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New Course! EES 397-Biophysical and Ecological Economics

Need another course for this spring semester? Take EES 397- Biophysical and Ecological Economics!

Taught by Dr. Steve Coghlan, Associate Professor of Freshwater Fisheries Ecology, the course will be a three-credit lecture/discussion course that will provide students with the biophysical framework necessary for understanding how real economics operates as metabolic systems on planet Earth. The course will also challenge the institutionalized dogma that promotes economic growth at the expense of ecological integrity and sustainability.

Instructional Objectives: Assigned readings and subsequent class lectures / discussion are designed to strengthen student understanding of the following topics:

  • Historical development of economic theories in the context of human capacity to transform nature to meet their needs and desires
  • Subjecting economic hypotheses to scientific testing
  • Importance of energy, thermodynamics, and entropy in the economic process
  • Biophysical basis of wealth and affluence
  • Limits to growth on a finite planet
  • Ecological, economic, and societal collapse

Student Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of EES 397 / 550, successful students can:

  • Identify the main tenets of classical and neoclassical economic theories and discuss them in the historic context of relations between humans and the environment
  • Describe fatal flaws associated with the circular-flow model of economic activity
  • Provide an alternate perspective of economies as metabolic systems embedded within the ecosphere and subject to natural biophysical laws
  • Explain the importance of energy surplus, energy return on investment, and power in shaping major trends in human history
  • Evaluate implications of current economic policy on the ability of the ecosphere to support complex human civilizations sustainably

 For more information, contact Dr. Steve Coghlan at

SBE Professors Hamish Greig & Jacquelyn Gill receive media coverage on joined research project

Professor Hamish Greig and student in the field.

Hamish Greig, assistant professor of stream ecology, and Jacquelyn Gill, assistant professor of terrestrial paleoecology at the Climate Change Institute, have joined forces in order to study the impact that hemlock tree die-offs have on freshwater forest ecosystems.  The importance of this research is rooted in the great impact these trees have on the ecosystem.  Hemlock trees are considered a foundation species; a species that has a strong role in structuring a community.  Hemlock trees in Maine have been found to influence site soil, vegetation, and stream characteristics.

The research project has been picked up by a variety of media outlets including The Associated Press and WVII(Channel 7), The RepublicSun JournalSFGate andWABI (Channel 5).

In order to better understand the impact these hemlock trees have, the research team set up an experiment with 36 livestock water tanks in which they added hemlock needles, rhododendron, and maple leaves in order to emulate a freshwater forest ecosystem.  The team will observe these tanks as they develop over time. In order to peer into the past, Gill and Robert Northington, a research assistant in biology and lake ecology, will study radiocarbon-dated records from various lakes and bogs in Maine in order to see how aquatic systems were affected by hemlock die-offs in the past.

The implications of this research is especially important in Maine, where hemlocks are on the decline from the introduction of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an aphid-like insect from Asia that attacks eastern hemlocks.

“When you change one thing in an ecosystem, everything is connected. Killing off all the hemlock trees doesn’t just change the forests. This change has impacts all the way, it trickles through the whole system,” Gill told WVII.

The research team also includes Krista Capps, MS students Jack McLachlan and Jess Haghkerdar, PhD. Students Thomas Parr, Laura Podzikowski, and visiting PhD. student, Amanda Klemmer.

For full story click here.

SBE Professor Dr. Michael Kinnison featured in Science Magazine

The study of evolution is not only the study of our past, but also the study of our future.  Dr. Michael Kinnison, an applied evolutionary biologist at the University of Maine, believes that many evolutionary principles and applications could provide potential solutions for many major challenges our world faces today. In a paper published in Science Magazine, Kinnison and coauthors explain how applied evolutionary biology can provide strategies to address global challenges that threaten human health, food security, biodiversity, and many other issues that can be anticipated in the future. “So how does applied evolution help solve issues…it helps identify possible costly or disastrous outcomes and it gives tools to both slow the onset of those problems or facilitate new solutions,” said Kinnison.

The idea for the article was conceived at a meeting in Heron Island Australia back in 2010, which was the first meeting to bring together individuals working on applied evolution issues, many of which are addressed in the article.

