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Unprecedented Alliance of Scientists, Physicians & Health Advocates Agree Toxic Chemicals Hurting Brain Development

July 1, 2016

Kelly Blake, 301-405-9418

UMD professor part of Project TENDR calling for immediate action to reduce toxic exposures in the environment

Project TENDRCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - An unprecedented alliance of leading scientists, medical experts, and children’s health advocates, including Devon Payne-Sturges, assistant professor in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, agree for the first time that today’s scientific evidence supports a link between exposures to toxic chemicals in food and everyday products and children’s risks for neurodevelopmental disorders.  The alliance, known as Project TENDR, is calling for immediate action to significantly reduce exposures to toxic chemicals to protect brain development for today's and tomorrow's children.

Neurodevelopmental disorders include intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, and other maladaptive behaviors, and learning disabilities.   

Prime examples of the chemicals and pollutants that are contributing to children’s learning, intellectual and behavioral impairment include:

  • Organophosphate (OP) pesticides
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants
  • Combustion-related air pollutants, which generally include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

“The public health disaster in Flint, Michigan has reminded the American people and our leaders the importance of preventing children's exposures to neurotoxicants in our environment. But lead is not the only neurotoxicant to which we are routinely exposing our children,” says Payne-Sturges, one of the authors of the consensus statement. “We must address the cumulative exposures to multiple chemicals in our air, water, food and consumer products that harm brain development. We are all exposed to multiple chemicals and we know now that these have synergistic effects and our children are the most sensitive to those effects.”

Dr. Payne-Sturges, who is part of the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health in the UMD School of Public Health, helped draft the Project TENDR statement on air pollution risks and contributed expertise on cumulative risk assessment to the scientific consensus.

“This is truly an historic agreement. It’s the first time so many leaders in public health, science, and medicine agree on the message from the scientific evidence: that toxic chemicals are harming our children’s brain development,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, TENDR Co-Director and environmental epidemiologist at UC Davis. “Ten years ago, this consensus wouldn’t have been possible, but the research is now abundantly clear.”

"This national problem is so pressing that the TENDR scientists and medical experts will continue their collaboration to develop and issue recommendations aimed at significantly reducing exposures to toxic chemicals that are harming children’s brain development,” says Maureen Swanson, TENDR Co-Director and director of the Healthy Children Project for the Learning Disabilities Association of America. “Calling for further study is no longer a sufficient response to this threat."

Project TENDR is a joint endeavor of the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) and the University of California Davis MIND Institute (Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders).






Celebrate the 4th of July at UMD

June 30, 2016


COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and the City of College Park will host an Independence Day fireworks celebration on Tuesday, July 5, 2016. Fireworks will begin at dark. The concert has been cancelled. Concessions will not be available during the fireworks on July 5th.

Fireworks will be on the University of Maryland campus on Lot 1 adjacent to Campus Drive off Adelphi Road. For directions, visit http://maps.umd.edu/map/.

Grass seating is limited, so bringing lawn chairs and blankets is recommended. Personal coolers are also permitted.



UMD Researcher Aims to Shed Light on How Tumor Cells Spread

June 30, 2016

Alyssa Wolice 301-405-2057
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Clark School bioengineer awarded one million dollar NIH Grant to support work

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For years, scientists have recognized that the mechanical interplay between a cell and its surrounding microenvironment influences how tumors progress and spread to new areas of the body. But, measuring this interaction poses challenges, as traditional techniques to study cell properties either require contact with cells – which prevents measuring cells while they are within tissues – or produce images with limited resolution. 

Recognizing this, University of Maryland Fischell Department of Bioengineering assistant professor Giuliano Scarcelli led the development of an optical microscopy technique that can be used to help measure mechanical properties of biological tissue and cells without contact. The technique relies on a process called Brillouin light scattering, whereby light interacts with density fluctuations in a medium allowing researchers to measure how mechanical properties of a cell change over time in their 3-D microenvironment. 

Along with members of his Optics Biotech Lab, Scarcelli is now working to apply Brillouin optical microscopy to shed light on how and why tumor cells spread – or metastasize – to other parts of the body. The team’s efforts could lead to a breakthrough for cancer research, as scientists have long searched for ways to gather more information – and clearer images – to study the biomechanical properties of cells in 3-D environments. The Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies program of the National Cancer Institute of the NIH just awarded Scarcelli and his team a $1 million research grant to support this work.

