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Friday, February 27, 2015

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University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618 crystalb@umd.edu

College Park, Md. – Today, the University of Maryland launched a brand-new multimedia news and information portal, UMD Right Now, which provides members of the media and the public with real-time information on the university and its extended community.

UMD Right Now replaces Newsdesk, which previously served as the university’s news hub and central resource for members of the media. The new site is aimed at reaching broader audiences and allows visitors to keep up with the latest Maryland news and events, view photos and videos and connect with the university across all of its social media platforms.

“We designed UMD Right Now to be a comprehensive, vibrant site where visitors can find new and exciting things happening at Maryland,” said Linda Martin, executive director, Web and New Media Strategies. “Through social media, video, photos and news information, we hope to engage visitors and compel the community to explore all that Maryland has to offer.”

The new website, umdrightnow.umd.edu, contains up-to-date news releases and announcements, facts and figures about the university, a searchable database of faculty and staff experts, information highlighting innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, additional resources for news media and other campus and athletics news.

“UMD RightNow is the place to go to find out all the things happening on and around campus on any given day,” said Crystal Brown, chief communications officer. “This website brings real-time news, events and information right to your fingertips.”

For more information and contact information for the Office of University Communications, please visit umdrightnow.umd.edu.

UMD Sustainability Fund 2015 Projects Announced

February 26, 2015

Andrew Muir 301-405-7068

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland Office of Sustainability has announced the first round of Sustainability Fund projects approved for 2015.  The Sustainability Fund allocates money for students, faculty, and staff of the university to finance projects that will improve sustainability initiatives on campus.  
The projects approved for funding by the Student Sustainability Subcommittee and the University Sustainability Council include: 

“Our campus sustainability culture continues to thrive thanks to the inspiration and dedication of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Scott Lupin, Director, Office of Sustainability.  “We are thrilled every year to see the interest for Sustainability Fund projects increase.  This year, we are once again excited to see the projects benefit our community.”  

The Campus Creek Restoration project gained a great deal of public support last semester as the Student Government Association committed 10 percent of its legislative funds to aid the project. The additional financial support from the Sustainability Fund is another valuable resource. Campus Creek is a tributary of Paint Branch, a stream within the Anacostia Watershed. Restoration of the creek will result in significant local and regional enhancements. 

“We’re really excited about the potential of restoring Campus Creek, which will become an environmental asset, as well as a campus destination for students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” said Stephen Reid, Environmental Planner for Facilities Management.  “This project wouldn’t be where it is today without the broad support of the student body, including this grant from the Sustainability Fund.”  

This year’s projects also continue a campus commitment to restoring our local honeybee population.  Honeybees are important natural pollinators of food crops and other plants, and thanks to continued research at this university, the public is becoming more aware of the need to maintain a thriving honeybee population.  

“We continue to be inspired by the interest in full season planting support for honeybees and other pollinators,” said Karen Petroff, Assistant Director, Arboretum/Horticultural Services.  “These projects enrich the biodiversity of the campus environment, add a vibrant layer to the campus arboretum, and botanical collection and provide a living opportunity for continued study and research.”

The Sustainability Fund started in April 2007, when 91% of undergraduate students voted in favor of increasing student fees to create a University Sustainability Fund. Since 2011, the fund has granted over $966,628 to 61 sustainability projects.   

For more information about the University Sustainability Fund: sustainability.umd.edu 

UMD's iSchool Celebrates 50th Anniversary

February 26, 2015

Graham Binder 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The College of Information Studies – University of Maryland’s iSchool – will celebrate its 50th anniversary on February 27, 2015. 

Maryland’s iSchool has created innovative ways for the public to connect with information that aids in the development of our common society. The program is nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report and is heralded for proficiency in the areas of human-computer interaction, archives and maintaining digital data, information access, public librarianship, digital government, and social media. Diversity, building strong relationships, and developed research is held to the highest standard. 

Beginning at 4pm on February 27, The Riggs Alumni Center will open its doors to the public for an extensive launch event, featuring a panel discussion on technology in information science education, presentations from all iSchool academic programs, and demonstrations of human-computer interaction and select digital curation projects. University President Wallace Loh and Provost Mary Ann Rankin will offer closing remarks. A reception follows until 9pm.

Conveniently located near Washington, D.C., the iSchool provides ample opportunity for students and faculty to build long lasting relationships with national information leaders in computer science, education, public policy, sociology and other academic fields. The bar for momentum and achievements in the iSchool has been set high as they prepare to embark on another 50 years.

