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Season of Giving

Editor’s note: This is not a complete list; additions will be made.

Several University of Maine student, staff and faculty groups are leading charitable efforts this holiday season in an effort to give back to the community.

The UMaine Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism is collecting Thanksgiving turkeys for Crossroads Ministries Food Pantry in Old Town, and will hold a holiday food drive at IGA in Orono on Dec. 6. Turkeys can be dropped off by Nov. 24. at the Bodwell Center, 311 Memorial Union, or at Crossroads Ministries on Wood Street in Old Town.

The Black Bear Exchange, UMaine’s food pantry and clothing exchange, will provide Thanksgiving meals to its clients who will be in the area for the holiday.

The Bodwell Center also is collecting gifts for the Holiday Sharing Program, which serves more than 450 children in the local community. The program is a partnership between the center, Crossroads Ministries, Toys for Tots, Orono-Old Town Kiwanis, Orono Health Association, and many student and staff groups on campus.

Gifts can be dropped off at the Bodwell Center or Crossroads Ministries. The deadline for gift donations is Dec. 10. For more information about the Holiday Sharing Program, contact Jennifer Aldrich, community engagement coordinator at the Bodwell Center, at 207.581.3097.

The UMaine Office of Human Resources is holding an Adopt-A-Family program this holiday season. For more than 20 years, UMaine’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) held a similar program to help UMaine families that are most in need. This year, Human Resources is looking to continue the tradition.

Supporting a family can be done by department or individually. Family information will be shared with participants once the office is notified of the commitment. The office also is seeking nominations for families that would benefit from the program, and so far has more donors than eligible families. Families will remain anonymous.

To sign up to support and/or nominate a family, contact Kasey Richards at kasey.richards@maine.edu or 207.581.2366 by Wednesday, Nov. 26.

The Classified Employees Advisory Council (CEAC) recently collected and delivered several items to the Black Bear Exchange. The group continues to accept donations, and has boxes located around campus including in Alumni Hall, rooms 201 and 218; Fogler Library’s east entrance; Chadbourne Hall, rooms 122 and 226; and the Graduate School’s front desk in Stodder Hall.

Several UMaine fraternities and sororities also are getting involved by hosting clothing and food drives.

Kappa Sigma held its annual Coats for the Cold drive, where they collected coats to be sold for $5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 21 and 22 at the Kappa Sigma house, 4 Munson Road on campus. Proceeds go to the Fisher House Foundation for aiding military families. HerCampus will be selling baked goods by donation during the sale, with all proceeds also benefiting Fisher House. Leftover coats will be donated to the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.

Alpha Tau Omega is hosting Blue and Gold Christmas, a competition-based philanthropy event that collects clothes, books, nonperishable food and monetary donations for Crossroads Ministries. Teams of students from Greek Life and other organizations will be given a tree to decorate, along with a donation box. Teams score points for donations and tree decorations. The trees, which will be on display in the Memorial Union from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, will be judged by university officials.

Pi Beta Phi and Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) will host the annual Pi Phi/FIJI Christmas event from 4–6 p.m. Dec. 12 at the FIJI fraternity house, 79 College Ave. Donations for the Bodwell Center and Crossroads Ministries will be collected during the Christmas-themed reception.

The Kappa Delta Pi International Honors Society is collecting new or gently used winter clothing for children, such as jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, boots and snow pants. Donations will be accepted at 102 Shibles Hall until Dec. 5. All donations will be brought to a Salvation Army Coats for Kids drop box.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Marine Ecosystem Health

Understanding the biodiversity of bacteria associated with marine algae that contribute to marine ecosystem health is the focus of a study led by three University of Maine researchers.

Susan Brawley, a professor of plant biology in the School of Marine Sciences and a cooperating professor in the School of Biology and Ecology, is leading the three-year project. At UMaine, Brawley is working with John Singer, a professor of microbiology, and Benildo de los Reyes, a professor of biological sciences.

