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Sunday, October 4, 2015

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Could Stronger, Tougher Paper Replace Metal?

July 23, 2015

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant to non-recoverable deformation) and tough (tolerant of damage). 

“Strength and toughness are often exclusive to each other," said Teng Li, associate professor of mechanical engineering at UMD. "For example, a stronger material tends to be brittle, like cast iron or diamond."

The UMD team pursued the development of a strong and tough material by exploring the mechanical properties of cellulose, the most abundant renewable bio-resource on Earth. Researchers made papers with several sizes of cellulose fibers – all too small for the eye to see – ranging in size from about 30 micrometers to 10 nanometers. The paper made of 10-nanometer-thick fibers was 40 times tougher and 130 times stronger than regular notebook paper, which is made of cellulose fibers a thousand times larger.

"These findings could lead to a new class of high performance engineering materials that are both strong and tough, a Holy Grail in materials design," said Li.

High performance yet lightweight cellulose-based materials might one day replace conventional structural materials (i.e. metals) in applications where weight is important. This could lead, for example, to more energy efficient and "green" vehicles. In addition, team members say, transparent cellulose nanopaper may become feasible as a functional substrate in flexible electronics, resulting in paper electronics, printable solar cells and flexible displays that could radically change many aspects of daily life. 

Cellulose fibers can easily form many hydrogen bonds. Once broken, the hydrogen bonds can reform on their own—giving the material a 'self-healing' quality. The UMD discovered that the smaller the cellulose fibers, the more hydrogen bonds per square area. This means paper made of very small fibers can both hold together better and re-form more quickly, which is the key for cellulose nanopaper to be both strong and tough.

"It is helpful to know why cellulose nanopaper is both strong and tough, especially when the underlying reason is also applicable to many other materials," said Liangbing Hu, assistant professor of materials science at UMD.

To confirm, the researchers tried a similar experiment using carbon nanotubes that were similar in size to the cellulose fibers. The carbon nanotubes had much weaker bonds holding them together, so under tension they did not hold together as well. Paper made of carbon nanotubes is weak, though individually nanotubes are arguably the strongest material ever made.

One possible future direction for the research is the improvement of the mechanical performance of carbon nanotube paper. 

“Paper made of a network of carbon nanotubes is much weaker than expected,” said Li. “Indeed, it has been a grand challenge to translate the superb properties of carbon nanotubes at nanoscale to macroscale. Our research findings shed light on a viable approach to addressing this challenge and achieving carbon nanotube paper that is both strong and tough.”

This research is part of a National Science Foundation funded grant to explore the science underpinning anomalous scaling laws of strength and toughness in nanocellulose materials.

Anomalous scaling law of strength and toughness of cellulose nanopaper” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 6.

UMD, National Researchers Publish Definitive Tropical Forest Emissions Study

July 23, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Tropical forests provide global climate regulation ecosystem services, and the clearing of these forests significantly accelerates the dangerous effects of climate change through the release of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A new study co-authored by researchers at the University of Maryland for the first time provides a definitive tropical forest emissions study providing a clear picture of pan-tropical forest carbon losses. 

“Given recent trends, natural forests will likely constitute an increasingly smaller proportion of tropical forest GHG emissions and of global emissions as fossil fuel consumption increases,” said UMD professor Matthew C. Hansen, a lead author on the paper and a co-creator of the world’s first high-resolution local-to-global forest mapping tool, which was used in this new research.

Figure 1: Forest loss in natural and managed forests. Sample locations classified as reference loss within natural and managed forests for each of the seven forest types: 1—low cover; 2—medium cover short; 3—medium cover tall; 4—dense cover short; 5—dense cover short intact; 6—dense cover tall; 7—dense cover tall intact.Among the continents, Latin America is the largest contributor to carbon emissions from forest clearing, accounting for 43 percent of gross aboveground carbon (AGC) loss and 54 percent of natural forest AGC loss. Brazil accounts for the highest AGC loss for both categories at national scales. The researchers estimate gross tropical forest AGC loss and natural forest loss to account for 11 percent and 6 percent of global year 2012 CO2 emissions, respectively. 

