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A Unique Look into Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

October 30, 2013
Contacts: 

Jennifer Rooks 301-405-1458

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty and graduate students have published new research in the Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials that could shed light on the mechanical cause underlying mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI).

UMD Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty and graduate students have published new research that could shed light on the mechanical cause underlying mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI).Recent media coverage of athletes and head injuries has drawn attention to the complex, and often puzzling nature of head injuries and the long-term damage that both severe and seemingly mild injuries can inflict on an individual.

While there is a large body of research being done on head injuries, especially in the area of long-term cognitive impacts as a result of repeated head injuries, researchers at UMD are taking a closer look at the brain's mechanics, and how even seemingly minor trauma could cause damage, depending on how stress waves move through brain tissue due to its nature and composition and its ability to handle stress loads.

Mechanical engineering research faculty member Henry Haslach and graduate student Lauren Leahy have collaborated with colleagues Peter Riley, a mechanical engineering alumnus and third-year medical student at the University of Maryland Medical School, Adam H. Hsieh from the University of Maryland's Fischell Department of Bioengineering and Rao Gullapalli and Su Xu from the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine on their paper, "Solid-extracellular fluid interaction and damage in the mechanical response of rat brain tissue under confined compression."

The aim of their research is to analyze the mechanical processes that might underlie mild traumatic brain injuries. According to the paper, "subtle small-scale mechanical damage mechanisms in brain tissue that can modify brain function may be involved in the initial cause of mTBI." The brain is comprised of both solid matter and water, with a high fluid content, and the configuration of "brain tissue is maintained by the interaction between the cellular solid matter and the brain extracellular fluid (ECF)."

Based on this relationship, the team hypothesized that head trauma, even moderate strain, could cause stresses that could alter the brain's mechanical properties, and their research results suggest "that trauma-induced increases in ECF hydrostatic pressure, which may induce pathological ECF flow, are a possible immediate mechanical cause of brain damage." Brain tissue, unlike cartilage or arterial tissue, is not a load bearing tissue, and the research indicates that when the brain is subjected to load bearing stress, such as that caused during head trauma, it experiences a loss in its stress-carrying ability, possibly due to cell rupture, disassociation of axonal-glial interconnections, relative motion of substructures in the heterogeneous tissue, or relative motion at interfaces or larger regions as a result of excessive hydrostatic pressure in the ECF.

While brain tissue is not particularly adept at handling repeated stress loads like other soft tissue, it does share soft tissue's property of propagating stress waves in a nonlinear fashion. This nonlinear property was what Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair and Minta Martin Professor of Engineering Balakumar Balachandran and doctoral student Marcelo Valdez took a closer look at in their publication, entitled "Longitudinal nonlinear wave propagation through soft tissue."

Through their combined analytical and numerical efforts, they analyzed the nonlinear effects of soft tissue mechanical behavior on propagating stress waves to create models that could be used for analyzing the effects of stress and impacts on soft tissue.

While the research was not aimed specifically at brain tissue, the results could be applied to work in both TBI and blast induced traumatic brain injuries, where an impact or an external blast, like an explosion, generates a load that is strong enough to create stress waves within the brain.

While many head injuries can often be attributed to the effects from motion between the brain and skull during impacts, there are few theories on what occurs in the brain during low impact injuries, or when there is an absence of motion between the skull and brain. Since even mild impacts are likely to cause stress waves in brain tissue, the researchers propose that better understanding of, and predictive modeling for, the behavior of these waves, including attenuation, speed, and frequency, could provide insights into the impacts of seemingly mild injuries on soft tissues such as the brain tissue.

A better understanding of the mechanical properties of brain tissue and how it handles stress from impacts could provide more clues into how even seemingly small head injuries can lead to greater or long term brain damage.

Both Drs. Balachandran and Haslach started their initial research efforts in this area through support from the Center for Energetic Concepts and Development.

 

For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

UMD Students Win Major League Hacking Championship

October 25, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland students have won the inaugural U.S. Major League Hacking (MLH) Championship. Newcomer UMD beat out Rutgers, long-time hackathon heavyweights MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Michigan and Stanford, and more than 100 other schools.

