As part of an unprecedented, multiyear effort,
researchers have retrieved the first section of an ice column in
Antarctica that could provide the most detailed record yet of greenhouse
gases in Earth's atmosphere during the last 100,000 years.
Working as part of the National Science Foundation's
West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide) Ice Core Project, a team
of scientists, engineers, technicians and students from multiple U.S.
institutions recovered a 1,900-foot ice core — the first section of what
is hoped to be a 11,360-foot column of ice detailing 100,000 years of
climate history, including a precise annual record of the last 40,000
The dust, chemicals and air trapped in the
2-mile-long ice core will provide critical information for scientists
working to predict the extent to which human activity will alter Earth's
climate, according to the chief scientist for the project, Kendrick
Taylor of the Desert Research Institute of the Nevada System of Higher
Researchers at the University of Maine have received
a piece of the WAIS Divide ice core for analysis of the physical and
chemical properties of the trapped atmospheric dust. In collaboration
with colleagues at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology,
the group plans to use the information to examine changes in atmospheric
circulation, volcanic eruptions and the impact of dust deposition on
Fighting childhood obesity
Increasing the "dose" of behavioral interventions —
the use of verbal and tangible rewards, self-monitoring and stimulus
control — and parental involvement can enhance the effectiveness of
established diet and exercise regimes for combating childhood obesity,
according to psychology researchers at the University of Maine, who
conducted a meta-analysis of 13 years of treatment studies.
The meta-analysis of 11 published studies conducted
since 1994 provides new information about the effectiveness of existing
treatments for childhood obesity by identifying patterns among the
therapeutic components. The meta-analysis, started four years ago as a
class project in a graduate course on child and adolescent treatments,
introduces a variation of the commonly used statistical techniques that
allow for the direct comparison of active treatment components. It is
the first of its kind in the social science or medical literatures, says
Professor of Psychology Douglas Nangle, one of the study's six
The analysis showed that the already established
comprehensive interventions combining diet/decreased sedentary
lifestyle/increased exercise components could be even more effective
through enhanced behavioral interventions — rewards such as praise and
incentives — for meeting goals, as well as teaching children to better
self-monitor their eating and exercise patterns, and stimulus control,
such as making healthy foods easily accessible and identifiable.
The study also found the involvement of parents —
from providing nutritious foods in the home and parental weight loss to
modeling healthy eating habits and active lifestyles — key to helping
youngsters battle obesity. Results of the analysis will be published in
the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.
A strong coat
Construction panels with a lightweight coating that
gives them the strength to withstand bomb blasts and hurricane-force
winds are being prototyped at the University of Maine for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers.
The composite coating, developed by UMaine's
Advanced Engineered Wood Composites (AEWC) Center, was applied to wood
framing and sheathing panels used to construct a 12-foot by 20-foot
building that can be raised by a dozen people in approximately 90
minutes. Such a blast-resistant structure could have military and
homeland security applications, and residential uses in areas prone to
Blast testing of the modular structure at Fort Polk
in Louisiana last August found the coated construction material to be up
to seven times more energy absorbing than conventional wood structures.
The coated wood is the second type of
blast-resistant building material developed by AEWC in the past two
years. Ballistic panels that fit inside tents to protect soldiers in
combat zones were developed in AEWC labs and are now being field-tested
in Iraq and Afghanistan. That technology was recognized by the American
Composites Manufacturers Association as the "Best of the Best" in 2007,
signifying its status as the year's top composites technology
Last year, University of Maine civil engineering
mjors Heather Martin and Lee Rand joined a group of other UMaine
students visiting a small, poor community in Honduras during spring
break as part of a Spanish language service-learning class.
While some in the group led by Spanish professor
Kathleen March worked with orphans, handed out toothbrushes and
toothpaste in schools, and volunteered in nursing homes and health
clinics, the engineering students looked at water and sanitation
problems in the tiny village of Dulce Vivir, part of the community of
Dulce Nombre in central Honduras.
When they returned to campus, Martin and Rand helped
establish a UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders (UM-EWB) and
embarked on a three-year project to see how UMaine students could help
with water and sanitation improvements in Dulce Nombre.
This spring, March led her fifth visit to the area,
this time with 13 UMaine students. They included four members of UM-EWB,
who began an assessment to explore options for improving water quality
UM-EWB offers an opportunity for a transformative
experience, "where students and the rest of us get to see what is really
going on in the world," says Jean MacRae, associate professor of civil
and environmental engineering and UM-EWB's faculty adviser.
For this spring's trip, UM-EWB collaborated with
UMaine's Central America Service Association (CASA). Under March's
leadership, CASA has been participating in service projects in the
community since 2004, which included supporting the construction and
development of a library and a healthcare clinic.