Massive Amounts of Saharan Dust Fertilize the Amazon Rainforest

February 26, 2015

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267

New study quantifies the connection between
Earth's largest temperate desert and its largest tropical rainforest

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Sahara Desert and the Amazon rainforest seem to inhabit separate worlds. The former is a vast expanse of sand and scrub stretching across the northern third of Africa, while the latter is a dense green mass of humid jungle covering northeast South America. And yet, they are connected: every year, millions of tons of nutrient-rich Saharan dust cross the Atlantic Ocean, bringing vital phosphorus and other fertilizers to depleted Amazon soils. 

For the first time, scientists have an accurate estimate of how much phosphorus makes this trans-Atlantic journey. A new paper, accepted for publication Feb. 24, 2015 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, puts the number at about 22,000 tons per year, which roughly matches the amount that the Amazon loses from rain and flooding. 

This phosphorus accounts for just 0.08 percent of the 27.7 million tons of Saharan dust that settles in the Amazon every year. The finding is part of a bigger research effort to understand the role of dust in the environment and its effects on local and global climate. 

"We know that dust is very important in many ways. It is an essential component of the Earth system. Dust will affect climate and, at the same time, climate change will affect dust," said lead author Hongbin Yu, an associate research scientist at the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), a joint center of the University of Maryland and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. 

Of particular interest is the dust picked up from the Bodélé Depression in Chad. This ancient lake bed contains huge deposits of dead microorganisms that are loaded with phosphorus. Amazonian soils, in turn, are short on phosphorus and other critical nutrients that get washed away by the basin’s frequent and heavy rainfall. Thus, the entire Amazon ecosystem depends on Saharan dust to replenish these losses.

Yu and his colleagues analyzed dust transport estimates based on data collected by NASA's Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite between 2007 and 2013. The team focused on Saharan dust transported across the Atlantic Ocean to South America and beyond, to the Caribbean Sea, because it is the largest transport of dust on the planet.

The team estimated the phosphorus content of Saharan dust by studying samples from the Bodélé Depression and from ground stations on Barbados and in Miami. They then used this estimate to calculate how much phosphorus gets deposited in the Amazon basin. Although the seven-year data record is too short to make conclusions about long-term trends, it is an important step toward understanding how dust and other windborne particles, or aerosols, behave as they move across the ocean.

"We need a record of measurements to understand whether or not there is a fairly robust, fairly consistent pattern to this aerosol transport," said Chip Trepte, project scientist for CALIPSO at NASA's Langley Research Center, who was not involved in the study. 

Year by year, the pattern is highly variable. There was an 86 percent change between the highest amount of dust transported in 2007 and the lowest in 2011. Yu and his colleagues believe this variation is due to conditions in the Sahel, the long strip of semi-arid land on the southern border of the Sahara. Years of high rainfall in the Sahel were typically followed by low dust transport in the next year.

Although the mechanism behind this correlation is unknown, Yu and his team have a few ideas. Increased rainfall could mean more vegetation and therefore less soil exposed to wind erosion in the Sahel. A second, more likely explanation is that the amount of rainfall is related to the wind circulation patterns that sweep dust from both the Sahel and Sahara into the upper atmosphere, where it makes the long journey across the ocean.

"This is a small world, and we're all connected together," Yu said. 


"PALS" Program Launches Partnership with College Park

February 25, 2015

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

University sustainability program connects University assets with city challenges

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth announced today a new, on-going partnership with the City of College Park that will leverage University assets to tackle city challenges in sustainability. The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability, or “PALS” program, will match coursework across a variety of disciplines with issues pertaining to the economic, environmental and social well-being of College Park. Although unofficially launched in January, the Memo of Understanding was approved this week at a meeting of the College Park City Council.

“We are very excited about implementing PALS in our home of College Park,” says Uri Avin, Director of the PALS program. “This partnership has been in the works since the program’s beginning in 2014. Besides the real-world learning experience PALS provides, it will no doubt be exciting for students to see their work create positive change in their own backyard.” 

Four courses are already underway with the city: transformation of an existing commercial space; a greenhouse gas analysis of College Park; a study of current waste management practices; and a public art/“place-making” studio course. Seven University programs—from architecture to environmental science—will concentrate student efforts and faculty expertise for the city this semester. 

“The City’s partnership with the PALS program will help us achieve the Council’s goal for College Park to become a leader in sustainability,” said Bill Gardiner, Assistant City Manager of the City of College Park. “This collaboration will provide research and recommendations that will inform our policy decisions.” 

Building on a promising first semester

Launched last September with the support of Provost Mary Ann Rankin and University administrators, PALS offers a bold, new way of leveraging student ingenuity and faculty expertise campus-wide, providing real solutions to sustainability issues facing Maryland communities. PALS pairs custom coursework with challenges defined by the partner community. College Park is the second jurisdiction to partner with the program since its inception; The program’s inaugural partnership with The City of Frederick, Md., which launched in September, boasts a roster of over 30 courses that focus on a variety of projects, including the development of a downtown revitalization plan, outreach and marketing assistance to minority business owners, creating a city composting program and addressing water quality issues. It is estimated that PALS will provide the city with over 50,000 hours of student and faculty work during its year-long partnership. Despite its freshman status, PALS is the third largest of 18 action-learning initiatives in the United States.