In order for cancer to progress from one area of the body to another, a tumor cell leaves the original cancer site through a complex process known as the metastatic cascade before a new tumor forms at a secondary organ site. 

But, scientists still are still searching for answers to critical questions about the various steps involved with metastatic cascade: How does a tumor cell decide to metastasize to a certain organ or organs? And, once the metastatic cascade process has begun, is it better for scientists to target therapies to tumor cells in transit, or to direct therapies to the secondary site(s) to which the cancer spreads? 

“During the metastatic cascade, tumor cells face very difficult mechanical challenges; for example, they may squeeze through constrictions smaller than the cell’s size,” Scarcelli said. “Yet, some cells are able to overcome these challenges. Hopefully, we'll now be able to see what type of mechanical machinery metastatic cells have to put in place to do this.”

When that insight comes, Scarcelli hopes that it will expand scientists’ understanding of how a tumor cell accomplishes the steps of the metastatic cascade. This, in turn, could help bioengineers develop improved diagnostic tools or improved drug screening platforms, he noted.

Scarcelli specializes in biophotonics, with strong emphasis on optical sciences and technology development. Prior to joining the Fischell Department of Bioengineering in 2014, he served as an instructor with the Harvard Medical School and Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the inventor in four patents, all licensed to industry, and his work with Brillouin microscopy earned him the Tosteson Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, an NIH K25 Career Development Award, and a Young Investigator Award from the Human Frontier Science Program.

Research reported in this article is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R33CA204582. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

UMD Researchers Demonstrate Effectiveness of New Lidar Technology in Forest Mapping

June 23, 2016

Sara Gavin 301-405-1733
Graham Binder 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A team of scientists from the University of Maryland and Sigma Space Corporation has shown that 3D forest structure and topography can be measured rapidly, efficiently and accurately over large areas, using an innovative laser technology called single photon lidar (SPL). 

Vertical variations along random forested patches.

The study, funded by NASA and published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, evaluates the first large-scale deployment of a single photon lidar instrument over the entirety of Garrett County (1700 sq. km) in Maryland. 

“This is a noteworthy development in the field of lidar remote sensing, which is traditionally energy intensive and limited in coverage,” said Dr. Anu Swatantran, Assistant Research Professor in the University of Maryland Department of Geographical Sciences and lead author on the research paper. "There are challenges, as with any new technology, but the level of 3D detail provided by the instrument is exceptional and accuracies of ground and canopy attributes are comparable to other lidar systems.”  

The instrument developed by Sigma Space uses an array of lasers to illuminate targets on the earth’s surface and captures energy returned from these targets more efficiently than other lidar instruments. The instrument requires only one photon to make an accurate measurement of the distance or range to landscape element. Each element of the 10 x 10 detector array is able to make a simultaneous measurement at any one instant. These observations are then used to map the vertical structure of the canopy, and as the instrument scans, to provide continuous spatial coverage. This is in contrast to conventional lidar, which needs hundreds to thousands of photons to make a reliable range estimate. 

Countywide elevation and canopy height maps.“Forest monitoring and associated carbon inventory was one of the main applications that guided the development of these instruments. We are very pleased to see it come to fruition. Units even more powerful than the one used in this campaign have already been developed,” said Dr. Marcos Sirota, President of Sigma Space. 

“One of the limitations of mapping 3D structure with conventional lidar is the expense, which results from having to fly low, having a narrow swath width and needing overlapping flight lines to achieve sufficient density of observations”, said Ralph Dubayah, a Geographical Sciences professor at the University of Maryland and the Principal Investigator of the project. "SPL provides an order of magnitude increase in mapping efficiency. This capability opens the door for mapping much larger areas on a repeated basis. This has great implications for the measurement and monitoring of carbon stored in trees, as forests are important carbon sinks -- that is, they sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. An increasing number of countries want to participate in carbon markets and climate treaties and can receive credit for their efforts to avoid deforestation and for afforestation. In either case, we need a means for quantifying forest over large areas and through time. This mapping ability has been a priority of NASA, and SPL potentially provides an innovative pathway towards achieving that goal.”

