Research and Development

Maine has a wide range of Research and Development opportunities.

R&D Tax Credits

Maine – Business Development – Research & Development Resources

Research Expense Tax Credit

In general, R&D tax credits are based on federal IRS rules and applied for as part of a company’s state corporate tax return. The credit is based on a percentage of the federal Credit for Increasing Research Activities. The credit is limited to 5% of the excess qualified research expenses over the previous three-year average plus 7.5% of the basic research payments under IRC § 41(e)(1)(A). The credit is further limited to 100% of the first $25,000 in tax liability plus 75% of the tax liability in excess of $25,000. The credit cannot be carried back, but it can be carried forward for up to 15 years. Form and Instructions (PDF).

Research and Development Sales Tax Exemption

Sales of machinery and equipment used by the purchaser directly and exclusively in research and development is eligible for a sales tax exemption. Sales tax exemptions are applied either at the time of purchase using an Industrial Users Blanket Sales Tax Certificate of Exemption (PDF) or as a refund with the Refund Form (PDF).

Maine Technology Institute (MTI)

MTI supports the development of new technology related products and services that will create high-quality jobs for Maine people.

SBIR/STTR Technical Assistance Program (TAP)

MTI offers funding and technical assistance to Maine companies applying to the SBIR/STTR program, which is a federal program that funds R&D and product innovation at small businesses.

University of Maine

Maine’s flagship state university offers a robust program to partner with businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the state to advance innovation and R&D, helping businesses to start and grow.

Office of Innovation and Economic Development

Supports new and existing businesses by connecting them to the innovation resources of the university, facilitating commercialization activities, and helping to transfer university R&D into marketable products and services. Can assist companies with R&D activities, physical space, business support, and access to talent.

University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center

World-leading, interdisciplinary center for research, education, and economic development encompassing material sciences, manufacturing, and engineering of composites and structures. Assists with product development and testing.

University of Maine Advanced Manufacturing Center

Provides engineering, manufacturing, research, and support services to businesses/entrepreneurs that are seeking to transform an idea into a prototype or new product. Specialized in precision manufacturing.

In addition to these general skills, it may also be helpful to have specialized knowledge or education in areas such as space policy, space law, or space business.

There are a variety of academic courses that could be important for someone interested in working in the space economy. Some potential areas of study could include:

  • Aerospace engineering: This field deals with the design, construction, and operation of aircraft, spacecraft, and other aerial vehicles.
  • Astronomy and astrophysics: These fields study the physical properties and behavior of celestial objects such as stars, planets, and galaxies.
  • Geology: This field deals with the study of the Earth, including its structure, composition, and processes.
  • Computer science: This field involves the study of computers and their applications, including programming, algorithms, data structures, and computer hardware.
  • Business and economics: These fields study the principles of managing organizations, including financial management, marketing, and operations.
  • Public policy and administration: These fields deal with the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programs at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Law: This field involves the study of the legal system and the principles of legal practice.

Ultimately, the specific courses that would be most important for someone interested in working in the space economy will depend on their specific career goals within the industry.

U Maine R&D

The following are examples of aerospace-related research facilities at the University of Maine.

Advanced Structures and Composite Center. One of the most-notable assets in terms of its track record in gaining funding for large-scale projects and generating intellectual property that can be spun out to the private sector is the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composite Center. With an incredibly organized structural testing center focusing mainly on new materials and composites, the world’s largest composite 3D printer, and a competent workforce of professionals, students, and staff, this asset is an essential piece to the puzzle of asserting Maine’s excellence and growth in composite materials.

Versant Power Astronomy Center. Mainly noted for its potential input to educational endeavors and its ability to generate interest in the space industry, the Versant Power Astronomy Center is led by passionate people with involvement in space academic endeavors external to just the programming of the largest-domed planetarium (seats 50 people) in Maine and the observatory on-campus.

Advanced Manufacturing Center. With milling, turning, and miscellaneous machining tools and equipment, UMaine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center specializes in applied techniques to teach students at UMaine and collaborate with the private sector on projects. Recently they have added their Center for Additive Manufacturing, housing an area to refine the process and engineering behind additive manufacturing of metals.

The Wireless Sensor Networks (WiSe-Net) Laboratory, founded in 2005 by Dr. Abedi, covers 5500 sq ft in three locations on UMaine campus and has a long history of successful R&D activities (63 projects with over $35M research funds) devoted to practical applications of wireless communication and sensing for environmental monitoring, space exploration, and biomedical applications. This laboratory provides access to the state-of-the-art wireless communication design and test equipment as follows:

  • 80 ft antenna tower with near-field measurement scanner
  • 42 ft diameter 10 ft tall concentric torus, Inflatable lunar habitat with 124 sensors
  • High frequency Spectrum analyzer (54 GHz),
  • Wireless channel emulator (6 GHz with MIMO),
  • Arbitrary Waveform generator,
  • logic analyzer (104 channel),
  • 8 Dell workstations,
  • 4 high memory SUN servers with math co-processors,
  • 2 High End rugged Toughbook laptops for field work
  • Software defined radio platforms (Xilinx FPGA based, USRP2, SoleNet), and
  • a large number of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and TI development boards.

