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UMaine Today Magazine


Recycling Pickup Lines

Lobster Traps
Lobster Traps

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University of Maine engineers will work with Saltwater Marketing LLC, an affiliate of the Lobster Institute at UMaine, to develop recycling options for used lobster traplines. The project comes at a time when Maine lobstermen are considering replacing the commonly used ground lines that string traps together in an effort to protect endangered right whales.

The lines are designed to float and thus reduce the chances of snagging on rocks and other obstacles on the sea floor. However, as they hover over the ocean bottom, such lines can present a threat to right whales. Lobstermen are now looking at the possibility of using heavier rope that stays on the sea floor and, therefore, has a lower chance of entangling the whales.

The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that 5 million pounds of float rope is currently used in Maine as ground line in the lobster industry.

Saltwater Marketing received a $20,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's
National Whale Conservation Fund to support its Lobster Ground Line Buyback and
Recycling (ME) Project. The Lobster Institute, UMaine's Advanced Engineered
Wood Composites Center (AEWC) and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Protected Resource Division, will assist.

Saltwater Marketing has contracted with AEWC to develop processing techniques for reusing the rope. Researchers will explore techniques to clean and process the rope into a usable form, and will determine the workability of the material in conventional plastic processing equipment.

Table Talk

The UMaine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has launched a series of "great conversations" in the community in an effort to share the timely and timeless expertise of its faculty.

Great Conversations kicked off last fall at Homecoming, giving alumni an opportunity to engage in small, roundtable discussions with the college's faculty on the subjects that they teach and research.

Since then, more Great Conversations have been held with members of the Penobscot Valley Senior College and residents at Dirigo Pines retirement community.

Topics range from "Will my grandchild's best friend be a robot?" to "Why the criminal justice system can't work." Other roundtables focus on the creative economy, the tools of Maine's first occupants, Franco-American culture, term limits and the history of conservation. Discussion leaders come from the disciplines of computer science, English, sociology, history, anthropology, new media and Franco American studies.

"Great Conversations is a wonderful opportunity for people to tap into the intellectual energy of the college," says College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Ann Leffler. "These informal conversations under- line in an entertaining way the centrality of the liberal arts in our lives."

Treating Shyness

Improving treatment for children at risk for developing severe social anxiety as adults is the goal of University of Maine psychology researchers studying shyness in youngsters.

Psychology Professor Marie Hayes and Ph.D. student Bethany Sallinen are expanding the study of youngsters ages 812 that they began last year. They are partnering with three Maine hospitals in Bangor, Waterville and Portland.

The research could break new ground in identifying how to treat extremely shy children. By examining the details of parent-child interactions that may promote social anxiety, researchers hope to provide insight into parenting strategies that could improve success rates in families working to overcome shyness issues.

Studies show that about 15 percent of children are shy; about 5 percent are extremely so. A National Comorbidity Survey revealed a lifetime prevalence of social phobia of 13.3 percent, making it the third most prevalent psychiatric disorder. Extreme shyness can have severe effects on an individual's social life and professional development, according to the UMaine researchers.

Children who are extremely shy or "socially anxious" have difficulty in school: speaking in class, participating in gym and making friends, Sallinen says. "They're less likely to achieve if they are untreated."

Later in life, they look for jobs where they can avoid speaking or expressing themselves, she says. Over time, a lack of achievement and self-confidence can lead to depression because of loneliness and low self-esteem. Early recognition and counseling can turn a child's life around.

Future research will examine the genetic basis of personality traits like social anxiety, which may be present in the parents of shy children.

Sensing Milestones

A new microwave acoustics patent may lead to a sensor for detecting pathogens in liquids. The patent focuses on crystal orientations that enhance sensor sensitivity in a liquid environment.

A biosensor that detects the presence of proteins and other biomolecules such as DNA could have applications in medicine and public safety, says Mauricio Pereira da Cunha, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Pereira da Cunha and Paul Millard, assistant professor of chemical engineering, lead research teams working together on biosensors. Key to the new sensor technology is the langasite family of crystals that are more sensitive in liquids and are more stable at high temperatures than other sensing platforms, like quartz crystals.

Last fall, master's student Eric Berkenpas achieved the first demonstration of a langasite sensor that detects proteins in liquid. Pereira da Cunha's team has shown successful and reliable operation of langasite-based devices up to 750 degrees Celsius for high-temperature gas sensing. Master's student Jeremy Thiele and Pereira da Cunha earned an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers award for their work on a langasite-based sensor that can detect hydrogen gas and operate at 250 degrees Celsius. Detecting hydrogen is important to the efficient operation of fuel cells, jet engines and power plants.

