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NSFA 2015 Graduate Student Research Awards Competition

The public recently gathered in Stodder Hall to attend the Graduate Student Research Awards Competition, where selected graduate students from different majors at the University of Maine in the School of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture presented their own research on topics varying from the role of zooplankton in the biological carbon pump to eco-friendly thermal insulation composite foam boards.

Three students, Kaitlyn O’Donnell, Jennifer Lund, and Corianne Tatariw, represented the School of Biology and Ecology with their presentations on extensive research and exploration of Entomology, Ecology, and Environmental Sciences.

Lund, an entomology student who is hoping to graduate in August and continue her work in entomological research, studies the biology and development of Cerceris fumipennis, a predatory wasp that is used to monitor the invasive beetle species. This species, the emerald ash borer, is a beetle native to Asia and is highly destructive to ash trees in the United States.

O’Donnell, who conducts her research on the survival and development of the winter moth on seven different host plants, focuses the majority of her work on forest and agricultural ecology. O’Donnell, who is also an entomology student, mentioned the increase in available funding for her work due to the recent outbreak of winter moths in Maine. This outbreak has led to severe defoliation and mortality of a very wide range of hosts, thus affecting entire ecosystems. O’Donnell plans on graduating in the upcoming months and is searching for a job that will allow her to work in conservation while conducting research and public outreach.

Planning to graduate from her Ecology and Environmental Sciences program in May and hoping to establish a research institute in the future, Tatariw focuses her work on determining the impact of long-term atmospheric nitrogen deposition on soil microbes. By relating the subsequent change in the communities to the activity of an enzyme, she is able to determine how that particular enzyme is important for decomposition. Through this research she has come to several conclusions concerning the soil conditions and microbial communities in the natural world. These conclusions include the determination that, in her words, “long term nitrogen deposition changes the microbial community by reducing fungal biomass,” while also affecting enzyme activity through those changes in the microbial community.

The purpose of the yearly research competition is to provide NSFA graduate students with the opportunity to present their research on complex environmental problems while informing the community about the relevance and impact of their work. Faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students enjoy attending the event so that they may gain perspective and acquire knowledge that can continue to be shared.





NSFA 2015 Faculty Award Winners

Seanna Annis, associate professor of mycology, has been awarded the 2015 Outstanding Public Service Award from the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture.

Her research laboratory examines the genetic diversity, physiology and molecular biology of various fungal pathogens and applied aspects of control of fungi that attack low-bush blueberry plants.

Annis maintains a network of 15 weather stations placed in blueberry fields around Maine.  These stations are used to provide disease forecast for mummy berry disease and Botrytis blight, which are widespread ailments to low-bush blueberries.  The stations are also used to report frost conditions and gather data comparing weather to disease severity in order to understand effects of weather on disease. Other projects include research-involving identification of fungal contaminants found in maple syrup.


Brian Olsen, assistant professor of biology and ecology, has been awarded the 2015 Outstanding Teaching Award by the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture.

Olsen is currently teaching Bio 200- Biology of Organisms, Bio 434- Avian Biology and Ecology and EES 590- a graduate student discussion group on ecology and evolution.

His current research focuses on the evolution and ecology of tidal marsh birds. Specifically, he is measuring the effects Hurricane Sandy had on tidal marsh bird communities in order to predict what kinds of communities are likely to be impacted by storms in the future.  “Dr. Olsen is a gifted and committed teacher, whose contributions embody the quality and spectrum of learning outcomes that distinguish the UMaine experience,” said Michael Kinnison, SBE professor of evolutionary applications. “Consistent with his talent and approach in the classroom, Dr. Olsen does a great job presenting his teaching philosophy, approaches and successes in a clear, insightful, and even entertaining fashion.”


The awards will distributed at the NSFA faculty banquet on April 22 in 100 Nutting Hall.

SBE Faculty Members Receive Promotions

Congratulations to  School of Biology and Ecology faculty members that have been approved by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees for promotion and/or tenure.  The faculty were nominated by President Susan J. Hunter based on a peer and administrative review of their teaching, research and public service.


Brian J. McGill has been promoted to professor of biological sciences, previously an associative professor. McGill teaches Bio 205- Maine Natural History and two graduate courses: community ecology and advanced biometry.  His research focuses on large-scale ecology and global change.