WiSe-Net lab covers the full spectrum from design, prototyping, vibration/environmental chamber tests, and product design with 3D printing capabilities. Some examples of successful R&D activities include: a wireless water quality sensor network (funded by NSF), a wireless leak detection system payload that was launched to International Space Station in December of 2016, and a biomedical sensor network developed for brain injury detection, which has been patented and commercialized funded by Army and NIH SBIR Phase-1 and Phase-2 grants and resulted in a spin off company. For more information, please contact Dr. Ali Abedi.

The following are examples of aerospace-related research activities at the University of Maine.

Metastable Oxygen Nanobubbles to Advance Life Support Systems in Space Exploration. Dr. Onur Apul. This research seeks to advance fundamental knowledge of recently discovered metastable nanobubbles (NB) and forge an application platform for their space applications. NBs are ultrafine domains of gas within liquid, which are operationally defined as bubbles smaller than 1,000 nm though typically they are in the range of 100 nm. They can be rapidly generated by energy efficient fluidic oscillations or other low-cost hydraulic, physicochemical and electrochemical techniques. NBs are stable in water for hours up to months and coexist with reactive oxygen species (ROS) based on recent empirical evidence. This modern and paradoxical discovery of stable NBs combined with their catalyst-free oxidation potential can be an inflection point of a paradigm shift for algae cultivation, aquaculture, horticulture, water and wastewater treatment technologies. Outstanding properties of NBs can also be used to develop energy-efficient, small footprint water treatment systems and biological algae generating reactors conductive for life support subsystems in the aerospace industry if explored methodically. In addition, they can improve conventional technologies on Earth. For example: (1) extremely large gas-liquid interfaces of NBs can lift practical restrictions of gas delivery; therefore, can revolutionize mass transfer in biotic (e.g., algae cultivation) and abiotic (e.g., advanced oxidation) processes, (2) NBs that are attached to surfaces can increase adsorption of dissolved oleophobic compounds or can bridge suspended solids via hydrophobic interactions, and (3) air, oxygen or ozone NBs can facilitate production of ROS; including short-lived and quasi-stable radicals for advanced oxidation applications. Drs. Apul and Garcia-Segura have been experimenting on and developing a vision for engineered NB applications since 2018. This research collaboration and the proposed project deliverables are designed to realize this vision and develop NB research capacity in Maine in direct correlation with the ongoing efforts of NASA researchers. For more information, please contact Dr. Onur Apul.

Aerial Remote Sensing, Dr. Alex Friess.  An education-research pathway in aerial remote sensing has been developed to support remote sensing activities needs of both earth science and infrastructure inspection research efforts.  Examples include the development of Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems with appropriate payload capability to deploy synthetic aperture radar systems for bridge inspections (in collaboration with the Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center and supported by the Department of Transportation), and the development of long endurance UAV’s for forestry missions (in collaboration with researchers from the School of Forest Resources and supported by NASA).  Additional work includes the development of long endurance Lighter-than-Air platforms (blimps and airships) for additional earth science missions, such as glaciology and cold climate research, with initial deployments at the Juneau Icefield Research Program facilities.  These research activities are conducted both by graduate and by undergraduate students, often in conjunction with their Senior Design Capstone experience.  Recently the work has expanded into workforce development through UAV activities with local High Schools. For more information, please contact Dr. Alex Friess.

Neurorehabilitation via Robot-assisted Gait Training. Dr. Babak Hejrati. This research is highly interdisciplinary and at the intersection of robotics, human movement science, human-robot interaction, and motor control. The Biorobotics & Biomechanics laboratory focuses on developing a range of wearable robots to provide haptic feedback and power assistance to users to fundamentally investigate how neuromotor and perceptuomotor systems can be trained to generate lasting improvements in users’ gait and advance knowledge in the field of neurorehabilitation. We apply the principles of dynamic systems and controls while utilizing haptic feedback and exoskeletons as research tools, to quantify the neural system responses in young and older adults to exploit them for gait rehabilitation. The mission of this research is to provide individuals with walking impairments with more effective gait training that can aid them to restore their walking ability and enhance their quality of life. The maintenance of efficient and functional ambulation is a prerequisite for independent living for many individuals such as astronauts. The decline in mobility may lead to other health problems due to physical activity reduction. Walking impairments are also strongly correlated with cognitive decline. Therefore, it is imperative to intervene to improve their gait to reduce the risk of physical and mental health deterioration associated with the decline in mobility. The proposed research aims to understand the impact of microgravity on the gait and neuromotor system of astronauts and, accordingly, devise gait training methods to help them recover the walking ability more efficiently. For more information, please contact Dr. Babak Hejrati.


