News: News Archives
Maine Awards Research Grants,
With Help from AAAS Reviewers
Maine scientists, who have had to depend on fishermen to report on the tagged striped bass pulled from the freezing waters of the state's coastal estuaries, will now uncover the secrets of the stripers' migration patterns using advanced ultrasound technology that follows every move a striper makes.
"We're now going to have a three-dimensional picture of fish in the water," says Jacque Carter, Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford. "This technology will revolutionize our ability to collect information."
UNE's Marine Science Research Center's research project, among those recommended for funding by a group of reviewers provided by AAAS, has been chosen to receive a grant to purchase sensitive underwater "hydrophones." Installed along the banks of the Saco River estuary on the Southeastern coast of Maine, the devices will capture the movements of striped bass that have been implanted with special "acoustic tags." The money for the new system comes from a percentage of the $1 million distributed recently by the Maine Marine Research Fund, which provides support for capital investment and equipment to improve the state's marine research capacity.
The state of Maine is funding UNE's project along with those of five other public and private institutions using funds from a $5 million bond issue that was approved by voters in November 2001. AAAS's Research Competitiveness Program, which works with states to conduct peer review of research programs and helps agencies in strategic planning, was asked to review the 17 original proposals that were sent to the Maine Technology Institute (MTI), which administered the award of funds.
Following a technical review of each proposal by two scientists who were experts in the field, AAAS sent three scientists and staff members Scott Hauger and Paul Turner to serve on a panel in Portland in August. On-site, the panel discussed the proposals, interviewed the principal investigators, and worked with the state's Research Capacity Committee to develop its recommendations, which were then presented to the MTI.
"The proposals had to do more than just request a piece of equipment," says Kerri-Ann Jones, former executive director of the Maine Research Capacity Committee. "They had to have a (research) question they were trying to address. Overall, we thought the quality of the proposals was very good. They revealed a range of marine topics that covered both basic and applied research."
AAAS Trusted Resource
Jones, who now runs the National Science Foundation's Office of International Science and Engineering, notes that Maine officials have worked on projects with AAAS before.
"We wanted objectivity and a high-quality peer review process, and our experience with AAAS is that they can deliver these things," Jones says.
In addition to helping determine the spawning grounds of Maine's striped bass population, the Maine Marine Research Fund awarded five other grants that will pay for high-resolution electron microscopy; field-based nurseries for hatchery-reared lobsters; bathymetric surveys along the Maine coastline; and an investigation into terrestrial organic carbon cycling and the impact of humans on Maine coastal environments.
Beverly Johnson, Assistant Professor of Geology at Bates College in Lewiston, was granted funds to purchase a stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer, an instrument that will allow her and her colleagues to analyze the stable isotopic composition of soils, sediments, plants and animal tissues deposited in the marshes of coastal Maine over the last 12,000 years.
"The initial research project proposed focuses on quantifying changes in organic carbon cycling in Maine coastal settings through the last 12,000 years," says Johnson. "The major goal is to quantify the natural variability in coastal carbon cycling through time to evaluate the role that humans play in altering the carbon cycle. An understanding of the natural variability is the critical first step toward predicting potential future modification of the carbon cycle."
26 November 2002