“Compared with the previous studies, we found significantly more tropical forest carbon loss in Africa and Southeast Asia. This is partially due to the fact that our sample-based approach allowed us to target small-scale forest disturbances in Central Africa and Mainland Southeast Asia, which are underestimated,” said UMD research associate Alexandra Yurievna Tyukavina, (Ph.D. ’15), one of the lead authors of the study.

“The original Hansen map included any tree cover loss, regardless of its cause and nature. We have disaggregated it into the loss of natural forests—which included primary, mature secondary forests and woodlands—and human-managed forests, including tree plantations, agroforestry systems and areas of slash-and-burn agriculture with rapid tree cover rotation,” Tyukavina explained. “We found that 58 percent of all tropical forest carbon loss came from natural forests, and 42 percent of loss came from human-managed forests. The proportion of carbon emissions from natural tropical forests will likely continue to decrease over the years, which will make accounting of human-managed forest dynamics increasingly important.”

Additional key findings:

  • This is the most definitive tropical forest emissions study to date
  • Natural forests worldwide are diminishing because of human activity
  • To conserve rainforests, other ecosystem services such as biodiversity need to be emphasized in addition to GHG emissions
  • Emissions due to smallholder farming, such as in Africa, are greater than previously thought

The researchers say this work is significant in that it complies with and promotes international standards and best practices outlined by the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program. REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. "REDD+" goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

“The work reported here provides the first estimates of pantropical emissions using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change good practice guidance, and it does that for a 12-year observational period. This information is key to tropical forest nations reporting their emissions in the context of REDD+,” said coauthor Scott Goetz, deputy director and senior scientist with the Woods Hole Research Center.

The study, “Aboveground carbon loss in natural and managed tropical forests from 2000 to 2012” appears in Environmental Research Letters. The study was authored by researchers at the University of Maryland, the Woods Hole Research Center, and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

University of Maryland Faculty & Staff Rally Together as "Terps in Support of Maryland Unites"

July 22, 2015

Tricia Homer 301-405-1941
Gloria Aparicio Blackwell 301-405-5643

Governor Hogan to release state employees for four hours to help local organizations and citizens in need 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – This summer, University of Maryland faculty and staff will join together as Terps in Support of Maryland Unites as part of Governor Hogan’s “Maryland Unites: Day of Service” initiative. Governor Hogan will grant four hours of paid leave to state employees for service towards an accredited 501(c)(3) of their choice, in an effort to continue the spirit of kindness and goodwill following the destruction in Baltimore City this spring. 

The University’s Office of Community Engagement, in conjunction with University Human Resources and the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance, have identified several distinct service opportunities, taking place from July 29 through December 31, 2015. UMD faculty and staff project choices include food storage and preparation at the Capital Area Food Bank, student mentoring and tutoring in reading, math and art at GapBuster, Inc., and various construction projects at REAL School Gardens, among several others.

“We are thrilled to take part in Governor Hogan’s service initiative and to be partnering with so many highly regarded philanthropic organizations to better serve our communities,” said Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, UMD’s Director of Community Engagement. “We are looking forward to a strong turnout from faculty and staff and hope participants look to the Office of Community Engagement for future service and engagement opportunities.” 

Although the impetus for this initiative derives from Governor Hogan’s office, UMD’s Office of Community Engagement places a premium on this type of community support, with staffers who approach each and every day with the betterment of the University’s surrounding community in mind. Terps in Support of Maryland Unites is the latest in a series of important strategic partnerships spearheaded by UMD’s Office of Community Engagement designed to strengthen relationships with individuals, the government, and local and regional philanthropic organizations. 

To learn more about Terps in Support of Maryland Unites, visit marylandunites.umd.edu.