The three-year study is a collaborative research project with Hilary Morrison at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and is funded by a more than $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation — $986,515 to UMaine and $480,016 to MBL.

“The macroalgal microbiome in space and time — maintaining primary producers in the Atlantic rocky intertidal zone,” will focus on interactions between microbes and intertidal macroalgae, and how their relationships change in response to natural and human-driven stresses.

Intertidal macroalgae, or seaweeds, provide shelter and food to many invertebrates and young fishes. Although much is known about how intertidal algae react to natural stresses, little is known about their associated bacteria and how these bacteria react to those stresses. Past studies found that some macroalgae disintegrate after bacteria are removed, suggesting the bacteria are essential to the algae’s health, according to the researchers.

The study will examine genetic, taxonomic and functional aspects of the biodiversity of bacteria associated with seaweeds that are important to the health of marine ecosystems. It will determine how the bacteria change depending on the season, position within the intertidal zone and latitudinal range, the researchers say.

The researchers say little is known about how macroalgal microbiomes change in space and time, and they hope the study will serve as an important trans-Atlantic baseline of the microbiomes’ biodiversity.

The project is one of 12 studies funded by NSF’s Dimensions of Biodiversity Program. A total of $23 million was invested with contributions from NSF’s Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences, the Sao Paulo Research Foundation and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, according to the foundation.

The Dimensions of Biodiversity Program differs from traditional biodiversity research that focuses on one ecosystem by integrating multiple aspects into research projects and offering opportunities to make advances in understanding the generation, maintenance and loss of biodiversity, the NSF states.

“This year’s portfolio of projects will accelerate our understanding of biodiversity across disciplines and across scales of time and space,” Penny Firth, director of NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology, says in a press release. “Through this program, we’re witnessing a transformation in our ability to bridge scientific approaches and perspectives.”

The research will fill in gaps in biodiversity knowledge, Firth says. It also has the potential for significant effects on agriculture, fuel, manufacturing and health.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Duplissie Named 2015 Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year

Kevin Duplissie, director and head teacher of the Child Study Center at the University of Maine, has been named the 2015 Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) Teacher of the Year.

Duplissie, who also teaches psychology courses in cognitive and social development in children at UMaine, has been working at the university for 27 years and teaching at the Child Study Center for 12 years.

The preschool education center offers a developmentally based curriculum focused on agriculture, art, language and self-help. The center also serves as a lab for the UMaine Psychology Department and other academic programs.

Duplissie, who has been using Ag in the Classroom’s food, land and people curriculum since 2008, integrates agriculture into every subject and conducts several agriculture-related activities with the college students and preschool children each week.

“I’m from northern Maine,” Duplissie says. “I grew up surrounded by agriculture so it’s second nature to me. A lot of preschool and college students don’t understand the importance of agriculture in our lives.”

Teaching children about agriculture while they’re young is important, Duplissie says, because at the preschool age, they’re learning and retaining information quickly.

“If they can learn about agriculture now, they can build upon it later,” he says. “If you explain and demonstrate agriculture to children, they’re able to grasp it, understand it and work with it.”

Each year, MAITC recognizes an outstanding elementary or secondary school teacher who uses agricultural education materials and/or activities in the classroom.

With Duplissie’s guidance, preschool children build greenhouses, plant gardens, visit farms and hatch chicks every year at the center. Teaching children where their food comes from is an important focus of the curriculum.

“We make snacks with the children, and they know where it comes from,” he says, adding the students grew pumpkins and made cookies and muffins with them during the fall. “We relate it all back to agriculture and the farms that grow their food. Good nutrition is easy to relate back to agriculture. Everything we eat comes from farms.”

At the center, Duplissie works with college students from several majors, including marine science, early development and nursing. He says he enjoys watching the students learn while they teach others.

“I get the chance to work with students who see and use education firsthand,” he says. “The more experience and the more you do things, the more it sticks with you. We want them to see and follow children’s development, and help enhance it.”

