Archive for the ‘College News’ Category

2015 NSFA Faculty Award Winners

Monday, April 27th, 2015

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Outstanding Public Service Award

Seanna AnnisSeanna Annis, Associate Professor, School of Biology and Ecology

Seanna Annis is a mycologist whose work provides important service in support of Maine’s agricultural industries and protects human health. Seanna’s research and service are strongly aligned as she seeks ways to improve the control of several fungal diseases affecting wild blueberry production. She reaches out to growers at Extension’s Wild Blueberry Schools and Blueberry Hill Farm field days. She now reaches more growers than ever through her mummy berry disease forecasts, which are distributed twice weekly via a blog, e-mail lists, and recorded messages on the Blueberry Hotline. Seanna also serves as a leading mycological resource for the state of Maine, identifying plant diseases and consulting on fungal contamination of buildings and food. Many people in the state rely on Seanna to provide important research and service that affects the lives of individuals and the sustainability of iconic Maine industries. The college is pleased to award Seanna Annis this year’s Outstanding Public Service Award.

Outstanding Research Award

Emmanuel Boss, Professor of Oceanography, School of Marine Sciences

emmanuel bossEmmanuel Boss is a powerhouse of energy, enthusiasm, and research productivity. His research focuses on aquatic physics, from fluid dynamics to optics and acoustics. Since coming to UMaine in 2002, Emmanuel has established himself as one of the best-funded researchers at UMaine (more than $6 million in research grants) and has authored or coauthored more than 90 publications. Because of this productivity, Emmanuel’s name is now frequently on the top of the list when national and international committees in ocean sciences are created. Emmanuel also brings his research to the undergraduate classroom. Through Emmanuel’s mentorship, one of his students created an iPhone App that turns a cell phone picture of a lake, river, or bay into data and information. The App has been adopted by to be used by schools in the U.S. and all over the world. The University of Maine is indeed fortunate to have such a scientist, and the college is pleased to award Emmanuel Boss this year’s Outstanding Research Award.

Outstanding Teaching Award

Brian Olsen, Associate Professor, School of Biology & Ecology

brian olsenWhile Brian Olsen finds his research program deeply enriching and professionally satisfying, he came to academia because of his love for teaching. His high teaching evaluations from students and peers are all the more noteworthy given that much of his instruction has been in introductory biology courses—often the first college science courses for many students. Brian not only equips these students with the knowledge they need to succeed in upper-level classes, but also inspires them with the drive to ask questions, a willingness take chances, and a contagious enthusiasm for our natural world and the scientific process. Brian serves as advisor to numerous undergraduate honors and capstone projects. In the words of one of his advisees, “He challenges me to think more in depth and critically than I ever have before, and always manages to push me a little further intellectually than I believe I am capable.” To recognize Brian Olsen’s enthusiasm for teaching, the college is delighted to award him this year’s Outstanding Teaching Award.

Agriculture Award

Gregory Porter, Professor, School of Food and Agriculture

Greg PorterGreg Porter’s service to Maine agriculture encompasses the tripartite mission of the University of Maine: research, teaching, and service. His research on crop rotation, soil management, and supplemental irrigation in potatoes has helped Maine farmers to optimize their use of inputs and achieve maximum yield. In addition, Greg maintains an impressive potato-breeding program, which has recently released three new potato varieties. He further advances Maine agriculture through his teaching—a graduate-level course on experimental design and core sustainable agriculture class—and graduate student mentoring. Greg’s research is used every day by UMaine Cooperative Extension in its outreach to the Maine potato industry, while Greg himself responds to numerous requests for information from the public, speaks at industry conferences, and participates in agricultural trade shows and committees. Greg Porter’s efforts to increase the sustainability of Maine agriculture are impressive, and the college is pleased to award him this year’s Agriculture Award.

Peirce and Florence Pitts-Webber Award for Outstanding Research in Forest Resources

Jessica LeahyJessica E. Leahy, Associate Professor of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, School of Forest Resources

Jessica Leahy’s research program is focused on people’s attitudes and behaviors surrounding the issues of natural resources and the environment. Over the last five years, she has published an average of more than 4 publications per year. She has been a major advisor for several graduate students in the School of Forest Resources. Jessica’s students appreciate the level of mentoring that they receive. Jessica seeks opportunities for extramural funding ranging from small grants to large, interdisciplinary projects such as UMaine’s Sustainable Solutions Initiative. She works with Maine forest resources stakeholders to ensure that her research is informed by their needs and is shared with them in a useful way. Jessica’s outstanding level of commitment to research on Maine’s natural resources makes her an ideal candidate for the G. Peirce and Florence Pitts-Webber Award for Outstanding Research in Forest Resources.

