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UMD Researchers Create Super Wood Stronger Than Most Metals

February 8, 2018

Martha Heil, 301-405-0876
Lee Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Engineers at the University of Maryland have found a way to make wood more than ten times times stronger and tougher than before, creating a natural substance that is stronger than many titanium alloys.

UMD professors Liangbing Hu and Teng Li each holding a block of wood“This new way to treat wood makes it twelve times stronger than natural wood and ten times tougher,” said Liangbing Hu, the leader of the team that did the research, published in the journal Nature. “This could be a competitor to steel or even titanium alloys, it is so strong and durable. It’s also comparable to carbon fiber, but much less expensive.” Hu is an associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute.

“It is both strong and tough, which is a combination not usually found in nature,” said Teng Li, the co-leader of the team and the Samuel P. Langley Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland. His team measured the dense wood’s mechanical properties.  “It is as strong as steel, but six times lighter. It takes 10 times more energy to fracture than natural wood. It can even be bent and molded at the beginning of the process.”

The team’s process begins by removing the wood’s lignin, the part of the wood that makes it both rigid and brown in color. Then it is compressed under mild heat, at about 150 F. This causes the cellulose fibers to become very tightly packed. Any defects like holes or knots are crushed together.  The treatment process was extended a little further with a coat of paint.

The scientists found that the wood’s fibers are pressed together so tightly that they can form strong hydrogen bonds, like a crowd of people who can’t budge – who are also holding hands. The compression makes the wood five times thinner than its original size.

magnified image of untreated wood

magnified image of treated wood









The team tested their new wood material and natural wood by shooting bullet-like projectiles at it. The projectile blew straight through the natural wood. The fully treated wood stopped the projectile partway through.

“Soft woods like pine or balsa, which grow fast and are more environmentally friendly, could replace slower-growing but denser woods like teak, in furniture or buildings,” Hu said.

“The paper provides a highly promising route to the design of light weight high performance structural materials, with tremendous potential for a broad range of applications where high strength, large toughness and superior ballistic resistance are desired, “ said Dr. Huajian Gao, a professor at Brown University, who was not involved in the study. “It is particularly exciting to note that the method is versatile for various species of wood and fairly easy to implement.”

“This kind of wood could be used in cars, airplanes, buildings – any application where steel is used,” Hu said.

“The two-step process reported in this paper achieves exceptionally high strength, much beyond what [is] reported in the literature,” said Dr. Zhigang Suo, a professor of mechanics and materials at Harvard University, also not involved with the study. “Given the abundance of wood, as well as other cellulose-rich plants, this paper inspires imagination.”

“The most outstanding observation, in my view, is the existence of a limiting concentration of lignin, the glue between wood cells, to maximize the mechanical performance of the densified wood. Too little or too much removal lower the strength compared to a maximum value achieved at intermediate or partial lignin removal. This reveals the subtle balance between hydrogen bonding and the adhesion imparted by such polyphenolic compound. Moreover, of outstanding interest, is the fact that that wood densification leads to both, increased strength and toughness, two properties that usually offset each other,” said Orlando J. Rojas, a professor at Aalto University in Finland.

Hu’s research has explored the capacities of wood’s natural nanotechnology. They previously made a range of emerging technologies out of nanocellulose related materials: (1) super clear paper for replacing plastic; (2) photonic paper for improving solar cell efficiency by 30%; (3) a battery and a supercapacitor out of wood; (4) a battery from a leaf; (5) transparent wood for energy efficient buildings; (6) solar water desalination for drinking and specifically filtering out toxic dyes. These wood-based emerging technologies are being commercialized through a UMD spinoff company, Inventwood LLC. 


About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

Image: Liangbing Hu (left) holds a block of wood transformed by a new process to become stronger than rivals titanium & tougher than steel. Teng Li (right) holds an untreated block of the same wood. Image Credit: University of Maryland.

Image: Magnified images of (1) untreated wood and (2) the same wood treated by a new process invented by engineers at the University of Maryland that compresses the natural structures of wood into a new material five times thinner. Image Credit: University of Maryland.