MAITC is a grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture and housed at the Maine Department of Agriculture. The primary funding source in Maine is the agriculture specialty license plate. Programs are designed to help preschool through 12th grade students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in their daily lives so they will become citizens who support wise agricultural policies and local agriculture endeavors.

Duplissie and his program have received several MAITC grants to fund the agriculture curriculum at the Child Study Center. The program uses lesson plans available through MAITC and provides annual field trips to local farms and orchards.

“This recognition shows that our little program is doing some pretty neat things; even a small program like this can be reaching out. Our projects are being replicated by other teachers in other parts of the state and they are expanding something we have created,” he says.

Duplissie says even though he’s honored to be the 2015 MAITC Teacher of the Year, he doesn’t teach for recognition.

“I like what I’m doing,” he says. “I do it because I enjoy seeing the kids learn and grow. Those are the things that fuel me to continue on.”

As the 2015 MAITC Teacher of the Year, Duplissie will attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference in June 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky, where he will meet other teachers from around the country and abroad who are using agriculture to teach their students.

More about MAITC and the award are online.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Preserving Biodiversity

Learning more about the biodiversity of the Falkland Islands and what can be done to preserve it is the focus of a planned trip for three University of Maine researchers.

Jacquelyn Gill, an assistant professor of paleoecology and plant ecology in the University of Maine’s School of Biology and Ecology and Climate Change Institute (CCI), is leading the fieldwork that will be completed from Dec. 4–22 on the small, remote group of islands about 300 miles east of South America.

Gill will travel with two graduate students — Kit Hamley, who is pursuing a master’s degree in quaternary studies at CCI, and Dulcinea Groff, a doctoral student of ecology and environmental science in the School of Biology and Ecology and CCI, who also is part of a two-year fellowship called Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Research Traineeship (IGERT) in Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change (A2C2).

The researchers will study the islands’ environmental history throughout the last 20,000 years to establish a baseline for conservation efforts, and to understand the effects climate change and human land use have on the area’s biodiversity, according to Gill.

“The Falklands are home to some of the most important penguin rookeries in the world, and a number of species not found anywhere else,” Gill says. “Sadly, this biodiversity is at risk due to a number of threats. Climate change and sea level rise threaten critical habitat already degraded by sheep grazing.”

The researchers hope to learn more about when humans arrived on the islands and what the ecosystem was like before their arrival. They want to research the threats facing the Falklands’ wildlife — climate change, sea level rise, overgrazing and tourism — and help residents develop sustainable practices in sheep grazing, eco-tourism and fishing that would benefit the economy in addition to wildlife, she says.

The researchers will collect data from locals, as well as materials, including cores from peat bogs, ponds and lagoons, that we will be shipped to the U.S. and analyzed in UMaine labs. The cores contain records of past climate change, fire history and species composition, Hamley says.

The team plans to travel around the islands, visiting penguin rookeries, including the world’s largest rockhopper penguin colony, according to Gill.

Groff’s Ph.D. research will focus on the sensitivity of the penguin-tussac grass relationship to abrupt climate change since the end of the last ice age.

The native grass provides habitat for penguins and other seabirds and marine mammals and relies on nutrients provided from the animals’ waste. The relationship may be threatened by climate change’s effect on the ocean food web, which would affect the nutrients the animals bring to land. Sheep grazing has also reduced the plant’s presence, according to Gill.

While in the Falklands, Groff will collect sediment cores from several locations. She will study pollen and seabird guano, or waste, within the cores.

“By looking at the records in these cores I will be able to reconstruct how penguin and tussac grass populations have fluctuated through time, under different climatic conditions, especially during times when it is known that climate changed within a short time span,” Groff says.

She also will collect environmental samples including plants and soil to learn more about how tussac grass uses nutrients from penguin guano.

“The overall theme of my project is what I call a marine-terrestrial linkage,” Groff says. “The marine-terrestrial linkage is the connection of nutrients originating in the marine ecosystem that are transferred to the terrestrial ecosystem. The soil in the region is very nutrient poor, which makes nutrients coming from the marine ecosystem very important.”

