PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A team of professors at the University of Maine at Presque Isle has received a $75,000 National Science Foundation grant to conduct a wide range of research related to the sustainable development of the Aroostook River Watershed.
The Aroostook River Watershed, which is the most populated region in northern Maine, spans central Aroostook County and encompasses the communities of Presque Isle, Caribou and Fort Fairfield.
The work the UMPI team does this year will involve studying the historical and present uses of the watershed area — and the effects those uses have had on the region — and compiling that data into GISmap and database form. The project also will focus on the area’s existing environmental resources in two ways: through de-veloping materials that promote the region’s nonmotorized trails, and through studying the region’s grassland habitats to identify and promote the use of currently underused lands for biofuel production in a way that least affects wildlife.
The researchers are collaborating with more than a dozen state and regional stakeholders and are hiring seven undergraduate students and one high school student to help in conducting this research. Members of the research team will be hosting workshops for local educators, city officials and community members about sustain-able resource use. Their hope is that engaging and educating residents, landowners, municipalities and businesses about these issues will increase the use of best practices in the sustainable development of the watershed area.
The UMPI team, which is led by Dr. Jason Johnston, assistant professor of wildlife ecology, includes professor David Putnam, lecturer of science; Dr. Kimberly Sebold, associate professor of history; Dr. Chunzeng Wang, associate professor of earth and environmental science; and Dr. Anja Whittington, assistant professor of rec-reation and leisure services.
“This research is important to central Aroostook County, because it recognizes that academic research is too often conducted without much involvement of stakeholders,” Johnston said. “By working with local communities, agencies and others interested in sustainable resource development from the start, we have identified re-search priorities important to them. The end result will be information that can be used to promote sustainable development of our resources. These products include identification of currently underutilized lands for biofuel production and nonmotorized trail maps that would promote tourism.”
The funding comes from the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.