Friday, January 26, 2024

UNE launches research initiative to decode DNA of rare multi-colored lobsters

With the donation of two, new rare-colored lobsters, the University of New England in Biddeford has launched an ambitious research project to decode the genetic basis for rare lobster coloration.

The University of New England is home to a dual-colored
lobster named Currant, left, and a one-in-a-million purple
lobster named Fig. Both rare lobsters will have their DNA
studied by the school.
A lobster typically appears brown or “mottled” in appearance, though in rare cases they can come in various colors, including blue, yellow, orange, red, and even white or albino. Researchers say the precise genetic mechanisms responsible for these extraordinary variations remain largely unknown.

UNE’s Dr. Markus Frederich, a professor of marine sciences, is hoping to change that.

Frederich and his students are leading an effort to better understand the molecular basis for these lobsters’ colorful shells. The team is currently developing non-invasive methods for extracting genetic samples from the lobsters, which Frederich says may provide insight into why some lobsters diverge from their typical coloration.

“At this point, no one really knows in detail why some lobsters develop these multicolor variations, though we do have some theories,” Frederich remarked. “We hope to use this gene expression research to study the molecular biology of these creatures in a way that is not harmful to the lobsters.”

The research team doesn’t have to look far for subjects.

With its reputation for excellence in the marine sciences, UNE has become a magnet for these rare lobsters in recent years, housing an impressive lineup including orange, yellow, split-colored, and calico varieties — each with rarity ranging from 1-in-30 million to 1-in-50 million.

And now, UNE is home to another rare pair of oceanic oddities.

The first is a blue and brown split lobster, the odds of finding which are one-in-50 million. The dual-colored bottom dweller has been named Currant and was donated by Boothbay resident Eben Wilson on the FV Lettie Elise.

Joining Currant is Fig, a one-in-a-million baby purple lobster, who was caught, raised, and donated to the Arthur P. Girard Marine Science Center by UNE alum and graduate research assistant Aubrey Jane B.S. ’20 (Marine Biology).

In June 2023, UNE welcomed Peaches, a one-clawed orange lobster who became a viral sensation.

In addition to studying the DNA of the center’s full-grown lobsters, UNE undergraduates working on the project are currently tending to the eggs of an orange lobster to see how many of the offspring will be orange. They expect the eggs to hatch this spring.

“These rare lobsters appearing more and more on social media, and no one seems to know exactly why they turn these different colors,” Frederich said. “We have access to all these different lobsters, and we have students who are eager to do the research. We thought, ‘Let’s jump on this.’”

And while the researchers plan to study UNE’s resident lobsters, Frederich said he is in talks with several local lobstermen to create research partnerships that would see rare lobsters brought to UNE for study before they are released back into the wild.

Dr. Charles Tilburg, academic director of UNE’s School of Marine and Environmental Programs, said the research effort is a way for UNE to meaningfully engage with industry in support of student experiential learning.

“This is the type of project that plays to both UNE’s strengths and our goals,” Tilburg said. “Dr. Frederich and his team are performing novel, interesting research while partnering with a local industry, providing outstanding training for our students, and answering important questions in the field.” <



Friday, January 19, 2024

Power of connection inspires yoga instructor to teach others

By Kaysa Jalbert

The discussion about yoga is vast, says passionate Yoga Instructor Amber Caron of Windham. She believes yoga modalities support centering and strengthening the mind, body, and spirit through mindful movement and pranayama, the practice on focusing and regulating one’s breath.

Experienced yoga instructor
Amber Caron of Windham
offers free Vinyasa Yoga
classes from 7:30 to 8:30
a.m. Saturdays in the 
Meeting Room at the
Windham Public Library.
Vinyasa Yoga is described as a form of yoga in which poses, or asanas, are linked together in flow and synchrony with breathing, Caron says. “There is variety and creativity in this, and a fluidity that evolves throughout the practice.”

Caron oversees free Vinyasa Yoga classes from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Saturdays in the Meeting Room at the Windham Public Library and she said the public is always welcome to participate.

