 225 studies that compared grades of students enrolled in undergraduate science, engineering and mathematics courses taught in a typical lecture format with the grades of students in STEM courses that utilized active learning methods.

Freeman, Smith and others found students in classes that incorporated active learning techniques were 1.5 times more likely to pass than those in traditional lecture format classes. In addition, they found students in active learning sections earned grades nearly one-half a standard deviation higher, or, for example, a B rather than a B-, than students listening to a lecturer.

The well-read study, “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics,” was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

In Bajak’s ScienceInsider article about the study, Harvard University physicist Eric Mazur was quoted saying the research is important and that “it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data.”

He continued, “It’s good to see such a cohesive picture emerge from their meta-analysis — an abundance of proof that lecturing is outmoded, outdated, and inefficient.”

Also in December, Smith and Farahad Dastoor, lecturer of biological sciences, were highlighted in a National Science Foundation story titled “Rules of engagement: Transforming the teaching of college-level science.”

Thanks to Smith and Dastoor, 800 UMaine students in three introductory biology sections utilize clickers (response devices) and engage in small group conversations rather than sitting and listening to information dispensed by a “sage on a stage.” Smith “is helping to re-envision science education on her campus as well as across the country,” says the article.

In 2013, Smith became principal investigator on four projects and co-principal investigator on another that were granted $6.8 million in total funding from the National Science Foundation; UMaine’s portion was $1,012,269. The projects are aimed at improving nationwide science instruction and assessments. The studies are collaborative with other universities and involve UMaine administrators, faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students, undergraduates and area K–12 teachers.

Contact: Beth Staples 207.581.3777

School of Marine Sciences Program Gives Students a Global Perspective

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Kathleen Marciano’s interest was piqued last spring when professor Fei Chai announced in class that summer marine science internships were available in China.

Marciano and friend and classmate Timothy (TJ) Goodrow decided to apply. In May, they learned they had been accepted and in mid-June, the University of Maine students boarded a plane destined for at Xiamen University on the coast of Fujian Province.

“…[I]t was a pretty hectic process; it happened so fast, it didn’t seem real,” says Marciano, who in December completed her degree in marine science with a concentration in aquaculture.

The 22-year-old from Scituate, Massachusetts says she’s always loved the ocean. “Once I got to UMaine I became interested in aquaculture because I believe it to be one of the few ways to sustain a seafood industry while reducing fishing stress on the oceans,” Marciano says.

The internship in China, she says, was a valuable educational, cultural and life experience.

The educational component included working in an environmental toxicology lab 50 hours a week for two months. She studied chronic effects of butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (used in skin sun protection products to absorb ultraviolet radiation) on the development of the marine copepod Tigriopus japonicus.

Goodrow called his internship a once-in-a-lifetime experience to view the world from a vastly different perspective.

“Traveling across the world is not for everyone,” says Goodrow, 22, of Ayer, Massachusetts. “It takes a strong-willed person to complete the challenge, but in more ways than one, it changed me into a better person and I would recommend anyone to do the same.”

And Goodrow plans to take more challenges; after he graduates in May with a degree in marine science and minor in aquaculture, he plans to travel the world.

Students’ pursuit of excellence at Xiamen University made quite an impression on Marciano. Founded in 1921, the university’s motto is “Pursue Excellence, Strive for Perfection.”

“Before I went to China I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after I graduated from UMaine,” she says. “When I … saw how hard the students worked — most of our friends were grad students — I knew I wanted to do the same. I also learned a lot of valuable things from my research that have helped me in classes and in writing my capstone paper. I did environmental toxicology for my capstone.”

Marciano also appreciated the opportunities to see sights, explore and learn about China’s history and culture.

In Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, she toured museums and ancient dynasty sites. She also rode on a train for 24 hours to reach Wuyi Shan — a wild, protected mountainous area that includes rare wildlife species. She says it’s the most beautiful place she’s ever visited in her life.

“…All the mountains and crazy wildlife made me really appreciate where I was and how lucky I was to get such a unique experience,” she says.