“I am so impressed with the level of work,” said The City of Frederick Alderman Michael O’Connor to UMD students and faculty, at a project presentation in Frederick last month. “If we can do ten percent, five percent, even one percent of what you brought forward, then this partnership has been worth it for the City of Frederick.”

Prior to PALS, most university “community-engaged” coursework operated in a vacuum, often limited by the size of the class and length of the course. The aim of PALS is to funnel these efforts and provide a concentrated, well-orchestrated surge of interdisciplinary ideas and approaches to the economic, social and environmental challenges for one community. The meaningful, on-the-ground community engagement not only provides a living case study for students, it offers a rewarding interactive experience that mirrors future professional interactions within their disciplines. 

“What makes PALS so exciting is its experimental pedagogy,” said David Cronrath, Dean of the University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “PALS challenges students to apply their knowledge in practice by giving them a problem; a real, community challenge that needs a solution. The program provides an environment for students to work collaboratively with their peers across a variety of disciplines under the guidance of faculty experts and community stakeholders. It tosses the notion of ‘conventional teaching methods’ out the window.”

The PALS partnership with Frederick will continue through the summer. While the program will typically focus on a single partner per academic year, the College Park partnership expects to be perennial, allowing students to provide long-term support and build on student efforts year after year. In addition to College Park, the program will announce a second, 2015-16 community partner in March. 

“We are very pleased with the results of PALS and the positive feedback from our faculty and partner jurisdictions” said Gerrit Knaap, Director of the National Center for Smart Growth. “We look forward to this new collaboration and the opportunities it will provide UMD students.” 

UMD Analysis of Satellite Data Shows Felling of Tropical Trees has Soared, Not Slowed

February 25, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The rate at which tropical forests were cut, burned or otherwise lost from the 1990s through the 2000s accelerated by 62 percent, according to a new study which dramatically reverses a previous estimate of a 25 percent slowdown over the same period. That previous estimate, from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Forest Resource Assessment, was based on a collection of reports from dozens of countries. The new estimate, in contrast, is based on University of Maryland analysis of vast amounts of Landsat image data which directly record the changes to forests over 20 years. 

The Kim, et al., result for each of the Landsat coverage periods in Brazil. “Several satellite-based local and regional studies have been made for changing rates of deforestation [during] the 1990s and 2000s, but our study is the first pan-tropical scale analysis,” explains University of Maryland geographer Do-Hyung Kim, lead author of the new study which was accepted for publication on February 9 in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), a journal of the American Geophysical Union

Kim and his University of Maryland colleagues Joseph Sexton and John Townshend looked at 34 forested countries which comprise 80 percent of forested tropical lands. They analyzed 5,444 Landsat scenes from 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2005 with a hectare-scale (100 by 100-meter) resolution to determine how much forest was lost and gained. Their procedure was fully automated and computerized both to make the huge datasets manageable and to minimize human error. 

They found that during the 1990-2000 period, the annual net forest loss across all the countries was 4 million hectares (15,000 square miles) per year. During the 2000-2010 period, the net forest loss rose to 6.5 million hectares (25,000 square miles) per year – a 62 percent increase is the rate of deforestation. That last rate is the equivalent to clear cutting an area the size of West Virginia or Sri Lanka each year, or deforesting an area the size of Norway every five years. 

In terms of where the deforestation was happening, they found that tropical Latin America showed the largest increase of annual net loss of 1.4 million hectares (5,400 square miles) per year from the 1990s to the 2000s, with Brazil topping the list at 0.6 million hectares (2,300 square miles) per year. Tropical Asia showed the second largest increase at 0.8 million hectares (3,100 square miles) per year, with similar trends across the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines. Tropical Africa showed the least amount of annual net forest area loss. Still, there was a steady increase of net forest loss in tropical Africa due to cutting primarily in Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar. 

The new, satellite-based study “really provides a benchmark of tropical forest clearing not provided by other means,” said geographer Douglas Morton, who studies forest cover by satellite sensing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and is not a coauthor on the GRL paper. 

Morton notes that the new, satellite-based estimates are particularly important for those trying to understand the global amounts of carbon being released into the air (primarily in the forms of the climate-warming gases carbon dioxide and methane) or being taken up by plants, soils and waters. 

“Tropical deforestation plays a big role in global climate cycles,” he explained, pointing out that the cutting and burning of forests accounted for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990s.

“It’s not really a surprise that the new research shows dramatically higher deforestation rates although without the transparency of Landsat satellite data is difficult to put your finger on changing trends,” Morton added. 