UMD VP of Student Affairs to Receive National Award from NASPA

February 7, 2018

UMD: Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

NASPA: Stephanie Rizk, 202-719-1185

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The national organization for student affairs administrators in higher education, NASPA, recognized Linda Clement, University of Maryland vice president for student affairs, as the recipient of the 2018 Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean.

Photo of Linda Clement in bookstore with students

Named for NASPA’s founding chair of the Board of Directors (1919-1920) and former dean of men at the University of Wisconsin, the award is presented to a dean or senior student affairs officer who has demonstrated sustained professional achievement in student affairs work, innovative response in meeting students' varied and emerging needs, effectiveness in developing staff, and leadership in community and college or university affairs. 

"I am thrilled and deeply honored to receive this award,”  said Clement. “I am truly humbled to join a list of student affairs professionals who have been recognized for their passion, enthusiasm, and ability to engage and mentor students.”

Clement joined UMD in 1974 as a staff member in the departments of Resident Life and Orientation. She also held positions in Undergraduate Admissions and Academic Affairs, and served as the President’s chief of staff before assuming her current position in the Division of Student Affairs in 2001. In her role, Clement oversees 14 departments, 2,000 employees, 48 percent of the campus land and space and a $200 million budget. She is also an affiliate associate professor in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education, where she has taught and advises masters and doctoral students.  

NASPA will honor Clement in March at their annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

The Scott Goodnight Award is one of numerous recognitions Clement has earned during her professional career at UMD. Other awards include Outstanding Woman of the Year, Greek Advisor of the Year, Black Faculty and Staff Association Award for Student Diversity Initiatives, and the Thomas Magoon Distinguished Alumni Award from the Counseling and Personnel Services Department in College of Education.  

Clement earned her B.A. from the State University of New York-Oswego, her M.A. from Michigan State University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.  



About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

About NASPA 

NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Our work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. territories.

UMD Joins Top Research Universities to Form International Coalition to Accelerate Local Climate Action

February 6, 2018

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md-- The University of Maryland today announced it has joined 12 other research universities across North America in the University Climate Change Coalition, UC3, a group committed to leveraging their research and resources to help communities accelerate climate action. 

Launched on February 6 at the 2018 Second Nature Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in Tempe, Arizona, UC3 members from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico have committed to mobilize their resources and expertise to help businesses, cities and states achieve their climate goals through various activities, including: 

  • Cross-sector forums: Every UC3 institution will convene a climate change forum in 2018 to bring together community and business leaders, elected officials and other local stakeholders. Meetings will be tailored to meet local and regional objectives shared across sectors and will aim to speed the implementation of research-driven climate policies and solutions. 
  • Coalition climate mitigation and adaptation report: A coalition-wide report, to be released in late 2018, will synthesize the best practices, policies and recommendations from all UC3 forums into a framework for continued progress on climate change goals across the nation and the world. 

“As consumers, grassroots organizations, communities, businesses and states all have the power and responsibility to make a difference on climate change,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “We and other research universities are increasing sustainability on our campuses, and using scientific and policy expertise to assist communities. UC3 will extend this impact.”

All UC3 members have already pledged to reduce their institutional carbon footprints, with commitments ranging from making more climate-friendly investments to becoming operationally carbon neutral. 

UMD is working to achieve a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2020 and a 60 percent reduction by 2025. The university is dedicated to achieving carbon neutrality for all scopes of emissions by 2050 and will make major updates to its Climate Action Plan at least every five years to include strategies that are based on the best knowledge and technology available at that time.

In addition to UMD, other coalition members are Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Ohio State University, the State University of New York (SUNY) system, La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, University of British Columbia, the University of California system, University of Colorado, Boulder, University of New Mexico, University of Toronto, and University of Washington.

UC3 members will operate in close partnership with Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network, a group of hundreds of colleges and universities that have committed to taking action on climate. 

In 2016, the U.S.-based members of the UC3 coalition together performed about one-quarter of the environmental science research conducted by all U.S. institutions, according to data collected by the National Science Foundation. From 2012 to 2017, researchers at UC3 member institutions were responsible for 48,518 publications on climate science-related topics, including environmental science, agricultural and biological sciences, energy, engineering, earth and planetary sciences, and more.