Due to her unfamiliarity with the Chinese language and due to the intense heat and humidity, Marciano says she occasionally felt lonely, weary and dependent. But she says the new friends she made in Xiamen were the nicest, most genuine and helpful people she’s ever met.

“I also loved attempting to learn Chinese, emphasis on attempting,” she says. “My friends loved teaching me words and phrases, and no matter how badly I butchered them I still felt like I was learning.”

Communicating also was sometimes a challenge for Goodrow. But he says many people in China spoke some English and he used actions to convey his intentions. Like Marciano, he says the extreme heat and humidity, as well as the rich food, took some getting used to.

Goodrow says the internship — which included lab work and traveling to aquaculture farms — significantly enhanced his knowledge of marine science. The rural communities along the coast cluster around aquaculture farms and organisms raised there, he says.

“The communities are like families — selfless groups of people with the same goal of bettering themselves by working hard,” Goodrow says. “I was so impressed by the tenacity of the aquaculture farmers and their ingenious methods of culturing species of abalone (snail), shrimp and sea urchins.”

Chai, director of the School of Marine Sciences at UMaine, says the exchange program provides students with opportunities to enhance their learning experience and gain a more comprehensive perspective, which will help them in their careers, and will benefit marine science.

“We need to foster global thinking to meet the challenges and issues of the 21st century,” says Chai, who earned his undergraduate and master of science degrees at Shandong College of Oceanology (now Ocean University of China), on the coast of China about 690 miles north of Xiamen University.

“We’re all interconnected and we need to understand each other’s cultures and concerns. And we need to try to find common solutions to address global issues.”

During the fall 2014 semester, 25 students, including 17 from Brazil and eight from China, attended UMaine through the marine science exchange program. Of the eight students from China, four took classes at the flagship university in Orono and four studied at UMaine’s seaside Darling Marine Center in Walpole.

Xiamen University students Yuwei (Talifin) Wang, 20, and Xiaoling (Zoe) Zhou, 19, studied on the Orono campus and Ocean University of China students Shuling (Shirley) Chen, 20, and Yumeng (Julie) Pang, 19, studied at DMC.

These four exchange students say they started learning English at 5 or 6 years of age.

Wang is from Beijing, an ancient city with a population of 22 million people and Zhou is from Chengdu City; the natural home of giant pandas has a population of about 14 million.

At Xiamen University, which has 38,000 full-time students on its three campuses, Wang says his schedule is “study, study, study.” The standard protocol, he says, is for professors to lecture the 140 or so students in class, and for students to sit and take notes.

Wang liked the interaction between instructors and students at UMaine, which has an enrollment of about 11,300. “Here in Maine, we talk with people with different ideas and use knowledge to solve problems in class,” he says.

Zhou appreciated the participatory approach, as well. “The way of thinking in China is to receive knowledge from the teacher,” Zhou says. “Here, it is more active. We ask questions and have to figure things out ourselves.”

Chen, of Changsha, Hunan Province, and Pang, of Linyi, Shandong Province, were impressed with the hands-on learning they participated in at DMC.

“I think I totally engaged in the courses and experience…,” says Pang, who liked the scent of the ocean.

“We have been lots of places for social research or field trips and I also conducted an independent study with the help of several professors; we really had a good time on that. If you really want to get to learn the marine science and you have a strong interest in marine science, you can experience it [at] Darling Marine Center.

Chen was thrilled to be immersed in the ocean environment and said that multiple field trips and cruises provided the opportunity to “connect theory with reality.”

“I feel … much closer to real marine science than before and I really like marine biology,” Chen says.

Pang liked participating in community events, including oyster and pumpkin festivals, and Chen enjoyed spending the Christmas holiday — “one of the best and sweetest time periods here” — with research associate professor Rhian Waller.

The DMC food was delicious and the people were friendly, says Pang who, like Chen, said the Maine winter temperatures were a shock.

The exchange students returned to China in late December. Chai says five students from Xiamen University have been accepted to study marine science at UMaine in fall 2015.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Seahawks Undefeated Since Inspirational Mask From Hudson Museum Delivered to Seattle

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

When the Seattle Seahawks lost 24–20 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 16, 2014, the defending Super Bowl champions were 6–4 and reeling.