UMD Researchers Identify Global Financial Recession as Cause for Decline in Carbon Emissions

July 21, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

Study finds decreases in consumption and production during the recession account for decrease in emissions between 1997 and 2013

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — After decades of steady increases, climate change-causing emissions of carbon dioxide in the U.S. decreased by 11 percent between 2007 and 2013.  Many have assumed that the drop in emissions reflects a shift away from coal energy and towards lower-carbon natural gas.  However, the majority of credit should be given to the global financial recession, according to researchers at the University of Maryland, University of California Irvine, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

“Carbon emissions are closely linked to economic growth in the sense that the recession helped reduce carbon emissions as it dampened household consumption, which is the main driver of the economy and emissions,” said Klaus Hubacek, professor of Geographical Sciences at UMD and one of the project’s investigators. “This points towards the fact that the more stuff we consume the more we pollute, and the importance of low carbon choices for consumers in achieving lower carbon lifestyles.”

The study results, which appear June 21 in the journal Nature Communications, are based on economic analysis of energy use and emissions in the U.S. between 1997 and 2013.  Between 2007 and 2009, when U.S. emissions plummeted by 10 percent, there was a substantial decrease in the volume of goods and services being consumed in the U.S. and also a shift in the types of goods and services being produced.  The new study finds that, together, these changes in consumption and production account for more than three-quarters of the decrease in emissions between 1997 and 2013, with changes in the mix of fuels used to generate energy accounting for just 18 percent of the drop in emissions.

“In our results, natural gas plays a big part in decreasing emissions. The real heroes are consuming less and using energy more efficiently,” said Steven Davis, assistant professor of Earth System Science at UC Irvine and a co-author of the study.

Previous reports have praised natural gas as driving emissions down because burning gas produces roughly half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy than burning coal. However, the new work shows that changes in how much Americans consumed, what types of products they consumed, the balance of manufacturing and service industries, and the quantity of energy used per dollar of products produced have all been important contributors to the decrease in emissions.  Analyzing these different factors, the researchers found that changes in the mix of fuels used have had a comparatively small effect on U.S. carbon dioxide emissions since 2007.

“Cheap gas has only made a small contribution to declining carbon emissions in the U.S.,” Hubacek notes. “At the same time, low gas prices make real alternatives such as renewables less economical, and exports of coal to countries with less efficient technologies have been increasing - thus potentially leading to even higher overall emissions. The only winner is to really invest in improving efficiency and the energy mix with a focus on renewables.”

The study concludes that without new policies that limit CO2 emissions, it may be difficult to keep emissions down as the U.S. economy continues to recover.  And in fact, U.S. CO2 emissions rose in 2013 and 2014.

“With a growing economy, emissions are likely to increase again. Without appropriate policies in place such as the EPA Clean Power Plan, emissions will probably rise beyond the levels required to reach any reduction targets. Support for such plans can lock in the recessionary emissions reductions and ensure continued decarbonization of the U.S. energy system,” said Kuishuang Feng, assistant professor in UMD’s Department of Geographical Sciences and a researcher on the study. 

UMD & Voxy Partner to Study New Approach to Language Instruction

July 21, 2015

Keva Marable Blair, UMD Center for Advanced Study Language, 301-226-8873 
Caroline HartmannVoxy

UMD’s Center for Advanced Study of Language & Voxy, a leading online English learning solution,
to launch joint study to find effective ways of tailoring language instruction

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) and Voxy, a leading online English learning solution, have announced plans to launch a joint empirical study to measure the effects of different instructional approaches on learners with distinct cognitive profiles.

This strategic partnership represents an opportunity for breakthrough findings on how to effectively teach foreign languages, personalize language learning, and identify individuals with a high potential for advanced language learning success. CASL is a premier University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) that supports the needs of the DoD and continues to lead the language aptitude research that will help change the way technology is used for language learning.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the type of research that we conduct at CASL is the potential broad application of so much of our work,” said Michael May, Ph.D., CASL Executive Director. “This joint venture represents our first opportunity to concretely transfer the product of a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) into the public realm. This is the kind of far-reaching impact that sponsored research should seek to achieve and we are very excited to see the results of this partnership.”