The major theme of the paper is how evolution is occurring in response to pressures created by humans.  “Many species will probably not be able to evolve fast enough to keep pace with global change, which brings about its own set of challenges,” said Kinnison. “The goal of our paper, and applied evolution in general, is to apply evolutionary insights to help slow unwanted evolution or facilitate adaptive potential and match where needed.”

The paper, published online on September 11th, discusses proposed themes to the international sustainable development goals such as the importance of sustainable food security, sustainable sources of water, and universal clean energy.

The next step for the authors is the formation of a Society for Applied Evolution. “This society would build upon our message that scientists, policy makers and practitioners working on challenges in food, health and the environment need to interact more with one another to share solutions and address challenges that span traditional disciplinary boundaries,” explains Kinnison.


Join the Teaching and Learning Journal Club!

This semester SBE will be having a bi-weekly teaching and learning journal club. All faculty, staff, postdocs, and students are invited to join.

We will meet for one hour and discuss one journal article on a topic picked by attendees. A list of potential articles will be provided.

Our meeting dates for the fall semester are: 9/18, 10/2, 10/16, 10/30, 11/13, and 12/11. We will meet from 10-10:50am in Murray Hall room 104.

Regardless of whether you have read the papers or attended before, please come and join our discussion!

Please contact Mindi Summers ( for more information.
Fall 2014 Seminar Series Schedule

The School of Biology & Ecology is please to present this years Seminar Series schedule! The purpose of these seminars is to highlight an array of research fields and interests from professors and researchers  across the country. Seminars will be held on Fridays at 3:10 pm in Murray Hall, Room 102 unless otherwise noted.  Light refreshments served at 3:00 pm.  All are welcome to attend!


Sept. 12          Dr. Andrew Tanentzap, University of Cambridge

“Extending freshwater conservation beyond shorelines by linking aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.”

Host by: Dr. Gill

Sept. 19      Dr. Bobbi Peckarsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Potential effects of climate change on stream organisms.”

Hosted by:  Dr. Greig; Cosponsors: Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions

Sept. 26      Dr. Erik Blomberg, University of Maine

“Landscapes, life histories, and populations: The challenge of conserving greater sage-grouse in a changing climate.”

Hosted by: Dr. Greig

Oct. 3         Dr. Mindi Summers, University of Maine

“Untangling the evolutionary history of a marine symbiosis: Diversity and relationships among crinoids and myzostomes.”

Hosted by: Dr. Smith

Oct.10        Dr. Elizabeth Crone, Tufts University

“Resource depletion, pollen limitation and synchronous mast-seeding in trees and wildflowers.”

Hosted by:  Dr. Drummond; Cosponsors: School of Food and Agriculture

Oct. 17       Dr. Jennifer Roecklein-Canfield, Simmons College

“Undergraduate Laboratory Renaissance: A research based curriculum that builds and encourages persistence of underrepresented students in the science pipeline.”

Hosted by: Dr. Maginnis; Cosponsors: Department of Molecular & Biomedical Sciences

Oct. 24       Dr. Aniruddh Patel, Tufts University

“The evolutionary neuroscience of musical beat perception.”

Hosted by: Dr. Rosenwasser; Cosponsors: School of Performing Arts & Psychology Dept.

Oct. 31.      Dr. John Anderson, College of the Atlantic

“The importance of natural history and its role in teaching biology.”

Hosted by: Dr. Gill

Nov. 7        Dr. Jennifer Marlon, Yale University,


Hosted by: Dr. Gill; Cosponsors: Climate Change Institute

Nov. 14      Dr. Will Clyde, University of New Hampshire

“Biological impacts of abrupt global warming events in the geological past.”

Hosted by: TBA

Nov. 21      Dr. Robert Steneck, University of Maine Darling Marine Center

“Ecosystem flips, locks, and feedbacks: The lasting effects of fisheries on Maine’s kelp forest ecosystem.”

Hosted by: Dr. McGill

Dec. 5        Dr. Christine Maher, University of Southern Maine

“Individual variation in behavior: do woodchucks have distinct personalities?”

