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Summer 2002


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UMaine Today Magazine


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UMaine scientist leading Clean Air Act study

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tapped a University of Maine scientist to lead a national evaluation of the 1990 Clean Air Act.

Steve Kahl, director of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research at UMaine, will work on the project at an EPA research center in Corvallis, Ore.

According to John Stoddard, director of EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program, Surface Water Division, 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments require the EPA to report to Congress in 2002 on the effectiveness of the act's acid rain provisions.

Kahl will compile and analyze the latest information, including his own research, to evaluate the trends in surface waters relevant to future Clean Air Act legislation. Much of the regional EPA data has come from Kahl's laboratory for the past decade.

For 20 years, Kahl has conducted research with scientists from UMaine and other institutions on the environmental consequences of atmospheric deposition on lakes, streams and soils. One of the signature programs of the Mitchell Center is PEARL, a Web-based, searchable environmental information resource.

"Maine has some of the longest records and largest datasets for lake and stream chemistry in the U.S., with the important advantage of the samples being collected and analyzed by the same laboratory for the entire period of the Clean Air Act," says Kahl.

The Mitchell Center is named for the senator from Maine who was the key author of the Clean Air Act of 1990.

Since the early 1980s, the Mitchell Center has been awarded more than $14 million for watershed research funded by the National Science Foundation, EPA and U.S. Geological Survey. Most recently, Kahl and Steve Norton, a UMaine geologist, received an $860,000 EPA grant to continue studying chemical trends in lakes and streams from Maine to the Adirondacks in New York.


Lobster College: A course complete with melted butter on the side

Classes on Maine's premiere crustaceans are in session again this summer. The second annual Lobster College, organized by the Lobster Institute at The University of Maine, is Sept. 12-15.

Lobster College is an educational vacation on the Maine coast — a chance to learn about lobster biology and ecology, value-added products, lobster cuisine, stock management and other areas of the lobster industry. And of course, there's plenty of lobster to eat.

Fieldtrips take participants throughout the Schoodic Peninsula and Frenchman Bay area, where hands-on learning is led by lobstermen and lobster dealers, as well as several University of Maine faculty such as Robert Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute.

"We'll be taking a trip on a real lobster boat and seeing how traps are hauled, we'll visit a tidal lobster pound and a working lobster wharf, and we'll provide lectures on a variety of lobster-related topics. We'll even show how to bait a trap. Last year's Lobster College graduates had such a great time, they started talking about a reunion before the weekend was even over," Bayer says.

In addition to being an educational program, Lobster College is a fund-raiser for the Lobster Institute's endowment fund. The Lobster Institute is a research and outreach organization with a mission of protecting, conserving and enhancing the vitality of the lobster, and lobstering as an industry and a way of life. It was founded by members of the lobster industry and UMaine faculty.

Lobsters come in many colors but, except for the white ones, they all turn red when cooked.


Competitive management

The University of Maine was one of 12 universities from the United States and seven other countries invited to the McGill International Management Competition this spring in Montreal.

Canada's Concordia University won the competition.

UMaine's team of four undergraduate students — three from Maine and one from Bulgaria — was advised by UMaine Professor of Management John Mahon.

"The quality of our undergraduate program was a factor in our selection," says Mahon, the John M. Murphy Chair of International Business Policy and Strategy.

At the competition, the teams were given 24 hours to analyze a case and prepare a 20-minute presentation for two panels of judges. The teams were required to analyze the same case, in which a new start-up firm was developing human resource-centered employee software.

Mahon took teams to similar competitions when he was on the faculty at Boston University. He prepares the students to work hard and to perform to their potential, rather than focusing on winning the competition.

"It's nerve-wracking, but exciting at the same time," says Erin Plourde, a senior marketing and public relations major from Skowhegan, Maine. "But we all wouldn't have chosen to be involved in business if we didn't like the challenge."


What they did on their spring vacation

More than 60 members of the University community spent a week of their March vacation helping others in need by participating in UMaine's LET'S Volunteer program — Learning and Exploration Through Service.

This is the fifth year of the University's Alternative Spring Break, which took volunteers to Washington, D.C., New York City, New Orleans, Atlanta, Georgetown, S.C., and Eustis, Fla., to work with AIDS patients, troubled teens, community organizers and chronically ill children.

Alternative Break programs immerse students in often vastly different cultures, to heighten social awareness and to advocate lifelong social action.

The experiences of the volunteers in Washington, D.C., were the focus of national stories, the first of which ran in the Washington Post.


Improvement in movement

Researcher Nellie Cyr keeps bringing deadly sensitive statistics to the public table: Maine claims the most obese people in New England, and the No. 4 spot nationally for lifestyle-related illnesses and disabilities.

People need to make better choices, says Cyr, a University of Maine specialist in the effects of exercise, diet and smoking on disease processes, and in employee health promotion programs.

"You can experience the benefits of appropriate activity at any age," says the assistant professor of kinesiology and physical education. "It's a matter of looking for ways to expend calories, not for the closest parking spot."

Cyr's research documents positive effects that a change in physical activity can have on important health variables, such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, strength and heart recovery rate.

For instance, a recent assessment of the 12-week "Move and Improve" initiative at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor found participants had statistically significant positive differences in such areas as systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoproteins, and push-ups and sit-ups accomplished in one minute.

The greatest changes were evident in mean total cholesterol and recovery heart rate.


