2011 Maine Water Conference
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Augusta Civic Center, Augusta, Maine
Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative - Research Projects
Chair: Ruth Hallworth
Description: Producing knowledge and linking it to actions that meet human needs while preserving the planet’s life-support systems is emerging as one of the most fundamental and difficult challenges for science in the 21st century. There is growing consensus that traditional methods of generating and using knowledge must be fundamentally reorganized to confront the breadth, magnitude, and urgency of many problems now facing society. Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a partnership between the University of Maine (UMaine), the University of Southern Maine (USM) and other institutions of higher education, seeks to transform Maine’s capacity for addressing these scientific challenges in ways that directly benefit Maine and other regions. The program of research will also help Maine increase economic activity and technological innovation in ways that sustain the State’s remarkable “quality of place”.
Introduction to SSI
Mainers' Power-up: Tradeoffs Between Wind and Water
Megan Wibberly¹ (student), Caroline Noblet¹, Mario Teisl¹, Shannon McCoy²
1 School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME
2 Dept. of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, ME
Understanding how Mainers evaluate the economic and environmental tradeoffs related to different forms of energy production is important in multiple realms. Policymakers may want to maximize the production of energy that minimizes environmental impacts or maximizes local economic benefits. These goals however may be inconsistent with consumer demand or firm investment. Our objective is to determine how consumers’ characteristics interact with available information on various electricity sources (particularly related to off-shore wind and hydroelectric dams) to affect the demand for energy that varies in economic and environmental attributes.
Our data is based on responses to a state-wide mail survey (oversampling coastal communities and communities with wind projects) designed to examine Maine citizen’s reactions to various types of wind power. Our sample consisted of 3,200 records and the survey was administered during the summer of 2010. The total number of respondents is 1,255, for a response rate of 47% percent.
Respondents provided their opinions of the benefits and concerns related to various wind sources (e.g., enhances fish habitat; increases risks to marine life), and answered several questions indicating people’s relative preferences for: energy development versus water quality issues, and wind power versus hydropower. Some respondents were asked to select an electricity package with varied attributes - including price, energy source (e.g., wind power, hydro power, etc.), emission reductions and percent of energy that was imported. Analysis of this question helps us determine people’s preferences for wind versus hydropower development.
Developing Our Energy Future: Residential Heating With Wood in Hancock County, Maine
Gray Cox, Dan Cass, Davis Taylor
College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME
Developing our Energy Future is an interdisciplinary research program conducted in collaboration with community stakeholders by students, faculty, and staff at College of the Atlantic. This research team is examining a major problem related to sustainable energy use in Hancock County: shifting from oil to wood fuels for residential heating. This project utilizes the unique strengths of the College, broadens our engagement with local communities, trains a cadre of COA students in SSI research, and aims at long term impacts on reducing carbon emissions and establishing a stable non-petroleum heating fuel supply in the County. The central question is: To what extent should Hancock County shift to wood fuels for residential heating, and, to the extent it should, how should this shift happen?
Data and analysis will be presented from two parts of the study that will be completed by March: 1.) a series of surveys aimed to determine much more precisely than previously known, who is and is not using wood for heat in Hancock County and why; and 2.) a systematic experimental study of wood heat related particle emissions in the county and an assessment of the implications for a risk analysis of increasing wood heating.
Very preliminary findings suggest that wood already plays a greater role than expected in residential heating and that it’s use could relatively easily and quickly be extended in ways that, with regard to environmental risks, would be preferable to likely alternatives.
The Illusory Timelessness of the Belgrade Lakes Region:
Historical Research Informing Science and Public Policy
James R. Fleming; Colby College, Waterville, ME
The Belgrade History Team at Colby College, with support from NSF EPSCoR, is studying events, trends, and turning points in the history of the watershed that place people and the environment in larger temporal and spatial contexts. Our goal is to articulate and communicate an historically informed “sense of place” for the Belgrade Lakes Region in order to empower citizen involvement in lake and habitat protection. Research on social and environmental history informs scientific analyses and provides a larger cultural context for economic modeling and public policy studies.
This presentation reports on three research projects completed in 2010 on the geological history of the region, traditional summer camps, and the creative arts. We survey an interdisciplinary landscape—both literal and conceptual—that spans history, science, technology, and the social realm, and share our plans for historical research informing integrative learning, sustainability solutions, and community outreach.