Groff hopes her research will be used to help predict what will happen to the island’s wildlife and vegetation in the event of a future abrupt climate change scenario.

Hamley’s research will focus on the Falkland Islands wolf, or warrah, a fox-sized carnivore that was the first canid to go extinct in the historic record and was found only on the archipelago, according to Gill.

Hamley will look into whether indigenous people brought the warrah to the Falklands before Europeans arrived.

“Before the warrah was hunted to extinction in the 1870s, the islands were home to no other terrestrial mammals, and had no human inhabitants, raising the question of how and when the wolves first got to the islands, which are separated from mainland Patagonia by 600 km [about 373 miles] of ocean,” Hamley says. “They would have either had to swim, cross a theoretical land or ice bridge — which to date has not been shown to have been present — during periods of lower sea level, drift across on an ice chuck or log, or perhaps be transported via canoe by early humans.”

At this point, no archaeological record has been discovered in the Falkland Islands to definitively indicate that humans were there before European arrival, according to Hamley. She will use the same core samples as Groff to look at charcoal within them to determine if there was a human presence in the Falkland Islands before Europeans arrived.

Hamley will visit sites where warrah bones have been found to look for human artifacts. She will also visit a local museum to take samples of warrah bones for carbon dating.

The islands are home to less than 3,000 residents, according to Gill, and the main economies are fishing, sheep and wool, and tourism. The climate is windy, cool and damp year-round.

“The Falklands are a fascinating place — home to biodiversity found nowhere else on the planet, and yet they’ve had a long history of human impacts,” Gill says, citing as examples the arrival of the warrah as a native predator, early whaling years, sheep ranching and the Falklands War that left large areas roped off with land mines.

“The past has thrown a lot at the wildlife of the Falklands,” she says. “The future has even more in store, and it’s critical that we get a baseline sense of the biodiversity and how sensitive it is to global change.”

Gill says the islands have a lot in common with the Gulf of Maine, including potential threats to seabirds due to climate change and land use. She says researchers can benefit from studying both areas.

To help fund the $20,000 trip, Hamley and Groff have created and launched a crowdfunding campaign through Experiment.com. The students hope to raise $10,000 in 35 days.

“We started this initiative because we feel this project has the potential to be successful in the crowdfunding realm as it deals with a lot of issues that people care deeply about; climate change, loss of unique biodiversity, conservation and human history,” Hamley says.

Gill says while she is applying for traditional funding sources, there are a lot of alternative methods such as crowdfunding to kick start new projects.

“Crowdfunding also provides the public with a direct connection to science so they can feel like they’re closely connected to the research,” she says. “You’re not just funding my students’ exciting research, you’re also investing in them as future scientists and conservation leaders, who are trained right here at the University of Maine.”

Groff says those who contribute to the campaign will be able to follow the team’s updates during fieldwork and in the lab when they process the cores.

The Falkland Islands research is part of a new partnership between the CCI and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), a U.K. organization in the Falklands.

“SAERI approached the Climate Change Institute to develop a partnership, as they are keenly interested in developing research in climate change in particular,” Gill says. “We’re a world leader in climate change research, so there was a natural connection there. Most of SAERI’s expertise is in marine sciences, so they’re excited to have folks working on land.”

Donations to the crowdfunding campaign can be made online.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

 

UMaine, NOAA Officials Formalize Partnership, Announce Internship Program

The University of Maine’s College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture formalized its relationship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) by signing a memorandum of understanding Oct. 30.

Edward Ashworth, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture, and William Karp, NOAA Fisheries Northeast science and research director, met to establish a framework to formally recognize previous research collaborations and help initiate new opportunities between UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences; Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology; School of Biology and Ecology; and NOAA scientists.

The agreement lays the foundation for more collaborative research projects between the institutions as well as increased NOAA participation in graduate projects, undergraduate research internships and mentoring.