Peirce and Florence Pitts-Webber Award for Outstanding Forestry Teaching

Sandra de Urioste-StoneSandra de Urioste-Stone, Assistant Professor of Nature-based Tourism, School of Forest Resources

Although Sandra de Urioste-Stone has only been at UMaine a short time, she has already made her mark as a teacher in the School of Forest Resources. She has been an important partner in the development of a new, popular nature-based tourism concentration in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Program. Sandra also worked with other department s and the Maine Business School to create a 4+1 program that allows PRT students to obtain an MBA in one year. Sandra devotes a great deal of energy to her classes and works hard to engage the students. As is the case with all good teachers, her students say it best: “You are one of the most helpful people I have ever encountered, and your hard work is very much appreciated.” Because of Sandra’s commitment to teaching, I am pleased to present this year’s G. Peirce and Florence Pitts-Webber Outstanding Forestry Teaching Award to Sandra de Urioste-Stone.


2015 NSFA Undergraduate Student Awards

Monday, April 27th, 2015
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Wallace C. and Janet S. Dunham Prize

Stephanie WoodThis year’s Wallace C. and Janet S. Dunham Prize is awarded to Stephanie Wood, a biology major from New Jersey. A member of the Honors College, Stephanie has managed a busy schedule, balancing classes, laboratory research, and her position on UMaine’s softball team while navigating personal illness and family tragedy. According to one of her professors when Stephanie sees a mountain of difficulties, she rolls up her sleeves and pushes forward. After graduation, Stephanie plans to attend medical school to obtain an MD/PhD. By overcoming adversity while achieving academic success, Stephanie Wood embodies the type of student whom Wallace and Janet Dunham wish to assist and encourage with their award.

Outstanding International Student Award

Riju ShresthaThis year’s recipient of the college’s Outstanding International Student Award is Riju Shrestha, a biochemistry major from Nepal. In addition to maintaining an outstanding GPA, Riju has worked as a research assistant in her department, a lab assistant in the Chemistry Department, and as a residential assistant for the past two years. Riju is also active in many campus organizations, including the International Student Association and the South Asian Association of Maine. Riju is a self-confident and interesting young woman and very deserving of the college’s Outstanding International Student Award.

The Frank B. and Charles S. Bickford Prize—2015

Gwendolyn BeachamThe winner of this year’s Frank B. and Charles S. Bickford Prize is Gwendolyn Beacham from Farmington, Maine, majoring in biochemistry. A well-rounded student, Gwen has maintained a 4.0 GPA, worked as a laboratory aide and teaching assistant, and been active in many campus clubs and societies. She has won numerous awards and honors including the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship and the Senator George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship for studying abroad in Ireland. Gwen is UMaine’s valedictorian this year and has recently been awarded a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation. This fall, Gwen will enter the Ph.D. track at Cornell University in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology. The college is pleased to recognize these remarkable achievements by awarding Gwen the Frank B. and Charles S. Bickford Prize.

2015 NSFA Graduate Student Awards

Monday, April 27th, 2015
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The Norris Charles Clements Graduate Student Award—Kaitlyn O’Donnell

Kaitlyn O'DonnellKaitlyn O’Donnell is a master’s degree student in entomology who is investigating the recent outbreak of the invasive winter moth, which has been causing severe defoliation of native tree species in southern coastal Maine. Kaitlyn’s advisor says that she is a bright and dedicated student and has designed an effective study and carried it out under difficult field conditions. After graduation, Kaitlyn hopes to continue doing research in entomology in a state or university lab. She is interested in forest and agricultural entomology as well as medical entomology. (Advisor: Eleanor Groden)

George F. Dow Graduate Scholarship Fund—Noah Oppenheim

Noah OppenheimNoah Oppenheim is a master’s student pursuing a dual degree in marine science and marine policy. Working on Maine’s economically and culturally important lobster fishery, Noah has been evaluating the use of the American Lobster Settlement Index for a recruitment forecasting model. His advisor notes that from his very first semester, Noah hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped; in addition to his classes and research, Noah has found many opportunities to serve the local community. After receiving his master’s degree, Noah plans to pursue a career working at the intersection of fisheries science, management, and industry. (Advisor: Richard Wahle)