In the seven-month study, in addition to using Voxy’s online English course, study participants will be given four assessments from CASL’s Hi-Level Language Aptitude Battery (Hi-LAB), including tests that measure working memory capacity and the ability to learn new information implicitly. The Hi-LAB assessments measure how the participants’ brains work when learning a foreign language. The results will help to identify what teaching methods will lead to the highest proficiency gains for individual learners.

Voxy will be the first private company to use Hi-LAB’s cognitive assessments as a way to tailor instruction based on how learners’ brains are activated during language learning. With its personalized language curriculum, the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of language learners around the world, and its cutting-edge technology platform, Voxy is uniquely positioned to test multiple instructional approaches for each learner.

“CASL has spent many years developing and validating the Hi-Level Language Aptitude Battery,” said Catherine J. Doughty, Ph.D., CASL Area Director of Second Language Acquisition. “The original impetus for our work was to be able to match language instruction to cognitive language aptitude to help adult learners attain very advanced levels much more efficiently and quickly. We are delighted to be partnering with Voxy to put the ideas into a real-world test bed.”

“We have admired CASL for many years, and the Center’s research in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) has always been a key input into the pedagogical principles underlying Voxy’s platform,” said Voxy CEO Paul Gollash. “We are thrilled to be formally partnering with this passionate team of SLA experts and cognitive scientists to help shape the future of personalized English learning.”

Voxy’s personalized courses currently adapt to meet learners’ needs based on performance, proficiency levels, interests, and language learning goals. The collaboration with CASL will allow Voxy to identify learners’ cognitive profiles, and subsequently determine which activity sequences are best suited to individual learners. When Voxy can add cognitive profiles to its personalization algorithm, it will be able to meet learners’ needs even more efficiently and effectively.

“Voxy’s mission is to build a maximally effective language learning platform based on the findings from rigorous empirical research,” said Katie Nielson, Ph.D., Voxy’s Chief Education Officer. “We are incredibly excited about the research CASL has been spearheading on cognitive aptitudes and its potential for differentiating instruction even further. Partnering with CASL will allow us to take our personalized approach to language learning to the next level.”

UMD Research Reveals How Wildfires Spread

July 20, 2015

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The phrase “spreads like wildfire” is well known, but until recent discoveries by researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD), U.S. Forest Service, and University of Kentucky, it wasn’t well-understood how wildfires actually spread.  

Specifically, it was unclear how radiation and convection – two heat transfer processes that occur in wildfires – contribute to the spread of such fires. Now, evidence presented in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals that the spread of wildfire is caused primarily by convection, the transfer of heat through the movement of liquids or gasses. Convection determines flame behavior in a fire, and convective air currents also can heat or cool nearby vegetation.  

“This discovery provides the missing piece of the puzzle we needed to describe wildfire dynamics,” says Michael Gollner, an assistant professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering who contributed to the study. “Current computer modeling systems are not very good at predicting the spread of fire. We present a physical basis from which to create a new model that won't break down under the most extreme conditions. This will have a huge impact on firefighting strategy, effectiveness, and safety.”

Prior to this study, little was known about the role of convection in the spread of wildfires because research had focused on radiant heat – heat transferred by electromagnetic waves. Heat from the sun is another example of such direct radiation of energy. Studies used to create predictive wildfire models assumed that radiant heat governed how fast a fire spread. 

However, this team of scientists, led by Mark Finney of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, unexpectedly found that the net rates of heat transferred by radiation were insufficient to ignite the fine fuel particles that constitute wildland vegetation. Instead they found such particles are efficiently kept cool by convection until contacted directly by flames. 

UMD’s Gollner helped Finney determine what these convective motions were and how they impacted the fire by running small-scale experiments in a special combustion wind tunnel at UMD. Colleagues at the University of Kentucky provided a framework to scale up the phenomena, and used high-speed thermal infrared cameras to observe heating in large scale fire spread experiments run at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory’s unique combustion wind tunnel in Missoula, Montana.