“Research universities play an important role in creating new knowledge, convening thought leadership, and serving as long-term community members. By applying these strengths to locally relevant climate challenges, we see transformative potential for accelerating climate solutions in these locations in a way that couldn’t happen if the institutions and sectors continued to act on their own,” said Timothy Carter, president of Second Nature.


About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

About Second Nature

Second Nature is committed to accelerating climate action in, and through, higher education. We do this by mobilizing a diverse array of higher education institutions to act on bold climate commitments, to scale campus climate initiatives, and to create innovative climate solutions. We align, amplify, and bridge the sector’s efforts with other global leaders to advance urgent climate priorities. 


UMD Welcomes Global Cybersecurity Firm BlueVoyant to Discovery District

February 2, 2018

Jessica Jennings, 301-405-4618

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – BlueVoyant, a global cybersecurity firm, today announced plans to establish a Global Cyber Analytics Center in the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in early 2018. Currently operating out of a temporary site in College Park, the company will employ 25 highly-skilled analysts and data scientists and plans to add more team members with the move to the new facility. 

The center’s permanent location will be in the StartupUMD@Diamondback Garage, behind The Hotel at the University of Maryland, which includes dedicated space for private sector companies as well as UMD entrepreneurial programs. BlueVoyant is the second company to be announced as locating in the StartupUMD@Diamondback Garage, joining Capital One. 

“The Hotel at UMD is an important mixed-use development that serves as an anchor to the university’s Discovery District,” said Ken Ulman, chief strategy officer for the University of Maryland. “Companies like BlueVoyant serve as a catalyst in strengthening our innovation ecosystem and surrounding Greater College Park community.”

“We are very pleased that BlueVoyant chose to bring its Global Cyber Analytics Center to Maryland,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “We lead the nation in cyber innovation, and here BlueVoyant will find the talent, the resources, the quality of life, and the business-friendly environment to help them succeed here in our great state.”

The new center will analyze internet traffic data as well as insights on dark web activity to help defend companies against external cybersecurity threats. BlueVoyant’s tools and capabilities enable companies to predict, detect, and respond to known and emerging cybersecurity threats well outside of their own systems. The company expects to launch its new generation of commercial products this year.

“We chose this location for the center because of its proximity to the University of Maryland and its talent base of students and individuals with government and private-sector experience, as well as the chance to be a part of the College Park growth plan,” said Dan Ennis, head of threat intelligence and operations for BlueVoyant. “The University of Maryland has made a conscious effort to develop cybersecurity talent, and we’re excited to partner with them on talent development, cybersecurity, and large-scale data analysis.”

What People are Saying About BlueVoyant’s Move to the Discovery District

“Opening the Global Cyber Analytics Center is an important step to enable BlueVoyant to provide uniquely comprehensive threat intelligence to our customers,” said BlueVoyant CEO Jim Rosenthal. 

“BlueVoyant’s decision to open its Global Cyber Analytics Center in Maryland is another great example of the environment we’ve created over the past three years,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. “In Maryland, innovative companies can grow, thrive, and create the jobs of tomorrow. BlueVoyant joins our state’s vibrant cyber sector, leading the nation’s efforts to protect the digital network.”

“We welcome BlueVoyant and its employees to one of the most vibrant economic centers in the entire United States – Prince George’s County, Maryland,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. “The use of our $50 Million EDI Fund to support a UMD-connected cybersecurity startup represents the precise model that was put in place to propel Prince George’s County to its current position as the #1 county in Maryland and one of the top 25 counties in the nation for job growth.”

“From our homeownership program, participation in the RISE zone, and continued collaboration with the University, I am proud to see the City of College Park engaged in efforts that attract new businesses, new residents, and strengthen our surrounding neighborhoods,” said Mayor Patrick Wojahn. “We are thrilled to welcome BlueVoyant to College Park.” 