“I fully expect that this agreement will strengthen and build upon our history of successful collaboration, increase our collective understanding of the fisheries and ecosystems of the Gulf of Maine, and result in new opportunities to mentor students,” Karp says.

Members of the involved UMaine departments and NOAA Fisheries attended the document signing to discuss future opportunities that could result from the agreement.

A new cooperative undergraduate research internship program also was announced during the meeting. NOAA will fund up to five undergraduate research internships for students at UMaine to work with its staff to experience what it is like to work in the fisheries field.

The memorandum of understanding offers broad guidelines for pursuing mutual interests, and shows that NEFSC and UMaine recognize the need for enhancing research collaborations. The institutions are interested in partnerships that expand cooperation, collaboration and the exchange of ideas related to applied research in the Gulf of Maine, its watersheds and the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf.

“Enhanced collaboration between university and government science enterprises will leverage the strengths of both groups to better understand these ecosystems while training the next generation of scientists,” according to the memo.

Karp directs the NEFSC, a federal research institution. NOAA Fisheries’ mission is to ensure vital and sustainable fisheries, safe seafood, recovery and conservation of protected species, and healthy marine ecosystems. For its part, the center gathers and analyzes data and conducts research to develop ecosystem-level knowledge of marine life in waters off the Northeastern U.S. The center has facilities in Orono, Maine; Woods Hole, Massachusetts; Narragansett, Rhode Island; Milford, Connecticut; and Highlands, New Jersey.

Departments within UMaine’s College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture strive to develop scientific understanding of the Gulf of Maine and its watersheds and marine environment, to integrate and communicate knowledge through interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate studies, and to apply it toward the stewardship of the region’s living resources and its habitats.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Public Health and Safety

Marcella Sorg, University of Maine research associate professor, is collaborating with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner to examine information about people involved in deaths resulting from shootings, stabbings, beatings and hangings in order to develop an understanding of circumstances that may have led to the violence.

Sorg and retired state of Maine chief medical examiner Margaret Greenwald will spearhead the project that probes the relationship between domestic abuse, homicide and suicide so that intervention efforts can be tailored to save lives.

They will lead Maine and Vermont’s participation in the federal CDC’s surveillance system that studies circumstances associated with violent deaths. Twenty-nine other states also are participating. Greenwald and Sorg are particularly interested in looking at domestic violence and its effect on suicides that are not part of a murder/suicide incident.

Maine and Vermont have higher-than-average rates of violent deaths, specifically firearm and poisoning suicides, Sorg says.

Although Maine and Vermont officials have goals to reduce violence and injury, they lack surveillance systems that can gather and aggregate high-quality circumstantial and incident-based information and disseminate it to agencies and organizations that might implement appropriate prevention strategies to reduce the rate of death and injury, she says.

An additional technical problem, says Sorg, is rooted in Maine and Vermont’s low-density, rural population distribution and the resulting suppression of some vital records totals, even at the state level, due to small numbers.

A nearly $1 million five-year grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will fund the analyses. Sorg and Greenwald will dig into the “who, what, when, where and how” of violent deaths — homicides, suicides and undetermined — in the Pine Tree and Green Mountain states.

Beginning in 2015, Sorg and Greenwald will send data to the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) to link details from medical examiners files and law enforcement reports of those who perished in violent manners.

They’ll review evidence about victims and perpetrators, including age, income, education, method of death, relationship between offenders and victims and whether depression, financial stressors, job loss and alcohol and other drugs were present.

“We’ll collect data on the circumstances surrounding the entire event,” Sorg says. “We’ll be looking for characteristics of all the people involved, including the perpetrator, even if the perpetrator doesn’t die. Our surveillance will focus not on the individual but on the whole incident.”

Such information is powerful, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said when announcing the grant.

“Knowing the circumstances of violent deaths will help identify the very best prevention efforts,” she said.