Together, their efforts produced a never-before-seen picture of the flame movement that governs advancement of such fires. Outdoor experiments and prescribed fires extended their results, demonstrating the model could replicate the behavior of large-scale wildfires.

The experiments led to the discovery of previously unrecognized flame behaviors and how those behaviors cause wildfires to spread. The team discovered that flame vorticity (circulations) and instabilities due to the buoyancy of flame gasses cause wildfires to spread by forcing flames downward into the fuel bed and bursting forward ahead of the fire into fresh fuel, such as grass and brush.

“This study opens the door into the little known world of flame dynamics and gets us closer to understanding the complexities of radiative and convective heat and how they affect wildfire spread,” said Finney. 

Improving firefighting through research 

Each year, wildfires in the United States burn an average of 7 million acres of land, and for the last 10 years, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior have spent a combined $1.5 billion annually on wildfire suppression. The team of USDA, UMD and UK researchers say their findings have the potential to:

  • Improve firefighter safety through better recognition & anticipation of wildfire behavior
  • Increase the accuracy of prediction models for the spread of wildfires
  • Inform efforts to mitigate fuel hazards that contribute to wildfires

The ten scientists who conducted this study are from the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Missoula Fire Sciences Lab, the University of Maryland’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering, and the University of Kentucky’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Their PNAS study the “Role of buoyant flame dynamics in wildfire spread” is available for download at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/07/13/1504498112.

The University of Maryland has a long history of research advancing the detection and effective response to wildfires. In addition to the current study, this work includes the recently announced development of a new fire detection tool that uses NASA satellite data together with a cutting-edge computer model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research to better predict how a fire will change direction based on weather and land conditions.

UMD Research Shows Effects of Aging on Speech Processing

July 20, 2015

Andrew Roberts 301-405-2171

Study finds brain processing - in addition to hearing loss - contribute to problems

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – As humans age, many develop difficulties with understanding and processing speech – especially in noisy settings such as restaurants or bars. New multidisciplinary research at the University of Maryland’s Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences suggests this phenomenon is due to changes in the central auditory system that effectively slow or disrupt the way our brains process words.

The study examined 30 adults, both young and old, with normal hearing and no history of neurological disorders. By presenting these individuals with a number of speech syllables, progressively altering the frequency of the sounds and measuring their brain activity with small electrodes, researchers were able to identify substantial differences in how brains of varying ages processed words. The researchers discovered that the responses of older adults were significantly delayed compared to the responses of younger adults, particularly with ‘onsets’ and ‘offsets’ of syllables – the beginning and ends of words.

“Problems in processing complex sounds such as ‘da’ and ‘a’ could help explain their difficulties in understanding speech, particularly in noisy environments,” said the study’s first author, Alessandro Presacco, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience and Cognitive Science program. Those particular difficulties suggest there is more to the challenges than failing hearing.

“Although this phenomenon is commonly attributed to hearing loss, it’s often the case that adults with clinically ‘normal’ hearing still experience difficulty,” said Assistant Professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences Samira Anderson, the principal investigator of the study. “I was surprised to see the sudden drop in response size in older adults in the later region of the vowel.  It helps me to understand why older adults sometimes have trouble hearing the ends of words.”

Presacco and his collaborators found that there are many potential contributors to the language processing challenges for adults, ranging from the brain’s ability to accurately process speech to its inability to sustain neural firing for the duration of the speech.

The study contributes critical information toward the goal of understanding precisely why aging minds struggle with words and sounds. By identifying the root cause of language processing difficulties, and mapping how the brain responds to different stimuli, researchers can develop revolutionary therapies and treatments for aging adults. 

“There’s a lot we don’t know. These findings are a critical, but incremental contribution to our understanding. Studies like this are helping scientists identify not only the causes of language processing issues, but where the breakdown is occurring specifically,” Anderson said. “Can we draw direct connections between speech processing and perception? Can we train the brain to process language information more efficiently—especially in terms of helping older adults regain lost functionality? These are the types of revolutionary questions we’re trying to answer.”