About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

About BlueVoyant
Founded by CEO Jim Rosenthal, former COO at Morgan Stanley, and Executive Chairman Tom Glocer, former CEO at Thomson Reuters, BlueVoyant is a provider of Advanced Threat Intelligence, Managed Security Services, and Cyber Investigations and Response services with offices in New York, the Washington D.C. area, London, and Tel Aviv. More information on BlueVoyant can be found online at www.bluevoyant.com.


UMD Announces Partnership with The Haven at College

February 2, 2018

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md.— The University of Maryland has announced a partnership with The Haven at College to design and implement additional programs to support students in recovery from addiction. UMD and The Haven, a national provider of on-campus addiction treatment and recovery support services, will work together to launch designated housing for students in recovery and an outpatient center that offers a supportive residential environment with specialized programming.

The self-sustaining recovery house and center will be located off-campus, and will provide students with services to help them achieve and maintain sobriety while pursuing their degrees. This includes individual counseling, group therapy, accountability programs, mentoring and monitoring programs, and community peer-support meetings and events. In addition, the outpatient center will offer evidence-based recovery treatment and services to address substance abuse in a safe and relatable space, helping students maintain an active academic and social life.

The recovery house is still in its early planning stages, with an anticipated opening date of fall 2018.  

“I’m happy that we’ve been able to develop this partnership with The Haven at College,” said David McBride, director, University of Maryland Health Center. “In speaking with other universities who have partnered with them, we were made aware of their strong track record in helping college students in recovery. A visit to the center in Philadelphia last year was eye opening, and I feel great about the collaborative process that we’ve used to arrive at this relationship.”

The Haven at College is committed to creating peer-led, clinically supervised residential communities “where students help each other navigate early sobriety, identifying with each other’s challenges and sharing successes.” The organization has experience in establishing and operating recovery residences and outpatient centers, with haven residencies at five universities across the country. Through their partnerships, The Haven leases the property, hires staff, and rents directly to students interested in recovery housing.

"The Haven is delighted to partner with the University of Maryland to provide support for students in and seeking recovery from substance use issues," said Holly Sherman, co-founder of The Haven at College. "We are excited about collaborating with students and administrators to support the "Terps for Recovery" community, provide outpatient treatment to those who need it, and cultivate a network of peer mentors who lead by example as we smash the stigma of addiction and encourage more students and families to reach out if they need help." 

The collaboration between UMD and The Haven began in September 2016 when the Division of Student Affairs at UMD, prompted by outreach from students struggling with addiction and their families, engaged Recovery Grads, LLC, to provide recommendations about opportunities to improve its services to students in recovery.

"We are committed to the health and safety of our students," said Mary Hummel, assistant vice president, Student Affairs at UMD. "We value the input of our community, as we continue to develop and implement services and resources that meet the needs of our students, and support health lifestyles and decision making."

Establishing a recovery house at UMD will involve close collaboration with the University Health Center, Counseling Center, Department of Resident Life, Office of Parent and Family Affairs, and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, as well current students and their parents.  


About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

University of Maryland Secures $18.3 Million for Energy Conservation Projects

January 29, 2018

Andrew Muir, 301-405-7068

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland has successfully secured $18.3 million from the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC) for the development of a $21.5 million energy efficiency project to support the implementation of various energy conservation measures. The project will impact eight on-campus buildings, such as J.M. Patterson Hall and  Hornbake Library. 

Yielding more than $1.7 million in annual energy savings, program features include LED lighting upgrades, water conservation measures and lab ventilation controls upgrades. It is anticipated that this project will reduce campus wide energy consumption by approximately 6 percent.

"This performance agreement will help the university to reduce its energy consumption and provide important savings via the various energy conservation measures that will be deployed,” said Mary-Ann Ibeziako, Director of Engineering & Energy. “We are grateful to the MCEC for facilitating the financing of this critical project." 

Through the Maryland Clean Energy Capital program, MCEC and UMD chose to develop the project under a joint energy savings agreement, ensuring both organizations will share in the benefit of the cost and consumption reductions. In order to facilitate project construction and secure operating performance guarantees, MCEC entered into an energy performance contract with Constellation NewEnergy, Inc. 

