For most of the past 4,500 years, cod
was king in the Gulf of Maine's coastal waters. Today, the groundfish
have given way to the Jonah crab, with potential long-term consequences
for coastal fisheries, according to a recent University of Maine
research report published in the journal Ecosystems.
With crabs and lobsters at the top of the proverbial heap, the Gulf may
have entered a new stable phase marked by the presence of expansive kelp
beds and the near absence of sea urchins. These findings also could
signal the likelihood of significant biological changes in other heavily
fished parts of the world's oceans.
The authors of the report, Robert Steneck, professor of marine sciences
at UMaine's Darling Marine Center, and former UMaine graduate students
John Vavrinec and Amanda Leland, analyzed fishing records and previous
studies to gather evidence for the changes brought on by fishing
pressure in marine ecosystems.
For example, ancient coastal middens have revealed evidence suggesting
that Native American fishing activities were beginning to affect
near-shore ecosystems several thousand years ago. Analysis of colonial
and modern fish landing records shows that such changes accelerated with
the adoption of new fishing technologies.
It is a revolution of sorts — an overturning of the established order
brought on by fishing pressure — that leads to major changes in the
coastal marine ecosystem, according to the article, "Accelerating
Trophic-level Dysfunction in Kelp Forest Ecosystems of the Western North
Atlantic." In the Gulf of Maine, the revolution was brought on by the
drastic reduction in the number of cod and other top predators in the
"While there is no fear of these species going extinct," Steneck says,
"entire sections of the food web have become so rare that they no longer
perform critical ecological functions in the marine community. This is
called food web (or trophic-level) dysfunction."
When such species as cod were no longer able to perform their function
of keeping their prey species in check, the ecosystem entered a new
phase, marked by abundant sea urchins and a lack of kelp beds. Urchins
ate so much kelp that they created areas known as "urchin barrens,"
where only low-growing algae could survive.
In turn, the harvesting of urchins during the 1990s has led to the
re-emergence of kelp beds and the dominance of crabs and lobsters.
"The problem is this ‘trophic-level dysfunction' is accelerating.
Ecosystem changes persist for shorter and shorter periods of time
because the ‘driver' species increasingly fall below functional
population densities," Steneck says. "When a threshold is reached, the
system changes fundamentally. Everything that came before it is thrown
out the window. What this does in the long run is make the system
For the first time, adds Steneck, the low diversity of marine organisms,
including Maine's fabled groundfish, have left the system too reliant on
a single species (lobster) and too vulnerable to continued and
unpredictable large-scale fluctuations.
Funding for the research came from the Pew Foundation for Marine
Conservation, Maine Sea Grant, the Maine Department of Marine Resources
and the National Undersea Research Program.
Engineers in the University of Maine's Advanced Engineered Wood
Composites (AEWC) Center are working with the U.S. Navy and Maine
businesses to improve shipbuilding technologies.
With two new federal grants totaling $2.36 million from the Office of
Naval Research (ONR), the researchers will focus on redesign of the
high-speed Mark V Patrol Craft and the reliability of fiber-reinforced
composite ship components.
Improving the Mark V's seaworthiness is a goal, says Robert Lindyberg,
manager of technical services for AEWC. The Mark V has developed a
reputation for a very rough ride, affecting the performance of SEAL
teams and boat crews. Working with Hodgdon Yachts of East Boothbay,
Maine, Lindyberg and other UMaine engineers will design and build a
prototype that meets the Navy's needs with improved handling
In the second project, engineers will study composite material
manufacturing processes. Navy tests have revealed significant
differences among similar composites produced by different
manufacturers. The research goal is to determine why such differences
occur and how manufacturers can consistently produce reliable materials
for ship construction, says Habib Dagher, AEWC director.
Collaborating on the composites research is Applied Thermal Sciences of
Peering into the Genome
Imagine having a microscope so powerful, it can reveal the
three-dimensional nanostructure of genetic material within a cell. Next
year, scientists in Maine will have such an instrument — the 4Pi Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope.
The most advanced optical microscope in the world will be the first such
instrument in the United States in 2005. It was made possible by a
$732,624 National Science Foundation grant to a Maine interdisciplinary
biophysical research program, the Institute for Molecular Biophysics.
