One of PopSci's Brilliant 10
Popular Science magazine has tapped
University of Maine Ph.D. oceanography student Kelly Dorgan in its fifth
annual search for the top 10 young researchers who are emerging as
leaders in their respective fields.
Citing both the creativity and reach of her work,
Popular Science selected Dorgan from hundreds of candidates
nominated by university department heads, editors of scientific journals
and others for this year's PopSci's Brilliant 10.
Working with Professor of Marine Sciences and
Oceanography Peter Jumars at UMaine's Darling Marine Center, Dorgan
examines the biomechanics of marine worms and their movement through
sediments. Featured in the February 2005 issue of Nature, Dorgan's
research not only sheds new light on the worms' ecology and behavior,
but also offers insights into the role of burrowers in the carbon cycle,
and the movement of pollutants and other substances through muddy
Top Taste Treat
Blueberry yogurt covered in dark
chocolate was the winning combination for the University of Maine at the
Institute of Food Technologists Student Association's 2006 Product
YoBon Berry Bites, fruity frozen bonbons created by
a student product development team Jennifer Jordan, James Perry, Jason
Bolton, Shari Baxter and Kristi Crowe took first place. The
competition included products from 23 of the nation's top food science
UMaine food scientist Denise Skonberg is the team's
Since the competition, three team members graduated
and are pursuing careers in food science. The remaining two Baxter and
Bolton, both graduate students in food science hope to take YoBons to
the next level.
The pair has applied for a grant from the Maine
Technology Institute for funding to support further market research.
They also want to develop specialized equipment in the UMaine Department
of Food Science and Human Nutrition's pilot plant to manufacture the
frozen confection in quantity.
Baxter and Bolton will continue to create the
bonbons in small batches for further trials.
YoBons are packed with antioxidants and
bone-building calcium. They also represent a potential new market for
one of Maine's signature crops: the wild blueberry.
Marketing for the new product is aimed at women,
offering them both the healthful effects of anthocyanins from
blueberries and antioxidants from dark chocolate. The treat also is
fortified with calcium and vitamin D to counter the effects of bone
Roads that last longer
Maine could save up to $400,000 per mile of
paved highway by increasing the permeability and improving the gradation
of its roadbeds, according to two University of Maine civil engineers.
Moreover, a more permeable base would increase the
life of the road, forestalling the need for a pavement overlay for 1015
On-site and in the laboratory, graduate student
Michel Bouchedid and professor Dana Humphrey, working in cooperation
with the Maine Department of Transportation, analyzed the permeability
and gradation of subbase material on eight primary and secondary state
highways, each between 8 and 12 years old. They found that improved
drainage and reduced frost action resulting from permeable roadbeds
could almost triple the life of highway pavements.
Their research findings were published in the
Journal of the Transportation Research Board.
Lost and Found
A bottom-dwelling fish listed as endangered
since 1967 has been rediscovered in the Penobscot River in Maine by
University of Maine researchers the first confirmed encounter of
shortnose sturgeon there in 28 years.
The 11 fish captured were up to 42 inches long and
of breeding age. Five were im- planted with transmitters so researchers
can follow their movements.
The rediscovery of the species is an important
milestone in an ongoing project on the abundance and habitat of sturgeon
populations in the Penobscot system. The research is being conducted by
UMaine Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Michael Kinnison,
graduate student Stephen Fernandes and USGS Cooperative Fish and
Wild-life Research Unit scientists, with National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration funding.
In the last century, much of the sturgeon's habitat
was lost, and water quality problems persisted. The presence of a
surviving population suggests that the Penobscot may be on the mend. The
captures also point to the potential of the Penobscot River Restoration
Project, which may aid struggling species.
Creativity Sparks Job Growth
New economic data from the University of
Maine give hope to cities across the country trying to gain a foothold
in the creative economy. The data show that cities don't need a strong
initial presence in the creative economy to have job growth in later
periods, says Todd Gabe, associate professor of resource economics and
policy at the University of Maine.
In his analysis of census data on 200 U.S.
metropolitan areas, Gabe found that the Rocky Mountain, Southeast and
Southwest regions had the largest growth of creative talent between 1990
and 2000. However, U.S. employment statistics between 1999 and 2003 show
that many cities in those regions saw the slowest growth of jobs in
The New England region did not top the list in terms
of growth in the number of people with creative skills during the 1990s,
yet it experienced the highest rate of creative economy job growth
between 1999 and 2003.
