University of Vermont

Center for Research on Vermont

Water pollution, good government, teen driving and more

A Framework for Progress: Investing in Vermont’s people, infrastructure, and good government is the title of a new report by the Montpelier-based Public Assets Institute, a Vermont public policy think-tank. The report details an agenda for Vermont’s next governor and legislature that focuses on Vermont families, strategic investments and transparency.

HUMANITIES

A recent study by Harvard researchers found unsafe levels of toxic poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFOAs) in drinking water in 33 states, including Vermont – with more than 250 contaminated wells in Bennington. The source of the chemicals can be traced back to the former Chemfab plant which used PFOAs to weatherproof fabric. The degree of pollution found in Bennington illustrates the researchers’ findings, that the problem may be more widespread across the country than originally perceived.

On-farm processing of value-added dairy products can aid small dairy farms in increasing revenue and diversifying production, concludes a recent study by UVM researchers. The case study examined the traits of three groups of Vermont farmers with grass-based dairy farms--one group producing value-added dairy products, one interested in such products, and one not interested in them.

Can theory be used to better understand local food system changes and community economic development impacts? Researchers at Purdue University say it can, in their recent case study of Hardwick, Vermont. The report includes the conclusion that theories, such as social capital theory, can be used to predict how relationships within the local food movement will help to achieve community economic development.  

As August gives way to September, the month nationally dedicated to suicide prevention and awareness, suicide rates in Vermont remain above the national average. Eighty Vermonters commit suicide annually -- a rate of 14 deaths per 100,000, compared with 11 per 100,000 nationally. Check out the Seven Days article for more information as well as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

ENERGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

Proponents of the proposed wind energy project for southern Vermont estimate that it could bring in $1 million annually into the towns of Windham and Grafton. The Stiles Brook Wind Study examined plans to build 28 wind turbines in the Stiles Brook Forest. This proposition has been hotly debated, prompting Windham’s decision to allow the town an Australian Ballot vote on the issue in November.

With school back in session: A recent study indicates that the state of Vermont has the highest number of environmental academic programs per 1,000,000 inhabitants in the U.S. Conducted by researcher Aldemaro Romero Jr. of Baruch College, this analysis sought to determine how environmental programs in U.S. institutions of higher education are constituted. According to Romero, the findings indicate “a lack of unifying principles and clarity on what environmental studies programs should be.”

Vermont is still the only state without teen nighttime driving restrictions, despite pressure to expand them after a new study revealed that a third of teen crashes occur during the night. New drivers are currently required to drive 10 of 40 hours at night in order to obtain a Junior Driver’s License. In 2011, 16.6% of all casualties in fatal accidents were teenagers.

SCIENCE

UVM professor Dr. Victor May discovered new evidence of the relationship between chronic pain and anxiety disorders. This long-noted but little-understood trend was solidified when May discovered that greater releases of PACAP, a peptide neurotransmitter, coincided with an increased response to pain. This realization could serve as a starting point for new treatment methods for those suffering from either malady.

Recent research conducted on seven diverse, forested watersheds in the northeastern U.S.--including the Sleeper’s River Watershed in Vermont-- analyzed hydrological responses to future climate projections. Led by scientists at Boston University, the analysis suggested that dominant vegetation and soil types are important attributes in determining future hydrologic responses to climate change.

VERMONT BOOKS

Burlington author Angela Palm’s new memoir, Riverine: A Memoir From Anywhere  But Here, describes her close relationship with a next-door neighbor, his troubled outbursts and eventually his murder of two elderly residents in the community. Check out the Seven Days review to learn more. 

William Doyle’s classic book; Vermont’s Political Tradition: And those who helped make it (1987) was recently reviewed by Tyler Resch, Co-Editor of the Walloomsack Review. (Note: Tyler’s reviews of 30 prominent Vermont books will be featured in each newsletter going forward).

Retired UVM faculty member Dr. Malcolm Severance has published a new book detailing the Grossman School of Business’ 120-year-long journey to become a top tier school. Dr. Severance discussed The Pursuit of Excellence: A History of the University of Vermont School of Business Administration at Phoenix Books on September 6th.

STUDENT RESEARCH

In 1978, the population of the Common Loon in Vermont totalled a low of 8 pairs, which has now grown to 80. A thesis report by Alfred University graduate Lauren Schramm studied the state’s loons, which are at risk for inbreeding due to the population, to look for signs of genetic problems.

Vermont has an above-average prevalence of asthma for both children and adults, which may be related to differing temperatures as well as particulate matter. Recent research by UVM graduate student Quincy McKenzie Campbell examined patterns of asthma exacerbation related to climate and weather in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

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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, the Humanities Center and the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Vermont.

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