“MCEC is proud to continue providing technical support and advantageous capital to enable the success of similar energy projects in Maryland,” said Wyatt Shifflet, Director of Finance Programs for MCEC. “Working in partnership with facilities managers and project developers, like UMD and Constellation NewEnergy, we can effectively bring about desired cost savings, building improvements and the associated employment, not to mention the related environmental benefits.”

The project reinforces the University President’s Energy Conservation Initiative, which aims to reduce energy consumption 20 percent from 2015 to 2020. The university is also working on a Climate Action Plan goal of being a carbon neutral campus by 2050. Among the activities undertaken to reach carbon neutrality: implementing large-scale renewable energy projects, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from new construction and university air travel, and promoting more sustainable transportation options to the campus community.

“Constellation supports the University of Maryland’s goal of reducing energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020,” said Michael D. Smith, senior vice president, Distributed Energy for Constellation. “We’re excited to help enhance the learning environment through infrastructure and energy improvements for the university’s students, faculty, and staff.”   

For more information, about University of Maryland sustainable energy efforts, visit go.umd.edu/xrf.


About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.


UMD Research Examines How Human Modifications Affect Mammal Movement Globally

January 26, 2018

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Humans modify natural landscapes in a variety of ways, from constructing expansive cityscapes to fencing off otherwise untouched rangeland. A new study, co-authored by biologists at the University of Maryland, describes the extent to which highly modified landscapes impede the movement of 57 land-based mammal species from around the world. On average, these mammals cover about a third to half of the distance they would otherwise travel in wild, unmodified landscapes.

Photo of coyoteAn international team of more than 100 co-authors published its findings in the January 26, 2018 issue of the journal Science. While many previous studies have examined individual species at local and regional scales, the new work is the first to integrate many species across the globe in a single analysis. According to the researchers, their findings could have far-reaching consequences for ecosystems and, as a result, for human society.

“The magnitude of the effects we observed was really surprising. The reduction of movement on a 10-day scale, that percentage drop was just phenomenal. In some cases, we saw a tenfold decrease in movement,” said William Fagan, professor and chair of the UMD Department of Biology and a co-author of the study. “This is after accounting for other factors we already know to be important to animal movement, such as body size, diet and available food resources.”

Most mammals are on the move every day, searching for food, shelter or a mate. In general, larger mammals like zebra move longer distances, while smaller mammals such as hares cover shorter distances. In this study, the researchers collated GPS-tracked movement data from 803 individual animals representing 57 mammal species from around the globe. They used the data portal, Movebank, which archives movement data from researchers across the world.

The researchers then compared these movement data to a metric called the Human Footprint Index, which assigns landscapes a rating that ranges from zero (untouched natural areas) to 50 (dense urban cityscapes). The researchers’ analysis primarily focused on areas with a rating of 36 or higher, comparing these data with baseline information from areas with an index of less than two.

The team also assessed each species’ movements on a variety of time scales ranging from an hour to 10 days. On shorter time scales of less than a day, human-modified landscapes did not significantly affect the movement of most species. However, for observations ranging from a day to 10 days, most species reduced their travel distances by an average of at least half.

Human infrastructure such as roads, buildings, bridges and fences create physical barriers to animal movement. But the research also suggests another, somewhat paradoxical reason that mammals move less in human-dominated areas: resources such as food and shelter can be more plentiful.

“Our research suggests that two things are going on,” said Eliezer Gurarie, a principal faculty specialist in the UMD Department of Biology and a co-author of the paper. “First, the world isn’t as free to move around in. But for many animals it’s also less necessary to range widely because humans can indirectly provide food and protection from large predators.”

Gurarie points to the high numbers of white-tailed deer familiar to anyone in the Washington, D.C. metro area, coyotes found within the borders of Chicago, and fishers—a relative of weasels and ferrets—which are native to Canada and the northern United States.

“It was long thought that fishers needed old-growth forest to thrive,” Gurarie said. “But fishers are doing extremely well, for example, around Albany, New York, where there are a lot of naïve squirrels and rabbits that don’t know to avoid this predator.”