Photo courtesy of Major League HackingDuring the first half of the fall semester, more than 200 different Terrapin Hackers competed in at least one of five MLH designated hackathons—24 to 96 hour events in which students create or 'hack' a software or hardware project from scratch. This is hacking in its best and most original sense of creating playful, innovative programs or technologies, rather than its alternate meaning of computer crime. 

In a blog, MLH Commissioner Swift said, "I'm proud to announce that the Terrapin Hackers have officially claimed the title of Fall 2013 Hackathon Season champions and a spot on the list of best schools for hackers."

UMD took the championship by tying with Rutgers for tops in merit points and surpassing all schools in participation/presentation points. UMD overcame the substantial "home field" advantages of MLH hackathon hosts Rutgers, MIT, Michigan, NYU and University of Pennsylvania. MLH hackathons are organized and run by students, with financial backing by tech companies who more and more are using such competitions as prime recruiting grounds. 

"We placed first at two of the five hackathons," said Terrapin Hackers organizer Shariq Hashme, a UMD junior majoring in computer science and electrical and computer engineering.  "That's really, really good. It can't be a fluke. We are on to something."

Terrapin HackersAlthough UMD's computer science and electrical and computer engineering departments have long been among the nation's top programs for years, UMD students are largely new to hackathon participation.

"We came out of nowhere," said Hashme. "University of Maryland students generally didn't go to hackathons until last spring. These other teams had been going for years."

Although most Terrapin Hackers are computer science and/or electrical and computer engineering students, students from a number of other disciplines, including physics and biology also participated.

Collaboration First, Competition Second
According to students who organize hackathons, non-participants are often surprised by how much collaboration takes place among teams from different schools. "It's generally a very collaborative atmosphere," said Hashme. "It's not competitive, even though you want to win, of course. Every now and then a team comes along that is really, really competitive. They generally don't do very well. They don't realize that you really need other people's help if you want to win anything."

The Terrapin Hackers are led by Hashme, together with senior computer science majors Ivan Melyakov and Diego Quispe and  sophomore computer science major Kunal Sharma. Together, the four students organized transportation and helped with hackathon registration for their UMD group members. The Terrapin Hackers took busses, cars and even planes in order to participate in the five MLH hackathons.

The Major League Hacker standings are available at http://mlh.io/standings.

Rank

School

Attendance Points

Merit
Points

Total
Points

1

University of Maryland

320

666.66

986.66

2

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

217

661.66

878.66

3

Carnegie Mellon University

128

625

753

4

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

56

442.5

498.5

5

Columbia University

92

300

392

6

University of Michigan

99

200

299

7

Stanford University

20

200

220

8

The College of New Jersey

38

165

203

9

University of Rochester

4

152.5

156.5

10

Virginia Tech

54

100

154

For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

It's Alive! Shelley-Godwin Digital Archive

October 24, 2013
Contacts: 

Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625

The University of Maryland's Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) announces the launch of the Shelley-Godwin Archive (SG-A), a new digital resource that allows scholars, students and the public to explore in one place the widely scattered texts of England's "first family of writers."COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland's Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) announces the launch of the Shelley-Godwin Archive (SG-A), a new digital resource that allows scholars, students and the public to explore in one place the widely scattered texts of England's "first family of writers."
 
For the first time together, the archive will make available online the manuscripts of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The public can take a deeper look into the creative process of literature's most iconic texts.

The first public release of the archive will be the fully transcribed and encoded manuscripts of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein notebooks, with page images provided by the Bodleian Library at Oxford.  Building on MITH's leadership and innovation in the field of digital humanities, the technology driving the archive provides high-quality, zoomable page images, as well as transcriptions of each page created on the fly from TEI encoding. The first public release of the archive will be the fully transcribed and encoded manuscripts of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein notebooks, with page images provided by the Bodleian Library at Oxford. 

"We encoded each stage of the composition process, tracing the revisionary evolution of primary manuscripts from rough draft to final copy," said Neil Fraistat director of MITH and an eminent Shelley scholar. "The added value here is far greater than basic transcription that only displays text as it appears on the page without embedded contextual information."

Users will search and see for themselves insertions, deletions, shifts in hand, and other variables related to the composition process. Future archive releases will encourage "participatory digital humanities," which aims to provide web-based tools that help the archive function as a work-site for scholars, students, and the general public. Contributions will come in the form of transcriptions, corrections, annotations, and TEI encoding.

