University of Vermont

Center for Research on Vermont

Legislators, public policy, maple syrup and more...

Vermont Research News - May 23, 2017

The floor of the Vermont legislature.
Vermont legislature

Vermont’s universal recycling law is working, according to a recent report from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. The state has seen a 5% decrease in solid waste in landfills and a 2% increase in recycling and composting between 2015 to 2016. At the same time, the law has led to a 40% increase in fresh food donations to the Vermont Food Bank's. Read more about that program here.  

Vermont’s citizen and part-time legislature draws a large number of retirees.Legislators average 58 years old with 11 under 40, accordiing to student researcher Olivia Robb. The House and Senate both average 58, but Progressives and Independents are slightly younger, on average, Robb found. Overall, her findings are; House of Representatives; Republicans: 63.6, Democrats: 59.8, Progressives: 55, Independents 53.1, : Senate; Republican: 57.5, Democratic: 66.1 & Independents 49.5.

Farms & Food
In order to better understand and address community food insecurity, researchers from UVM and Duke University surveyed Vermont farmers about how and why they provide local food to low-income communities in the state. The research sought to give extension professionals a better idea of how to support them and help achieve the goals of food security and farm viability.
The economic contribution and potential impact of local food purchases made by Vermont schools was examined in a May 2016 report by the Center for Rural Studies at UVM. The study found that although local food purchases by VT schools makeup a small contribution to the state economy, the reliability of the school business for local producers provides a foundational market for their products. The research also presents opportunities for an increase in local food purchasing by Vermont schools.

Tropical Storm Irene

Social capital plays an important role in the recovery process from Hurricane Irene, according to a recent analysis by University of Massachusetts, Amherst researchers. Their report notes that after government resources were depleted, recovery groups began to emerge all throughout Vermont. These groups were formed through bridging and bonding social capital within communities and helped victims of this natural disaster recover in two years. Read the report in Natural Hazards here.

Medical Research

Since 2009, there has been a decline in women utilizing mammography screenings in Vermont. A study conducted by UVM researchers has found that the shift is largely due to changing screening guidelines and reductions in visits by women who are at low risk of developing breast cancer.
A recent study has found that Vermont residents have misperceptions about the actual health risks of ionizing radiation. Conducted by the Vermont Department of Health and UVM, the survey showed that 80 percent of respondents underestimated the contribution of medical imaging tests to total ionizing radiation exposure, and only one-third of those who received a medical imaging test in the past year were educated by their healthcare professional about the risks of these tests.


Vermont lost three important writers this year: Leland Kinsey, Howard Frank Mosher and David Budbill. Special Collections at UVM houses the papers from these authors – "personal collections that serve as a rich source for understanding" – more info here. See other past blog posts and sign up for the Special Collections blog here.

Moving Ice

By exploring the deep, dark reaches of nearby Weybridge Cave, faculty at Middlebury College were able to shed insight on the moving patterns of glacial ice, a difficult feat. Using luminescence dating techniques on sediments collected from the cave, the researchers determined that the sediment dated back to before the most recent glaciation--some 35,000 to 68,000 years. This finding enabled them to calculate an ice migration rate of 100 to 200 feet per year. Details about the study, published in the Journal of Quaternary Science, can be found here.

Maple Syrup

With Vermont’s 2017 sugaring season finished, two recent studies examine the health of the state’s maple trees. Is the increased amount of syrup drawn from trees in Vermont unsustainable? Advancements in technology have allowed sugarers to double syrup outputs from existing maple trees. In a recent study, UVM researchers looked at trees from 18 sites where these high-yield techniques are used, finding that 35% of trees sampled had lower growth rates. Read their article in Forest Science here.  

Vermont researchers have found further evidence of sugar maples’ important relationship with the elements calcium and aluminum. While testing for growth changes associated with the introduction of a number of elements (including potassium, phosphorus, and iron), the trees’ health improved only from soil content with calcium and molar ratios of calcium and aluminum. These findings emphasize the need to curb anthropogenic calcium depletion in order to continue producing maple syrup in the future at the same rate.