Fred Griffee Memorial Award—Daniel Stich

Dan StichDaniel Stich is a Ph.D. degree candidate in wildlife ecology. His research assesses the migration and survival of Atlantic salmon juveniles, work of both regional and national importance. Calling his research accomplishments “exceptionally impressive,” his advisors note that “many high-level state and federal decisions are being carried out using Dan’s work as guidance.” Dan plans to combine his interest in helping students to learn about ecological modeling with his fascination with the issues affecting imperiled fish populations through a faculty position at a university. (Advisor: Joseph Zydlewski)

Outstanding Master’s Degree Student Award—David Carter

David CarterDavid Carter is a master’s degree student in the School of Forest Resources. His research involves the monitoring and analysis of a long-term silviculture study of ecologically based forestry, focusing on the survival and growth of reserve trees left in the harvested gaps. In addition to his research, David has maintained a 4.0 GPA and been heavily involved in service to his school, the university, and the local community. His advisor states “in the 30 years I’ve been on the faculty, I would rank Dave Carter among the top all-round MS students I have advised.” (Advisor: Robert Seymour)

Edith M. Patch Outstanding Ph.D. Award—Nadir Yildirim

Nadir YildirimNadir Yildirim, a Ph.D. candidate the School of Forest Resources, has been extremely productive with his research program on nanocellulose foams. In addition to his regular classes, Nadir has also completed UMaine’s graduate certificate in Innovation Engineering and has started Revolution Research, a company that will produce eco-friendly thermal insulation foam board. Nadir as been lead author or coauthor on several peer-reviewed publications and has received awards for his professional presentations. Impressed by Nadir’s inquisitive nature, productivity, and professional attitude, his advisor states, “I have no doubt that he will be successful.” (Advisor: Stephen Shaler)

Outstanding Service Award—Skylar Bayer

Skylar BayerSkylar Bayer is a Ph.D. student in marine sciences, who sees public service to be an important part of being a productive member of the science community. Her research focuses on Maine’s scallop fishery, and she plays an active role in the network of scallop fishery stakeholders. Skylar has also been a dedicated teaching assistant for several undergraduate courses and shows a real passion for engaging students in science. Skylar is also an active user of social media to increase her outreach, with her blog “Strictlyfishwrap,” a Twitter account, and participating in NPR’s Story Collider. (Advisor: Richard Wahle)

Jean A. and David A. Webb Professional Master’s Award—Jessica LeBlanc

Jessica LeBlancJessica LeBlanc is a master’s degree student in the School of Social Work. Jessica is not only a full-time graduate student, but is also a mother and a community volunteer who works full time for a nonprofit organization. In addition to all this, Jessica has maintained a 4.0 GPA . Jessica’s professors deem her an extraordinary student all around, and her employers recognize her as a dedicated and professional employee who has an excellent reputation among clients, peers, school districts and mental health agencies (Advisor: Sandra Butler)

Graduate Research Excellence Award—Jie Cao

Jie CaoJie Cao is a Ph.D. student in marine sciences who is working to develop new methods for assessing marine fisheries resources, work that is essential in ensuring the sustainable use of marine fisheries resources. Jie has worked closely with state and federal fisheries scientists, and the approach he has developed has been used in the assessment of northern shrimp population, an important commercial fishery in the Gulf of Maine As a graduate student, Jie has published 6 papers in some of the top fisheries journals and has maintained a nearly perfect GPA. (Advisor: Yong Chen)

Lambing Season Underway at Witter Farm

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Spring has arrived at the University of Maine’s J. Franklin Witter Teaching and Research Center where lambing season has begun.

About 20 students in the Animal and Veterinary Sciences Program are providing prenatal, delivery and post-delivery care for the flock of registered Icelandic ewes at the Orono farm. Since the season began in early April, the students have overseen five sets of births. Five more births are expected in the next few weeks.

James Weber, associate professor in the School of Food and Agriculture and the university’s attending veterinarian, is coordinating the student participation. He says the students are responsible for 100 percent of the animal care and are heavily invested.

“A student who was assigned to lambing watch texted me one night to say she thought the ewe was going to give birth,” Weber says. “By the time I arrived at the farm, there were 15 other students there. And this was at 9 p.m.”

The experience provides an educational, hands-on opportunity for the students, especially the seven who plan to attend veterinary school next year, Weber says.