“Tropical deforestation has become increasingly more mechanized,” he observed, “In the 60s, it was axes; in the 70s, chainsaws; and in the 2000s, it was tractors.” For him, he explained, an increase in deforestation rates makes technological sense. 

Global forest change data used in this study are freely available via the Global Land Cover Facility.

Cupid's Cup Competition Names 12 Semi-Finalists to Compete at Under Armour Global Headquarters

February 24, 2015

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

Five Finalists will Advance and Pitch Judges for $115,000 in Total Prizes

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Twelve startups have been selected from nearly 200 worldwide entries to advance to the semifinal round in the Tenth Annual Cupid’s Cup Business Competition, presented by Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. The entrepreneurs will present on March 10 at Under Armour’s global headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. The top five startups will compete for $115,000 in total prizes at the final round to be held April 22 at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Semifinalists will travel from across the country and Canada to spend the day pitching their businesses and interviewing with the investors, entrepreneurship experts, and Under Armour executives who will serve as judges. Plank and the judges will narrow the applicant pool to five finalists who will compete for a transformative prize package including $115,000 in total cash prizes ($75,000 for the grand-prize winner), coaching from a team of successful entrepreneurs, and the prestigious Cupid’s Cup. 

The semifinalists represent 11 universities and a broad range of industries. They are:

  • East Coast Lifestyle Clothing Inc. (Acadia University) – A Canadian clothing line started in an entrepreneurship class that sells online and in 60 malls across Canada.
  • Grip Boost, LLC (University of Maryland) – A product that restores the tackiness to American football gloves, legally, after they have been worn down by the physical nature of the game.
  • Gym Supreme (University of Maryland) – A fitness start-up that designs patented fitness products, including the Mega Bar, to help humanity stay consistent with their health goals.
  • Identified Technologies (University of Pennsylvania) – Enhances jobsite operations and safety for energy and construction companies using aerial data through a proprietary, pilotless unmanned aerial vehicle and dock station.
  • Let’s Be Well RED (Duke University, School of Medicine) – Combats iron deficiency in India through increasing awareness and the GudNeSs bar, which provides the World Health Organization’s recommended daily iron dosage.
  • OnYou (George Mason University) – A patent-pending magnetic smart phone case that ensures phone music and application capabilities aren’t limited during exercise.
  • Riide (Georgetown University) – Designs, builds, and sells electric bikes while providing urban transportation solutions.
  • Scholly (Drexel University) – A mobile and web application that allows students an easy way to find scholarships for college.
  • SnappyScreen, Inc. (Cornell University) – The world’s first touchless sunscreen application system.
  • Testing Timers (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) – Patented watches for ACT and SAT testing participants that aid in time management, anxiety reduction, and better results.
  • VirtualU INC (Virginia Tech) – Integrates 3D human modeling technology into the fitness and healthcare space so people can accurately track how their body changes as they lose weight.
  • ZOOS Greek Iced Teas (Stetson University) – An all-natural, real-brewed, caffeine-free, ready-to-drink Greek Iced Tea.

Plank and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the Robert H. Smith School of Business, host the annual Cupid’s Cup startup showcase and competition as a culmination of the support it provides students to start and grow businesses. The Dingman Center provides students with opportunities to pitch their business ideas, receive feedback from experienced entrepreneurs and the ability to access funding. 

Cupid’s Cup was inspired by a rose delivery business Plank started as a student at the university. As a member of the football team he was not permitted to have an outside job, so he turned to entrepreneurship as a way to pursue his business interests. Plank worked with the Dingman Center to create and lead a business competition to foster similar student entrepreneurship. The April competition marks the tenth year of Cupid’s Cup.

The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at accredited colleges and universities or recent alumni of those institutions. Applicants had to prove they are running a business entity that has generated at least $5,000 in revenue or provide demonstrated proof of traction. 

More information about the competition is available at www.cupidscup.umd.edu.

100 Years of Service: Maryland Extension

February 23, 2015

Everyday on this campus, researchers, faculty and students create cutting-edge technologies and develop forward-thinking solutions to the world's problems. But what good is all that if it doesn't end up in the hands of the people need it most? That's where University of Maryland Extension comes in.. We recently celebrated out 100th anniversary, but the organization isn't focusing on past accomplishments. Rather, looking ahead to its next century of service. 


February 27
According to new research from UMD's Robert H. Smith School of Business, being outperformed by the people in your own... Read
February 26
The Sustainability Fund will allocate money for students, faculty, and staff of the university to finance projects that... Read
February 26
The College of Information Studies – University of Maryland’s iSchool – will celebrate its 50th anniversary on February... Read
February 26
The Sahara Desert and the Amazon rainforest seem to inhabit separate worlds. And yet, they are connected: every year,... Read