Urban-dwelling fishers, much like urban deer and coyote, typically have much smaller home ranges than their counterparts in wild areas.Photo of a Mongolian gazelle

While some species can cope with reduced movement in less wild landscapes, the researchers note that movement is also important for the ecosystem as a whole. Restricted movement can disrupt food webs, curtail the distribution of plant seeds and interfere with the transport of nutrients contained in animal waste and prey kills.

“It is important that animals move, because in moving they carry out important ecological functions like transporting nutrients and seeds between different areas,” said Marlee Tucker, lead author of the study and a biologist at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. “If mammals move less this could alter any of these ecosystem functions.” 

Wild mammals can also clash with humans, causing problems that can range from unwanted grazing in crops and gardens to the spread of deadly diseases. Fortunately, land-use planners and developers can implement strategies to minimize conflicts.

“Concentrating development in certain areas can preserve more open space. It’s also possible to leave corridors open for movement,” said Fagan, who is also a research innovation scholar at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “These corridors can be as simple as a tunnel under a road. Such measures allow mammals to live in the same landscape without suffering from reduced movement.”

Fagan, Gurarie, Tucker and their colleagues note that the current study, while impressive in scope, is likely only the first of its kind. With access to large amounts of high-quality, globe-spanning data contained in public databases like Movebank, ecologists are keen to continue large-scale, data-driven studies on animal movement.

“This idea of compiling data on animal movement will open the door to new studies that include new species and that look for patterns and similarities in data,” Fagan explained. “It creates opportunities to look more generally at how animal movement affects other environmental features. Some questions can only be asked by gathering together a lot of data. This is one of them.”

In addition to Fagan and Gurarie, UMD-affiliated co-authors of the research paper include visiting graduate student Nina Attias, biology principal faculty specialist Christen Fleming, biological sciences graduate student Edward Hurme, and former graduate students Justin Calabrese (Ph.D. ’05, behavior, ecology, evolution, systematics) and Thomas Mueller (Ph.D. ’08, behavior, ecology, evolution, systematics).


This work was supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation; the Goethe International Postdoctoral Programme; the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (Award No. FP7/2007-2013/[291776]); the German Research Foundation (Award Nos. FR 3246/2-1, AOBJ 576687 and 2118/1 BioMove); the French National Research Agency (Award Nos. ANR FEAR, ANR SAVARID and ANR-16 -CE02-0010-02); the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award Nos. ABI-1458748, 0963022, 1255913, DEB-LTREB 1556248, DDIG 0608467, 1564380, BCS 99-03949 and BCS 1266389); the Irish Research Council (Award No. GOIPD/2015/81); NASA (Award Nos. NNX15AV92 and NNX11AP61G); the Research Council of Norway (Award No. 251112); the GLOBE Project (POL-NOR/198352/85/2013); the University of California, Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology; the American Society of Mammalogists; the Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship and ERC (Award No. 323401); the Copenhagen Zoo; the Danish Environmental Protection Agency; the Juni Charity Foundation; the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (Award No. SFRH/BPD/111084/2015); Save the Elephants; the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Award No. IJCI-2014-19190); the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation; and the University of California, Davis, Committee on Research. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

Photo: A coyote reclines on a golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Image credit: Flickr user Dru Bloomfield, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: A Mongolian gazelle wears a GPS tracking collar that logs the animal’s movements through its home range. Image credit: William Fagan



Why do People Cheat? UMD Research Identifies 8 Motivating Factors

January 25, 2018

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—Infidelity in a relationship can be costly—personally, financially and socially—yet it remains an exceedingly common occurrence. New research led by the University of Maryland Department of Psychology provides a comprehensive list of the main reasons people cheat, and questions traditional wisdom about what infidelity means in a relationship. 