"This website is an excellent illustration of research in the humanities," said Bonnie Thornton Dill, UMD's dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. "The archive illuminates complexities in Frankenstein with regard to gender and the digitization makes this information visible and accessible to a wide range of scholars and interested people."

FrankensteinThe archive was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was created in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford and the New York Public Library's Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle.

To learn more about the Shelley-Godwin Archive, visit shelleygodwinarchive.org on the evening of Thursday, October 31, 2013 when the site is scheduled to launch. 

Public Launch on October 31, 2013 in NYC
To celebrate the launch, the New York Public Library will host a free public program on October 31 at 6 p.m. in the Margaret Berger Forum at The New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  On hand will be Neil Fraistat and David Brookshire from MITH, who will discuss the creation of the archive's first transcribed and encoded manuscript, the Bodleian Library's Frankenstein notebooks of Mary Shelley. Elizabeth Denlinger, curator of The New York Public Library's Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, will give a brief overview of the archive's generation and birth. Charles Robinson of the University of Delaware will give a more extended talk on the novel's composition, illustrating how the Shelley-Godwin Archive functions in real time. Treasures from the Pforzheimer Collection will be  specially shown this evening only, including the 1818 first edition of Frankenstein, the first illustrated edition of 1831, playbills from early stage productions of Frankenstein, a 1931 edition showing photographs from the James Whale film, as well as original manuscripts from both Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Please note: an rsvp is required to attend the NYPL event and can be made by emailing elizabethdenlinger@nypl.org or calling 212-930-0717.

About the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities
MITH is a leading digital humanities center that pursues disciplinary innovation and institutional transformation through applied research, public programming, and educational opportunities. Jointly supported by the University of Maryland College of Arts and Humanities and the University of Maryland Libraries, MITH engages in collaborative, interdisciplinary work at the intersection of technology and humanistic inquiry. MITH specializes in text and image analytics for cultural heritage collections, data curation, digital preservation, linked data applications, and data publishing.

Katz Named Director of Maryland Cybersecurity Center

October 24, 2013
Contacts: 

Tom Ventsias 301-405-5933

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A noted University of Maryland expert in cryptography and information security will now lead one of the nation's preeminent centers dedicated to cybersecurity research and education.

Jonathan Katz, professor of computer science, was appointed to a three-year term as director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2) effective October 24.Jonathan Katz, professor of computer science, was appointed to a three-year term as director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2) effective October 24.

He will provide leadership to the unique center that joins computer scientists and engineers with researchers from across campus in fields such as economics, supply-chain management and the social sciences.

"The threats and challenges in cybersecurity continue to grow exponentially. We intend to respond in-kind using innovative research and education," says Patrick O'Shea, UMD's vice president and chief research officer. "Jonathan Katz is the perfect candidate to lead these efforts."

MC2 was launched in 2010 with strong support from the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS). Since then, the center has fostered numerous collaborations in cyber-related research, education and technology development with major corporations that include ManTech, Tenable, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

"I look forward to working with our students, faculty and external partners to help prepare the future cybersecurity work force and to develop new technologies to defend against cyber attacks," says Katz, who brings more than a decade of experience in research and education to his leadership role at MC2.

Katz joined the faculty of the University of Maryland in 2002, having previously worked as a research scientist at Telcordia Technologies (now Applied Communications Research). He has held visiting positions at the University of California, Los Angeles, the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in New York, and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

Katz has published more than 100 scientific articles and two books, including a widely used undergraduate textbook on cryptography. He has also done extensive consulting work for U.S. government agencies and private corporations, mostly involving cryptographic protocols and algorithms.

"The university's cybersecurity vision is to integrate our efforts with government and private industry," says Jayanth Banavar, dean of CMNS. "Jonathan has firsthand knowledge in that area, making him invaluable."

CybersecurityKatz earned his doctoral degree in computer science from Columbia University. He holds undergraduate degrees in mathematics and chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Katz succeeds outgoing director Michael Hicks, who will remain at MC2 and continue his work in software reliability and security.

Hicks leaves the center in excellent shape: MC2 just unveiled a new collaborative workspace in the A.V. Williams Building and has hired four new cybersecurity faculty in the past two years; one in computer science and three in electrical and computer engineering.

