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UMaine Today Magazine


Sunset Regatta, 1986
Sunset Regatta, 1986
Oil on linen, 40 x 50 inches

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Art donation

Eight paintings by abstract expressionist Angelo Ippolito were donated to the University of Maine Museum of Art this past fall by his son, Jon Ippolito, a faculty member in UMaine's Department of New Media.

Angelo Ippolito was an influential member of the New York School. The career of the late artist included international exhibitions of his works on paper and oils on canvas, and faculty appointments at the International School of Art, Michigan State University and Binghamton University.

The donation came at the start of the museum's five-year anniversary celebration of its relocation to Norumbega Hall in downtown Bangor. The announcement coincided with a second gift to the Museum of Art from Machias Savings Bank free admission to the museum from now through 2008. Bank President and CEO Edward Hennessey made the gift in memory of Bangor attorney Edward "Ted" Leonard, a museum benefactor and local arts advocate who died in October.

Up, Up and Away

NASA has cleared for takeoff four student scientists from the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine. They'll have the chance to experience floating in near-zero gravity in a modified jetliner while performing experiments that could benefit astronauts.

UMaine's Michael Browne, a sophomore in chemical engineering, and Benjamin Freedman, majoring in both chemical and biological engineering, are teaming up with USM first-year biology major John Wise Jr., the team leader, and Adam Courtemanche, a senior information technology major, to participate in NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program in Houston, July 1019.

The team, the first from Maine, is one of 40 from around the country selected this year by NASA, which awards the coveted slots based on the merit of the students' research proposals. After their training and physical tests, the Maine team will carry out in-flight experiments to measure the response of human lung cells to certain toxicants that are known to damage DNA. The tests will determine whether microgravity and hypergravity affect the cellular uptake of the chemicals, and create differences in the amount of chemical-induced DNA damage and repair.

The students' mentors, Michael Mason, a UMaine assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, and John Wise Sr., director of USM's Laboratory for Environmental and Genetic Toxicology, will travel to Houston as part of the ground crew.

The students will fly aboard an airplane that will perform parabolic maneuvers up to 34,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico. The students will experience 30 seconds of hypergravity as the plane climbs to the top of the parabola. Once the plane starts to dive to Earth, the students will experience 25 seconds of near-zero microgravity. The plane will do this 30 times in one flight.

Virtual climate change and other supercomputing capabilities

Schoolchildren in Maine soon will have an opportunity to experiment with variable climate change scenarios by accessing the University of Maine's environmental modeling programs from their classroom laptops.

The UMaine Department of Computer Science has received two National Science Foundation grants $200,000 to buy a second supercomputer and $300,000 to develop new supercomputer software to improve the transfer of massive data files.

The new supercomputer and an access portal being developed will allow Maine middle school students to access the University of Maine's Ice Sheet Model for environmental experiments. It also will enable the university to engage in much greater outreach and research activities, the type that require massive computing power, according to Phillip Dickens, a UMaine professor of computer science and the principal researcher receiving the grants.

Computer science faculty and students will create a user-friendly, scientific grid portal for accessing UMaine's vast computing resources, scientific applications and research animations, Dickens says. Users, ranging from Maine's top research scientists to students, will access the grid portal with a standard Web browser.

The new 96-processor supercomputer will be housed at Target Technology Center in Orono. It will be overseen by Dickens and four grant project collaborators: Sudarshan Chawathe and James Fastook from the Department of Computer Science, and Yifeng Zhu and Bruce Segee from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The supercomputer will support the work of participating faculty, in addition to research by members of Maine's general research community, including Jackson Laboratory.

Ancient diversification

Archaeological work along Peru's southern coast over the past several decades has largely supported ethnohistoric accounts by 16th- and 17th-century Europeans, which depicted prehispanic life as dependent on specialized economic activities related to fishing or agriculture.

However, recent excavations at Wawakiki in the midst of the Osmore region, one of the southernmost valleys of Peru, have revealed communities involved in complex, wide-ranging economic organization and production strategies as the Chiribaya people responded to the effects of population growth and diminishing agricultural potential.

Communities along this rugged intervalley coastal zone may have constituted a third division of society, according to University of Maine archaeologist Gregory Zaro, writing of his field excavations in that area in a recent issue of Latin American Antiquity. Rather than relying primarily on the highland resources of the Andean slopes or specialized economic activities related largely to farming or fishing, communities along the intervalley coast appear to have satisfied economic needs by intensively pursuing multiple subsistence strategies in agriculture and fishing, and the gathering of wild terrestrial resources.

Due in part to centuries of decreased highland precipitation that stressed lower valley farming communities along the Ilo River, the Chiribaya expanded into the relatively unpopulated intervalley coast and focused more on diversified community-level production. According to Zaro, Wawakiki and some neighboring communities represent a historically contingent response to both cultural and biological necessities and the environment during the Late Intermediate period (A.D. 12001400) in southern Peru.