Creative occupations include those in engineering,
education, science, the creative arts and entertainment.
Gifts that fill a need
Tis the season for giving and two of the
greatest gifts are time spent helping others and material donations that
improve quality of life. Lyn Dexter, assistant director of the Office of
Student Employment and Volunteer Services at the University of Maine,
offers some suggestions for giving to those in need:
Don't forget older children and teens. They're
hardest hit by the holidays, because most donations of toys and clothing
are for youngsters under age 11.
Remember that gift cards can help parents or teens
select what's needed and wanted most.
Keep the needs of an entire family in mind by
buying gift cards for the purchase of groceries, electricity, heating
oil and gasoline.
When giving of your time, think outside the
immediate needs of the holiday season. Relieve a respite care provider
for a day, volunteer at an area soup kitchen after the holiday rush,
bake cookies with a neighbor's child.
Make a donation in the name of a loved one through
an international, nonprofit organization helping those in need, such as
Oxfam or Heifer International.
Purchase goods from groups like A Greater Gift,
which markets fair trade handicrafts and foods in partnership with
small-scale artisans and farmers worldwide.
Grain research to help organic dairy farms
Organic milk production is one of the
fastest-growing agricultural sectors in the Northeast, where there are
more than 160 organic dairies.
To assist the farmers, the Maine Technology
Institute (MTI) and U.S. Department of Agriculture have funded two
research projects at the University of Maine focused on organic grain
production. Organic grain concentrates currently cost New England's
organic dairies nearly three times as much as nonorganic grains.
A $78,000 MTI cluster enhancement award, matched by
an $827,000 USDA coinvestment, was made to UMaine Cooperative Extension,
in collaboration with Maine Organic Milk Producers. The funds are being
used to purchase equipment for testing different combinations of feed
for organic dairy cattle.
The tests will enable farmers to identify the best
combination that yields the greatest value in milk, while reducing the
amount of high-cost imported organic grains. Testing will be conducted
at the university's Witter Teaching and Research Farm, and on organic
In addition, Extension researcher Rick Kersbergen is
leading a USDA-funded project to expand grain production and use on
organic dairies in Maine and Vermont. A goal is to reduce dependence on
grain from the Midwest and Canada.
Rediscovering conservation's early roots
A traditional exploration of the history of
American forest conservation often begins with the philosophies and
accomplishments of 19th-century literary, artistic and environmental
giants like Henry David Thoreau, George Catlin, Gifford Pinot and John
Muir. But such a narrow view ignores the fertile foundation established
by naturalists decades earlier, according to University of Maine
environmental historian Richard Judd.
In "A Wonderfull Order and Ballance': Natural
History and the Beginnings of Forest Conservation in America,
17301830," published earlier this year in the journal Environmental
History, Judd traces the origins of environmental thinking among a group
of scientists who studied American natural history while exploring the transappalachian frontier.
Rediscovering the early naturalists is key to better
understanding the major precepts of conservationist thought in American
environmental history balance, interrelatedness, and the practical and
spiritual importance of nature. Indeed, Judd says, concerns first voiced
by early 19th-century environmentalists echoed to the end of the
Their histories document the epic of building a
comprehensive natural history through first-hand observation. These
naturalists also witnessed one of the greatest environmental
transformations in American history, as vast tracts of the eastern
forest gave way to a landscape of fields, meadows and pastures.
"It was this last point the anxieties they
expressed about America's forests that provided a foundation for the
conservationist ideas that took shape in the second half of the 19th
century," says Judd.
Understanding the critical role of calpains
For more than two decades, University of
Maine Professor of Biochemistry Dorothy Croall has studied calpains, a
family of enzymes thought to contribute to basic cellular functions, as
well as to the pathology of cancer and several neurodegenerative and
muscle diseases. Calpains also play a critical role in the embryonic
development of vertebrates.
Now a new project, funded by the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, aims to develop a specialized
biosensor to detect when and where calpains are active in cells or
embryos. Croall and UMaine graduate student Lisa Vanhooser have
generated a fluorescent probe that only recognizes active
enzymes. Studies with the purified proteins aim to optimize the sensor's
design using the extremely sensitive technique known as fluorescence
resonance energy transfer.
If successful, scientists could gain a better
understanding of the role of calpains in embryogenesis and disease.