"The university, the state of Maryland and the federal government all consider increased cybersecurity vigilance, research and training to be paramount. We know this is a worthwhile investment and I am confident that Jonathan Katz will move our center forward," says Darryll Pines, dean of the Clark School.

The four new cybersecurity faculty members, as well as Katz and Hicks, all have appointments in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), which oversees MC2.

"UMIACS has long served as a catalyst for the very best in interdisciplinary research related to computer science," says Amitabh Varshney, director of UMIACS. "Michael Hicks has done an outstanding job as the first director of MC2, and I know that Jonathan Katz has the passion, vision and leadership skills to build upon that work and take the cybersecurity center to the next level."

UMD Honors Alum for Revolutionary Naval Technology

October 23, 2013
Contacts: 

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The man behind a revolutionary network technology designed to aid in U.S. Navy fleet defense is the latest innovator to be inducted into the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering's Innovation Hall of Fame.

The Innovation Hall of Fame recognizes Clark School alumni, faculty and associates who have pioneered many of the most significant engineering advances in the past century. Inductees include Robert Briskman, the co-founder of Sirius Satellite Radio, and Brian Hinman, the innovator behind the Polycom SoundStation conference call device.

Jerry KrillClark School electrical engineering alumnus Jerry Krill Ph.D. '78 is being honored for his technical leadership in developing the sensor network system known as the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). The CEC is a dynamically reconfigurable data sharing network that provides a composite, common operating picture for Navy battle groups, allowing them to act as a coordinated, unified whole. The CEC network is robust enough to enable a ship to engage a threat with missiles based on radar data from another ship or aircraft many miles away. Senior Navy leaders have described CEC as “one of the Navy's crown jewels” that greatly enhances the Navy’s air defenses.

A Novel Networking Technology
Years before modern cellular and Wi-Fi technologies were available, Krill personally led the conception, enabling of network technologies, and design of the high-speed, fully automatic CEC network to transport unfiltered sensor data. The design is still considered advanced 20 years later.

Beginning in 1974, Krill oversaw the development of the concept and requirements for CEC. By 1991, he was responsible for technical progress to support the Navy CEC program manager in meeting an accelerated, Congressionally-directed fleet introduction time table.

One of his personal contributions was a fully automatic network initiation process. He also invented “time division pairwise access” (TDPA), allowing each unit to operate autonomously, yet in concert within the network.  These innovations are foundational to CEC network operation.

Krill led breakthrough radio wave research to extend a ship's engagement range against low-flying cruise missiles using data from radars of other, remote ships (a "cooperative engagement").

Krill guided computer simulation activities to prepare for a major missile firing test event involving an aircraft carrier battle group in 1994, whose success warranted a site visit by the Secretary of Defense.  Krill also was the technical leader for the Navy’s “Mountain Top” advanced concept demonstration in Kauai in 1996, proving one of the most challenging types of “cooperative engagements” that today is embodied in the family of systems known as Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA).

About Jerry Krill
Krill currently serves as assistant director for science and technology at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. He had spent the previous five years as APL's assistant director for programs, overseeing APL's 600-plus programs and heading its quality management initiatives. Before that he led the Lab's Power Projection Systems, among other supervisory and technical leadership positions.

He joined APL in 1973. He holds a number of patents and was named a 2005 Innovator of the Year by the Baltimore Daily Record for his work on optical communications networks.

Krill holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland and B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Michigan State University.  He served on the Naval Studies Board and has participated in studies for the NSB and Defense Science Board.

Krill will be honored at 4 p.m. on Nov. 12, 2013 at the annual Innovation Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building. For more information on the Innovation Hall of Fame, visit  www.eng.umd.edu/ihof.

UMD Honors College Park for Achieving "Green" Status

October 23, 2013
Contacts: 

Mike Hunninghake 301-405-5891

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland's Environmental Finance Center (EFC) honored the City of College Park last Friday for achieving Sustainable Maryland Certified status, which recognizes the city's efforts in adopting sweeping green, sustainable practices. College Park joins six other Maryland communities—the cities of Annapolis, Hyattsville, Frederick and Gaithersburg, and the towns of Edmonston and Bladensburg—that received this prestigious status at a special ceremony at the Maryland Municipal League Fall Conference.

