Defying traditional roles
Research by University of Maine
anthropologists Rebecca Bliege Bird and Douglas Bird is providing
insights into early human ways of life, including the division of labor
between the sexes and protracted childhoods.
To do their research, the Birds live in Australia for extended periods
with aboriginal hunter-gatherers, the Mardu of Western Australia's Great
Sandy Desert and the Meriam of the Great Barrier Reef.
Their most recent trip, January–July 2002, was funded by the National
Science Foundation and the Leakey Foundation.
Conventional explanations for divisions of labor contend that men and
women worked together to maximize the family's food. But the Birds'
research draws that theory into question, as detailed in the lead
article in the journal AnthroQuest.
The Birds found that Mardu women hunt what is predictable to catch, such
as lizards and small game. Men hunt larger animals, such as bush turkey
and kangaroo. The Birds' data indicate that women's work consistently
yields more food; men choose hunting activities that demonstrate skill
and earn them social or political gains.
The Birds' research on foraging among Meriam children is outlined in two
articles in a recent issue of Human Nature. Their analysis, which again
challenges conventional explanations, was highlighted in July in the New
It was thought that long childhoods allow time to learn complex hunting
skills. But among the Meriam, children quickly master high-skill
activities such as spearfishing. The Birds say growing slowly keeps
children from being competitive threats to adults.
Fresh from the field
From early summer to late fall, shareholders come twice a week to pick
up their dividends — bags brimming with greens and peas, corn, cucumbers
and cabbage, squash, melons, and other fresh fruits and vegetables. The
farmers are there to answer questions and to offer recipes for the
The process connects consumers with their food — community-supported
agriculture (CSA) at its best.
The student-operated Black Bear Food Guild, a project of The University
of Maine's Sustainable Agriculture Program, was initiated in 1995 to
provide in-the-field learning. Students manage three acres of certified
organic vegetables, herbs, flowers and cover crops at UMaine's Rogers
Farm, providing fresh produce to 75 shareholders.
Annual fees paid by members, coupled with sales of surplus produce at a
farm stand and local farmers' market, make the Black Bear Food Guild
self-sufficient. Every year, there's a waiting list of prospective
"This is a great program because it's so hands-on and we're in charge of
ourselves," says Julia Trunzo of Kinnelon, N.J., a sustainable
agriculture major and one of six students managing the guild this
Beginning with the selection of heirloom and hybrid seeds, the students
are active in a range of farm management activities — from pre-season
planning and planting to cultivating and harvesting. Plus, there's
always weeding — and more weeding.
Sustainable organic agriculture is "farming within and with nature,
rather than combating nature," says Cornville, Maine, native Michael
Bowman, a sustainable agriculture major.
To emphasize the point, the students instituted a composting program so
shareholders can return their peelings, husks and other organic food
waste to the farm. The result is community-supported agriculture brought
A living tribute
The large image of a waving American flag, created out of petunias and
marigolds in Fort Allen Park, Portland, Maine, honors the victims and
heroes of Sept. 11.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners designed and
planted the living memorial. In a dedication ceremony on Memorial Day,
special recognition was given to the seven Sept. 11 victims from Maine.
Two Maine master gardeners, Ann Miles of Portland and Karen Henderson of
Scarborough, coordinated the garden project. Materials were donated by
"The response to this idea has just been overwhelming," Miles says.
Studying pollution in a pristine
Understanding the effects of pollution on the environment sometimes
requires finding the cleanest places on the globe. Thirty years ago,
Bruce Wiersma found such a place in the mountains of extreme southern
At that time, he was helping to establish a network of pristine global
monitoring sites. By measuring the function of natural ecosystems, the
scientists had reference points by which to measure more impacted areas.
Since 1984, Wiersma, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry,
and Agriculture at The University of Maine, has traveled to Torres del
Paine National Park more than 20 times to collect data from the soil,
water, trees and air. The research, involving graduate and undergraduate
students, has revealed some of the lowest concentrations of heavy
metals, such as cadmium, copper and lead, of any site in the world.
Torres del Paine is internationally recognized for its beauty and
pristine qualities. In 1978, the United Nations declared the site an
international Biosphere Reserve and recently named it a World Heritage
Site. For his research there, Wiersma has received funding support from
the United Nations, the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of
State, and most recently, the National Geographic Society.
While Wiersma is starting to see evidence of human impact in the park,
including a rise in lead levels, his research continues. Working with
him are former student Greg White, now with the Idaho National
Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, and UMaine Ph.D. student Alex
Elvir Murillo of Honduras.
A decade of youth sports
This summer, the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) opened its 10th
season at The University of Maine, offering six weeks of activities for
more than 200 area youngsters.
The free day camp features swimming and team sports, as well as
educational opportunities for youths ages 10-16 from more than 30 local
The program and staff are committed to helping campers achieve the goals
of believing in themselves, getting along with others, and experiencing
success through individual and team achievement.