High Temperature Resource Extraction from Lunar Regolith using Solar Energy. Dr. Justin Lapp

The development of infrastructure for long term habitation on the moon requires the ability to harness any and all resources present on the lunar surface. The minerals present in lunar soil (or regolith) can provide oxygen, a variety of metals, and certain ceramics. The regolith can also be melted or sintered into solid material used for construction or manufacturing parts. Ongoing research at the University of Maine’s Solar Thermal Energy Laboratory, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is investigating how to apply solar energy, in the form of concentrated sunlight, to reach high temperature during processing of lunar regolith. The group is using simulated lunar regolith and simulated concentrated sunlight to investigate the sintering and melting properties of regolith at temperature up to 1600°C, measuring properties such as sintering depth and compressive strength. The group has also investigated the potential efficiency and reactor designs for systems which will combine oxygen extraction from lunar regolith with sintering of regolith into solid construction material. The group has been investigating solar processing of lunar regolith since 2019 thanks to seed funding from the Maine Space Grant Consortium and collaboration with several NASA and industrial researchers.  For more information, please contact Dr. Justin Lapp.

Combining Mechanism-Driven and Data-Driven methods to understand mechanisms and functions of complex systems in physiology. Dr. Giovanna Guidoboni. Data science aims at extracting information and knowledge from data. When data samples are scarce, such as those pertaining astronauts, the combination of mechanism-driven and data-driven models becomes essential to effectively analyze and interpret data.

Mechanism-driven models are based on the principles of physics and physiology and allow for identification of cause-to-effect relationships among interplaying factors in a complex system. While invaluable for causality, mechanism-driven models are often based on simplifying assumptions to make them tractable for analysis and simulation; however, this often brings into question their relevance beyond theoretical explorations. Data-driven models offer a natural remedy to address these short-comings. Data-driven methods may be supervised (based on labeled training data) or unsupervised (clustering and other data analytics) and they include models based on statistics, machine learning, deep learning and neural networks. Data-driven models naturally thrive on large datasets, making them scalable to a plethora of applications. While invaluable for scalability, data-driven models are often perceived as black-boxes, as their outcomes are difficult to explain in terms of fundamental principles of physics and physiology and this limits the delivery of actionable insights.

The combination of mechanism-driven and data-driven models allows us to harness the advantages of both. The Laboratory for Computational and Mathematical modeling in Medicine Engineering and Technology (Comet Lab) directed by Dr. Guidoboni at the University of Maine (Orono, ME) pioneered this approach to: 1) understand the relationship between altered ocular hemodynamics and vision loss, with particular emphasis on the role of blood pressure, intraocular pressure and cerebrospinal fluid pressure. While originally developed in the context of glaucoma research, the approach can be used to study the Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS); and 2) design sensors for the monitoring of cardio-vascular-pulmonary functions noninvasively and non-obtrusively. While originally developed in the context of eldercare, the fundamental principles underlying the sensor design could be applied to monitor astronauts in training, during mission, and upon their return.

University of Southern Maine

The Maker Innovation Studio (MIST), co-founded by senior Personnel Dr. Qualls in 2020, covers ~3,200 sq ft and is the University of Southern Maine’s premiere facility for 1) rapid prototyping, 2) technology transfer, and 2) supporting STEAM pipelines for technology workforce education and technical skill development. It has been mentioned in media and rapidly gaining local recognition and usage. The MIST labs are currently operational and made up of a number of specialized labs including a Makerspace, Digital Immersion Lab, Digital Media Lab, and APIS Commercial Lab. MIST supports Cubesat development and can print PEEK as well as provide space ready materials. The laboratory provides access to advances manufacturing, design, embedded electronics.

  • 25 3-D Printers (FDM, SLA, & BIO)
  • 54 different additive manufacturing filament/materials in stock (in multiple colors)
  • Suite of molding, vacuum forming, traditional fab equipment
  • Subtractive manufacturing and etching
  • Full test bed support for Arduino and Raspberry Pi with stocked parts/sensors.
  • Audio and Media support lab for recording and video editing
  • Digital Emersion lab and software support: commercial grade CAD, Vector/Modeling Software, AR/VR programing capability.