College Park Councilwoman Denise Mitchell receiving the award"These communities are municipal leaders that are making important strides towards the long-term goal of a sustainable Maryland," said Joanne Throwe, director of the EFC. "Having College Park join the ranks is a big milestone for us. Their efforts will serve as models for other Maryland communities seeking to ensure a more environmentally and economically resilient future for their residents."

Launched by UMD's EFC in the spring of 2011, Sustainable Maryland Certified helps towns and communities go greener, providing cost-effective and sustainable strategies to preserve assets and revitalize their communities. By offering a menu of "greening" actions to choose from, the program helps municipalities tailor their plan to meet the needs and priorities of their community, offering trainings, case studies, program tools and other resources to help them meet their goals. The free and voluntary program has already certified 12 communities throughout the state.

To obtain certification, municipalities are required to form a "Green Team" comprised of local residents, community leaders, municipal staff and officials and complete a variety of sustainability-related actions. Using best practices in resource areas like water, energy, planning, health, food, and economy, a municipality can earn points toward sustainability certification.  Once a community accumulates at least 150 points, they must submit the appropriate documentation as evidence that the Sustainable Maryland Certified requirements have been satisfied. Actions range from overhauling a community's storm water management to creating a weekly farmer's market.

College Park's path to certification took 14 months to complete. Because many of the city's proposed initiatives focused on improving the health and quality of life for those who live, study and work in College Park, the city worked closely with UMD, leveraging the university's intellectual assets and student community to forward several of their campaigns. The university supported and promoted the city's inaugural "buy local" campaign, "Shop College Park," with special emphasis on promoting locally-owned and independent businesses. The city also worked closely with UMD to set up a pit-stop event for the Metropolitan Area Council of Government's annual Bike to Work Day. College Park also developed an innovative recycling program that includes single stream recycling, electronics and yard waste, a comprehensive workplace wellness program for municipal employees, including frequent lunch hour seminars and workshops, as well as an employee reimbursement program for fitness activities outside of the office.

"This is just the beginning," said Andrew M. Fellows, Mayor of College Park.  "We are happily engaged in a friendly and environmentally restorative competition with our fellow Maryland municipalities to be the most sustainable community in the state."

There are currently 30 communities in Maryland seeking certification by SMC. The program is a vital part of UMD's continued mission as a service institution focused on the statewide needs of Maryland citizens, leveraging faculty and research expertise to assist local officials across the state as they embark on sustainability programs.

"These awards are a testament to the passion and dedication of both volunteer residents and municipal staff and elected officials to go green, save tax dollars, and improve the quality of life in their communities," said Mike Hunninghake, program manager for Sustainable Maryland Certified.

A number of partners share the responsibility for creating and managing the Program. SMC sponsors include the Maryland Municipal League, the Town Creek Foundation, and The US Environmental Protection Agency. Program partners include the EFC's sister center, the National Center for Smart Growth, as well as 87 other organizations from the public and private sectors, nonprofits, and academia.

For more information about Sustainable Maryland Certified, visit www.sustainablemaryland.com.

Photo: College Park Councilwoman Denise Mitchell with the certification award, which is made from recycled glass.

Researchers Propose Social Network Modeling to Fight Hospital Infections

October 22, 2013
Contacts: 

Sean Barnes 301-405-9679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Two researchers at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business have teamed up with a researcher at American University to develop a framework to help prevent costly and deadly infections acquired by hospitalized patients. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), these transmissions strike one out of every 20 inpatients, drain billions of dollars from the national health care system and cause tens of thousands of deaths annually.

The research of Sean Barnes, Smith School assistant professor of operations management; Bruce Golden, the Smith School's France-Merrick Chair in Management Science; and Edward Wasil of American's Kogod School of Business, utilized computer models that simulate the interactions between patients and health care workers to determine if these interactions are a source for spreading multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs). Their study shows a correlation of a “sparse, social network structure” with low infection transmission rates.

In these illustrations of dense (left) and sparse (right) patient ICU social networks, patients that share a nurse are connected by a link, while patients that share a physician have the same color.