While previous research has identified factors that make a person more likely to be unfaithful to a relationship partner, a UMD-led study published in the Journal of Sex Research examined people’s self-reported motivations for engaging in infidelity. The research team surveyed 562 adults who admitted to being unfaithful while in a committed, romantic relationship. After analyzing responses to a set of nearly 80 questions, researchers identified eight common reasons people cheat:

  • Anger: seeking revenge for a partner’s betrayal
  • Sexual desire: feeling unsatisfied with the sex in a relationship and wanting to try something new
  • Lack of love: loss of passion or interest in a partner, falling “out of love”
  • Neglect: not receiving enough love, respect and attention
  • Low commitment: one partner is not as committed as the other, or both partners didn’t understand the relationship was exclusive
  • Situation: includes scenarios outside of a person’s normal, such as being intoxicated, on vacation, or under high stress
  • Esteem: seeking to increase self-worth by having sex with multiple partners
  • Variety: wanting to experience sex with as many partners as possible

“Despite the widespread prevalence of infidelity, there hasn’t been much research into what makes people cheat,” explained UMD Assistant Professor of Psychology Dylan Selterman, who led the study. “Gaining a deeper understanding of what motivates people to engage in infidelity may help couples repair their relationships following an infidelity, or may help them prevent the onset of cheating in the first place. Clinicians may also find it useful during couples’ therapy.”

Selterman and colleagues found that men were more likely to report being motivated to cheat by sexual desire, variety and situational forces, while women were more likely to be motivated by neglect. Further, they say the variety and diversity of motivations associated with infidelity suggest it can happen to anyone—even couples in seemingly stable relationships.

“We often hear that infidelity is a symptom, not a cause, of a damaged relationship,” Selterman said. “Our research suggests it’s not that simple: People cheat for a variety of reasons, many of which are not a direct reflection of a relationship’s health.” 

To build upon this study, the research team is now looking into behavioral outcomes following infidelity: How often do couples break up? How often does the unfaithful partner leave for the person with whom he/she cheated? Does the motivation behind the infidelity predict such outcomes? 

In addition to Selterman, the research team includes Justin Garcia, an Assistant Professor from the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University, and Irene Tsapelas from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Unsustained Geoengineering Could Have Animals ‘Running’ for Their Lives

January 24, 2018

Lee Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  – To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists have started researching the potential costs and benefits of solar geoengineering approaches that could reflect a small proportion of the Sun’s energy back into space and thus counteract some of the temperature rise caused by rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.  However, a new study looks at one such approach  – injecting  reflective particles into the atmosphere – and concludes that starting or stopping such geoengineering too quickly could, for a time, escalate the rate of climate change to unprecedented speeds, with catastrophic impacts on most groups of animals. 

Illustration of The Parasol Effect“We found that a rapid implementation or termination of geoengineering could accelerate climate change so much that most species would not be able to move fast enough to keep up with the changes,” said Chris Trisos, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) at the University of Maryland.

Conducted by scientists from the SESYNC, Yale University, Stony Brook University, and Rutgers, this first of its kind research used data from climate simulation models to estimate how geoengineering could change the speeds at which rising temperatures move across the surface of the Earth, and how that could impact animals that need to migrate to track climate changes to survive. Their study was published January 22 in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Trisos and his colleagues used data on how temperatures would change if a five-million-ton veil of sulphur dioxide was injected into the stratosphere annually from 2020 to 2070. That’s an annual amount equal to about one-quarter of the aerosols emitted by the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in 1991, which cooled the earth by 0.5 degrees Celsius over two years.

The climate would cool immediately after such geoengineering started, as the climate system adjusted to less incoming solar radiation. However, the researchers caution about what would happen if society loses the will or means to continue injecting reflective aerosols into the atmosphere. A sudden termination of this geoengineering would cause rapid warming with changing temperatures projected to speed across the land at an average of 10 kilometers per year, three times faster than climate change without solar geoengineering. The fastest temperature velocities are projected to occur in tropical marine environments, where geoengineering termination could increase the speed animals need to migrate to stay in the temperature range of their natural habitat to more than 50 kilometers per year. This alarming pace could doom many slow-migrating tropical organisms, such as corals, plants, reptiles and amphibians, to extinction.

“If a solar geoengineering project gets terminated suddenly, for whatever reason, that could spell disaster for many animals and ecosystems,” said Trisos.

The researchers analyzed maps of biodiversity hotspots with their maps of temperature velocities to estimate the effects on different groups of animals including reptiles, birds, mammals, corals, and amphibians.