“Vinyasa Yoga can be practiced anywhere, from studio to sidewalk, sandy beach to conference room, bedroom to surfboard,” said Caron. “Comfortable clothing for freedom of movement is beneficial, as are mats for grip and cushioning. Props such as blocks can be used to offer variations, enhance postures, or encourage engagements.

Yoga comes in many forms and is often practiced with the intention of bringing awareness and depth to one’s breathing and posture, however, some are intentionally taught at a slower or gentler pace, as one might find in a Restorative yoga class, or draw particular emphasis on spiritual and energetic elements of this practice, such as Kundalini yoga, or may follow a more specific sequence of powerful poses, as can be found in Ashtanga yoga classes.

There are many types, with varying focus, pace, emphasis, and architecture, and those interested in trying yoga may want to explore options, instructors, and classes to find their best fit.

The discussion of yoga itself is infinitely vast as are the benefits to our overall well-being. Research exists supporting benefits of yoga including improved breathing, sleep, balance, flexibility, strength, cardiovascular health, focus, and stability, as well as help in reducing stress, anxiety, and inflammation.

“The science behind how all this occurs is amazing, and expanding, and the massive body of physicians, therapists, researchers, and educators supporting yoga in study and practice continues to grow,” Caron said.

She began practicing yoga many years ago, taking classes offered at her gym from a strong and energetic yoga instructor.

“Over time, I began to notice a different kind of strength, stability, flexibility, and endurance, not just in body, but mind as well,” Caron said.

Sports-related injuries that had previously left Caron with instability and lack of mobility, particularly in the low back and around an ankle joint, vanished over time once she started practicing yoga. She says stability in these areas grew by balancing core and strength work, while scar tissue broke up over time through committed practice and attention in asanas that increased range of motion, and strength.

Her yoga instructor encouraged her to get certified to teach, and she decided to pass on what she’s learned to others. It took a few years to complete her certification while juggling working full time, teaching, and beginning a family.

“In this, while I am most grateful for all yoga’s provided over the years,” she said. “I reaped so many benefits during each of my pregnancies, as well as postpartum. Sharing this practice quickly became a realized gift.”

Caron said one aspect of yoga appeals the most to her.

“There are far too many wonderful attributes of yoga I could discuss here, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say the essence of connection,” Caron said. “Yoga in practice fosters harmony and unification in our physical, mental, emotional, and energetic bodies. It allows us the patience, space, and permission to be in our moment, practice insourcing versus outsourcing wisdom. Energy goes where attention flows. So, when we explore, heal, and grow within, we place ourselves in a position to provide positive inception to others. Therein too lies connection, in resonance, coherence, and energetic vibration with all. And sharing this, connecting with others in an offering that also helps them connect with themselves, now that’s a real gift. For that, I am grateful.”

She is now a Certified Yoga Instructor through Yoga Alliance, RYT500/ERYT200, with over 15 years of teaching group, corporate, and private yoga, and holds specialty yoga certificates in Active Adults, Athletes, Women’s Health, and Warriors/Trauma Informed.

Feel free to drop in or reach out in advance and reserve a spot in her Saturday morning class by sending an email to <

Friday, January 12, 2024

A matter of historical record: Digging into the secrets of Windham’s Old Province Fort

By Walter Lunt

Two-hundred eighty years after its construction, Windham’s Old Province Fort has begun giving up some of its secrets. Mere months before the outbreak of King George’s War (1744 to 1748), the hardy European colonists of New Marblehead (later Windham) scrambled to build protection from unavoidable hostilities with the local native population. Encroachment on ancient Indian lands, interference with their way of life and mounting conflicts between English and French ambitions on the American continent would make warfare inevitable.

In their Maine Historic Preservation Commission report,
archeologists reveal the precise location of New 
Marblehead's (Windham's) old Province Fort (1744-1782).
Numerous cultural features are uncovered as well.
Construction began in the spring of 1744. Four years of grisly, bloody hostilities followed, largely outside the boundaries of New Marblehead. Most of the settlement’s 12 families lived within the fortress walls, until May 1756 when one settler was killed and another wounded and scalped during a scuffle near the fort that also claimed the life of Polin, sagamore of the Presumpscot-Sebago band of Wabanaki Natives.