But a week later, the Seahawks won the first of six straight regular-season contests. In the ensuing Divisional Playoff, the top-seeded Seahawks trounced the Carolina Panthers, then clinched a have-to-see-it-to-believe-it 28–22 victory over Green Bay in the NFC title game.

Some followers say Seattle’s resurgence might be attributed to several factors — key players became healthy, teammates aired their grievances and Percy Harvin was traded.

Gretchen Faulkner, director of the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine, has another theory.

On Nov. 18, two days before Seattle began its return to glory, the transformation mask that inspired the Seahawks logo was unveiled at the Burke Museum at the University of Seattle, Washington. The Hudson Museum had loaned the mask to the Burke Museum to be included in its Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired exhibit that runs until July 27, 2015.

A Kwakwaka‘wakw (kwock-KWOCKY-wowk) artist or artists carved the cedar mask in the late 19th or early 20th century. Kwakwaka‘wakw is an Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. The brightly colored cedar mask has mirrors for eyes. When closed, it’s 2 feet long and depicts a bird of prey. When open, it’s 3 feet long and reveals a painted representation of a human face. Masks are traditionally worn in Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonies that include singing, dancing and giving gifts, and often memorialize a deceased chief.

The mask was in good company at the Seattle unveiling, where Kwakwaka‘wakw community members George Me’las Taylor and Andy Tanis Everson blessed the mask and performed a welcome dance. Jim Zorn, Seattle quarterback from 1976–81, also spoke. The Lombardi trophy was situated nearby.

Faulkner traveled to the West Coast for the unveiling at the Burke Museum, which raised funds to have the mask transported across country.

She is pleased the people of Seattle can view the mask in person. But she hopes any luck the mask may have brought to the Seahawks runs out before Sunday, Feb. 1, when they face off with the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

Faulkner delivered remarks at the celebratory event, saying, “When you live in Maine, you don’t customarily root for the Seahawks, but [2014] was an exception, as among the collection of the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine was a mask linked to the team.”

She noted other connections that UMaine has with New England’s beloved Patriots and the Seahawks. In 2005, the Seahawks drafted Mosiula Mea’alofa Tatupu, who played one year of college football for the Black Bears. Tatupu’s father, Mosi Tatupu, played 13 seasons for the Pats, from 1978 to 1990. In addition, the transformation mask was once owned by artist Max Ernst, who, for a time, lived in Arizona, the state where the Super Bowl is being played.

Faulkner has issued a friendly wager with Burke Museum counterpart Julie Stein. If Seattle wins the contest, Faulkner says she’ll ship a “lobstah dinner” to Stein. If the Patriots win, Stein will send a Dungeness crab feast to Faulkner.

Faulkner says Richard Emerick, the late UMaine anthropologist and founder of the Hudson Museum, told her years ago the wooden mask was the inspiration for the Seahawks logo that was introduced in 1975. But there was no corroborating information in the mask’s collection file linking it to the team. In 1982, avid baseball fan William Palmer of Falmouth Foreside, Maine, had bequeathed the mask, as well as other Northwest Coast art and an extraordinary collection of Pre-Colombian artifacts, to UMaine.

After the Seahawks Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, Faulkner told museum board member Isla Baldwin what Emerick had shared with her years before. While researching online, Baldwin discovered a blog written by Robin K. Wright, curator of Native American art and director of the Bill Holm Center at Burke Museum.

A few days before Super Bowl XLVIII, Wright posted a blog “Searching for what inspired the Seattle Seahawks logo.” In her blog, Wright attributed the mask to the Kwakwaka‘wakw and included a photograph of the inspiration mask from Robert Bruce Inverarity’s 1950 book, “Art of the Northwest Coast Indians.”

The mask in the photograph was the same mask displayed at the Hudson Museum, catalogue number HM5521.

In a televised interview just prior to the Super Bowl, Wright said she hoped the blog and TV interview might unearth the location of the mask.

That it did. And it set in motion a number of interesting events.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777