The institute brings together expertise in biophysics and engineering at
the University of Maine; molecular and cell biology at Maine Medical
Center Research Institute (MMCRI), Scarborough; and genetics and
genomics at Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor. IMB's goal: to explore the
structure and function of genes and chromosomes in cells to understand
precisely how genes control both normal development and disease.
Once installed at Jackson Lab, the 4Pi microscope will enable
researchers to examine specific structures in a cell — such as a single
gene on a chromosome — at a resolution four to seven times greater than
As IMB co-director Barbara Knowles of Jackson Lab and UMaine describes
it, astronomers have space telescopes to understand the universe, and
physicists have giant particle accelerators to isolate elements of
energy and matter. Now geneticists and biologists have an advanced tool
to examine the very structure of mouse, human and other genomes.
In its annual guide, The 357 Best Colleges, the Princeton Review has
listed the University of Maine as No. 20 in its "Best Bargain — Public"
category. The publication determines academic ratings for institutions,
then compares those rankings with tuition costs to create a list of the
top 20 public colleges and universities in this category.
"We're pleased with the Princeton Review's ranking, which supports our
belief that UMaine is an outstanding value," says UMaine Interim
President Robert Kennedy. "We are proud to offer the benefits that come
with being a land-grant state university in a wonderful place to work,
study and live."
Other universities recognized in the same category include the
University of California-Berkeley, the University of Washington, the
College of William and Mary, the University of Texas-Austin, Kansas
State University and North Carolina State University.
Insight Lite: Sea Veggies
Some of the tastiest foods from the sea don't come with shells or
scales. According to University of Maine marine biologist Susan Brawley,
five types of sea vegetables growing in intertidal zones along the
northeastern coast of the United States are particularly delicious and
nutritious, with lots of omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and vitamins;
several also have lots of calcium:
In Maine, Porphyra is red seaweed that comes in at least five varieties,
each with its own distinct nutty-salty flavor. Commonly known as purple
laver or nori, it is dried and crumbled into soups, salads, popcorn or
Palmaria, commonly called dulse, is a thick, red sea vegetable with a
nutty taste. Dried or smoked, it is added to sandwiches, soups and
popcorn. Palmaria has long been a popular snack with Down East natives.
Brown algae or kelp include Alaria and Laminaria that can be dried for
flavoring soups, or pickled for salad.
Irish moss has deep red leaves that are boiled to release carrageenan, a
tasteless, gelatin-like substance. For centuries, it has been used in
New England to make puddings and custards.
Sea Moss Blanc Mange (a family recipe passed through the generations)
Use bleached-out, white sea moss.
Rinse in salt water to remove sand. Dry.
In a double-boiler, simmer 1 quart
whole milk and up to 1 cup of sea moss for 20-25 minutes. Strain.
Add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 cup maple
syrup (optional). Cool. Refrigerate.
Rural Education Online
A leading research journal devoted to rural education, published at the
University of Maine, is now exclusively online (www.umaine.edu/jrre)
with open access.
The Journal of Research in Rural Education, founded in 1982 by the
UMaine College of Education and Human Development, disseminates the
results of educational research relevant to rural settings. Topics
include learning and instruction; educational leadership and policy; and
the cultural, historical and economic context of rural education.
By going online, every aspect of the editorial process is rendered less
expensive and more efficient, according to Theodore Coladarci, the
journal's editor and UMaine professor of educational psychology. With
newly posted articles announced through the journal's listserv, as well
as the listservs of several organizations, articles quickly reach many
more readers than was possible with a print version. There are no
changes in content or editorial policy.
Articles published prior to the online conversion have been archived and
indexed in a searchable database.
Making the past part of the plan
A recent $175,000 award from the Getty Grant Program's Campus Heritage
Initiative will fund a preservation plan for the buildings and
landscapes included in the University of Maine's National Register
The preservation plan is expected to be a model for incorporating
historic preservation into a campus master plan.
Ten buildings constructed between 1870 and 1908 are on the National
Register of Historic Places. The facilities, all part of the earliest
construction at the then fledgling university, are centrally located on
the 660-acre campus.
A team of historical architects, and structural, mechanical and
electrical engineers will extensively evaluate each building in the
National Register Historic District to determine existing conditions. As
part of the project, original and subsequent architectural drawings will
be reviewed, and diagrams and a narrative of the campus landscape
history prepared. Documentation will include any landscape resources
associated with important people or groups in University of Maine