The CDC, says Sorg, views violent death as a public health problem. And this project at the interface of public health and public safety provides a promising opportunity for intervention and prevention, she says.

That opportunity will be welcome in Maine, where 12 of the 25 homicides in 2013 were categorized as domestic homicides and 11 of the 25 homicides in 2012 were characterized as such.

Of 21 cases reviewed of homicides that occurred between 2009 and 2013, 17 of the 27 victims were female and 20 of the 21 perpetrators were male, according to “The 10th Report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel — Building Bridges Towards Safety and Accountability,” released in April 2014.

Victims ranged in age from 6 weeks to 76 years old and perpetrators ranged in age from 17 to 85 years old.

Of the 21 perpetrators, 14 exhibited suicidal behavior prior to committing or attempting to commit homicide. And, of the 14 who had exhibited suicidal behavior before the crime, seven did kill themselves after attempting to commit or committing the homicide, according to the same report.

Sorg and Greenwald also teamed up in 2001 to compile data on the relationship between substance abuse and drug-related mortality in Maine. Then-Attorney General Steven Rowe described their resulting report as “the foundation upon which to build future drug abuse policy” in Maine.

For decades, Sorg, a research associate professor with the Department of Anthropology, Climate Change Institute and the Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy, has shared her expertise in Maine and around the world.

In 2012, she led a nine-member international forensic team to search for remains of former Grenada Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who was executed in a coup in October 1983. She directed the two-week dig in an attempt to locate the body of the slain leader, at the request of the Grenada Conference of Churches. The team uncovered bones in an unmarked grave at a public hillside cemetery on the Caribbean island, but they were not Bishop’s.

This fall, Sorg, the forensic anthropologist for the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware and Rhode Island, has worked with anthropology students to examine skeletal remains unearthed adjacent to the Cornish Town Hall in Cornish, Maine. Authorities have indicated the building was built on a cemetery; records indicate one grave there was dug in 1810.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Spruce Budworm Outbreak Preparation Focus of UMaine Conference

To help forest managers prepare for the next spruce budworm outbreak, the University of Maine’s Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU) is hosting a Spruce Budworm Workshop on Thursday, Oct. 30 at the Wells Conference Center.

Nearly 150 foresters from more than 25 CFRU member organizations will attend the conference to hear about the latest research on the insect.

The spruce budworm is the most damaging forest insect in North America. Returning to northern Maine every 30 to 60 years in a natural cycle, the budworm kills balsam fir and spruce trees. During the last outbreak in the 1970s through ’80s, the insect killed 20–25 million cords of spruce-fir wood across northern Maine, costing the state’s forest-based economy hundreds of millions of dollars. It also changed the course of forest management for the next 40 years.

The next outbreak is approaching. More than 10 million acres of spruce-fir forest have been severely defoliated by spruce budworm caterpillars in Quebec. Affected forests are within a few miles of Maine’s northern border.

Sen. Tom Saviello, representing Maine Senate District 18, will open the meeting. Saviello received his Ph.D. in forest resources from UMaine in 1978 and spent his early career working in Maine’s forest during the last spruce budworm outbreak.

Thirteen forestry experts from across Canada and the United States will describe what is known about spruce budworm populations, forest risks, management responses, and options for controlling the insect and protecting the spruce-fir forest.

UMaine’s CFRU has been collaborating with the Maine Forest Service and Maine Forest Products Council in leading a joint statewide spruce budworm task force. The group has spent the past year preparing a risk assessment and preparation plan for Maine’s forest landowners and forest products industry. A draft report is complete and includes more than 70 recommendations to help forestry professionals respond to the coming outbreak. The task force will release a draft of the report in mid-November to solicit public review and comment on the plan.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Marine Scientist Explores Ecosystem Balancing Act on Caribbean Coral Reefs

University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck participated in a study that indicates overfishing and climate change have collided to create a new dynamic on Caribbean coral reefs.