In these illustrations of dense (left) and sparse (right) patient ICU social networks, patients that share a nurse are connected by a link, while patients that share a physician have the same color (black/grey).

This study comes in advance of HHS’ 2015 launch and enforcement of a new initiative that penalizes hospitals at an estimated average rate of $208,642 for violating specific requirements for infection control. In response, the study’s authors have introduced a conceptual framework for hospitals to model their social networks to predict and minimize the spread of bacterial infections that often are resistant to antibiotic treatments.

The authors manipulated and tracked the dynamics of the social network in a mid-Atlantic hospital’s intensive care unit. They focused on interactions between patients and health care workers – primarily nurses – and the multiple competing factors that can affect transmission.

“The basic reality is that healthcare workers frequently cover for one another due to meetings, breaks and sick leave,” said Barnes. “These factors, along with the operating health care-worker-to-patient ratios and patient lengths of stay, can significantly affect transmission in an ICU… But they also can be better controlled.”

The next step is to enable hospitals to adapt this framework, which is based on maximizing staff-to-patient ratio to ensure fewer nurses and physicians come in contact with each patient, especially high-risk patients.

"The health care industry's electronic records movement could soon generate data that captures the structure of patient-healthcare worker interaction in addition to multiple competing, related factors that can affect MDRO transmission,” said Barnes.

The study, “Exploring the Effects of Network Structure and Healthcare Worker Behavior on the Transmission of Hospital-Acquired Infections,” appears in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed IIE Transactions on Healthcare Systems Engineering. The study was partially funded by the Robert H. Smith School of Business Center for Health Information and Decision Systems.

A full copy of the study is available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19488300.2012.736120?journalC...

Villagers' Land Uses Help People and Tigers in Nepal

October 21, 2013
Contacts: 

Melissa Andreychek 412-680-1277

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Hopeful signs that humans and tigers can coexist are emerging in rural Nepal, where the government has committed to doubling populations of the critically endangered big cat by 2022. A new study by conservation scientist Neil Carter, a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) at the University of Maryland, provides evidence that when Nepalese villagers are empowered to make some local land management decisions, the resulting landscape changes can benefit both people and tigers.

TigerFew wildlife species face more potential conflicts with humankind than tigers, which require large areas for hunting and raising their young, and inhabit some of the most densely populated regions of the world. Worldwide tiger populations have plummeted, from an estimated 100,000 worldwide at the beginning of the 20th century to perhaps as few as 3,000 remaining in the wild.

Carter studies the interactions between humans and tigers in Nepal's Chitwan National Park and its environs. In the latest research, Carter and his colleagues showed that in areas near the national park border where local people were permitted to harvest some of the natural resources they needed, such as timber and grass, the amount of tigers' preferred type of habitat increased. Within the park, where local resource harvests are prohibited, the amount of highly suitable habitat for tigers declined - perhaps due to illegal harvests.

A scientific paper based on the research, which Carter led while working on his doctoral degree at Michigan State University, was published online October 18 in the journal Ecosphere.

Chitwan National Park was established in 1973 to protect tigers and other keystones of the area's biodiversity, but it has had significant costs for people living in the area. Residents depend on the forest for wood as fuel and building material, and rely on local grasses to thatch roofs and feed their livestock. The policies governing the park are top-down, with little input from residents, Carter said. Recognizing the potential for resource conflicts, in 1996 the Nepalese government added a buffer zone next to the park, where people have more access to the forest's resources and more say in its management.

Camera Trap Photo"Many animals have their ranges extending outside of protected areas," Carter said. "They don't know and they don't care where the border signs are. So areas outside protected areas are important as well."
To find out how the creation and management of the buffer zones affected tigers, the researchers used camera traps – motion-sensitive cameras mounted along animal trails – that snapped photos of 17 different adult tigers at sites inside the park and in the buffer zone.

They also used satellite imagery to develop detailed maps of the local land cover, including forests, grasslands, and bare ground. By superimposing their photographic evidence of tiger movements onto the land cover maps, the researchers showed that tigers have a distinct preference for grasslands near water, which flow unbroken into nearby swaths of forest or grassy cover. That's probably because the grasslands and water attract animals for tigers to prey on, the grasses conceal them while they hunt, and the connected patches of habitat accommodate the big cats' need for relatively large home territories.  