MIST lab has extensive fabrication and design capabilities and has complete or in the process of completing 6 patents over the last 2 years. The facility is staffed with a Director, two full time techs, manager, and numerous student techs. It enables rapid development of designs and systems for mechanical and embedded systems. MIST was used to support Earthshine Cubesat project and Maine’s annual k-12 Cubesat competition. For more information, please contact Dr. So Young Han.

The CubeSat and Communications Lab, established and directed by Dr. Maxworth in 2022, covers ~ 1,200 sq ft in the John Mitchell Center and within the Engineering department. It serves as the launch sight for the University of Southern Maines Cubesat development. It has development and test bed space for CubeSats as well as a communication ground station. This space will be completed by summer 2023.

  • Communication Ground Station: 1296 Yagi, 432 MHz Yagi, 902 MHz Yagi, Icom 9700 Transceiver, 1691 MHz LNA, Spectrum analyzer, Network Analyzer.
  • Test Bed: Shaker table, 3-Axis Helmholtz cage, Heat Lamps, vacuum chamber, binocular microscope
  • Electronic Lab: Full testing and developing capabilities

The CubeSat and Communications Lab is funded by NASA EPSCOR through the Maine Space Grant Consortium. It will be a critical asset in developing, testing, and communicating with CubeSats. For more information, please contact Dr. Ashanthi Maxworth.

Our campus facilities provide access to advanced technology where both students and faculty pursue research as part of coursework as well as extracurricular collaborative projects. Our research-dedicated labs that have potential applications to aerospace research include:

Composites Engineering Research Laboratory:  The Composite Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), a collaboration between the Maine Composites Alliance and the University of Southern Maine, is an industry focused consulting and research laboratory. The mission of CERL is to provide New England composites industries with applied engineering expertise for manufacturing, process development and optimization; complete, advanced analytical services; focused educational training; and prototype manufacturing. This broad spectrum of services allows CERL to fulfill the needs of the needs of regional manufacturers and the composites industry as it strives to compete in the global marketplace.

Computer Science Labs: This space on our Portland campus is available for Computer Science majors to study software development, operating systems, and computer networks.

Engineering & Technology Labs: The John Mitchell Center on our Gorham campus is home to a suite of labs including:

  • Computer Aided Design Lab
  • Digital Arts and Technology Lab
  • Electrical Engineering Circuits Lab
  • Environmental Safety and Health Lab 
  • Mechanical Engineering Lab 
  • Power & Automation Lab
  • Technology Education Lab

Doug Currie, Biology: 

“Bioprinted blueberry plant cells as a multi-use product for long-term space exploration”

Long duration space exploration presents a challenge due to unavoidable radiation exposure of astronauts both inside and outside of habitats and vehicles. This is a concern for NASA as it presents considerable risk to nervous system function. To try to understand the potential for damage we will be using modified fruit flies (Drosophila) with fluorescent neurons to investigate the effects of radiation exposure on the nervous system.  One of the major effects of radiation is an increase in production of reactive oxygen species which damage cells, including neurons.  We will also be investigating the potential mitigation effects of blueberry extract, which is high in antioxidants, on radiation induced neuron damage in Drosophila.

Asheesh Lanba, Engineering: 

“Investigating shape memory alloys for auxetic actuation and high temperature applications”

This project seeks to investigate the use of SMAs in aerospace applications that will eventually lead to a reduction in weight of materials sent to space for motion applications. This project seeks to do the groundwork in two aspects of these alloys. First, we seek to explore auxetic geometries that expand in the lateral direction when pulled in the longitudinal direction to leverage the two-way shape memory effect (TWSME) in order to create 2D actuators. Second, we want to establish structure-property relations for novel high-temperature SMAs that will allow for the use of their functional properties across a high temperature range. Along with this materials development research, there is a need to create a knowledgeable and capable workforce for Maine’s new Space Economy. The third aspect of this project will focus on creating a framework to offer a specialization in Aerospace Engineering for graduating mechanical engineers from USM. This proposal focuses on shape memory alloy (SMA) characterization and application for 2D actuators, which directly fits into the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA, and more specifically with Maine’s New Space Economy Vision of Advanced Materials in the Space Innovation hub. The College of Science Technology and Health (CSTH) aims to create a premier materials research center at USM focused on aerospace materials that will directly impact Maine’s new Space Economy and be an integral part of the SpacePort that is being built in-state. For more information, please contact Dr. Asheesh Lanba.

Ashanthi Maxworth, Engineering: 

“Developing a deployable antenna for the international space station”
This is a collaborative project between USM and the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Dr. Alex Chartier wanted a deployable antenna designed for the international space station. Dr. Maxworth modeled the antenna and is now working on the next step of hardware testing. 