Elucidating Complex Relationships Among Factors Influencing Mercury Fish Tissue Contamination
Linda C. Bacon¹ (student), Aria Amirbahman², Stephen A. Norton³, Barry F. Mower¹
1 Bureau of Land and Water Quality, Maine DEP, Augusta, ME
2 Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Maine, Orono, ME
3 Earth Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME
Increased mercury (Hg) loading from non-point sources in the continental U.S. has translated to Hg contamination of terrestrial and aquatic environments. The legacy of 100 years of pollution persists, even as Hg deposition in the atmosphere is declining. Lakes are particularly sensitive because methylation increases bioavailability, allowing bioaccumulation to toxic levels higher in the food chain. However, trophic status is a mediator in this bioaccumulation. Elucidating the complex relationships among the drivers of lake trophic status (i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, aluminum, dissolved organic carbon, and pH), Hg concentrations in water and fish tissue, and watershed characteristics will improve understanding of how natural and anthropogenic aspects of the landscape affect lake water quality and lake biota.
Analysis of pre-existing data from 92 Maine lakes determined that dissolved organic carbon, depth and Secchi transparency positively influence fish tissue mercury concentrations. Distributions of these three variables were used to target 100 Maine lakes from which to acquire additional fish, sediment, and water column data during 2010/2011. To reduce inter-species variation and allow trend analysis, White Perch (Morone americana), the most commonly eaten warm water fish in Maine, was targeted. Results from 47 lakes indicate a linear relationship between epilimnetic total mercury and methyl mercury (R2 of 0.57), with Hodgdon Pond on Mount Desert Island having the highest levels of both parameters and fish tissue mercury levels.
Demographic, Economic, and Land Use/Land Cover Change Projections for Use in Planning and Water Resource Management
Yuseung Kim, Charles Colgan, Jack Kartez
Muskie School, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME
The Sustainable Urban Region’s Project of Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative brings together a team of planners, economists, ecologists, and system developers to explore the interactions among social, economic, ecological systems in the Portland and Bangor metropolitan areas of Maine through the use of computer simulation models. The aim is to both better understand these systems and to use that improved understanding to inform Maine organizations and institutions about the choices they face as they seek a more sustainable future. The analysis of how changing social and economic forces will influence urban structure as well as the landscape of ecological systems surrounding urban areas is particularly salient in the state because the existing quality of place has been embraced as a major public policy as well as economic development issue in a state that also wishes to grow. This paper will review various options and issues for projecting population, employment, and land use/land cover change) at the state, regional, town and sub-town levels using different modeling approaches including conjoined economic-demographic models, multi-level step down models, planning support system models such as What If and Community Viz and newer generation system models such as Urban Sim which incorporate multiple types of models including dynamic market equilibrium models, spatial analysis models, and agent-based models.
Using lumped parameter drainage-basin models to assess lake level in a managed lake system
A. S. Reeve¹, Shaleen Jain², Matt Legere², Jean MacRae², Firooza Pavri²,
John Peckenham5, Misa Saros², Mike Scott4, Anna Springsteen²
1 Dept. of Earth Sciences, University Of Maine, Orono, ME
2 Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maine, Orono, ME
3 Geography & Anthropology, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME
4 New Media Program, University of Maine, Orono, ME
5 Mitchell Center, University of Maine, Orono, ME
Sebago Lake, located in southern Maine, is a municipal drinking water source area for about 200,000 people in the greater Portland, Maine region. In addition to supplying drinking water, this 118 sq. km lake and the surrounding drainage basin, serve a wide variety of recreational, commercial and environmental services. Currently, lake-level is regulated at the Eel Weir Dam, the only surface-water outflow, where discharge is controlled. Uses for this lake will be impacted by ongoing shifts in land use and predicted changes in climate.
Several task are underway associated with a simple computer model being prepared to assess factors that influence lake-water level. Anticipated use of this interactive modeling system include: 1) education of groups about the impacts of lake management options, 2) sensitivity analysis of different parameters used in the model, and 3) short-term forecasting of river discharge and associated lake level based on weather forecasts, potentially to assist in management decisions at the Eel Weir Dam. We hope to expand this modeling approach to assess longer term impacts to lake level driven by changing land use and predicted changes in climate.