Former Sigma Chi Fraternity House Makes Way for Future University of Maryland Development

July 17, 2015

Crystal Brown 301-405-4621

Vision for Greater College Park Progresses with Purchase of New Land

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland College Park Foundation has purchased .808 acres of land located at 4600 Norwich Rd. in College Park from the Gamma Chi Chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.  

"The purchase of this land is a perfect next step in creating a Greater College Park for our community," said Carlo Colella, UMD's vice president for administration and finance." Located just behind Fraternity Row and adjacent to several on- and off-campus housing units, the land is a natural extension of the University of Maryland campus." 

The plan for the land, located at the corner of Norwich Road and Princeton Avenue, includes future housing for university faculty and staff. 

“We looked at a wide range of potential buyers and were pleased to connect the seller with the University of Maryland,” said Colliers International Baltimore Vice President Colin Penoyar, who brokered the transaction on behalf of the seller. “It’s a perfect fit. The seller, as the Sigma Chi Fraternity at the University of Maryland, is loyal to the university and heavily involved. They’re excited their former home will contribute to the growth of the university.”

Greater College Park ties together the many efforts that support the university’s goal of becoming a premier college town. It includes dynamic academic spaces, a vibrant downtown community and a public-private research hub. Greater College Park is the result of collaborative partnerships with Prince George’s County, the City of College Park, the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, the College Park City-University Partnership, UMD alumni and local developers.

Battling Wildfires from Space: UMD & NASA Add to Firefighters' Toolkit

July 17, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – U.S. firefighters battling wildfires this year will get a clearer view of these threats with new UMD-led, NASA-funded satellite-based tools to better detect fires and predict their behavior. 

Each year, wildfires in the United States burn an average of 7 million acres of land, and for the last 10 years, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior have spent a combined $1.5 billion annually on wildfire suppression. The demand for timely, high-quality fire information has increased in recent years, as large catastrophic wildfires have because commonplace.  

Research Associate Professor Wilfrid Schroeder of UMD’s Department of Geographical SciencesNow, a new fire detection tool, developed by Research Associate Professor Wilfrid Schroeder of UMD’s Department of Geographical Sciences, uses data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite to detect fires in more detail than previous space-based products. The high-resolution data is used with a cutting-edge computer model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to predict how a fire will change direction based on weather and land conditions.

Data from Suomi NPP’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) increases the resolution of fire observations to just 1,230 feet (375 meters). Previous NASA satellite data products available since the early 2000’s observed fires at a 3,280 foot (1 kilometer) resolution. The jump in detail is helping transform how satellite remote sensing data is used in support of wildfire management.

The enhanced VIIRS fire product enables detection every 12 hours or less of much smaller fires and provides more detail and consistent tracking of fire lines during long duration wildfires – capabilities critical for early warning systems and support of routine mapping of fire progression. Active fire locations are available to users within minutes from the satellite overpass through data processing facilities at the USFS Remote Sensing Applications Center, which uses technologies developed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Direct Readout Laboratory in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

NCAR’s weather-fire model has demonstrated potential to enhance firefighter and public safety by increasing awareness of rapidly changing fire behavior. The model uses data on weather conditions and the land surrounding an active fire to predict 12-18 hours in advance whether a blaze will shift direction. The VIIRS fire detection product has been applied to these models, successfully verifying the wildfire simulations. 

“We hope that by infusing these higher resolution detection data and fire behavior modeling outputs into tactical fire situations, we can lessen the pressure on those working in fire management,” said Schroeder. 

In addition to the UMD and NCAR, the VIIRS 375m fire detection project team included NASA’s Earth Science Applied Sciences Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System Proving Ground Program, and the U.S. Forest Service. The technology is now in operation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS), and the state of Colorado recently decided to incorporate the weather-fire model in its firefighting efforts beginning with the 2016 fire season.

