Hearing right from the start
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages all
hospitals to adopt universal
hearing screenings for children under 1 month old.
Links Related to this
Keeping at-risk children in Maine in
the healthcare and social services systems to give them the help they
need is one of the goals of a $1.45 million research project at The
University of Maine, funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health
Policy, part of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The program, Child LINK (Linking Information Networks), is part of
UMaine's Children at Risk Project. It begins with newborns at risk for
hearing impairments, focusing on early detection and treatment for these
children who, without intervention, could face developmental delays.
Child LINK designs and electronically links child health and development
databases for the state. The result is integrated information providing
the most comprehensive picture possible about Maine children with
special needs. With that information, the state can better track and
evaluate the development of these children, and above all, ensure that
they get the services they require.
"More than 13,000 children are born every year in Maine. The database
will help us focus attention on the children with hearing impairments
who may benefit most from available services," says Craig Mason, UMaine
associate professor of interdisciplinary studies and director of Child
"The database will give us a better understanding of the challenges
these families face and what can be done to help. We will get a sense of
where these children are falling through the cracks, and what can be
done to fill those cracks in the system."
Starting this year, information concerning infants being screened and
evaluated for hearing disorders, and those youngsters being referred to
intervention and treatment services, will be entered in the database.
The data will form the foundation of a tracking system in Maine's
Newborn Hearing Program.
With the tracking system, healthcare and social services providers can
effectively plan and establish a comprehensive system of developmentally
appropriate services for newborn children and infants up to age 3 who
are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Access to the database is regulated by the
Bureau of Health.
The core of the database is modeled on recommendations of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "With our expanded approach,
we are on the cutting edge of what the CDC is trying to do," Mason says.
Help with the herds
Dairy cows don't take a day off, but sometimes their owners have to.
That's when The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Relief Milker
System can help.
A relief milker is trained to step in to milk a dairy herd, giving a
farmer a break from chores that have to be done at least twice a day,
seven days a week, 365 days a year. Relief milkers can give farmers time
off and backup during emergencies, relieving a shortage of labor on
"It's a schedule that can take its toll on farmers and their families,"
says Extension dairy specialist Dave Marcinkowski. "There is little or
no time for illness, doctor's appointments, educational opportunities or
even just a break from the farm."
People who want to become relief milkers attend daylong training
sessions at the University's Witter Animal Science Center to learn the
basics of milk production and how to care for and milk cows on today's
modern dairy farms. Relief workers are 16 and older, and come from all
walks of life, including students and retirees.
The training is supported by Maine's dairy processors, including Agri-Mark,
Oakhurst and Garelick.
About 450 families operate dairy farms in Maine.
The statewide network of relief milkers is compiled in the Maine Relief
Milker Directory, which is available on the Web (www.umaine.edu/livestock)
or by calling a county Extension office.
National Masters Championships
The USA Track & Field National Masters Championships are again coming to
The University of Maine.
Aug. 8–11, more than 1,000 men and women, ages 30 and older, are
expected to compete in track and field events at UMaine's Clarence
Beckett Track and Field Complex.
The championships were last held at The University of Maine in 1998.
Athletes from 48 states and 10 countries competed.
At that time, 41 American Masters records and nine World Masters records
were set at the University.
The athletes were accompanied by more than 2,000 friends and family
members, most staying four to eight days in Maine. It's estimated that
the event gave an almost $2 million boost to the regional economy.
Cold facts about fats
Today it's hard to be health-conscious without being aware of ongoing
concerns about the effects of saturated and unsaturated fats on the
body. At The University of Maine, basic research by Theresa Grove, a
Ph.D. candidate in the School of Marine Sciences, may have implications
in future biomedical research on how the body uses fats.
Grove is attempting to unlock the molecular mysteries behind an enzyme
that appears to play a major role in the oxidation of fatty acids in
Notothenioid fish. The fish, native to the Southern Ocean surrounding
Antarctica, have a pronounced tendency to oxidize unsaturated fatty
acids for energy. Mono-unsaturated fat in cardiac and aerobic skeletal
muscles is used, even with both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids
Using biochemical and molecular techniques, Grove is studying the
structure of the protein fatty acyl CoA synthetase to begin to learn how
it may recognize fats by differential specificity, and how it functions
at these cold physiological temperatures.
The Peoria, Ill., native is part of a research group, led by UMaine
Professor of Marine Sciences Bruce Sidell, that studies Antarctic fish
to learn how the species evolved to thrive in an extreme environment.
Sidell's research, ongoing for more than two decades, has interested
medical researchers seeking to understand how cells respond to stress,
which includes life in a formidable climate.
Documenting Franco-American French
The first sociolinguistic study of Franco-American French is under way
in Maine, led by North American French scholar Jane Smith, an assistant
professor of French at The University of Maine, and Cynthia Fox,
associate professor of French studies at the University at Albany.
The three-year collaborative study is funded by a $301,130 grant from
the National Science Foundation.
Franco-Americans in New England and New York state represent the second
largest concentration of French speakers in the United States. Yet they
remain the only significant group of North American French speakers for
whom there is no body of recordings preserving the spoken word. Until
now, their language has not been the subject of systematic,
representative sampling and research.
In the sociolinguistic study, the researchers are investigating
linguistic structure and "the human dynamics behind the language" to
understand what social or economic factors influence language
maintenance or shift.