Witter farm currently is home to 10 ewes, two rams and 11 lambs, as well as cows and horses. The sheep have recently returned to campus after the farm’s herd was sold six years ago because of financial constraints, Weber says.

Weber’s $200,000 USDA grant for research on a deadly sheep and goat parasite helped bring the lambs back to the farm. The three-year Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) study aims to develop and implement a winter management protocol for Haemonchus contortus, or barber pole worm, in northern New England.

During the region’s cold winters, the parasite is confined to the animals’ digestive tract. In the spring, overwintering larvae mature to adults that contaminate pastures and can sicken or kill pastured animals. The researchers hope to reduce the effect of the pests on grazing sheep through winter treatments, or by delaying return to pasture until the first generation of adult worms die within the host.

Weber and his team will take the data they find at Witter and test it on commercial farms in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. They also plan to teach the protocol, as well as conventional diagnostic and treatment tools, to commercial sheep and goat farmers throughout the region.

In addition to contributing to research and veterinary care education, the sheep have provided an opportunity for students to market and sell wool to local spinners, Weber says. The students also may market some of the lambs that aren’t needed for the study.

The farm is frequently visited by locals, as well as children on field trips, who enjoy seeing and learning about the animals. Witter Farm is open daily to visitors.

Photos and more information is on the students’ Ewe Maine Icelandics Club Facebook page.

Forestry Researchers Surveying Residents Along Penobscot River for Economic Development Study

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

University of Maine professors and Center for Research on Sustainable Forests leaders Sandra De Urioste-Stone and Robert Lilieholm are conducting a survey under the Bay-to-Baxter initiative. The study seeks to identify sustainable economic development pathways for the Penobscot River corridor that protect and leverage the region’s natural resources and quality of place.

De Urioste-Stone, leader of the CRSF Nature-Based Tourism Program, and Lilieholm, Conservation Lands lead for CRSF, are mailing 3,000 surveys to residents along the Penobscot River to learn their views on recreational use of the river, as well as their thoughts on the community and its ability to adapt to changing social, economic and environmental conditions.

“It is extremely important to understand and incorporate residents’ views and feedback for effective land and sustainable development planning to occur,” De Urioste-Stone says.

The survey is part of the larger project, “Promoting Sustainable Economic Development and Quality-of-Place in Maine: The Penobscot River ‘Bay-to-Baxter Corridor’ Initiative,” which is led by De Urioste-Stone with team members Lilieholm; Claire Sullivan, associate dean for community engagement; Linda Silka, of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center; and John Daigle, associate professor in the School of Forest Resources.

The researchers hope the survey will inform ongoing and future sustainable economic development and environmental efforts in the region that stretches from Penobscot Bay to Baxter State Park.

The area faces sustainability threats, as well as opportunities, and the team will use community feedback to support improved land use and economic development decisions across the region.

Research objectives include determining:

  • Characteristics of residents’ use of the Penobscot River, including activities, predicting future recreation use and perceptions of environmental conditions of the river;
  • Characteristics of residents, including attachment to the Penobscot River, status of employment, education and other socio-demographic descriptions; and
  • Beliefs associated with community resilience to environmental and economic development changes.

The Lower Penobscot River Watershed offers an ideal setting for studying and integrating stakeholder participatory scenario modeling, community resilience and sustainable economic development, De Urioste-Stone says.

The region faces multiple sustainability challenges, including an aging population, poverty, energy and food insecurities, high dependence on resource extraction, heavy reliance on social assistance programs, strong urban-rural gradients, active species and watershed restoration efforts, and public health challenges.

The difficulties, which aren’t unique to Maine, pose risks to social, political and economic systems around the world, according to the researchers. They hope what they learn in Maine will have widespread applicability.

Even with its set of growing challenges, the watershed has several assets that can develop and leverage community health and economic growth. These assets include UMaine, the Greater Bangor area, the I-95 corridor, Bangor International Airport, an international border, an abundant coastline and natural and cultural amenities that attract tourists. Recent development proposals have sought to build upon and leverage those resources, the researchers say.

The project will integrate information generated through the resident and user survey for an alternative futures modeling study led by Harvard Forest and funded by the National Science Foundation that aims to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of decision making.

The study includes service-learning opportunities for several undergraduate and graduate students and is funded by UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the UMaine Rising Tide/NSF ADVANCE Award.

The Conservation Lands and Nature-Based Tourism programs at CRSF conduct applied and collaborative research to better understand, monitor and anticipate important issues regarding Maine’s conservation lands, and to understand the economic impacts of tourism.