Finally, the researchers used satellite photos taken between 1989 and 2009 to track changes in land cover inside and outside the park, and compare it to the habitat that tigers prefer.  Throughout that 20-year span, they found, the park offered more habitat suitable for tigers than the buffer lands did. But the amount of good tiger habitat in the park declined between 1999 and 2009.

Meanwhile tiger habitat outside the park took a turn for the better. From 1989 to 1999, tiger habitat suitability outside the park was relatively constant. But from 1999 to 2009, the suitability of tiger habitat increased in the area between human settlements and the park boundary. The tiger habitat gains happened after the buffer zone was created and local people gained some control over land uses outside the park, the researchers noted.   

Sue Nichols, Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability "In Nepal, we're finding that there is this middle ground where you can have people using the land and still not only keep land from degrading, but can improve habitat quality," said Carter.  "Policies in Chitwan's buffer zone, such as prohibiting livestock from freely grazing in the forests and community-based forest management, improved habitat quality."

In July 2013, the Nepalese government announced the nation's tiger population had jumped 63 percent in four years, with an estimated 198 tigers now living in the wild – many of them in and around Chitwan National Park.  The government cited habitat improvements and a decline in poaching as possible reasons for the apparent population increase.

"Park managers are doing a tremendous job of conserving tigers and their habitat in the face of relentless pressure from the human population," agreed Carter, who has worked in the area since 2008.  By helping to meet villagers' urgent need for basic resources, the buffer zones make park managers' daunting task more achievable, he said.

As Nepal and other countries work to pull tigers back from the brink of extinction, the study "provides a relatively straightforward way to measure how humans affect endangered animals' habitat across space and through time," said Carter. "The next step is to model how tiger habitat and human livelihood strategies will interact and change in the future under different conservation policy scenarios. I'm working closely with computation staff to develop this complex model."

Carter's co-authors included Jianguo Liu, director of Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability; Michigan State University faculty members Andrés Viña and Henry Campa; Bhim Gurung of the Nepal Tiger Trust in Chitwan; and Jhamak Karki of Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

The National Science Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, NASA's Earth and Space Science program, and Michigan State University's AgBioResearch funded the research.

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center—funded through a National Science Foundation grant to the University of Maryland—is an Annapolis, MD-based research center dedicated to solving complex problems at the intersection of human and natural systems. For more information, visit www.sesync.org.

UMD Book Named 'Must Read' Before Graduation

October 18, 2013
Contacts: 

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Leadership for a Better WorldCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – A book by University of Maryland faculty and students has recently been recognized as one of the top 10 books every student must read before graduation. The list, compiled by students at the University of Alberta, was recently featured in The Huffington Post.

The UMD book, "Leadership for a Better World," was edited by Susan Komives, professor emerita in UMD's College of Education, and Wendy Wagner, former graduate coordinator for UMD's National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs and current professor at George Mason University. The chapters were primarily written by graduate students at UMD.

The book is focused on the Social Change Model of Leadership Development, which provides a framework to integrate self, collaboration with others, and a responsibility for civic engagement to accomplish meaningful positive change.

"No student textbook existed on this topic until a Maryland class of graduate student leadership educators took on writing this text," says Komives. "Stories of college students who have made a difference on their campuses, in their communities, and in the world are embedded in every chapter of the book. Students learn that they and their peers can make change now when working collaboratively together toward a shared vision."

"Popular culture depicts leadership as something that only bold, charismatic, commanding personalities do," says Wagner. "However, leadership today is understood to be a process that people engage in from many points within an organization, through many approaches and personal styles. When I have used the book to teach leadership courses, the most common reaction is surprise that leadership and social change are processes that anyone can learn to do, and that they can begin taking action on the issues they care about right away."

The UMD book is cited as being on the list, "because we all want to have an impact and hopefully that impact will be a positive one. This book will help to show you how you can become an agent for social change while still pursuing your studies."

To view the full list, visit http://youalberta.blogspot.ca/2013/10/Top10Books.html.

UMD Researchers Address Economic Dangers of 'Peak Oil'

October 16, 2013
Contacts: 

Laura Ours 301-405-5722
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Researchers from the University of Maryland and a leading university in Spain demonstrate in a new study which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk when global oil production peaks ("Peak Oil"). This multi-disciplinary team recommends immediate action by government, private and commercial sectors to reduce the vulnerability of these sectors. 