Active fire maps of the United States are available online at: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us.

$1.25 Million Mellon Grant Awarded to UMD's Arts and Humanities College

July 15, 2015

Nicky Everette 301-405-6714

UMD to help transform the future of digital scholarship and research on
African American history and culture 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A $1.25 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will fund research, education and training at the intersections of digital humanities and African American studies at the University of Maryland. The grant will help to prepare a diverse community of scholars and students whose work will both broaden the reach of the digital humanities in African American history and cultural studies and enrich humanities research with new methods, archives and tools. 

500 Laborers from Barbados/Deck Scene, September 2, 1909, Panama; NARA identification number 185-G-1128The grant, Synergies among Digital Humanities and African American History and Culture: An integrated research and training model, awarded to the College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) and co-directed by the Arts and Humanities Center for Synergy (Center for Synergy) and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), will support a faculty project director, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and staff in ARHU and the University Libraries. It also includes money to run workshops, to deliver public programming, to digitize materials from significant archival collections, to support faculty research and to integrate digital work into a number of innovative undergraduate curricular initiatives including UMD’s First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program, a new initiative to expose first-year undergraduates to rich research experiences, mentorship and social activities that are known to impact academic success.  

“UMD's project enhances the role of digital tools in African American studies, as well as the contributions of the field to digital discourse while also making a commitment to widening the reach of the digital humanities both within academic communities and outside the walls of the university,” said Mariët Westermann, vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

The College of Arts and Humanities has made serious investments in digital humanities and African American culture and history, hiring faculty clusters in both digital humanities and African American literature and history, adding to the strong community of digital humanist and African Americanist scholars already spread across the campus’s many colleges. 

“This venture could not be more timely or important,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “It builds on our vital strengths in the humanities, increasing access to important source material on race and culture in America, while creating a new generation of technology-savvy researchers.”

Hunter, Clementine (1886-1988) Wash Day, n.d. Oil on canvas 15.375” x 19.5” © 2013 Cane River Art Corporation

The thematic focus of the project, African American labor, migration and artistic expression, incorporates the broad intellectual interests shared by a large group of prominent scholars, students and staff on campus, and represents some of the campus’s greatest strengths. Specific research projects will be undertaken in collaboration with The Center for the History of the New America, which houses the Archive of Immigrant Voices; The David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Art and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora with its collection of over 50,000 objects that chronicle the development and understanding of the study of African American visual culture; and the UMD libraries’ recently acquired George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive, a preeminent research collection for the study of American labor history.

At UMD, digital humanities as a recognized field can be traced back to the founding of MITH in 1999, which has grown to international acclaim due to its transformational research at the intersection of technology and humanistic inquiry. The project will apply MITH’s innovative digital humanities incubator model to introduce scholars, students and cultural heritage professionals to new modes of research through a series of workshops, tutorials and detailed consultations. Strong in traditional arts and humanities fields as well, the university is also home to the Center for Synergy, the new humanities center at Maryland, which will provide an interdisciplinary bridge between departments and centers and facilitate the public facing events, curricular initiatives and websites connected with the project. 

© University of Maryland,  Page One Photography, Inc. Collection, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries“This ambitious project enables scholars in the region to leverage the remarkable resources we have on campus,” said Bonnie Thornton Dill, professor of Women’s Studies, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and principal investigator of the Mellon grant. “To explore the histories of the African American population in the U.S., scholars will work with the rich and diverse data sets and archives found in these interdisciplinary centers.”

These resources together offer a new lens and framework for thinking and teaching about Black life in America, specifically investigating the way in which migration has shaped the history of Black people, as both forced and free laborers, and linking those experiences to visual and material culture.   

“Students and faculty researchers might investigate questions about labor activism among Caribbean Americans or explore visual representations of work as they examine the relationship of Black artists and the labor movement,” Ms. Thornton Dill said.

For more information, visit the College of Arts and Humanities website


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