Brian Olsen was promoted to associate professor with tenure of biology and ecology, previously an assistant professor.  Olsen currently teaches Bio 200- Biology of Organisms, Bio 434- Avian Biology and Ecology and EES 590- a graduate student discussion course on ecology and evolution.  His current research focuses on the evolution and ecology of tidal marsh birds.

2015 Brain Awareness Week

The University of Maine Neuroscience community celebrated Brain Awareness Week this Thursday, an international celebration of brain research, by tabling in the student union distributing educational pamphlets, stickers, pencils and other materials to anyone who wished to learn more about the brain.

Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign, which aims to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Brain Awareness Week. The event was co-sponsored by the Society of Neuroscience and The Dana Foundation.

“We do hope that this will become an annual celebration on campus, with additional events added each year, including community outreach,” said Kristy Townsend, UMaine assistant professor of neuroscience and primary organizer of this year’s celebration.

In the future, organizers at UMaine hope to offer greater outreach programs during Brain Awareness Week to educate middle and high school students about the brain and how researchers study it.

The School of Biology & Ecology offers a minor in neuroscience, which is designed for students who would like to develop an understanding of modern neuroscience.

Interested in neuro-related courses offered at UMaine? Check out these courses!

  • Bio 307: Introduction to Neuroscience
  • Bio 474: Neurobiology
  • PSY 350: Cognition
  • PSY 361: Sensation and Perception
  • PSY 365: Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience
  • PSY 401: Health Psychology
  • PSY 422: Infancy- Neurobehavioral Development
  • PSY 465: Hormones, Brain, and Behavior
  • PSY 466: Cognitive Neuroscience
  • CHF 331: Cognitive Development

For more information about Brain Awareness Week, visit

A Core Facility for Research, Teaching, and Service: The University of Maine Herbarium

Christopher Campbell explains specimen organization at the UMaine Herbariums open house.

A core facility at The University of Maine, widely known for its accumulation of specimen that are decades older than the university and represent a great deal of the natural world, has recently changed locations on campus. Previously located in Hannibal Hamlin Hall, The University of Maine Herbarium can now be found in room two on the ground floor of Winslow Hall. The herbarium, which consists of five different collections: vascular plants, fungi, lichen, mosses, and algae, remains readily accessible to all those interested in expanding their botanical knowledge and enthusiasm. On Monday, February 9, enthusiasts, friends, and contributors gathered in Winslow Hall to share snacks, make conversation, and tour the newly located herbarium during its open house.

Lining the spacious room are large, metal cabinets that contain hundreds of manila folders conveniently available for any interested individual. Each of these folders is brimming with species of plants and fungi in a dried state, all of which were either collected or donated throughout the existence of the herbarium. Carefully glued to a piece of paper and arranged accordingly, the specimen lasts for centuries of observation and examination while being thoroughly organized in their cabinets. Alongside each specimen there is a label that reads the scientific name of the organism, its location, date of collection, and name of collector. This imaging and archiving of specimen data provides information that can be utilized for educational and scientific advances. By further expanding the online database, people from all over the world are provided with access to the UMaine Herbarium right at their fingertips.

Specimen found in UMaine Herbarium.

The involvement of many individuals, including professors, students, enthusiasts and professionals, is crucial in order for the herbarium to thrive and grow. Garth Holman, who graduated from UMaine last August with a PhD in Ecology and Environmental Sciences and is a devoted contributor, mentioned that the herbarium is a great resource for students who are interested in plant diversity and identification.

“The herbarium functions as a museum of plant life, providing a historical window on environmental conditions which can be analyzed to study many things, including the expansion of invasive species, extinctions, and climate change,” said Holman.

Chris Campbell, professor of plant systematics and a valuable resource due to his extensive knowledge on botany, is thoroughly involved with the herbarium as well. Campbell is a member of an organization called: Friends of the University of Maine Herbaria, who conduct workshops that are open to the public and students. These opportunities allow for the public to learn from individuals who are knowledgeable about plants and love to share their insight. Additionally, the friends perform important service functions, assist with the curation process, and are always willing to help the community.

The UMaine Herbarium has long been a critical asset to teaching and enlightening. It is not only a resource for students and a crucial component for several courses, but many publications have used the herbarium as a resource for their work. Kaylei Bergeron, a zoology major and contributor to the herbarium, said that the herbarium is one of the most beneficial resources on campus that can be utilized by students of all majors and interests. Whether it be out of curiosity, passion, or otherwise, visiting the UMaine Herbarium is guaranteed to provide you with knowledge of taxonomy, evolution, biodiversity in the plant world, and beyond.