The study, led by University of Exeter geographer Chris Perry, was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

It highlights the delicate balance between bioerosion caused by feeding and excavating of bioeroders — sea urchins, sponges and parrotfish — with the natural production of carbonate that occurs on coral reefs.

On healthy coral reefs, bioerosion rates can be high, but more carbonate is typically produced than is lost to biological erosion, say the researchers.

But due to warming seas and ocean acidification, Steneck says rates of carbonate production have slowed on many Caribbean coral reefs and coral cover has declined dramatically since the early 1980s.

Still, he says, marked shifts to states of net coral reef erosion have not widely occurred because bioerosion rates experienced by corals have plummeted in recent years due to disease and overfishing of bioeroders that rasp away limestone.

The dynamics are opposite in Maine, Steneck says, because shell-crushing crabs (green, Jonah and rock crabs) have increased in recent decades.

“Marine ecosystems continue to surprise us both here in Maine and in the Caribbean because the cast of characters and the climate both keep changing,” he says.

The study, says Perry, shows the future health and growth potential of coral reefs is, in part, dependent on rates of coral carbonate production and the species that live in and on them and act to erode carbonate.

If historical levels of bioerosion were applied to today’s Caribbean reefs, researchers say there would be widespread destruction, threatening many of the benefits that reefs provide to society.

“If bioeroding species increase in number, and erosion rates increase relative to carbonate production, then this could spell trouble for many Caribbean coral reefs,” Perry says.

That trouble, says Steneck, would include if “bioeroded reefs lose their breakwater function to protect shorelines and they lose their habitat value for reef fish on which many people depend.”

Management efforts are directed at protecting one group of bioeroders — parrotfish. Although parrotfish erode reef substrate, researchers say an increase in the number of parrotfish will benefit reefs because the advantages they provide by removing fleshy macroalgal cover and promoting coral recruitment outweigh negative effects of substrate erosion.

“In essence, we need to work towards restoring the natural balance of ecological and geomorphic processes on coral reefs,” Perry says. “From a bioerosion perspective that may seem counterintuitive, but these species also play a critical role in maintaining reef health.”

In addition to the University of Exeter in England and the University of Maine, the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Memorial University in Canada, James Cook University in Australia and the University of Queensland in Australia took part in the collaborative study. A Leverhulme Trust International Research Network Grant funded the research.

To read the research paper titled “Changing dynamics of Caribbean reef carbonate budgets: emergence of reef bioeroders as critical controls on present and future reef growth potential” in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1796/20142018.full.

To read the release published by University of Exeter, where Perry is a professor in physical geography and director of research for geography: exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_416424_en.html.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Director of Darling Marine Center Co-chairs International Ocean Optics XXII Conference

Oceanographers, water-quality experts and satellite remote-sensing scientists from around the world will shine light on developments in ocean optics and their application to environmental issues at a conference Oct. 25–31 in Portland, Maine.

Mary Jane Perry, interim director of the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole, is co-chair of the conference, Ocean Optics XXII, being held at Holiday Inn by the Bay.

“The conference gives optical ocean scientists from all over the world an opportunity to meet every two years to share ideas and exchange techniques,” says Perry. “Such communication among professionals and students is key to advancing science and developing new ways to use optics to solve ocean problems.”

Conference co-chair Steven Ackleson, oceanographer at the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., agrees.

“Optical observations of oceans on Earth are imperative,” he says. Many core environmental issues related to climate change — the carbon budget, harmful algal blooms, environmental-based management and human health and recreation — “require knowledge of how light interacts with the marine environment, the ability to monitor conditions in near real time and the capability to predict future conditions.”

Attendees from 38 countries can attend eight plenary sessions, including one led by Don Perovich of Thayer School of Engineering in Hanover, New Hampshire, who will discuss “Sunlight and Sea Ice in a Changing Arctic.”

There also will be nearly 50 shorter discussions and more than 200 posters presented on a variety of topics involving ocean optics.