Archaeologists John Mosher and Leith Smith from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission along with a dedicated force of local volunteers conducted a state-mandated archaeological investigation on a section of River Road near its intersection with Anderson Road in Windham during the Maine Department of Transportation’s River Road reconstruction project in 2019.

The fort, which may have included two 2-story flankers positioned at opposite corners of a blockhouse and surrounded by defensive fencing was built for the protection of the founding settlers from “Indian raids.”

Laboratory study on the features and cultural artifacts uncovered on the site took months to complete; a 378-page report on the findings was released in 2022. Among the findings: hundreds of cultural items from kitchen ware to gun flints and musket balls; a blacksmith forge; and the precise location of the fort (1744 to 1789), which was in the middle of present-day River Road between the Parson Smith House driveway and the Anderson Road intersection.

Early Windham historians from the late 19th and early 20th centuries described the fort as being “two stories with walls one-foot thick of hewn hemlock timber…surrounded by a stockade about 25 or 30 feet from it.” Mosher and Smith however, reported they could not prove the existence of the two 10-foot square flankers, or watch boxes, said to have been placed at opposite corners of the blockhouse and equipped with swivel guns. The investigators maintain that “such architectural features leave a distinct signature,” but none was found. The blockhouse entrance was located on the façade that faced Westbrook. Excavations failed to reveal a source of fresh water or evidence of at least one privy. When built, the fortress was known to be the refuge for at least 12 families and up to 50 people.

The fort was utilized as a military-style defensive structure from 1744 to about 1760 when its use was converted to a school, a meeting house, and a church. Construction of the Parson Smith house, located adjacent to the fort, began in 1764. It would be the residence of Windham’s esteemed second settled minister, Peter Thatcher Smith.

The accompanying illustration is an interpretive graphic of the archaeological findings.

The blockhouse is the enclosed portion of the fort. Archaeologists Mosher and Smith determined that earlier historical descriptions of the size of the fort’s blockhouse (50-foot square) were accurate. They could not confirm that the great fence surrounding the blockhouse was a palisade, or stockade, style (vertical posts set close together). Instead, they believe the logs were stacked horizontally, one on top of another, several feet high. Mosher and Smith surmised, “…that the trench-bottom was situated within a few centimeters of bedrock and did not reveal post holes or wood fragments, strongly suggest(ing) that the palisade consisted of stacked logs, not log pickets.”

Earlier excavation

An earlier excavation, in 2016, uncovered a chimney base, or hearth (with bake oven), measuring 12 ½ feet by 5 ½ feet located just inside the blockhouse entrance under the present-day lawn of the Parson Smith house. Further investigation in 2019 turned up 18th century stoneware and tin-glazed earthenware – the investigators believe the hearth may have served not only the blockhouse but a possible adjacent building.

Running along the inside of the western palisade (nearly parallel to the River Road’s south travel lane) “…linear arrays of stone rubble suggest there was a boardwalk…for use by sentries as they kept watch over the fort and its inhabitants.”

A cobbled area of sharp, angular stones was discovered over a 300-square-foot area along the south façade of the blockhouse, extending and sloping well beyond the palisade. Called a glacis, or armored bank, the investigators believe the slippery, ankle-breaking field of rocks was intentionally built to “…thwart a direct foot assault on the southern flank of the (fort) and to provide a clear view to direct musket fire.” The glacis, therefore, was placed strictly as a defensive measure during the fort period; investigators, however, determined it was used later as a dumping ground when the fort no longer served a military function.

Fascinating clues to the culture of a period can be gleaned from items lost or thrown away. Several middens, or trash dumps, were discovered during at least five archaeological surveys between 1979 and 2022. The largest and most revealing was found on what is today the lawn in front of the Parson Smith carriage house. Investigations showed that the fort community kept, butchered, and consumed domestic stock, including cattle, swine, and sheep; the remains of deer, turtle, passenger pigeon, fish and freshwater mussels were also found.