AMC's New Home

The College of Engineering's Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) has a new home in a 30,000-square-foot facility made possible by economic development bond funds approved by Maine voters in 2002. Directed by Professor of Engineering Technology Scott Dunning, AMC is an engineering support and service center dedicated to promoting economic development in Maine. With guidance from engineering faculty members and technicians, students design and build devices that meet manufacturers' new product specifications. In addition to prototyping, AMC engineers use their "design-build" approach to solve manufacturing problems and support research programs in the state.

Insight Lite: Summer in the Maine Woods

University of Maine Forestry and wildlife students and faculty spend countless hours in the field each summer, taking classes and conducting research on subjects ranging from fungi and insects to white pine and pine marten. As a result, they have a unique perspective on the Maine woods that not all residents and tourists experience. According to UMaine forestry and wildlife experts, you know you've had a true Maine woods experience if:

  • you have smoked a cigar through a head net to keep the blackflies away.

  • blackflies and mosquitoes make up a majority of your daily protein between the months of May and August.

  • you have developed webbed feet.

  • you have buried a truck up to its floorboards during mud season.

  • you describe "deep" soil as anything over 6 inches.

  • your truck has 100,000 miles on gravel roads and 10,000 on paved.

  • you use bug spray and bug nets, and don't shower.

  • you learn to appreciate all wildlife, including biting insects, by forsaking repellent.

EPA Fellowships

Two University of Maine graduate students one researching a new method for analyzing mercury in sediments, another studying the cultivation and use of the seaweed Porphyra have received fellowships from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support their research.

Karen Merritt, a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering, will receive $105,000 over three years; Nicolas Blouin, a master's candidate in marine biology, $70,000 over two years.

Merritt works with engineer Aria Amirbahman on a mercury analysis system using a thin membrane made of chitosan, a material that comes from lobster and crab shells. Merritt's goals are to determine the best way to adsorb or hold mercury-bearing compounds. If successful for mercury detection, the chitosan system could improve the accuracy of mercury monitoring.

Blouin is working with marine biologist Susan Brawley to understand the reproductive mechanisms and potential uses of the common seaweed Porphyra, also known as nori and laver. At Schoodic Point, Blouin collects Porphyra samples and studies its distribution and abundance. At UMaine's Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin, Blouin is studying techniques for growing Porphyra in tanks, as well as its potential to grow alongside finfish aquaculture pens.

Last fall, Brawley and Blouin went to China to study Porphyra growing and harvesting.

Weighing in on Soft Drinks

Limiting access to soft drinks in schools should be part of a comprehensive approach to reducing obesity among children in the United States, according to a study by three nutritionists, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

University of Maine Associate Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition Adrienne White and her colleagues Susan Nitzke of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Karen Peterson of the Harvard School of Public Health also emphasize that both exercise and nutrition must be part of obesity reduction efforts. While they note that no single food or beverage leads to obesity, they call on soft drink manufacturers to acknowledge the role that their products play in child health.

"Added sugars in foods commonly consumed by youth should be reduced" in order to lower calorie intake, according to the researchers. Water, milk and other nutritious beverages should be more accessible to students than sugared soft drinks.

For more than 20 years, White has studied child and young adult nutrition, focusing on food choices, behavior change and, most recently, obesity prevention.

Building a Better Catapult

University of Maine engineering students' understanding of composite material design and construction is launching them into international competition this summer.

They are participating in the Composite Catapult Competition, sponsored by the European Pultrusion Technology Association, July 68 in The Netherlands. The event requires them to study the characteristics of pultruded composite materials, and to design and build a machine that can catapult a 13-pound ball. In addition to demonstrating their device in tests of accuracy and distance, they must present their computer-aided design models to a panel of judges.

Pultrusion is an automated manufacturing process for the production of fiber-reinforced polymer composite materials known in industry as profiles. Pultrusion profiles are used for commercial products, such as lightweight, corrosion-free structures, electrical non-conductive systems, offshore platforms, road and railway trucks, and many other innovative new products.

The challenge is to go from a conceptual design to a system that can perform well under precise requirements, says Roberto Lopez-Anido, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the team's adviser. The team proposed a catapult design of the trebuchet type, which has a beam that swings a sling carrying the projectile.

Last year's winning team from the University of Helsinki launched the ball almost 656 feet. Other participating teams herald from universities in The Netherlands, England, Germany and the U.S.


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