The National Folk Festival

The National Folk Festival is coming to Bangor, Maine, Aug. 23-25, with the help of the Maine Folklife Center at The University of Maine.

The three-day festival, to be held on the banks of the Penobscot River, will feature demonstrations, exhibits, performances and activities designed to showcase folk arts of our region.

The festival is produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Bangor, and Eastern Maine Development Corp., in partnership with the Maine Folklife Center.

"This will be an opportunity to highlight the importance of folk arts in this region, and the research and public programming we do at the University," says Pauleena MacDougall, the center's associate director.

The Maine Folklife Center holds the nation's leading collection of folklore, oral history, traditional music and photographs of Maine and eastern Canada. The center's staff, directed by James Moreira, is lending its expertise to the material culture segments of the festival.

This year's festival will focus on traditions of the Maine woods, including lumbering heritage, a specialty of the center, with canoe and basket making, traditional woodcarving skills and storytelling, and preparation of old-time foods like bean hole beans.

The Maine Folklife Center also will take advantage of the traditionally large turnouts for the National Folk Festival to do interviews as part of its ongoing Veterans Oral History Project. The project is conducted in cooperation with the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.


Paper floats their boats

A wind surfing board made of paper helped a team of engineering students from The University of Maine bring home a $5,000 third-place prize from the national Energy Challenge.

The competition, held this year near Atlanta, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Institute of Paper Science and Technology.

A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology took first, and Miami University (Ohio) came in second, just 0.03 of a point above the UMaine squad.

Last year, UMaine's paper sail for a sailboat took second; three years ago, it was a paper kayak that brought first-place honors to the University.

The goal of the competition is to develop paper production techniques that emphasize energy conservation.


The nature of tourism

Maine is famous for its hunting and fishing camps, as well as sea and lakeshore vacation resorts. Finding out what makes them successful has been the mission of Marc Edwards, a master's student in The University of Maine's Parks, Recreation and Tourism Program.

With the information, Edwards hopes to help the state's nature-based tourism industry grow and diversify.

Working with Will LaPage, an associate professor in the program, Edwards interviewed owners and operators of 16 Maine businesses that offer a variety of experiences — from white-water rafting and retail outfitting to boat cruises, dog sledding trips, mountain biking and wilderness canoeing.

"Some of these companies are micro-enterprises," says Edwards. "The owners do it because they love the lifestyle, and they are successful because they focus on customer service. Some of them really make an effort to provide life-changing experiences for their customers."

In a spring symposium, Edwards shared the results of his research with representatives of these businesses in what he hopes is a first step toward forming a professional association for nature-based tourism enterprises. Such a group could offer assistance to fledgling businesses and development opportunities to the industry.

Nature-based tourism represents a significant segment of the state's industry. "Outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism account for more than 20 percent of Maine's overnight marketable travel mix," says Nat Bowditch, assistant director of the Maine Office of Tourism.


Timing could be everything

When it comes to understanding why shipworms have caused such a problem along the Maine coast in recent years, Danielle Rioux, a University of Maine junior in marine biology, says the problem may come down to timing.

In the past two years, shipworms (Teredo navalis) have raised alarms in Maine, where they have damaged pilings, docks and aquaculture facilities. Last year, Rioux studied shipworm biology with Kevin Eckelbarger, director of the UMaine Ira C. Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine.

In the ocean, it is the larvae that start an attack by chewing pinholes in wood and burrowing tunnels. As adults, they continue to eat, and the tunnels grow larger.

Finding out when shipworms attack could lead researchers to understand what triggers their voracious eating habits. Rioux, a native of Falmouth, Mass., conducted experiments in Maine's Damariscotta and Medomak rivers, where shipworm problems have been reported.

She and Eckelbarger also worked in the laboratory, where they confirmed that temperature is a critical factor in shipworm infestation. Using the Darling Center's flowing seawater lab, she varied the temperature to see if she could coax the shipworms to release larvae.

She found that when the water temperature reached 70 degrees F, the shipworms started releasing their larvae.

"We still don't know for sure why shipworms have become so much worse these past two years in Maine. Some people have said it's cyclical and that there was a previous infestation about 30 years ago," Rioux says.

Rioux finished her junior year at James Cook University in Australia. She will return to complete her degree at UMaine before heading to graduate school.


Talk from around the world

Shane Keady loves to talk about two of his favorite subjects — sustainable agriculture and Gaelic. The native of Ireland is one of 10 University of Maine students who serve as language tutors in UMaine's Critical Languages Program.

For nearly a decade, the Department of Modern Languages and Classics has offered courses in languages that are considered "critical" — those less commonly taught yet "critical to world affairs." They have included Japanese, Bulgarian, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Gaelic, Vietnamese, Chinese, Dutch, Turkish, Arabic and Swedish.

Two-hour weekly classes feature as few as two students — often people working or visiting abroad, and others interested in pursuing a heritage language of their ancestors. Their tutors are UMaine international students or community members for whom the language is native. The Critical Languages Program is directed by Professor of Spanish Kathleen March.

Eva Mφldre of Estonia, an international affairs major and member of the UMaine women's basketball team, speaks six languages and has been a Swedish language tutor.

"I like to see how students get better and better in the language over time," she says. "I know how hard it is to learn a language, so I help students find ways to make it easier."

Learning in the Critical Languages Program is a two-way street. For Keady, who has lived in Boston since age 9, tutoring has helped him learn how to communicate effectively — whether with a language student or a farmer in the field.

 

UMaine Today Magazine
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