Completed activities include: 1) monitoring stream discharge to Sebago
Lake through stream gaging and installation of water level data loggers, 2) creation of a simple lumped-parameter drainage-basin model based on GR4J (Perrin et al. 2003, J.Hydro. 279:275-289), and 3) development of a preliminary interface to this modeling system allowing interactive access to the model through the Internet. Currently, rating curves for the major streams flowing into Sebago Lake are being developed, allowing the use of continuously monitored stream stage to predict stream discharge rates. These data are being used to calibrate a model for sub-basins within the Sebago lake Watershed, with stream discharge associated with each sub-basin used to estimate inflow into Sebago Lake. These fluxes are used in a water balance for Sebago Lake, used to calcualte lake level.
Theoretical Frameworks for Integrating Communication Research & Stakeholder Engagement
Damon Hall, Linda Silka, Laura Lindenfeld
University of Maine, Orono, ME
Citizens are increasingly demanding involvement in environmental decision-making (McLagan & Nel, 1995, Wondolleck & Yaffee, 2000). Given that two-way flows of communication have emerged as a preferred engagement mode, understanding stakeholder conflict and diverse worldviews becomes key to crafting environmental policy (Cox, 2009). Diverse problems, places, and research topics invited varied efforts at engaging stakeholders, yet few empirical attempts have examined the range of approaches. A portfolio approach to examining diverse projects’ failure and success forms the basis for our emerging theory of engagement. Our theory assumes a polycentric approach (Ostrom) that accounts for varied types of stakeholders, problems, and disciplines. We argue that successful stakeholder engagement places emphasis on innovative problem solving rather than rule-bound prescriptive lockstep approaches. Effective partnerships assert the challenge of devising engagement through the same hypothesis-testing perspective that animates research itself. In our model, partnerships constitute learning organizations that intuitively envision different approaches and then customize these by providing iterative feedback that result from collaborative efforts.
Facilitating Organizational Innovation: Strengthening Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Network through Communication Research
Colleen Budzinski (student), Laura Lindenfeld
Dept. of Communication & Journalism, University of Maine, Orono, ME
This presentation provides data from a survey of the Maine EPSCoR Sustainability Science Initiative’s (SSI) Sustainability Solutions Partners (SSP) program conducted in fall, 2010. The survey aims to understand and improve synergy and collaboration across the Maine EPSCoR SSI, a statewide network of institutions of higher education. Data obtained suggest that the SSI project is personally and professionally important to participants, but that they require more effective means of communication and a stronger network to build effective, sustainable collaborations with each other. Data also suggest that participants need support in specific programmatic areas key to the SSI’s success, especially in the areas of Coupled Natural and Human Systems modeling and research and in Knowledge/Action Linkages. This survey represents an initial study in a longitudinal research effort designed to study the SSI’s capacity for building and and strengthen the SSI statewide network through iterative feedback loops of research and implementation. Communication research offers particularly useful insights into how the network is growing and changing.
Problemscaping Maine: Reaching out to Communities to Inform Research?
Karen Hutchins (student), Kathleen Bell, Jessica Leahy, Linda Silka, Laura Lindenfeld
University of Maine, Orono, ME
A central mission of SSI is to better understand the process of linking knowledge with effective action. In fact, one of the expressed desires of SSI is to “undertake innovative research to understand . . . processes that influence the use of scientific knowledge in decision-making” (Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, 2009, section 4.3). Researchers recognize that this understanding and influence cannot come from inside the labs, offices, and classrooms at the university alone; instead, we must collaborate, listen, and engage with various publics in order to co-produce knowledge and co-construct models for action. We must heed Hart and Calhoun’s (2009) argument that “a key step in effective knowledge-to-action initiatives is ensuring that stakeholders play a central role in defining the problem, identifying research needs or information gaps and helping to shape solutions” (p. 7).
The Knowledge-to-Action/Engagement team started our research by “talking” with Maine communities. In August, 2010, we sent a mail survey and questionnaire to a variety of municipal officials in each Maine municipality with the goal of assessing the issues and concerns of Maine communities, and their interest in community-university partnerships and preferences for working with Maine universities and colleges to manage their expressed issues and concerns. This presentation will discuss preliminary survey findings, highlighting how we are beginning to meet three of our research objectives:
- to lay the foundation for a generalizable model of collaboration between universities and communities;
- to assess sustainability needs across Maine and feed back into the sustainability science experiment of the SSI;
- to assess communities’ preferences for collaboration and communication.