Fall 2017 Research

Faculty Research

Dr. Kathleen Dunckel

Dunckel, D., A. Weiskittel, and G. Fiske.  (2017) Projected future distribution of Tsuga canadensis across alternative climate scenarios in Maine, U.S.  Forests. 8. 285; doi:10.3390/f8080285

Climate change is expected to alter the suitable habitat of individual tree species, and forest managers require resources about the potential impacts on a regional scale to aid in climate mitigation efforts. Associate Professor Dunckel and her colleagues modeled and mapped the continuous distribution of Tsuga canadensis throughout the state of Maine at the regional scale with high precision, and used the random forest algorithm to create a strong prediction of suitable habitat for the years 2050 and 2100 from both high and low emission climate projections. The results clearly suggest a significant gain in suitable habitat for Tsuga canadensis range with a general northwest expansion.

Dr. Aimee Phillippi

L. Phillippi, Aimee & O. Yund, Philip. (2017) Self-fertilization and inbreeding depression in three ascidian species that differ in genetic dispersal potential. Marine Biology. 164. 10.1007; doi: s00227-017-3214-x

Although self-fertilization can mitigate the costs of sexual reproduction, many hermaphroditic marine invertebrates avoid selfing, presumably because of inbreeding depression, which could be offset by the immediate benefits of local adaptation and mating assurance. Professor Phillippi and her colleagues compared the likelihood of selfing and the magnitude of inbreeding depression among three ascidian species that were known a priori to differ in larval dispersal potential. The results suggested that in marine hermaphrodites, gene flow, self-fertilization, and inbreeding depression should be evaluated as an integrated suite of traits, not independent characters.

Dr. Janis Balda
Balda, JB, Bulan, and Desmarais. 2017. Igniting Leadership: Ritual and Interaction within the AI Summit, in Developing Leaders for Positive Organizing: A 21st Century Repertoire for Leading in Extraordinary Times. Ed. Vogel, Koonce, and Robinson. Emerald Publishing. 440 pp.

This case study developed two primary positive themes related to leadership development in college students: the emotional energy created by working with others toward a common goal and analyzing it “in action” through participation in an Appreciative Inquiry summit; and self- determination theory, observing that the increase in energy and emotional connectedness increases autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Dr. Pieter deHart

deHart, P.A.P, J.M. Taylor, J.M. Doran, O. Howell, and L.E. Hurd. 2017. Trophic niche differences in arachnid predators between field and forest ecosystems. Entomological News 126(4): 328-336, DOI: 10.3157/021.126.0401.

Arachnids are important predators in arthropod assemblages that occur from early successional old fields to mature forests. As generalist predators, they may occupy varying trophic niches in different environments that have different prey available. Dean deHart and his colleagues tested the null hypothesis that the trophic niche is invariant between old fields and forests in three groups of arachnids: cursorial and web weaving spiders, and harvestmen, by comparing the stable isotope ratios of nitrogen (δ15N) in specimens of each group collected from field and forest. Cursorial spiders fed at the highest trophic level in both habitats, and likely consumed other predators as well as herbivores in the field. Web weavers showed slightly higher δ15N in the field than in the forest. Harvestmen and cursorial spiders had significantly lower δ15N in the forest, indicating a trophic shift downward during later succession when they may increase the proportion of detritivore prey in their diets.

Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton
Eaton, CD and Highlander, H. 2017. The Case for BioCalculus: Design, Retention, and Student Performance. CBE-Life Sciences vol. 16 no. 2ar25 (link) doi: 10.1187/cbe.15-04-0096

Calculus is one of the primary avenues for initial quantitative training of students in all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, but life science students have been found to underperform in the traditional calculus setting. As a result, and because of perceived lack of its contribution to the understanding of biology, calculus is being actively cut from biology program requirements at many institutions. Here, Associate Professor Eaton and her colleagues present an alternative: a model for learning mathematics that sees the partner disciplines as crucial to student success.

Eaton, CD, Anderson, LJ, Allen, D, Bowser, G, Pauley, MA, Williams, KS, and Uno, GE. 2016. Summit of the Research Coordination Networks for Undergraduate Biology Education. CBE-Life Sciences vol. 15 no. 4mr1 (link) doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-03-0147 (Curriculum Grant: NSF IUSE Math Subaward through Virginia Tech PI Susan Ganter. Unity College PI: CD Eaton, Senior Personnel: E. Perry, S. Wade, $156,394. Part of $2.65

million overall grant.)

The first summit of projects funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Coordination Networks for Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) program was held January 14–16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Sixty-five scientists and science educators from 38 of the 41 Incubator and Full RCN-UBE awards discussed the value and contributions of RCNs to the national biology education reform effort.  Associate Professor Eaton and her colleagues shared experiences regarding network development and growth, identified best practices and challenges faced in network management, and discussed work accomplished.

Dr. Paul Guernesy
Guernsey, P., 2017. American Ghost, SkyHorse Publishing, New York.

Visiting Instructor of Writing Paul Guernsey’s third novel is narrated by the frustrated spirit of Daniel “Thumb” Rivera, a young college dropout and aspiring writer who was murdered while researching a book about life among members of Maine’s rural underworld. Not only does Thumb seek to solve and avenge his own murder, but even though he’s dead, he is still determined to write his autobiographical novel.

Dr. Jennifer Clarke

Rose, S.J. and J.A. Clarke. 2017. Quantitative analysis of vocalisations and sounds of Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Bioacoustics 27 (in press – publ online),


Professor Clarke worked with colleagues from Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales in Australia to measure the acoustic characteristics of multiple, distinctly different tiger sounds and linked those sounds to behavioural contexts. Remote audio recordings of five captive Sumatran tigers at Taronga Zoo in New South Wales, Australia, were separated into seven categories and quantified regarding fundamental and peak frequencies, duration and, in some cases, harmonics or pulse rate. Their findings indicate that although loud vocalizations uttered by tigers have often been categorized as ‘roars’, ‘roaring’ is relatively rare and is used only in contexts of pain, fear and/or high aggression, while the loud ‘moan’ is likely the more commonly heard vocalization and is frequently uttered by tigers in announcement/contact contexts.

Dr. Jack Hopkins III
Murray, M., S. Fassina, J.B. Hopkins III, J. Whittington, & C.C. St. Clair. 2017. Seasonal and individual variation in the use of rail-associated food attractants by grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in a national park. PLoS ONE. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175658

Similar to vehicles on roadways, trains frequently kill wildlife via collisions along railways. Despite the prevalence of this mortality worldwide, little is known about the relative importance of wildlife attractants associated with railways. Assistant Professor Hopkins and his colleagues assessed the relative importance of several railway attractants to a provincially-threatened population of grizzly bears in Banff and Yoho National Parks, Canada, for which rail-caused mortality has increased in recent decades without known cause. Results showed that some bears in the region use the railway to forage and supplement their diets with spilled grain, but that individual use of the railway and associated foods were highly variable.

Ben Potter
Ben Potter recently completed an artist residency in Rockland, Maine funded through the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation, and, as part of this, completed a mural in downtown Rockland. He has also exhibited his work in several group and solo exhibitions, including solo shows at the Frank Brockman Gallery in Brunswick and Perimeter Gallery in Belfast. His sculpture will be featured in the  “Materiality: the Matter of Matter” exhibition at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art this November-February.