The John M. Rezendes Annual Ethics Essay Contest

Submissions are currently being accepted for the 2014-2015 John M. Rezendes Annual Ethics Essay Contest sponsored by The Honors College. Writers are encouraged to focus on this year’s topic, “The Ethics of Energy, Ecology and the Environment”

Possible topics include the Ethics of Energy, Ecology, and the Environment and…

Genetic Engineering
Resource Distribution
Climate Change


Deadline: Submit FIVE copies to 146 Estabrooke Hall by Noon on Monday, February 9th.

1st prize will receive $2,800 and an original engraved sculpture. The winning essay will be bound and permanently shelved in the Honors Center, Colvin Hall. Winners of 2nd & 3rd places receive $300.

For essay guidelines, potential prompts, and more details, please visit:

For more info: Nicholas Moore on FirstClass



Learning from Natural Disaster

Hurricane Sandy, the most deadly storm of the 2012 hurricane season, not only left a lingering path of destruction for our human populations…but also dramatically impacted tidal marsh habitats of birds along the east coastline. Brian Olsen, assistant professor of biology and ecology, has begun gauging restoration of these habitats that was devastated by the violent storm that occurred a little more than two years ago.

Olsen was awarded a $1.4 million grant in order to conduct a 22-month study observing the recovery of birds in tidal marshes from Virginia to Maine.

Researchers from the University of Maine, University of Delaware, University of Connecticut and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife conducted the study, which included data from 10 different states. Olsen and researchers have been analyzing data from two years prior to Hurricane Sandy and two years after the hurricane in order to establish a restoration course of action.

“We hope that this information will help us to increase the resiliency of the region’s marshes to future challenges,” said Olsen.

Also working on the project is Maureen Correll, an ecology and environmental Ph.D. student working in Olsen’s Lab.  She will use the study as part of her dissertation.

The study will explore the storms impact on various aspects of the birds lifestyle and habitat, including reproduction, survival rates of threatened species, and provide data for projections of future storms and their affect on the bird’s habitat.  During the study, he monitored restoration and control sites from Connecticut to Maine.

The major bird species being studied include Clapper rails, Nelson’s sparrows, Saltmarsh sparrows, willets and black ducks.

For more information click here.

Spring 2015 Seminar Series: Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology

Seminars will occur Mondays from 12- 1 PM in 107 Norman Smith Hall






No Seminar




Olaf Jensen

Rutgers University

“The River Wolf and the Blue Pearl: Conservation of Endangered Salmonids in Northern Mongolia.”



Bill Sutton

Tennessee State University

“Vulnerability Assessments of Amphibian and Reptile Hotspots.”



Odbayar Tumendemberel

Mongolian Academy of Science

“Conservation and Ecology of the Gobi Bear in the Gobi Desert Ecosystem.”



Mohammed Iman Bakarr

Global Environment Facility, Washington DC

“Paradigm Shifts in the Science and Practice of Biodiversity Conservation.”



Jeff Murphy

NOAA Fisheries-Maine Field Station

“The Endangered Species Act: Interagency Consultation and Monitoring Requirements.”



No Seminar


Spring Break


No Seminar


Spring Break


Jim Sanderson

Small Wild Cat Consercation Foundation

“Small Wild Cats: Status Update and Conservation Efforts.”



John Organ

USGS Cooperative Reseearch Units Program



Adam Baukus

Gulf of Maine Research Institute

“Groundfish Trawling: Perceptions and Realities of a Complex Harvesting System.”



Janette Wallis

University of Oklahoma

“Seasonal Influence on Reproduction and Behavior in Chimpanzees.”



Allison Moody

University of Wisconsin

“Decision Support Tool for Barrier Removal in the Great Lakes Basin.”


No Seminar


NEAFWA Conference



Tom Quinn

University of Washington

“Predation by Bears on Salmon: Ecology, Behavior and Evolution.”


Please contact Abdulai Barrie (, Lisa Izzo (, Brian Rolek (, or Jonathan Watson ( to make arrangements to meet with speakers.

The University of Maine does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director, Office of Equal Opportunity, 101 North Stevens Hall, 581-1226.

If you are a person with a disability and need an accommodation to participate in this program, please call Lisa Izzo at 484.678.6729 to discuss your needs. Receiving requests for accommodations at least 2 days before the program provides a reasonable amount of time to meet the request, however all requests will be considered.