“Rocket Investigation of Current Closure in the Ionosphere (RICCI)”
This four-year joint project between the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the University of Southern Maine was preceded by a grant application to NASA in which Dr. Maxworth was co-investigator. The project consists of two rocket missions and a cube satellite flown along the geomagnetic field line to collect data. It contains multiple sub-projects, and Dr. Maxworth will work Dr. Alex Chartier to model and develop an ionospheric sounder. 

“Developing hardware and software for an attitude determination and control system of a cube satellite”

This project is a part of the USM Cubesat Initiative, with Engineering students involved in the work. The main components of the ADCS are the magnetorquers. Research students have been developing magnetorquers since spring 2021 because these magnetorquers will be used for the USM cube satellite and the University of Maine cube satellite MESat. 

“NASA – Magnetospheric Duct Modelling”
This is a collaborative project between the University of California- Los Angeles (Dr. Oleksiy Agapatov), University of Colorado Denver (Dr. Mark Golkowski and Dr. Vijay Harid), and University of Southern Maine (Dr. Maxworth). The goal of the project is to model the electron density in the Earth’s magnetosphere.

“Modeling Earth-Ionosphere Waveguide”
This is a joint project with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Dr. Morris Cohen) and USM (Dr. Maxworth). In this project, Dr. Cohen’s graduate student is working on a wave propagation model for the Earth – ionosphere waveguide. The surface of the Earth and the ionosphere, guide low-frequency waves hence acting as a waveguide. This project aims to model its properties. Dr. Maxworth is assisting him on coding and compiling in FORTRAN programming language. 

Brandon Eberly, Physics

As an experimentalist and particle physicist, the goal of Dr. Eberly’s research is to design and carry out experiments to discover and study the fundamental particles that constitute all known matter, particularly determining the properties of neutrinos. Neutrinos are extremely difficult to study because they interact very weakly with other matter, but the effort is worthwhile because they play a role in the evolution of the universe and may explain why we live in a matter-dominated universe, with very little antimatter present. As part of an international team working at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, he performs measurements to determine how the results of neutrino-argon interactions relate to the inner workings of the argon nucleus. 

Julie Ziffer, Physics

Dr. Ziffer has served as science evaluator for NASA space missions focused on asteroid observations.  

The following is an example of a research activity at the University of Southern Maine:

Investigating Shape Memory Alloys for Auxetic Actuation and High Temperature Applications. Dr. Asheesh Lanba. This project seeks to investigate the use of SMAs in aerospace applications that will eventually lead to a reduction in weight of materials sent to space for motion applications. This project seeks to do the groundwork in two aspects of these alloys. First, we seek to explore auxetic geometries that expand in the lateral direction when pulled in the longitudinal direction to leverage the two-way shape memory effect (TWSME) in order to create 2D actuators. Second, we want to establish structure-property relations for novel high-temperature SMAs that will allow for the use of their functional properties across a high temperature range. Along with this materials development research, there is a need to create a knowledgeable and capable workforce for Maine’s new Space Economy. The third aspect of this project will focus on creating a framework to offer a specialization in Aerospace Engineering for graduating mechanical engineers from USM. This proposal focuses on shape memory alloy (SMA) characterization and application for 2D actuators, which directly fits into the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA, and more specifically with Maine’s New Space Economy Vision of Advanced Materials in the Space Innovation hub. The College of Science Technology and Health (CSTH) aims to create a premier materials research center at USM focused on aerospace materials that will directly impact Maine’s new Space Economy and be an integral part of the SpacePort that is being built in-state. For more information, please contact Dr. Asheesh Lanba.

Roux Institute

Human Data Interaction. Data transformation in organizations depends on more than just having the right data; decision makers need to understand the data and be empowered to take meaningful action. In human data interaction, we design, build, and deploy interactive visualization tools and AI to empower people with data and solve real-world problems. For more information, please contact Dr. Melanie Tory.

Engineering. In engineering, we innovate and build new knowledge at the interfaces of disciplines using physics-based models and data to address problems that matter to society. For more information, please contact Dr. Jack Lesko.

Computational Medicine. In computational medicine, we develop models of biological systems in health and disease, understand how to constrain these models using data from a specific patient, and harness the patient-specific model to deliver care tuned to the needs of the individual. For more information, please contact Dr. Raimond Winslow.

Experiential Artificial Intelligence. The promise of artificial intelligence lies not in its ability to replace humans, but to help them do what they do best. The Roux Institute’s focus is on human-centered, “experiential” AI technologies, which combine the computing power of machines with uniquely human capacities such as reasoning, creativity, and empathy. Because together, machines and humans will achieve far more than either could alone. For more information, please contact Dr. Usama Fayyad.