Their research, based on interviews with Franco-Americans, will explore
such areas as family background, linguistic history, ties with
French-speaking Canada and France, and participation in ethnic
activities. They also will study dialect variations between Quebec and
Acadian French in Franco-American French, as well as the influence of
English on the language.
In addition to providing baseline data on the sociolinguistics of
language choice and change in eight Franco-American communities, the
project will create a permanent linguistic record of the largely
undocumented variety of North American French.
When getting D's is a good thing
Exposure to the sun isn't all bad. In fact, a little sunlight every day
is good for your bones.
As part of an osteoporosis research project, scientists in The
University of Maine Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition are
looking at how much vitamin D, a critical factor in bone health, is
generated by the skin in response to sunlight.
Their results emphasize the importance of a diet including adequate
amounts of vitamin D and calcium, especially during the winter.
Susan Sullivan, assistant professor, and Jennifer Cobb, a master's
student from Kingfield, Maine, are focusing their efforts on adolescent
girls. Research has shown that the foundation for healthy bones is
established in adolescence. Inadequate bone mass in these early years
can contribute to osteoporosis later in life.
Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption, is produced by the
reaction of sunlight on the skin during the summer. However, the light
is not strong enough to do the job during the fall and winter. Even on a
summer day, Sullivan says, clouds can cut in half the production of
Sullivan and Cobb, who began their project in 2000, are working with
other scientists in the United States and Australia. Their goal is to
understand how sun exposure, exercise and diet contribute to strong
bones by providing adequate levels of bone-building vitamin D and
The researchers found that girls who spend more time outside in the
summer have more vitamin D in their blood. However, at Maine's latitude,
the sun is not strong enough until mid-March to kick off the vitamin D
production process. Even on a sunny day in August, the sun isn't strong
enough to start vitamin D production until about 9 a.m.
Sullivan and Dr. Clifford Rosen of the Maine Center for Osteoporosis
Research and Education in Bangor, Maine, are now collaborating on a
three-year study in which the researchers are closely monitoring girls'
diets, bone density and time spent outdoors.
Asleep at the school bell
Addressing the problem of sleepy teens is not as simple as adjusting the
start of the school day
Teen struggles to get up in the morning and stay awake in school have
more to do with science than with stereotyping. Research shows that
adolescents generally benefit from sleeping later because the biological
changes of puberty favor morning sleep.
However, addressing the problem is not as simple as adjusting the start
of the school day, according to a recent report from The University of
A study by the Center for Research and Evaluation in UMaine's College of
Education and Human Development compiled information from existing
reports and data from eight urban and suburban schools in Minnesota that
have altered the start of classes to accommodate sleepy students.
In her report, UMaine Research Associate Gail Downs points out that
schools need to approach such changes cautiously and comprehensively,
and be aware of possible consequences and complications that vary from
community to community.
Decisions whether to change the school day must be balanced against
other factors, including how the time shift will affect sports and other
after-school activities, students' afternoon jobs, family routines,
teachers' lives, bus transportation and the use of school facilities by
The study emphasizes that changing the time of the opening — and closing
— school bell must be a local decision, made with the participation and
input of the community after extensive communication and candid
discussion of all concerns and benefits.
A long-held ideal portrays Canada as the peaceable kingdom. While
historians have identified hundreds of disturbances in the northern
nation during the 19th century, only a few have received scholarly
"Throughout history, and even today, a peaceful Canada is held up in
contrast to a violent America," says Scott See, University of Maine
Libra Professor of History. "However, the desire to believe in this
ideal often obfuscates history."
In his research on the history of social and political conflict in
British North America (Canada), See has found that Canada in the 19th
century was a "fairly rambunctious place." Important categories of
collective disturbances — riots and group conflicts — include movements
in opposition to immigration (nativism), vigilantism, political turmoil,
racial conflict and labor struggles.
"Canadians were rioting and publicly contesting issues on a scale that
easily mirrored events in the U.S. and Britain in the same period," says
See, who recently received a competitive Senior Fellowship from the
Canadian Embassy to complete research on a book on collective violence
in 19th-century Canada.
"One of my scholarly contributions might be that people will rethink the
peaceable kingdom ideal, which has done such a disservice to an accurate
rendering of Canadian history," says See, a member of UMaine's
multidisciplinary Canadian Studies Program, the strongest of its kind in
"I would also like to think that by gaining a greater understanding of
collective violence in history, we increase the likelihood that the
future will be less contentious."
Competing in a concrete canoe
Under the theme "Rock and Row," a University of Maine team of civil and
environmental engineering students is entering a sleek 20-foot boat in
this year's regional concrete canoe competition, sponsored annually by
the American Society of Civil Engineers.
"We've been experimenting with a variety of concrete mixes using
lightweight ingredients and a composite reinforcing mesh," says Robert
Pontau, a senior from Wiscasset, Maine, and a member of the team. "We
hope to break some records this year."
The winner of the event will join other regional competition winners at
the national concrete canoe competition at the University of Wisconsin
A dozen colleges and universities in New York and New England are
expected to participate in the regional competition, being held this
year at UMaine, April 26–27.
Funds to support the team have been provided by seven
Maine engineering firms, as well as civil and environmental engineering
In addition to competing in five races, the students will write a paper
describing their design, create a display and give an oral presentation
before a panel of judges.