Dormant Black Hole Eats Star, Becomes X-Ray Beacon

June 22, 2016

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267 
Lee Tune 301-405-4679 

UMD Astronomers Catch X-Rays Released by Black Hole as it Swallows a Star

In this artist's rendering, a thick accretion disk has formed from a star that wandered too close and has been ripped apart and pulled toward a previously dormant supermassive black hole.  X-ray light—generated near the center of this thick, chaotic disk of hot stellar gas—flashes outward. Image Credit: NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State U. COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Roughly 90 percent of the biggest black holes in the known universe are dormant, meaning that they are not actively devouring matter and, consequently, not giving off any light or other radiation. But sometimes a star wanders too close to a dormant black hole and the ensuing feeding frenzy, known scientifically as a tidal disruption event, sets off spectacular fireworks. 

Astronomers from the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan are the first to document X-rays bouncing around deep within the walls of a once-dormant black hole’s newly formed accretion disk—the giant, puffy cloud of shredded star stuff circling the black hole, waiting for its turn to be swallowed up—during a tidal disruption event. Using these data, the researchers discerned the shape and activity of the accretion disk near a supermassive black hole named Swift J1644+57. 

This marks the first time such detailed observations have been made for a dormant supermassive black hole. In addition, the team’s methodology could open the door to reliable measurements of black hole spin in the near future. The results are published in the June 22, 2016 advance online edition
of the journal Nature.

“Most tidal disruption events don’t emit much in the high-energy X-ray band. But there have been at least three known events that have, and this is the first and only such event that has been caught at its peak,” said Erin Kara, a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow in astronomy at UMD and the Joint Space-Science Institute and lead author on the study. “NASA’s Swift satellite saw it first and triggered the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and NASA’s Suzaku satellite to target it for follow-up. So we have excellent data. We’re lucky that the one event we have is showing us all these exciting new things.”

The accretion disk has an effect somewhat like the reflective shield behind a flashlight bulb, reflecting, amplifying and focusing the radiation. The fact that X-rays can originate deep within the accretion disk of a tidal disruption event is surprising, according to Kara. Conventional wisdom among astronomers has long held that, during a tidal disruption event, high-energy X-rays are created further from the black hole in the relativistic jets—huge beams of particles ejected by the black hole and accelerated to nearly the speed of light. But seeing X-ray emissions bouncing off the walls of the inner accretion disk has cast a new light on this assumption.

“Before this result, there was no clear evidence that we were seeing into the innermost regions of the accretion disk,” Kara said. “We thought the emission was from the jet pointed at us, or further away and not close to central black hole. This new study shows us that, actually, we can see this reverberation at work very close to the central black hole.” 

To date, most of what astronomers know about supermassive black holes comes from a relative handful of black holes that are actively gathering and consuming matter. Evidence suggests, however, that these active black holes only account for about 10 percent of the total population of supermassive black holes in the universe. So any data from a dormant black hole is incredibly valuable to astronomers, in their effort to understand all types of black hole activity. 

“Understanding the black hole population in general is important. Black holes have played an important role in how galaxies evolved. So even if they’re dormant now, they weren’t before,” said Chris Reynolds, a professor of astronomy at UMD and a Fellow at the Joint Space-Science Institute who is a co-author on the study. “If we only look at active black holes, we might be getting a strongly biased sample. It could be that these black holes all fit within some narrow range of spins and masses. So it’s important to study the entire population to make sure we’re not biased.”

Swift J1644+57 consumed the material from the shredded star so quickly, the event briefly exceeded the Eddington Limit—the theoretical maximum “speed limit” that defines how fast a black hole can consume matter. This finding can help astronomers to understand how supermassive black holes grow to their enormous masses—up to several million times the mass of the sun. 

“The meaning of this extends far beyond the studies of tidal disruption events,” said Lixin Dai, a postdoctoral associate in physics at UMD and the Joint Space-Science Institute who is a co-author on the study. “It can help us understand how the biggest black holes in the universe formed and co-evolved with their host galaxies.”

The team used X-ray reverberation mapping to chart out the inside of the accretion disk. Much like sound waves can be used to map the seafloor or canyons by measuring the time delays of sound echoes, Kara, Reynolds and their colleagues computed small delays in the arrival time of X-ray signals reflected from iron atoms in the accretion disk.

“We know how sound echoes in a large auditorium, for example. Because we know the speed of sound, we can use the time delay information to calculate the shape of the auditorium,” Kara explained. “We are doing the same with X-ray radiation to map out the inner accretion disk. It’s a cool, novel technique that has only been developed within the last six years.”