Network Science. The Network Science Institute at the Roux Institute strives to be a multi-disciplinary research community working to discover and inspire fundamentally new ways to measure, model, predict and visualize social, physical and technological complex systems. We develop network based modeling frameworks, artificial intelligence approaches, data and analytics technology architectures to advance research and support decision makers in health sciences, human mobility, socio-economic networks, ecological and climate systems. For information, please contact Dr. Alessandro Vespignani.

Example of aerospace-related research project

Design for Hybrid Additive Manufacturing of Primary Aerospace Structures. Dr. Andrew Neils. The small satellite launch industry is expected to grow to over $28B by 2031. Demand for launch services will be met by companies like bluShift Aerospace. bluShift uses a proven, bio-derived, non-toxic rocket fuel. Primary launch vehicles must be lightweight to achieve the altitude required by payload customers. This effort will address the weight and complexity of Oxidizer Valve Body (OVB), with a focus on hybrid additive manufacturing (AM) processes to produce complex geometries. The Roux Institute (Roux) at Northeastern University and bluShift will investigate methods for optimizing the OVB, including reducing part-count and lightweighting, by leveraging design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) techniques including generative design or topology optimization. Given the complex geometry of the OVB, which includes internal cavities and passageways, the part will be designed for hybrid additive manufacturing. Direct energy deposition (DED) is a process with lower resolution but higher deposition rate that is typically used for larger print volumes, while powder bed fusion (PBF, which is 10 -20x slower than DED) results in finer resolution, precision geometries. By combining these processes, The Roux Institute and bluShift aim to explore the limitations and capabilities of additive metal manufacturing for this mission critical component. It is expected that this 6-month collaboration will result in a body of work that can be leveraged to pursue further funding through NASA and the Department of Defense. For more information, please contact Dr. Andrew Neils.

Bates College

Microgravity Dynamics of Bubble-Geometry Bose-Einstein Condensates.   Funded since 2015 by NASA through JPL, with ongoing funding through 2024, this is a flight project aboard ISS using the NASA CAL facility.   

The physics context begins with the observation that variations on geometry, topology, and dimensionality have directed the historical development of quantum-gas physics (a branch of ultracold atomic physics with applications to condensed-matter research).  We are executing a research program aboard ISS to explore a trapping geometry for quantum gases that is both tantalizing theoretically and prohibitively difficult to attain terrestrially: a quantum gas in a bubble geometry, i.e., a trap formed by a spherical or ellipsoidal shell structure, confining a 2D quantum gas to the surface of an experimentally-controlled topologically-connected “bubble.” The physics of a quantum gas confined to such a surface has not been explored terrestrially due to the limitations of gravitational sag; interesting work has certainly been done with gases confined to the lower regions of bubble potentials, but the fully symmetric situation has yet to be explored. The low-energy excitations of such a system are unexplored, and notions of vortex creation and behavior as well as Kosterlitz-Thouless physics are tantalizing aims as well. 

The central method to reach the sought-after bubble-geometry BEC or DFG is that of rf or microwave dressing of the bare trapping potentials provided by the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) “chip trap.” Radiofrequency dressing has been used conceptually through “rf-knife” evaporative cooling, but more recently through explicit construction of adiabatic potentials for interferometry, and shell-trap construction for both thermal and quantum gases. The proposed work is a window into a physical regime that is quite difficult to achieve terrestrially due to trap distortion; given the advantages of a microgravity environment, NASA CAL has been uniquely positioned to realize the physics goals of this proposal.   

Recent publications: Observation of ultracold atoms in orbital microgravity, Nature 606, 281-286 (2022) 

Key personnel: Nathan Lundblad (Bates College, Lewiston, ME), David Aveline (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

The Wells NERR Research Program studies and monitors change in Gulf of Maine estuaries, coastal habitats, and adjacent coastal watersheds, and produces science-based information needed to protect, sustain, understand, or restore them. In a typical year, the program directs or assists with more than 20 studies involving dozens of scientists, students, and staff from the Reserve, academic, and research institutions, resource management agencies, and environmental and conservation groups. Reserve scientists participate in research, monitoring, planning, management, and outreach activities locally, regionally, and nationally. New efforts within the Research Program include the development of programmatic ties with more academic institutions and governmental agencies. Climate-driven disturbance is an underlying force that needs to be measured and assessed in natural and altered habitats. 

As part of a National System and the only NERR site in the State of Maine, The Research Program provides a mechanism for addressing scientific and technical aspects of coastal management problems through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and coordinated approach. Research and monitoring programs, including the development of baseline information, form the basis of this approach. Reserve research and monitoring activities are guided by national plans that identify goals, priorities, and implementation strategies. This approach, when used in combination with education, training, and outreach programs, helps to ensure the availability of scientific information that has long-term, system-wide consistency and utility for managers and members of the public to use in protecting or improving natural processes in their estuaries. 