UMaine researchers and graduate students are well represented. Perry, UMaine marine scientist Ivona Cetinic, and UMaine graduate Wayne Slade are reporting on their work this past summer in the Gulf of Maine that combined ship, aircraft and satellite measurements to monitor phytoplankton species. They also will report on another summer field project that used robots to study the distribution of phytoplankton under the ice in the Arctic Ocean.

UMaine professors Emmanuel Boss and Fei Chai, and graduate students Nathan Briggs and Alison Chase are also among the conference presenters.

In addition to the scientific presentations, author Robert McKenna will give a talk titled “Smuggling at Sea During Prohibition: The Real McCoy, the Bootleg Queen, Rum Row and the Origin of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

To view the complete agenda, visit, tos.org/oceanopticsconference/welcome.html.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

UMaine Researchers Document Highest Altitude Ice Age Human Occupation

In the southern Peruvian Andes, an archaeological team led by researchers at the University of Maine has documented the highest altitude ice age human occupation anywhere in the world — nearly 4,500 meters above sea level (masl).

Their discoveries date high-altitude human habitation nearly a millennium earlier than previously documented.

Despite cold temperatures, high solar radiation and low oxygen conditions at that altitude, hunter-gatherers colonized the remote, treeless landscapes about 12,000 years ago during the terminal Pleistocene — within 2,000 years after humans arrived in South America.

“Study of human adaptation to extreme environments is important in understanding our cultural and genetic capacity for survival,” according to the research team, led by Kurt Rademaker, a University of Maine visiting assistant professor in anthropology, writing in the journal Science.

The Pucuncho archaeological site, 4,355 masl, included 260 formal tools, such as projectile points, nondiagnostic bifaces and unifacial scrapers up to 12,800 years old. Cuncaicha rockshelter, featuring two alcoves at 4,480 masl, contains a “robust, well-preserved and well-dated occupation sequence” up to 12,400 years old. The rockshelter, with views of wetland and grassland habitats, features sooted ceilings and rock art, and was likely a base camp.

Most of the lithic tools at Cuncaicha were made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, and are indicative of hunting and butchering consistent with limited subsistence options on the plateau, according to the researchers. In addition to plant remains, bones at the site indicate hunting of vicuña and guanaco camelids and the taruca deer.

Pucuncho Basin was a high-altitude oasis for specialized hunting, particularly of vicuña, and later, herding of domesticated alpacas and llamas. While the Pucuncho Basin could have sustained year-round residence, wet-season storms and the dangers of hypothermia, as well as the need to maintain extended social networks and collection of edible plants, may have encouraged regular descents, according to the research team.

In addition, the lithic tools and debitage included nonlocal, fine-grained rocks — some stream-polished. That would have required the plateau residents to visit high-energy rivers in the lower elevations.

It is unclear whether the high-altitude human settlement required genetic or environmental adaptations. But with evidence of high-altitude human habitation almost 900 years earlier than previously documented, the implication is that there may have been more moderate late-glacial Andean environments and greater physiological capabilities for Pleistocene humans.

“The Pucuncho Basin sites suggest that Pleistocene humans lived successfully at extreme high altitude, initiating organismal selection, developmental functional adaptations and lasting biogeographic expansion in the Andes,” write the researchers. “As new studies identify potential genetic signatures of high-altitude adaptation in modern Andean populations, comparative genomic, physiologic and archaeological research will be needed to understand when and how these adaptations evolved.”

In addition to Rademaker, who received his Ph.D. from UMaine in 2012 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tübingen, the research team members are: Gregory Hodgins, University of Arizona; Katherine Moore, University of Pennsylvania; Sonia Zarrillo, University of Calgary; Christopher Miller, University of Tübingen; Peter Leach, University of Connecticut; David Reid, University of Illinois-Chicago; Willy Yépez Álvarez, Peru; and Gordon Bromley and Daniel Sandweiss, University of Maine.

The team’s research was supported by the Dan and Betty Churchill Exploration Fund at the University of Maine, the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, and the National Science Foundation.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745


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