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May / June 2003

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UMaine Today Magazine


Women missing in places of power

Whitehouse & Women's Symbol
"The nation's most talented women are getting welts from bouncing off glass ceilings."
— Marie Tessier

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Despite a couple of high-profile women in the Bush administration, female voices continue to go unheard at the tables of power, according to investigative journalist Marie Tessier.

The University of Maine assistant professor of journalism and mass communication reviewed records of cabinet-level appointments of several presidential administrations, as well as reports by groups such as the American Bar Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Writing in a recent issue of Ms. magazine, Tessier concluded that women are not well represented in the highest levels of government — or in boardrooms or courts. In addition, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts.

Tessier found that during his first year in office, 26 percent of George W. Bush's executive branch nominees were female. By comparison, in the first year of the Clinton administration, 37 percent of nominees were women. This is the first such decline since the Nixon presidency.

The picture for women was just as bleak in other realms. Women account for about 15 percent of federal judges and law firm partners, and only 10 percent of law school deans and general counsels. Only one in 10 corporate officers are women, and female scientists earn a third less than their male counterparts.

"The lagging role of women in the Bush administration is a powerful allegory for the glass ceiling that continues to block the advancement of women in the United States. A few women are in powerful positions in all sectors of society, but in the main, women's voices still go unheard at the tables of power," Tessier says.

Her findings are especially troubling, Tessier says, because there is a common complacence about continuing problems with working conditions for women. Her investigative reporting shows that the progress remains incomplete and that "the nation's most talented women are getting welts from bouncing off glass ceilings."

AUBG: UMaine by way of Bulgaria

The first American-style university in eastern Europe will mark its 12th anniversary in September, but it will do so without its long-time president, who is retiring after a decade of leadership.

Since 1993, Julia Watkins, a University of Maine faculty member and administrator, has served as president of American University in Bulgaria, or AUBG. She is retiring at the end of this academic year, and will receive an honorary degree from the University of Maine during commencement ceremonies.

AUBG is a four-year liberal arts institution in Blagoevgrad. It opened in 1991 with planning assistance from the University of Maine, including design and monitoring of AUBG's academic programs leading to a UMaine-accredited degree.

As of 2001, AUBG was fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and UMaine is represented on the university's board of trustees.

The two institutions maintain a student exchange, with a number of AUBG graduates continuing their education at UMaine.

UMaine was invited to participate in the establishment of AUBG by the Republic of Bulgaria, the city of Blagoevgrad and the Open Society Foundation.

The eastern Europe university, which has seen its enrollment grow to 650 students from 20 countries, is funded by tuition, the government of Bulgaria, the U.S. Agency for International Development and private support.

Helping Henry

University of Maine business students are helping to make a weighty corporate decision for a California-based company.

Last fall, undergraduates in a marketing research class taught by Harold Daniel acted as consultants to the Henry Company, a construction materials manufacturing firm, helping it decide whether to enter a new market. Students studied the company and its competitors, and surveyed consumers.

This semester, many of the students went on to develop a marketing plan for Henry Company, including how the new product could be sold.

The UMaine students obtained and analyzed information for the company, then presented their findings to its executives. Ultimately, the students gained experience and knowledge that they can now put to work for Maine companies.

The Henry Company, which makes roof coatings and sealants, came to the university because of its experience in the forest products industry, says Michael Manning, the firm's vice president of administration.

Going to great heights

In a quest to understand what drives the climate of North America, a team of American, Canadian and Japanese scientists is studying ice cores collected from the highest mountain range in Canada.

One of those researchers is University of Maine geologist Karl Kreutz, who is studying the ice collected in the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon Territory, including a 1,100-foot core — the deepest taken from the Eclipse Icefield near Canada's highest peak, Mt. Logan.

Mt. Logan is well positioned to reflect what's going on in the North Pacific. Kreutz and his colleagues hope to shed light on an El Niño-like weather cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO.

Scientists know that PDO changes every 20–30 years, affecting weather across North America. PDO, centered in the north Pacific, has cool and warm phases. Ocean surface temperatures and dominant wind directions are different for each phase. Weather data have been collected since about 1900, according to Kreutz, although scientists have used tree ring analysis to extend that record back to about 1650.

Better knowledge of PDO may help answer questions about an apparent climate change in northwest North America. The region is home to the largest icefield and largest number of tidewater glaciers on the continent. Many glaciers have retreated dramatically over the last two decades.

Kreutz has climbed in some of the world's highest mountain ranges to collect ice cores. His goal is to understand where the moisture came from, how far it traveled to reach the glacier or icefield and how the atmosphere was circulating at the time.

21st-century weather

A new U.S. weather station at the University of Maine's Rogers Farm is part of a system that will provide national climate data for the 21st century. The automated facility is part of the Climate Reference Network of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The UMaine station is one of more than 100 being erected to monitor the weather nationwide, providing data that can be compared to past observations to determine present and future climate change, says Greg Zielinski, Maine state climatologist and a research associate professor in the UMaine Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies. The only other network station in Maine is in the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Limestone.

Weather data from the UMaine station is transmitted by satellite to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where it is made available to researchers and the public.

Missing lynx

Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that the Department of the Interior violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to sufficiently protect the Canada lynx from extinction in all four of the wild cat's remaining ranges in the U.S.

