ORONO — Like many crops internationally, wild blueberries face a number of threats posed by local weather change, together with rising temperatures. Rafa Tasnim from Dhaka, Bangladesh, is making an attempt to pinpoint new methods growers can shield certainly one of Maine’s most iconic crops through the use of sources from the state’s yard.
Since becoming a member of the College of Maine in 2019, Tasnim, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and environmental sciences, has led research that exposed that wild blueberry fields in Down East Maine are warming sooner than the state as a complete, and that fields expertise warming in another way, relying on their location, the season and the time of day, amongst different elements. Her work has garnered state and nationwide media consideration.
These research, nonetheless, are solely the start of what Tasnim hopes to perform whereas at UMaine. One other current research that Tasnim co-authored discovered that wild blueberries are extra delicate to dry situations over a protracted time frame, that means correct soil moisture administration is extra important than beforehand anticipated. Tasnim is evaluating supplies that will enhance water retention within the soil that will shield the vegetation throughout dry durations at blueberry fields, significantly these as soon as thought of waste merchandise like compost and biochar to assist create extra sustainable meals methods. She additionally has been assessing soil amendments, foliar fertilizers — these utilized on to leaves, and nanocellulose.
“I’m making an attempt to check supplies which can be accessible right here,” she says. “My thought is to make use of no matter recyclable waste we’ve got round us in order that we don’t pressurize the landfills anymore.”
Tasnim conducts her analysis within the lab of YongJiang Zhang, her adviser and an assistant professor of utilized plant physiology, and at UMaine’s Blueberry Hill Farm in Jonesboro. The tools she makes use of consists of distant sensing instruments and ArcGIS software program, transportable leaf photosynthesis measurement system, leaf chlorophyll content material meter, leaf space meter, soil moisture meter, actual time soil water stress monitoring sensors and strain chamber that may measure plant water stress and different plant attributes.
Ecology and environmental sciences was not at all times Tasnim’s subject of research. She started her tutorial profession in civil engineering, incomes her bachelor’s from the Navy Institute of Science and Expertise (MIST) in her hometown and a grasp’s diploma from the Hong Kong College of Science and Expertise (HKUST), with a specialization in geo-environmental engineering.
Her ardour for safeguarding meals methods from a warming planet ignited whereas she was engaged on a slope stability undertaking throughout her postgraduate research in Hong Kong. Particularly, she was investigating the consequences of elevated carbon dioxide ranges on vegetation that grows alongside slopes, which helps stabilize them by eradicating extra moisture by transpiration. Tasnim discovered that rising carbon dioxide ranges scale back transpiration of these vegetation, which she says can result in extra water strain in these slopes throughout rainfall additional reducing soil stability and put slopes at higher danger of landslides.
Whereas conducting her undertaking, Tasnim says she realized she loved researching vegetation, and the way greenhouse gasses and local weather have an effect on the plant-soil interplay greater than conventional civil engineering analysis areas, and she or he resolved to shift gears and pursue a brand new subject.
“That’s how issues modified for me,” she says. “That was the time in my grasp’s program that basically sparked and helped me to grasp what I actually needed.”
Whereas learning at UMaine, Tasnim has mentored undergraduate college students for their very own analysis tasks, taught programs, introduced and judged on the 2019 and 2021 UMaine Pupil Symposium, introduced her analysis on the twelfth Worldwide Vaccinium Symposium final 12 months, and served as a technical reviewer for a number of journals.
She additionally has earned a number of fellowships, grants and different awards from the college and out of doors organizations, all of which have totally funded her research. This 12 months, she obtained the Doctoral Pupil Graduate Analysis Excellence Award from the Faculty of Pure Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture; the Janet Waldron Doctoral Analysis Fellowship from the Graduate Faculty; and the BioME Seed Grant from the Bioscience Affiliation of Maine.
Tasnim was nonetheless looking for Ph.D. applications when she moved to Maine along with her husband, SK Belal Hossen, so he may pursue his doctoral diploma in geotechnical engineering at UMaine. She got interested within the college’s program choices after seeing the analysis carried out within the greenhouses on campus. Assembly with Zhang, studying about his analysis and witnessing the top-of-the-line instruments in his lab, nonetheless, sealed the deal, Tasnim says.
Zhang has offered steering on which programs would assist her to execute her analysis and related her with different consultants like Lily Calderwood, wild blueberry specialist of UMaine Extension and assistant professor of horticulture, and Francis Drummond, professor emeritus of insect ecology and pest administration.
“He’s the very best,” Tasnim says about Zhang. “With out my adviser’s steering and instructions — he really confirmed me the way to transfer ahead with this type of analysis — nothing would have been attainable.”
Whereas Tasnim’s research have been vital and garnered widespread acclaim, she says they imply little except growers apply her findings to their administration methods. That’s the reason she depends on and tremendously admires the professionals at UMaine Extension, who make her analysis and others extra accessible to producers and most of the people.
UMaine Extension consultants like Calderwood facilitate entry to advanced tutorial analysis carried out within the college by creating annual stories that compile researchers’ findings, and host conferences and subject days the place growers can actually meet and focus on the analysis findings with UMaine school and researchers. Tasnim has been aiding Calderwood and others in drafting the stories for the blueberry growers since becoming a member of UMaine in 2019.
“That’s the factor I be ok with, is that my publications will not be just a few papers which can be revealed and cited. They’re really attending to precise audiences: the growers from Maine and doubtlessly growers from different states, different areas too,” Tasnim says. “If (my work) will not be going to assist anyone change something, then it doesn’t matter what number of publications I’ve or what number of citations that I get.”
Tasnim plans to graduate from UMaine in fall 2023. After receiving her doctoral diploma, she hopes to proceed serving to growers, conducting soil and plant science analysis below altering local weather and supporting extra sustainable meals methods by working as a college researcher, an worker of a federal company or in analysis and improvement.
“Whether or not you imagine it or not, local weather change is occurring. Meals insecurity is occurring. Agricultural crop methods are devastated in numerous areas of the world,” Tasnim says. “I actually need my analysis to have implications on the actual world, even when it’s a tiny bit, by way of crop methods and meals insecurity issues.”