In response to existing climate change, birds, reptiles and mammals have already shifted their geographic ranges an average of 1.7 kilometers per year, but that is four to seven times slower than would be needed to escape warming from the termination of geoengineering. 

“Some of the biggest climate shocks of termination would happen in the tropics, where biodiversity hotspots are concentrated,” Trisos said, “And amphibians, corals and fish would be the groups most harmed.”

Most animal taxa would take a major hit from high climate velocities. The study’s estimate of temperature velocities from geoengineering termination would outpace the average dispersal speed of 93 percent of mammal species in the Americas. 

Trisos cautions that their estimate of rapid onset and termination of solar geoengineering may not be likely. “Hopefully any geoengineering project would start and end slowly,” Trisos said, “But it is possible that geopolitical divisions or turmoil might force sudden termination. And it’s important for us to understand the ecological impacts should such a scenario come to pass.”

“The list of potential unintended ecological consequences from geoengineering is long, and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what might occur,” said Trisos.

Co-author Alan Robock, Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University, adds that even gradual implementation or termination pose multiple risks. “The solutions to global warming are to stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and to adapt to the climate changes we cannot avoid.  Trying to control the climate by creating a cloud in the upper atmosphere may be much riskier than not doing it, and our results quantify only one of the major risks to ecosystems as well as to people.  While any sensible use of solar geoengineering would be done with gradual implementation and termination, it can never be guaranteed,” he said. 

Illustration from “Fighting global warming by climate engineering: Is the Earth radiation management and the solar radiation management any option for fighting climate change?”  Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews [Elsevier], Volume 31, March 2014, Pages 792-834 Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Creative Commons License.

University of Maryland Names Amitabh Varshney as Dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

January 23, 2018

Jessica Jennings, 301-405-4618

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has named Amitabh Varshney as dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS), effective March 1, 2018. As dean, Varshney will lead the College’s broad and robust research and educational efforts across 10 departments.

Headshot of Amitabh Varshney“I am very excited about the future of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences under Dr. Varshney’s leadership,” said Mary Ann Rankin, UMD’s senior vice president and provost. “He has a wealth of knowledge in research and interdisciplinary work. His clear vision for the college and natural leadership style will allow CMNS to continue to be recognized nationally and globally. I am enthused and excited to work with him.”

Varshney joined the university’s Department of Computer Science faculty in 2000, and since 2010, has served as director of the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). A leader in interactive visual computing research, Varshney’s work has focused on exploring the applications of high-performance computer graphics and visualization in science, engineering and medicine. His research results are being used in climate modeling; plasma physics; nanomanufacturing; the design of buildings, cars and submarines; medical imaging; gene sequencing; and the creative arts. He has engaged in research collaborations with a variety of partners in industry and government agencies.

“I am excited for the opportunity to lead the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences alongside some of the university’s best and brightest faculty, students and staff,” said Varshney. “I hope that as we move into the college’s next phase together, we can continue to build upon the success of our nationally recognized academic programs, cutting-edge research, and world-renowned faculty innovation.” 

As part of the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership, Varshney helped bring together scientists and clinicians from both UMD and the University of Maryland, Baltimore to establish a multidisciplinary Center for Health-related Informatics and Bioimaging (CHIB), tasked with solving grand challenges in personalized medicine and health care. Varshney has also advised more than 50 undergraduate students, 30 master’s degree students and 12 doctoral students. He taught the university’s first undergraduate course in virtual and augmented reality in 2016, and helped establish the Maryland Center for Women in Computing.

“Professor Varshney has the qualities of mind, temperament, leadership, and character to be an outstanding Dean,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “His record of commitment to excellence in learning and teaching, fundamental research and innovation, and multidisciplinary collaborations will serve CMNS well as it continues on its ascendant trajectory. My thanks to the search committee for identifying a slate of exceptional finalist candidates.”

Varshney is an elected fellow of IEEE, a recipient of the IEEE Technical Achievement Award and a NSF CAREER Award. Varshney earned his B.Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.  He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.