Hosted by: TBA

Dec. 12      Dr. Julia Dallman, Miami University


Hosted by: Dr. Henry


Holberton Research Featured in SeacoastOnline Article

SeacoastOnline published an article titled “Groundbreaking bird study under way in southern Maine,” featuring the research of School of Biology and Ecology professor, Dr. Rebecca Holberton, and SBE grad student, Sean Rune. The research on shorebird migration is a collaboration between Holberton and Rune, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The full store can be read here at

Remembering Dr. Bill Glanz

Dear Colleagues in the University of Maine Community and Beyond,

We were very saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Bill Glanz, associate professor in the School of Biology and Ecology (SBE) and Cooperating faculty in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology (WLE). Bill passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on June 14, 2014 in San Diego, CA.

Click here to view Bill’s obituary, which highlights a life well traveled.

As many of you know, Bill was an outstanding teacher and mentor during his 34 years on the UMaine faculty. He continued to share his passion and expertise in natural history, birds, and mammals with students, colleagues and the public up to his departure from campus and Maine this past November. We are comforted by the wonderful memories of Bill as a gifted teacher and scientist, naturalist, and valued friend. For those of you who would like some way to express your condolences to the family and/or contribute to Bill’s remembrance, you are welcome to join in the following:

1. Cards, notes, and remembrances are being collected by the SBE office to pass along to the family. We would like to have all materials collected by July 11.

2. We are also collecting contributions for the Orono Boardwalk. Please see the description of the gift below that was provided by Jim Bird. (Bill’s daughter wished to support the Boardwalk given Bill’s dedication to it). Checks should be made payable to : The University of Maine Foundation, bog campaign Glanz in the memo line.


Bill Glanz was a strong supporter of the Orono Bog Boardwalk. He helped build the Boardwalk and from 2004 to 2013 during the first weekend in May he led (or co-led) a very popular morning migratory bird walk in the Rolland F. Perry City Forest and on the Boardwalk. He would take his students to the Boardwalk to teach them about the natural history of a northern peat bog. In honor of Bill we want to collect funds ($1,000+) so that we can sponsor a new Boardwalk section in his name. The new section will be put in next year during Phase 2 of the Boardwalk reconstruction. It will be in an area that Bill would visit to view the annually returning spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis). (Jim Bird)

Contributions to the Boardwalk, and letters, cards, and remembrances may be left with Sue Anderson in SBE (100 Murray Hall) or Katherine Goodine in WLE (210 Nutting Hall).

SBE Professor Brian McGill Published in Science Magazine

Dr. Brian McGill, assistant professor of biological sciences, recently co-published a comprehensive analysis of global biodiversity change and species loss in Science magazine.  Maria Dornelas and Anne Magurran of the Centre lead the international research team for Biological Diversity and Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

The analysis used data from 100 monitoring studies in which scientists from around the world tracked the biodiversity of plant and animal communities over many years. The compiled data consist of over 6 million observations for over 35,000 species monitored in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats from the poles to the equator.

The study brought to light two key results. First, there was neither a systematic loss nor a systematic gain in the number of species recorded through time, with 59 communities showing an increase in species richness through time and 41 communities showed a decrease. The measured rate of change was small in most studies. The second finding the paper concluded was that that 79 of the 100 communities showed substantial changes in species composition, measured relative to the baseline of the first available survey of the community.

The group plans on doing some follow-up experiments in order to see what is actually happening, specifically looking at what species are coming in and coming out using the data that was already collected.  ”It was a surprise,” said McGill. “I always think it’s fun when you expect one thing and get the opposite.  There is very good evidence that globally we are losing species a lot faster than new species are being created.  We expected that to carry down to the local scales…and the fact that it didn’t was a big surprise.”

Although global extinctions and declines of many species have been well documented, these results suggest that simple counts of species richness in a small area may not show consistent downward trends. However, the set of species living in these same small areas has changed substantially over relatively short time scales of years to decades.

The study found that there has been a change through time in the identity of species, but not, on average, in the number of species recorded in these monitoring studies. Species composition changed more often than species number, and these kinds of changes should be focused on for future study.