University of Vermont

Center for Research on Vermont

Opioid use, food deserts, carbon capture, wild bee declines and the Elizaebeth mine

In his 2016 state of the state address, Governor Peter Shumlin detailed policies to prevent and treat opiate addiction. "The prescription opioid abuse epidemic in rural America: A look at how it begins" is the title of a recent article by two faculty at UVM’s College of Medicine, Stacey Sigmon and Amanda Kennedy. “Our data suggest that a remarkable proportion of rural patients' problematic opioid use began at a young age and with their own prescription,” the researchers write. They emphasize the “importance of identifying vulnerable patients at risk for developing opioid abuse" after being prescribed opiates.


The first national study to document the decline in wild bee population was released last month by researchers at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. Led by Insuh Roh and Taylor Ricketts, the team of scientists estimate wild bee abundance declined by 23 percent in the United States between 2008 and 2013 – a decline that could threaten crop production. More information here.

As Vermont’s 22,000 college students start school in January, they may be interested in the results of a new study on techniques to reduce stress by Amy Welch at Johnson State College and Nathan Meier of Iowa State University. The researchers tested several stress reduction approaches, including brief paced-breathing and exercise, finding that “biofeedback and exercise interventions improved emotional states in high-stress college students, but the type of change observed (i.e. energizing, calming or anxiety reducing) depended upon the condition.”


Vermont is home to a number of food deserts -- places without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Researcher Valerie Imbruce surveyed Bennington residents lived experiences in accessing food finding that while food costs were generally higher, survey participants did not consider food prices or distance to retailers to be barriers to access. The research was part of a NSF funded course Dr. Imbruce developed examining mill towns with Bennington as the specific example.

Transportation challenges facing older Vermonters is a difficult issue in a rural state with an aging population. A recent study based on data from Chittenden County found that “older adults reported overwhelming difficulty getting to activities considered important, with 69% of participants delaying medical appointments due to transportation barriers.”  The team of researchers at the College of Medicine including former Vermont Commissioner of Health Jan Carney conclude that “Many older adults face significant transportation challenges that negatively affect their health and well-being.”

How immigrant populations learn English is a growing area of research. Scholarly discourse on English Language Learners (ELLs) often uses a deficit orientation constructing them as an educational “problem” rather than an asset, argues Middlebury College professor Shawna Shapiro. Shapiro finds that students link deficit discourse with limited educational opportunity, and that particular schooling practices—language/literacy testing and tracking into low-level English classes—is a reinforcement of deficit discourse. In a recent article, Shapiro examines how students perceived and resisted this deficit discourse by analyzing statements these students made during public protest and personal interviews.


The re-forestation of Woodstock’s Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller (MBR) National Historical Park is the focus of research by RESNR MS student Andrea Urbana examining issues related to long-term forest carbon storage. The park was the first to be actively reforested in the eastern U.S. and has 150 years of extensive records kept by park managers. Working with her advisor, UVM Professor Bill Keeton, Urbana found “a positive relationship between forest carbon storage and structural complexity, supporting the concept of multifunctional forestry emphasizing late-successional habitats.” A report on the work with Dr. Keeton is here.


The Elizabeth Mine in South Strafford, Vermont, the largest copper mine in New England supplied more than 50,000 tons of copper for the American Industrial Revolution, World War II and the Korean War during 140 years of operation. Industrial historian Matt Kierstead documents the mine’s story in a new book: From Copperas to Cleanup: The history of Vermont’s Elizabeth Copper Mine (2014). The book is available at the Vermont Historical Society and was reviewed in the Walloomsack Review by Victor Rolando.

One of Vermont’s historical entrepreneurs is profiled in a new book by Richard Allen, Ambition and Grit: The Life of Truman Naramore, Civil War Veteran and Entrepreneur (Queen City Printers and published by the Chittenden County Historical Society). 

The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research -- focused on research in the Vermont "laboratory" -- research that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to understanding of the state's social, economic, cultural and physical environment.

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Funding provided by the Lintilhac Foundation and the Humanities Center at the University of Vermont.