Although the researchers have not yet been able to measure the spin of the black hole with reverberation mapping, they say the method could be used to make such measurements in the near future. By imaging the activity of the accretion disk immediately next to the black hole—which would be strongly affected by the black hole’s spin—the method could be used to directly measure the speed and direction of spin. 

“Looking at tidal disruption events with reverberation mapping might help us probe the spin of black holes in the future,” Reynolds said. “But just as importantly, we can follow along after an event and watch how the accretion disk spins down and energy dissipates as the black hole returns to a quiescent state. We might finally be able to observe all of these various states that, so far, we only know from theory textbooks.”

The research paper, “Relativistic Reverberation in the Accretion Flow of a Tidal Disruption Event,” Erin Kara, Jon Miller, Chris Reynolds and Lixin Dai, was published in the journal Nature on June 22, 2016.

Fifteen UMD Students Receive Critical Language Scholarships to Pursue Studies Around the World

June 17, 2016

Leslie Anne Brice 301-314-1289

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Fifteen University of Maryland students received awards from the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program to study abroad during summer 2016. The students will travel to China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, South Korea and Tajikistan for intensive language study. Based on CLS results published on May 9, 2016, UMD students received more awards than any other Big 10 institution, and the 15 students awarded surpasses the university’s previous record of 10 CLS awards granted in 2015.

“We are very pleased to see a record number of Maryland students earn the opportunity to pursue intensive language studies and to deepen their understanding of important nations and peoples around the globe,” said Francis DuVinage, Director of the National Scholarships Office at UMD. 

Over the past 10 years, the CLS Program has sent over 5,000 American undergraduate and graduate students overseas to learn critical languages all over the world. It provides fully-funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

CLS Program participants are among the more than 50,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. These exchange programs build relations and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The CLS Program is administered by American Councils for International Education.

2016 University of Maryland CLS Recipients 

Tabatha Anderson is a rising junior in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences double majoring in government & politics and Chinese. She is a member of College Park Scholars International Studies Program and Language House, and will take part in the Global Fellows program for 2017. She will study Chinese in Dalian, China.

Catherine Baker is a graduating senior in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences double majoring in environmental science and policy and French. She is an alumna of College Park Scholars International Studies Program, Language House, and the Global Fellows program. She will study Urdu in Lucknow, India.

Samuel Besse is a rising junior in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences double majoring in geographical sciences and economics. He is a member of the University Honors Program of the Honors College. He will study Urdu in Lucknow, India.

Zachary Goldblatt is a rising junior in the College of Arts and Humanities double majoring in Arabic and government & politics, and minoring in global terrorism. He is also a member of Global Communities, and will take part in the Global Fellows program for 2017. He will study Arabic in Ibri, Oman.

Laura Krahl is a graduating master’s student in the School of Public Policy, focusing on international security and economic policy. She will study Arabic in Amman, Jordan.

Amanda Lee is a rising junior in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences majoring in biological sciences. She is a member of the University Honors Program of the Honors College. She will study Korean in Gwangju, South Korea.

Hoang Nguyen is a rising sophomore in the A. James Clark School of Engineering majoring in mechanical engineering. He is a member of the Gemstone Program of the Honors College and Quest. He declined the CLS award to study Korean in favor of the Project Global Officer program. 

Rachel O’Meara is a graduating senior in the College of Arts and Humanities double majoring in linguistics and Chinese; Rachel took part in the Global Semester program for 2015. She declined the CLS award to study Chinese in favor of a Fulbright grant to teach English in Taiwan.

Diana Partridge is a doctoral student in the Department of Government and Politics in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. She will study Arabic in Meknes, Morocco.

Sarah Reynolds is a graduating master’s student in the School of Public Policy. She is also a 2013 alumna of the College of Arts and Humanities with a major in French and minor in international development and conflict management. She will study Indonesian in Malang, Indonesia.

Sydney Robinson is a rising junior in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences double majoring in physics and French. She is also a member of College Park Scholars Science, Discovery and the Universe Program. She will study Urdu in Lucknow, India. 

Jair Solis is a rising senior in the College of Arts and Humanities majoring in Persian and pursuing a global terrorism minor. He declined the CLS award to study Persian in Tajikistan in favor of the Public Policy and International Affairs program. 