NERRS Science Collaborative – The Science Collaborative is a multifaceted program that focuses on integrating science into the management of coastal natural resources. The program integrates and applies the principles of collaborative research, information and technology transfer, graduate education, and adaptive management with the goal of developing and applying science-based tools to detect, prevent, and reverse the impacts of coastal ecosystem dynamics and habitat degradation in a time of climate change.

This program is designed to enhance the NERRS ability to support decisions related to coastal resources through collaborative approaches that engage the people who produce science and technology with those who need it (i.e., end-users). In so doing, the Science Collaborative seeks to make the process of linking science to coastal management decisions, practices, and policies more efficient, timely, and effective and to share best practices and examples for how this may be accomplished. For more information, please contact Dr. Jason Goldstein

Davidson Graduate Research Fellowships – The goal of the Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship is to build the next generation of leaders in estuarine science and coastal management and technology by affording graduate students in Maine and beyond the opportunity to conduct collaborative science that addresses key reserve management issues, partake in professional development opportunities, and receive quality mentoring to support their professional growth. Each 2-year fellowship offers graduate students enrolled in a M.S. or PhD. program the opportunity to conduct estuarine research within a National Estuarine Research Reserve, including the Wells NERR in Maine. A strong emphasis is placed on mentoring Fellows at a local and national level, as well as providing professional development opportunities to build knowledge and skills to enter the workforce. The proposed outcomes of this Fellowship program include supporting the next generation of leaders in estuarine science, marine technology, and coastal management. For more information, please contact Dr. Jason Goldstein

Academic and Institutional Partnerships – The Wells Reserve maintains professional relationships including those with Maine-based institutions at the University of Maine, University of New England, Saint Joseph’s College, York County Community College, Southern Maine Community College, and the University of Southern Maine. Wells NERR Research staff work with undergraduate and graduate interns during both the academic year and the summer field season. The staff also work closely with non-profit groups and citizen scientists, particularly on watershed, fish passage, and estuarine water quality monitoring projects. For more information, please contact Dr. Jason Goldstein

System-Wide Monitoring Program – The System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) provides standardized, quality-controlled data on national estuarine environmental trends while allowing Research and Monitoring and the flexibility to assess coastal management issues of regional or local concern. Its principal mission is to collect quantitative measurements of short-term variability and long-term changes in weather, water chemistry, biological systems, and land use / land cover characteristics of estuaries and estuarine ecosystems for the purposes of informing effective coastal zone management. The program is designed to enhance the value and vision of the reserves as a system of national reference sites. For more information, please contact Jeremy Miller

Abiotic Monitoring – (Water Quality, Weather, and Hydrology) – Water quality parameters are collected at regular intervals by YSI 6600 EDS or EXO2 data-sondes at four stations located at the heads-of-tide and mouths of riverine and estuarine systems. Parameters include water temperature, specific conductance, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen (in both % and mg/l), and water level / depth; chlorophyll a, orthophosphates, combined nitrate / nitrite, silicates, and ammonia are collected via monthly grab samples at all four monitoring locations. A Campbell Scientific CR1000 weather station located on the Laudholm campus collects air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, precipitation, and photosynthetically active radiation. The synthesis of SWMP data continues to be a high science and management priority however, a lack of personnel capacity has led to these datasets being underutilized. Therefore, to address current SWMP synthesis needs as well as systemic issues regarding capacity to analyze SMWP data at the NERRs, Research staff encourage and help to facilitate the development of student participation in data science and time-series analyses that will engage students in the analysis of SMWP data. For more information, please contact Jeremy Miller

Bridging the Gap between Quadrats & Satellites [Drone the SWMP]: Assessing Utility of Drone-based Imagery to Enhance Emergent Vegetation Biomonitoring– Tidal wetland monitoring is critical for managing these vulnerable coastal ecosystems. Monitoring programs typically combine small scale, ground-based measurements with large scale, satellite observations, though this approach can miss important processes at intermediate scales or from discrete events such as storms. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), known as drones, offer opportunities to radically improve monitoring programs by providing high spatial resolution, coverage, and customization. While many reserves have experimented with drones, the lack of standardized protocol posed a barrier to implementing on a broader scale. This project developed the first regional, drone-based tidal wetland monitoring protocol for the Reserve system to complement existing long-term biotic monitoring and habitat mapping to develop and refine protocols for drone-based data acquisition, data processing, and data analysis. Using ground-based validation, the project assessed the efficacy of drone-collected imagery for estimating common parameters (such as percent cover), delineating boundaries and ecotones between habitats, generating digital elevation models at intermediate scales, and estimating vegetation biomass. This project advanced the adoption of drone-based monitoring across the Reserve system by addressing barriers to implementation, developing actionable next steps, and proactively sharing findings with reserves and their partners. For more information, please contact Dr. Jason Goldstein