This year, annual health assessments for young participants were
provided by staff from UMaine's Cutler Health Center, Bangor Family
Practice, Healthworks and Eastern Maine Medical Center.
NYSP is made possible by a partnership between the U.S. government and
participating universities and communities, with oversight by the
National Collegiate Athletic Association. Under the federal grant, most
campers must come from families who meet Department of Health and Human
Services income guidelines.
UMaine's award-winning NYSP is directed by Professor of Education
Stephen Butterfield. Until this year, UMaine's NYSP was the only one of
its kind in northern New England.
The Atlantic ecosystem
Three University of Maine scientists will help to lead a new
international effort to improve understanding of the North Atlantic
Susan Brawley, Les Watling and Robert Steneck in the School of Marine
Sciences, as well as three former UMaine graduate students — Ester
Serrao, Richard Wahle and J. Emmett Duffy — are on the 27-member
steering committee for CORONA (Coordinating Research on the North
The project is funded by a five-year, $499,803 National Science
Foundation grant to Duke University.
Among the initiatives the grant will establish is an annual meeting of
European and North American scientists to share their research, consider
biological differences between ecosystems on both sides of the Atlantic
and develop collaborative projects.
One expected benefit is better prediction of the ecological effects of
invasive species transported across the ocean. Scientists also hope to
study how organisms have evolved under the influence of currents that
travel from the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic and into the North
Honors in Canadian history
Two doctoral candidates in The University of Maine History Department's
Canadian Studies program have been awarded Fulbright scholarships and
research grants from the Canadian Embassy.
Hans Carlson of Burlington, Vt., and Laura Detre of Warren, Ohio, will
use the funds to conduct archival research in Canada and to study for a
year at Canadian universities.
Carlson's research focuses on how the Cree people of Eastern James Bay
in Quebec have interacted with the environment to develop their
distinctive culture. Detre's work concerns immigration propaganda
produced by the Canadian government and private institutions from
Carlson and Detre were among about two dozen students awarded Graduate
Study and Research Abroad grants through Fulbright's U.S.–Canada
exchange. The competition was open to students whose research addresses
aspects of the relationship between the U.S. and Canada.
Carlson's research will result in an "environmental history" of the Cree
people, in which he describes how people create "cultural spaces" within
their environments and how the environment shaped Cree culture. His work
also will detail the way the Cree negotiated cultural space with the
Detre's research comes to grips with government activities and the
dynamics of transborder migration in North American history. In her
work, she will examine documents such as posters and promotional
brochures — materials depicting an ideal society for the prairies and
designed to appeal to American and European farm families.
Writing across Maine
Young authors attended camp in three locations in the state this past
summer, one of many service projects of the Maine Writing Project at The
University of Maine.
The annual camp is led by some of the state's top writing teachers. They
are among the more than 140 who have completed the rigorous requirements
of the Maine Writing Project, which was established in 1997 in the
University's College of Education and Human Development.
The Maine Writing Project is an affiliate of the National Writing
Project, a federally funded professional development program designed to
improve the teaching of writing at all grade levels.
Writing Project Fellows provide instruction to other teachers and offer
innovative activities, such as a summer school literacy project for high
school boys and a Rural Voices radio program, featuring students and
educators in the state.
In cod blood
A recently discovered phenomenon in fish blood may have benefits in
medicine, biology and aquaculture, according to University of Maine
scientists Ione Hunt Von Herbing, Michael Vayda and Robert Cashon.
When some cold-water fish, such as cod, haddock and toadfish, encounter
extreme cold or conditions that are low on life-giving oxygen, their red
blood cells change shape. Under a microscope, the cells change from
round to sickle shape, and they tend to clump together. In some species,
the cells contain rods or needles of crystallized hemoglobin that can
even cause tissue damage.
Sickling in fish blood may correspond to an inherited blood disorder in
humans known as sickle cell disease, which can cause a variety of health
problems. Fish blood may provide a useful model for sickle cell disease
research, in addition to determining if these fish have special
adaptations to extreme environments.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, UMaine scientists are
testing the idea that sickle cell formation in fish may increase the
chances for survival under stress. Testing for sickle cells in
aquaculture stock also may indicate harmful levels of stress in fish.
The former associate dean of the College of Business at Ohio University
has assumed a new position as dean of the College of Business, Public
Policy and Health at The University of Maine.
Daniel Innis earned a Ph.D. in business from Ohio State in 1991. That
year, he joined the marketing faculty at Ohio University. In 1997, he
became chair of the marketing department.
Innis was named associate dean of Ohio University's College of Business
in 1999. In that job, he was responsible for the operational aspects of
the college, including budgeting, strategic planning, program management
and academic issues.
UMaine's College of Business, Public Policy and Health is the
administrative home of nationally recognized programs in business,
nursing, public administration and social work. It also includes
UMaine's Center on Aging and the William S. Cohen Center for
International Policy and Commerce.