Jasper Surrett is a rising senior in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences double majoring in government & politics and Persian. He was a member of College Park Scholars International Studies Program, and will take part in the Global Fellows program for 2017. He will study Persian in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Kyle Vaughan is a 2015 alumnus of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences with a major in government & politics and minor in Chinese. He was a member College Park Scholars Public Leadership Program and Language House. He will study Chinese in Suzhou, China.

Zuri Zhao is a rising junior in the Robert H. Smith School of Business double majoring in finance and information systems, and minoring in Chinese. She is a member of the Digital Cultures & Creativity Program of the Honors College. She will study Chinese in Xi'an, China. 

For further information about the CLS Program: http://www.clscholarship.org

Falling Fish Catches Could Mean Malnutrition in the Developing World

June 17, 2016

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The world will not be able to fish its way to feeding 10 billion people by midcentury, but a shift in management practices could save hundreds of millions of fish-dependent poor from malnutrition, according to a new analysis by members of the Fisheries and Food Security science team brought together and supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) at the University of Maryland.

The researchers used new databases on global fish catch and on human dietary nutrition to discover that the vulnerability of poor, fish-dependent populations in the tropics has been underestimated. These are the places whose fish resources are under the most intense pressure “from illegal fishing, weak governance, poor knowledge of stock status, population pressures and climate change,” according to the report published June 16 as a commentary in the journal Nature.

“SESYNC is a leader in providing funding for critical efforts to address emerging problems--such as issues around falling fish catches and malnutrition in the developing world--through new interdisciplinary partnerships to improve understanding,” said Margaret Palmer, director of SESYNC and a distinguished university professor in the department of entomology at UMD. “The scholarship that Chris Golden and his team have highlighted in their Nature commentary is a powerful reminder that interdisciplinary synthesis research has the potential to uniquely inform decisions and improve the design of public policies.” 

At its heart, the problem is a simple one of supply and demand: global fish catches peaked in 1996, while the Earth’s human population is expected to rise through 2050, from the current 7.3 billion to between 9 billion and 10 billion.

But that straightforward dynamic oversimplifies a problem also affected by natural processes, economic pressures, international regulations and human health needs.

Lead author Christopher Golden, research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and associate director of the Planetary Health Alliance, said that it is important to include human nutrition, along with biodiversity preservation and economic considerations, in determining how fisheries are managed.

The work estimates that, in the coming decades, 11 percent of global population – 845 million people -- is vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies due to its reliance on seafood, a figure that climbs to 19 percent, or 1.39 billion people, if nutrients only found in animal sources, such as vitamin B12 and DHAomega-3 fatty acids, are included.

The analysis of two new databases, one from Sea Around Us at the University of British Columbia and the other from a team led by Samuel Myers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that those most likely to suffer the impact of fisheries’ decline are the global poor, particularly those for whom fish make up a significant part of their diet.

“We’re missing an enormous piece of this picture, because many of the consequences of the way we manage resources and conserve natural systems will have very strong and powerful downstream effects on human health,” Golden said. “It’s not just a biodiversity issue; it’s not just an economics issue. We need to be really thinking through this third dimension, human health and well-being.”

While fish are recognized as an important source of protein, they also provide often overlooked micronutrients—like vitamin B12, iron and zinc, Golden said. According to the report, micronutrient deficiencies can affect maternal mortality, child mortality, cause cognitive defects, and impact immune function. Some 45 percent of mortality in children under age five is attributable to undernutrition.

The report says that the vulnerability of these poor, fish dependent populations in the tropics has been underestimated and that these are the very places whose fish resources are under the most intense pressure.

The problems facing subsistence fishing populations are not solely due to overfishing, which has been successfully addressed in some locations through sound management. In addition, destructive fishing practices and coastal pollution are degrading the aquatic environment, while climate change is also expected to have an effect. Warmer water and acidification bleaches coral reefs while rising temperatures force tropical species poleward. Climate change’s effects could reduce catch by 6 percent globally and by as much as 30 percent in certain tropical regions. Warming tropical seas will hold less oxygen and cause fish to get smaller, cutting overall biomass by about 20 percent by 2050.

Golden said those in industrialized nations can compensate for the nutritional gap left by a decline of fish in the diet. They can afford to buy replacement foods, supplements, and vitamins, while those in developing nations often have few alternatives.