While critics of Peak Oil studies declare that the world has more than enough oil to maintain current national and global standards, these UMD-led researchers say Peak Oil is imminent, if not already here—and is a real threat to national and global economies. Their study is among the first to outline a way of assessing the vulnerabilities of specific economic sectors to this threat, and to identify focal points for action that could strengthen the U.S. economy and make it less vulnerable to disasters.

Their work, "Economic Vulnerability to Peak Oil," appears in Global Environmental Change. The paper is co-authored by Christina Prell, UMD's Department of Sociology; Kuishuang Feng and Klaus Hubacek, UMD's Department of Geographical Sciences, and Christian Kerschner, Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Read the article.

A focus on Peak Oil is increasingly gaining attention in both scientific and policy discourses, especially due to its apparent imminence and potential dangers. However, until now, little has been known about how this phenomenon will impact economies. In their paper, the research team constructs a vulnerability map of the U.S. economy, combining two approaches for analyzing economic systems. Their approach reveals the relative importance of individual economic sectors, and how vulnerable these are to oil price shocks. This dual-analysis helps identify which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk from Peak Oil. For the United States, such sectors would include iron mills, chemical and plastic products manufacturing, fertilizer production and air transport.

Peak Oil

The figure above shows sectors’ importance and vulnerability to Peak Oil. The bubbles represent sectors. The size of the bubbles visualizes the vulnerability of a particular sector to Peak Oil according to the expected price changes; the larger the size of the bubble, the more vulnerable the sector is considered to be. The X axis shows a sector’s importance according to its contribution to GDP and on the Y axis according to its structural role. Hence, the larger bubbles in the top right corner represent highly vulnerable and highly important sectors. In the case of Peak Oil induced supply disruptions, these sectors could cause severe imbalances for the entire U.S. economy. [Click here for high-res]

"Our findings provide early warnings to these and related industries about potential trouble in their supply chain," UMD Professor Hubacek said. "Our aim is to inform and engage government, public and private industry leaders, and to provide a tool for effective Peak Oil policy action planning."

Although the team's analysis is embedded in a Peak Oil narrative, it can be used more broadly to develop a climate roadmap for a low carbon economy.

"In this paper, we analyze the vulnerability of the U.S. economy, which is the biggest consumer of oil and oil-based products in the world, and thus provides a good example of an economic system with high resource dependence. However, the notable advantage of our approach is that it does not depend on the Peak-Oil-vulnerability narrative but is equally useful in a climate change context, for designing policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In that case, one could easily include other fossil fuels such as coal in the model and results could help policy makers to identify which sectors can be controlled and/or managed for a maximum, low-carbon effect, without destabilizing the economy," Professor Hubacek said.

One of the main ways a Peak Oil vulnerable industry can become less so, the authors say, is for that sector to reduce the structural and financial importance of oil. For example, Hubacek and colleagues note that one approach to reducing the importance of oil to agriculture could be to curbing the strong dependence on artificial fertilizers by promoting organic farming techniques and/or reducing the overall distance travelled by people and goods by fostering local, decentralized food economies.

Peak Oil Background and Impact
The Peak Oil dialogue shifts attention away from discourses on "oil depletion" and "stocks" to focus on declining production rates (flows) of oil, and increasing costs of production. The maximum possible daily flow rate (with a given technology) is what eventually determines the peak; thus, the concept can also be useful in the context of other renewable resources.

Improvements in extraction and refining technologies can influence flows, but this tends to lead to steeper decline curves after the peak is eventually reached. Such steep decline curves have also been observed for shale gas wells.

"Shale developments are, so we believe, largely overrated, because of the huge amounts of financial resources that went into them (danger of bubble) and because of their apparent steep decline rates (shale wells tend to peak fast)," according to Dr. Kerschner. 

"One important implication of this dialogue shift is that extraction peaks occur much earlier in time than the actual depletion of resources," Professor Hubacek said. "In other words, Peak Oil is currently predicted within the next decade by many, whereas complete oil depletion will in fact occur never given increasing prices. This means that eventually petroleum products may be sold in liter bottles in pharmacies like in the old days. "

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