300 years of spruce budworms

To better understand the frequency, severity and extent of outbreaks by the spruce budworm, one of the most devastating forest pests in eastern North America, researchers have reconstructed a 300-year history of invasions in northern interior Maine.

A similar timeline exists for the woods of eastern Canada, but this is the first time such a history was compiled for northeastern American forests.

The Maine study identified five major outbreaks by the insects that feed on buds and developing foliage of mature conifers, primarily balsam fir and spruce species. Those outbreaks began around 1709, 1762, 1808, 1914 and 1976. The mean outbreak return interval was 67 years, nearly two times longer than the cycle in eastern Canada, where there are slightly different forest types and stand dynamics.

The researchers from the University of Maine and Indiana State University combined historical documentation and analyses of growth rings in red spruce, which are host trees, and nonhost northern white cedar. Their study area was the Big Reed Forest Reserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy, one of the largest remaining tracts of old-growth forest in the Northeast.

The results of their research were published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research.

Encore: Native writers

For the past year, Assiniboine playwright William Yellow Robe has been a part-time instructor in the University of Maine English Department, where he has taught Native American drama and literature. Last fall, two of his plays were performed as part of Readers' Theater on campus, and in December, one was staged in New York City. We asked Yellow Robe to share his reading list of works by Native authors and playwrights.

  • Ghost Dance, a play by Annette Arkeketa

  • Seventh Generation: An Anthology of Native American Plays, edited by Mimi D'Aponte

  • New Native American Drama: Three Plays by Hanay Geiogamah

  • American Indian Theater in Performance: A Reader, edited by Hanay Geiogamah and Jaye Darby

  • Inter-Tribal, a play by Terry Gomez

  • Staging Coyote's Dream: An Anthology of First Nations Drama in English, edited by Monique Mojica and Richard Paul Knowles

  • Where the Pavement Ends: Five Native American Plays by William Yellow Robe Jr.

Hitching a ride with whom?

When it's time for the larvae of freshwater mussels to disperse, they hitch a ride on the gills, fins or scales of certain fish species. Finding out which fish the parasitic larvae or glochidia prefer as hosts is essential to regional conservation efforts leading to recovery of natural populations.

In Maine, that's particularly important to two state-designated threatened species the yellow lampmussel and tidewater mucket.

University of Maine wildlife ecologists Stephen Kneeland and Judith Rhymer have developed and used a molecular identification key to the 10 species of freshwater mussels in Maine in an effort to determine which fish in the wild serve as hosts for the larvae.

In their research, published by the international Journal of Molluscan Studies and, most recently, the Journal of the North American Benthological Society, DNA samples were taken from mussels in the Penobscot, Kennebec and St. George River drainages in Maine. The key was used to successfully identify more than 680 larvae on the gills of 230 fish, representing 18 species from 13 locations in the study area.

As a conservation tool, molecular identification keys provide efficient and accurate information on host use by the entire mussel community. In this case, potential new host fish were identified for five of six mussel species, including three considered by the state to be of "special concern."

Best friends

For frogs in Acadia National Park, beavers are their best friends, according to a new University of Maine study.

In a survey of 71 freshwater wetlands in Acadia, the researchers found that active, beaver-modified wetland landscapes created such habitat diversity as to benefit all pond-breeding amphibian species, even those with very different living requirements. Sites richest in pond-breeding amphibians were those connected to stream corridors and those modified by beaver activity.

As beavers have recolonized areas of their former range in North America, they have increased the number and diversity of available breeding sites in the landscape for pond-breeding amphibians, according to UMaine wetland ecologists Jesse Cunningham and Aram Calhoun, and biologist William Glanz. The study highlights the importance of beavers in creating and connecting suitable breeding sites for pond-breeding amphibians in northern forested landscapes.

Their findings were published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

Journalism exchange

This summer, University of Maine journalism faculty members will participate in a professional exchange and certificate program with Tanzanian journalists.

From mid-June through August, six East African journalists will visit the university and several media organizations in Maine and on the East Coast to see how Americans cover the news, from small towns to large metropolitan markets.

The Certificate in Journalism Training for International Scholars program is possible through a $183,000 grant from USAID (United States Agency for International Development) to the UMaine School of Policy and International Affairs, the university's Communication and Journalism Department, and the Office of International Programs on campus.

The Tanzanian journalists will be exposed to some of the latest information technologies employed by American media. UMaine faculty and American journalists the Africans meet during the summer will learn how Tanzanians have overcome some of the reporting challenges they face at home.

"The Tanzanian population relies much more on radio news mass media than many American media markets," says Shannon Martin, chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism, whose research has included work with journalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "One thing I'm hoping to learn from the Tanzania media is how they prepare their media broadcasts to reach rural markets."

Martin anticipates UMaine's journalist exchange continuing to include other countries.

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