Even among developing nations, however, there is much variation in the threats to local fish supplies. A large island nation like Madagascar, where Golden has worked on the interface between human health and the environment for 17 years, suffers most from unsustainable fishing practices and foreign fleets in its waters – issues that could be addressed with better management. Small island developing states, like Kiribati, Maldives, Palau, and Vanuatu, however, may have more intractable problems. Climate change will likely push local fish species toward the poles, while rising seas may flood low-lying areas where aquaculture is practiced. Many of those in their populations, meanwhile, are too poor to afford high quality replacement foods or to buy supplements to replace nutrients once received from dietary fish.

That means populations too poor to buy market substitutes, as in Madagascar, will likely fall back on less-nutrient rich foods, like rice and tubers. Those in wealthier nations, like Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia, meanwhile, may buy cheap processed foods to replace fish, which would increase the risk of metabolic diseases rather than undernutrition, Golden said.

“Wealthy nations are somewhat immune to these environmental effects. They can create systems of food imports, intensive agricultural food production, fortified foods, and supplements that buffer them from the potential pitfalls or consequences, whereas it is poorer populations dependent on the direct pathway from the environment to their own wellbeing that are most at risk,” Golden said. “There’s almost a reverse Robin Hood system where the wealthier nations are now going into biodiversity rich areas, with robust fish populations, and using foreign fleets to capture resources – both legally and illegally - and bring them back to wealthier populations that don’t need them.”

Aquaculture is seen by some as an answer to the problem, but Golden said that isn’t the case, at least as currently practiced. While global aquaculture production has exploded, outstripping wild catch destined for human consumption for the first time in 2014, much of the production is intended for tables in the developed world or for developing nations’ urban elite. In addition, he said, aquaculture is not entirely divorced from wild fisheries, as the fish meal fed farmed fish comes from wild caught stock.

While it’s unlikely that wild harvests will provide the same nutrition for midcentury’s significantly larger human population, better management can improve catches by as much as 10 percent, Golden said, and, if those practices have human nutrition in mind, hundreds of millions of cases of malnutrition can be avoided.

“The hopeful thing is that policy and management has been shown to rebound fisheries on the scale of a decade,” Golden said. “So it’s a really important time to be sounding this alarm so nutrition-sensitive policies can be implemented.”

Gravitational Waves Detected from Second Pair of Colliding Black Holes

June 15, 2016

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

UMD physicists contribute to second observation of ripples in space-time

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time—have been observed for the second time, by an international team of scientists that includes UMD physicists. Like the historic first detection announced this past February, these gravitational waves were also generated by the merger of two black holes.

The ability to detect these waves, created by violent cosmic collisions, excites scientists because it provides a new way to observe the universe, to “hear” a previously undetectable soundtrack of the cosmos.

Both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors—located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington—detected this gravitational wave event, named GW151226. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the Virgo Collaboration used data from the twin LIGO detectors to make the discovery, which is accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters

Two black holes merged and released gravity waves that reached Earth on December 26, 2015, marking the second observation of gravity waves by the twin LIGO detectors. Credit: Max Planck Institute/SXSGravitational waves carry information about their origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists on the LIGO and Virgo teams concluded that the final moments of a black hole merger produced the gravitational waves observed on December 26, 2015. 

LIGO’s first detection on September 14, 2015 resulted from a merger of two black holes 36 and 29 times the mass of the sun. In contrast, the black holes that created the second event were relative flyweights, tipping the scales at 14 and eight times the mass of the sun. Their merger produced a single, more massive spinning black hole that is 21 times the mass of the sun, and transformed an additional sun’s worth of mass into gravitational energy. 

“It's fabulous that our waveform models have pulled out from the noise such a weak but incredibly valuable gravitational wave signal,” said Alessandra Buonanno, a UMD College Park Professor of Physics and LSC principal investigator who also has an appointment as Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany. Buonanno has led the effort to develop highly accurate models of gravitational waves that black holes would generate in the final process of orbiting and colliding with each other. 

“GW151226 perfectly matches our theoretical predictions for how two black holes move around each other for several tens of orbits and ultimately merge,” Buonanno added. “Remarkably, we could also infer that at least one of the two black holes in the binary was spinning.”

The merger occurred approximately 1.4 billion years ago. The detected signal comes from the last 27 orbits of the black holes before their merger. Based on the arrival time of the signals—the Livingston detector measured the waves 1.1 milliseconds before the Hanford detector—researchers can roughly determine the position of the source in the sky.