In addition to the efforts of the engineers this
spring, nursing students offered medical expertise and the Spanish
language students provided the communication bridge between their peers
and the community.
Insight lite: Pack your intergalactic bags
The summer travel season is fast approaching. And
just in case your plans include space travel, we asked University of
Maine Professor of Physics Neil Comins to list 10 of the top hazards
every orbiting tourist should know. Comins is the author of numerous
books on space, including the most recent, The Hazards of Space
Travel: A Tourist's Guide. According to Comins, the following
hazards are just the tip of the "spaceberg."
Bone and muscle mass loss
Radiation poisoning from a solar flare or solar mass
Rapid degrading of medicines in space
Early (i.e. soon after launch) onset of nausea
Early inability to digest food
Interpersonal issues among space travelers, and
between space travelers and people on the ground
Impacts from particles in space
Dust from surfaces of the worlds you visit
An NSF notable
A sensor developed by a University of Maine engineer
to detect the presence of dangerous chemical and biological agents has
been chosen as one of the National Science Foundation's notable
achievements for 2008.
John Vetelino, a professor of electrical and
computer engineering, is one of the world's leading researchers in
sensor technology. An expert in microsensors, microacoustics and
solid-state electronics, Vetelino is one of the founding members of
UMaine's Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology.
With NSF funding about four years ago, Vetelino and
his research team focused on development of a sensing element for
certain chemical and biological agents that pose a serious health threat
in high concentrations.
The UMaine-patented sensor can detect an organo-phosphate
pesticide known as phosmet, which is similar to chemical-warfare agents.
It also senses a particularly virulent strain of E. coli, as well as
saxitoxin, the worst of several toxins released during the seasonal
algae blooms known as red tide.
David Frankel, LASST senior research scientist, was
part of the sensor research team, along with Carl Tripp, professor of
chemistry, and Paul Millard, associate professor of chemical
Vetelino's sensor project led to two more NSF
grants, totaling $250,000, to continue his work with E. coli detection.
He also received $400,000 in September from NSF to develop a sensing
element to detect peroxide-based explosives that can be made with common
NSF will use Vetelino's sensor work, along with
other noteworthy research efforts nationwide, to demonstrate the
importance of federally funded scientific activity.
Fighting cancer with vitamin D
Healthy levels of serum vitamin D provide
significant protection against several cancers, according to University
of Maine researchers, who did a literature survey of vitamin D studies
conducted in the past 37 years.
"These studies find that the higher the UV exposure,
dietary intake and serum level of 25(OH)D, the lower the incidence and
mortality from cancers of the breast, colon, lung, pancreas, prostate,
melanoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma," write UMaine researchers Betty
Ingraham, Beth Bragdon and Anja Nohe in the journal Current Medical
Research and Opinion.
Vitamin D, obtained from diet, supplements and
sunlight, is essential in cell growth and function. In particular,
calcitriol, an active form of vitamin D, has a critical role in
regulating cellular mechanisms involved in cancer.
But while preclinical, epidemiological and clinical
trials show overwhelmingly that calcitriol can prevent cancers of the
colon, breast, prostate, pancreas and ovary, as well as Hodgkin's
lymphoma, nearly all studies indicate that most people have below-normal
levels of serum vitamin D.
The clinical research community is now revising
upward recommendations for levels of optimal serum and sensible sun
exposure. The last time that the recommendations were made in 1997, the
Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine set daily adult
dietary intake of vitamin D at 400 IU. Since then, most researchers in
the field believe that, for optimal wellness, intakes between
1,000-4,000 IU would lead to a more healthy serum level.
A genetic study of alewives living in landlocked
lakes in Connecticut found that the popular baitfish evolved from a
common anadromous rather than a freshwater ancestor.
The research found no evidence to uphold a common
belief that all Connecticut landlocked alewife populations are
nonnative, the result of intentional stocking years ago to provide
forage for game fish.
The landlocked populations examined diverged from a
common anadromous ancestor between 300 and 5,000 years ago, according to
Eric Palkovacs, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Maine
School of Biology and Ecology, and his colleagues at Yale University.
This time frame overlaps with the onset of human dam construction in
The study of genetic and phenotypic divergence
between anadromous and landlocked alewife populations was conducted as
part of Palkovacs' dissertation at Yale. It was published in a recent
issue of Molecular Ecology.
Like other anadromous fish such as Atlantic salmon
and sturgeon, alewives make annual runs up freshwater streams to spawn,
then return to the sea. They can be found in the coastal waters from
Labrador to North Carolina.
But landlocked alewives have lost the marine phase
of their life cycle. The researchers found that foraging traits have
evolved in the landlocked populations in Connecticut to allow them to
survive by eating smaller zooplankton.
UMaine Today Magazine
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