Refining Techniques for High-Frequency Monitoring of Chlorophyll in the NERRSNutrient pollution and algal blooms in estuaries degrade water quality for people and aquatic life. Careful tracking of chlorophyll concentrations (a proxy for phytoplankton biomass), helps managers understand the patterns and drivers of nutrient pollution and food web implications in their estuary. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s long-term monitoring program measures chlorophyll concentrations in monthly water samples. However, these measurements were insufficient for tracking plankton dynamics, which fluctuate hourly. When new technology capable of measuring chlorophyll every 15-minutes arrived – the YSI EXO Total Algae fluorometric sensors, practitioners needed to understand the relationship between current measurement approaches and this new technology. The project team developed, tested, and shared protocols for the new sensors and provided recommendations to catalyze the System-wide Monitoring Program into the nation’s most comprehensive algal bloom monitoring program. For more information, please contact Jeremy Miller

Coastal Ocean Carbonate Chemistry & Monitoring – In an effort to gain a better understanding of the role of estuaries in the larger context of coastal ocean acidification (COA), the Wells Reserve continues to work with external partners including the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to acquire the resources and technical skills to consistently monitor, and adequately address the increasing threats of COA. Wells Reserve leverages existing datasets and infrastructure from SWMP as well as existing relationships with regional monitoring associations (e.g., Northeast Coastal Acidification Network) and other agencies (NOAA Ocean Acidification Program) to build a robust and sustainable COA network across the State of Maine. The Tech Team for this initiative will select a suite of instruments and test them in varying levels of salinity and estuarine conditions represented by the monitoring sites maintained by Friends of Casco Bay and the Wells NERR. The goal will be to develop technology and quality assurance recommendations for continuously monitoring COA in Maine’s coastal waters. This pilot initiative will further complement analyses being conducted by Bigelow Labs and the Island Institute to evaluate higher-end equipment and to help us develop ways we can all report data so it can be compared. This provides an opportunity for cross-sector collaboration with end-users to address realistic needs. For more information, please contact Jeremy Miller

Estuarine and Coastal Fisheries in the Gulf of Maine – Climate change has had a recent and pronounced effect in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Maine. For example, changes in the thermal structure in shallow coastal areas, including estuarine systems, are having profound and adverse effects on economically- and ecologically-important marine species such as lobsters, crabs, and finfish. As we expect a changing ocean climate to persist, stressful environmental conditions could impede Gulf of Maine fauna, making it critical to understand how changing environmental parameters might affect a variety of life-history characteristics. An ongoing collaboration with academic and state collaborators is aimed at quantifying impacts of lobsters to climate changes as well as forging new technological strategies to improve the overall health of lobsters along the supply chain route in Maine. Our continued research efforts will help to inform fisheries and coastal resource stakeholders in Maine and beyond through empirical studies and predictive modeling. For more information, please contact Dr. Benjamin Gutzler

Novel Biotech Tools to Assess Species of Greatest Conservation Need – Environmental DNA (eDNA) presents an opportunity to harness new technology and fundamentally improve the Reserve’s capacity to monitor biological communities. The Research Program has expanded eDNA monitoring while developing best practices and analyses based on this management tool. The Reserve works with partners at the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, and Maine Coastal Program to develop a cost-effective method for monitoring estuarine species of interest, with a focus on anadromous rainbow smelt populations. The Reserve will apply eDNA methods to generating up-to-date information on the status of rainbow smelt populations in small coastal streams where information is lacking as well as working with academic partners to develop biotechnology tools to assess the presence of invasive and range-expanding species into the Gulf of Maine. For more information, please contact Laura Crane

Data Science & Management – Telemetry, or the delivery of near real-time data to remote users, is an important element of SWMP. The NERR System uses the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites system, a critical component of the Integrated Ocean Observing System. SWMP 15-minute data are transmitted hourly via this satellite system so they can be used by agencies, including the National Weather Service (NWS), to inform forecasting and modeling. SWMP data is also used by the New England Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing System (NERACOOS). A Reserve staff member serves as SWMP’s National Telemetry Support Technician, assisting other Reserves

with basic troubleshooting and maintenance of their stations. The Reserve promotes awareness of SWMP data and products within the Gulf of Maine scientific community through attendance and participation

in local monitoring working groups and efforts. The NERACOOS data distribution web portal provides an active link to the Reserve’s telemetered SWMP data, and to the CDMO data retrieval web portal. For more information, please contact Jeremy Miller