In the suit brought by Defenders of Wildlife, the conservation group argued that lynx in the Northeast, Great Lakes and Southern Rockies were being ignored in favor of recovery efforts in the Northwest. The court's summary judgment requires that all four lynx zones be recognized and critical habitat for the species be identified.

"The recent court ruling will likely result in an upgrade of the legal and conservation status of lynx, and increased awareness of the important role that Maine can take in conservation and recovery efforts for this species in the United States," says UMaine Professor of Wildlife Ecology Daniel Harrison. "It will affect the way that federally owned forestlands are managed for lynx habitat."

The lynx is one of several animal species that Harrison and other University of Maine wildlife ecologists study. Currently, Harrison and his colleagues are developing a habitat model to predict the occurrence of lynx in Maine.

Harrison currently advises Ph.D. student Angela Fuller, who is working on lynx-habitat relationships in northern Maine. In addition, Harrison and Bill Krohn, leader of the Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, recently co-advised two graduate students in wildlife ecology — Jessica Homyack and Christopher Hoving — who have worked on lynx ecology and relationships with forest management practices in eastern North America.

The research findings can be used by federal agencies to manage lynx populations in accordance with the U.S. Endangered Species Act. State agencies also can use the information to identify areas of suitable habitat for further population survey and research.

The Canada lynx, which is slightly larger than a bobcat, was once found in 16 states. Today in the U.S., it is estimated that fewer than 200 lynx remain, mostly in Maine, Minnesota, Montana and Washington. In March 2000, the lynx was designated as threatened in the U.S.

'Tis the season

In Maine, black fly season is just around the corner. Time to dig out the bug spray and monitor the weekly "black fly report" on Maine Nature News — an early-warning system for the infamous infestation.

Maine Nature News (, a daily diary of occurrences and observations in the natural world, has been online since 1996. It was created by University of Maine librarian Frank Wihbey and offered through Fogler Library as a public service to the state. Wihbey compiles daily reports from outdoor enthusiasts in Maine in an effort to chronicle nature and raise awareness of time-limited events — the news of nature — like the short seasons of trilliums and mayflowers, the ripening of wild blueberries and streams rising with the first thaw.

The goal is to emphasize what's happening in nature, and de-emphasize human events and activities about nature.

Readers also post nature-related questions on the Web site. To date, queries have come from as far away as Sweden.

The most-asked questions are about black flies. Correspondents' reports about the first sightings south to north and coast to inland, plotted on a state map, give outdoor enthusiasts clues about when the season will be in full swing. Wihbey publishes weekly updates from May–July, rating them on a scale of 1–3: 1 — none or few; 2 — some, but tolerable; 3 — many, a royal pain.

The second most-asked questions concern bird identification and behavior.

The age of language

A youngster's first words can be cause for celebration — and an opportunity to see how he or she is developing, according to University of Maine researchers involved in the Early Language Project.

Alan Cobo-Lewis, UMaine associate professor of psychology, is leading the research project to evaluate a computerized version of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories (CDI), a widely used child language development test based on parents' observations of what their children say and understand. The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Cobo-Lewis has created a computer adaptation of the traditional written test with assistance from members of an international CDI advisory board, and UMaine computer scientists Curtis Meadow and George Markowsky, who are part of a software development team at Trefoil Corp., in Orono, Maine, and Bonnie Blagojevic, research associate at UMaine's Center for Community Inclusion.

By knowing which sounds and words a child produces and comprehends, the adaptive CDI arrives at an estimate of what psychologists call the child's "language age." A significant lag in language skills can indicate a developmental delay.

Using a computer program, a child's language level can be calculated on the basis of each successive word. That calculation is done with reference to a standardized database of test results from about 1,600 children.

In addition to comparing the computerized test to the traditional version, Cobo-Lewis will evaluate how well the test tracks a child's developing language skills over time.

The computerized method has already helped Cobo-Lewis determine how likely a parent's response to any particular word on the test indicates the child's language age.

Plant a row for the hungry

For the third consecutive growing season in Maine, home gardeners are cultivating extra produce to feed others in need as part of the Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) program.

Established by the Garden Writers Association of America in 1995, PAR is a nationwide community service project to encourage growers to donate surplus produce, or plan ahead to plant vegetables and fruits for food pantries and shelters. In 2000, the initiative was supported by University of Maine Cooperative Extension and three seed companies in the state.

That first year, more than 400 home gardeners and farmers in Maine participated. Extension Master Gardeners grew thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables. UMaine's Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, Maine, donated more than 1,800 pounds of peppers, Chinese cabbage, winter squash and onions from variety trials.

One grower in Phippsburg, Maine, donated more than a ton of food to an area soup kitchen. His enthusiasm for the program led him to apply for and receive a grant to build a greenhouse to grow greens and vegetables throughout the winter.

Statewide in 2000 and 2001 combined, more than 52 tons of fresh produce was donated to food pantries and shelters. Last year, 56,017 pounds of produce valued at almost $95,000 was donated. This year's goal in Maine is 65,000 pounds.

Participants are urged to "plant thickly, plant often, harvest regularly, report donations (to their county Extension offices) and hope for excellent growing weather." They get advice on the varieties that have the best disease and pest resistance, and yield.

Home gardeners, as well as youth and civic groups, donate small quantities of produce frequently during the growing season, or large quantities of crops that ripen all at once. In areas of the state like Cumberland County, several farmers and fruit growers support the program by allowing PAR volunteers to glean fields and orchards of produce left after a harvest.


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