“It is very significant that these black holes were much less massive than those observed in the first detection,” said Gabriela Gonzalez, LSC spokesperson and professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University. “Because of their lighter masses compared to the first detection, they spent more time—about one second—in the sensitive band of the detectors. It is a promising start to mapping the populations of black holes in our universe.” 

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced on February 11, 2016, was a milestone in physics and astronomy. It confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and marked the beginning of the new field of gravitational wave astronomy. 

“We could tell within minutes that GW151226 was very likely a real event. We all just marveled at it for a while,” said Peter Shawhan, an associate professor of physics at UMD and an LSC principal investigator. “By December we were sure that the first event was genuine and we had a fairly mature draft of that paper, which finally came out in February. But it was very satisfying to know, even then, that we already had a second event on our hands.”

The second discovery “has truly put the ‘O’ for Observatory in LIGO,” said Albert Lazzarini, deputy director of the LIGO Laboratory at Caltech. “With detections of two strong events in the four months of our first observing run, we can begin to make predictions about how often we might be hearing gravitational waves in the future. LIGO is bringing us a new way to observe some of the darkest yet most energetic events in our universe.”

Both discoveries resulted from the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increased the sensitivity of the instruments and the volume of the universe probed compared with the first-generation LIGO detectors. 

Advanced LIGO’s next data-taking run will begin this fall. By then, scientists expect further improvements in detector sensitivity could allow LIGO to reach as much as 1.5 to two times more of the volume of the universe compared with the first run, which has already resulted in two major findings. 

The Virgo detector, a third interferometer located near Pisa, Italy, with a design similar to the twin LIGO detectors, is expected to come online during the latter half of LIGO’s upcoming observation run. Virgo will improve physicists’ ability to locate the source of each new event, by comparing millisecond-scale differences in the arrival time of incoming gravitational wave signals.

The research paper, “GW151226: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a 22 Solar-mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence,” by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration, has been accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters

New Joint UMD Sadat Chair-Brookings Institution Poll Explores American Attitudes on Middle East Refugees

June 14, 2016

Sara Gavin 301-405-1733

Dr. Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings InstitutionCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – As ongoing conflicts in the Middle East cause refugees to flow out of multiple war-town countries in massive numbers, the question of whether to admit more refugees into the United States continues to be a source of debate for Washington policymakers and U.S. presidential candidates. A new survey conducted by Dr. Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, sheds light on American attitudes towards refugees from the Middle East—from Syria, Iraq and Libya, in particular. The poll’s key findings were released Monday, June 13 during an event held at the Brookings Institution to launch a two-day forum on the refugee crisis. 

The new poll finds that the majority of Americans (59 percent) believe the United States should accept refugees from Middle East conflicts, assuming they are screened for security risks. Support is stronger among Democrats (77 percent) and Millennials (68 percent). Opposition is strongest among supporters of Donald Trump (77 percent) and Republicans (63 percent). 

Survey participants who indicated they were opposed to taking in refugees are closely divided between being concerned about terrorism (46 percent) and worrying about the economic burden (41 percent). Nine percent say they are concerned about having more Muslims in the U.S. To varying degrees, Americans are divided on the issue of moral obligation to help refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts, with somewhat more obligation toward Iraqi refugees (54 percent), followed by Syrian refugees (51 percent), then Libyan refugees (49 percent). Of younger Americans responding to the poll, 60 percent believe the United States has a moral obligation to help Syrian refugees.

“One of the biggest concerns of those opposing taking in refugees from the Middle East is terrorism. Yet the public has a hugely exaggerated perception of the degree to which refugees pose a risk. When asked how many refugees they believe have been arrested since 9/11 over terrorism charges, only 14 percent said less than five, and 28 percent said over 100. The actual total is 3,” said Professor Telhami.

When asked if they believe the U.S. should take in more war refugees, Americans were more likely to support initiatives that passed the responsibility to non-governmental organizations and to prefer those that dealt with refugees abroad, rather than at home. The most favorable response was sending humanitarian professionals to refugees abroad (79 percent), followed by American support to charities helping refugees abroad (60 percent).

The survey was conducted between May 20 and May 31, 2016 with a nationally represented sample, including an oversample of Millennials, from a probabilistic panel of participants recruited by Nielsen Scarborough of 1,580 adults. Responses were weighted by age, gender, income, education, race, geographic region and partisan identification. 

Read more about the poll’s key findings.  


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