Cultural finds included ceramics, Staffordshire slipware, glass, mortar, plaster, clay pipes, buttons, boot buckles, brick bits, sewing pins and bone combs. The fort’s confines also surrendered gun flints and lead shot, a partial musket barrel, musket, and pistol balls (some were 60 to 70 caliber) and one lead ball with embedded molar prints, “…suggesting use during a painful surgical procedure.”

Some items were deemed (imported) English in origin – others were manufactured in America. The investigators believe most were brought to the fort by the New Marblehead farm families.

The authors of the lengthy archaeological report on the Province Fort commented that the artifacts revealed a “life under siege” – one that lasted for nearly six years.

In what the report calls a “fortuitous” event, construction crews had to regrade the River Road end of the Parson Smith driveway. In doing so, the excavation exposed animal bone, wrought nails, discolored brick and stone, glazed stoneware and various indeterminate pieces of iron and iron slag. Further work in the area uncovered deposits of charcoal and soot-covered artifacts buried in 200-year-old dark soil. Their presence, say the investigators, indicate it was the site of a blacksmith’s forge that measured nearly 8 feet in length and likely used by a smithy that was smelting local bog iron, the source of which was probably the nearby Inkhorn Brook, whose waters are known to be iron rich. Smelting is the process of applying heat and an agent to extract a base metal. Iron hardware for the fort was manufactured on site, and the blacksmith shop likely served not only as an armory for the fort defenders, but also as a secondary hearth for food preparation.

The report speculates the forge was probably built while the fort was being constructed in the spring of 1744 and was likely covered by a shed roof. It was located outside the walls of the blockhouse but within the perimeter fence.


Two blacksmiths were known to have occupied New Marblehead at the time of the fort: Caleb Graffam and William Mayberry; they probably “spent a considerable amount of time at the fort (during its construction) due to the requirements of (making) charcoal, collecting bog iron and performing the smelting…Graffam produced and repaired ox shoes, yokes, sleds (for hauling timber), staples and rakes.” Firearm maintenance and the manufacture of lead balls and shot may also have taken place at the forge.

Post Fort Era: Defensive activities at the fort ended with the death of Presumpscot/Wabanaki chief Polin in 1756. By 1790, the formidable structure was sold off and dismantled. Archaeologists Mosher and Smith were able to distinguish later period artifacts. For example, it is known that a later occupant of the Parson Smith house was Edward Anderson. History records he maintained an ample 30-square-meter vegetable garden on the property. Soil staining and evidence of planting holes beneath a layer of old River Road fill revealed the location of Col. Anderson’s late 18th century garden on the eastern end of River Road’s north lane.

Nearby and evident in the historical layering of a gravelly road bed were several sets of tire ruts that likely date to the 1920s – the spacing of the ruts, says the report, suggests they were made by a Ford Model-T.

All told, there were no fewer than seven archaeological explorations on Windham’s old Province Fort site between 1979 and 2020. The so-called Phase IIIB Archaeological Report in 2022 summarizes the cumulative findings. The 378-page manuscript will be available to the public at the Windham Historical Society’s main museum when it reopens with regular hours this spring.

The researchers summarized the results of their many seasons of work this way: “Mitigation archaeology of the Province Fort produced a wealth of information about (this eastern) frontier fort, its layout, and the people who both defended and resided within it. Due to the limits of the research area, the study could not reveal the lives and ways of the Presumpscot Wabanaki who fought vigorously against English encroachment. There is an estimated 5,000 square meters around the Smith house that likely contain activity areas associated with the fort and the Parson Smith occupation. These deposits await future archaeologists with new questions and new techniques.

Next time, we examine the causes of the wars between the local Natives and the founding settlers. And we look at several renderings of the old Province Fort that begin to reveal what it must have looked like, two-hundred eighty years ago. <

Clean air houseplants can provide welcome benefits

By Kendra Raymond

With the winter slump well underway, many Mainers seek a reprieve from the drab landscape that envelops us in winter. For some, a new diet or workout routine does the trick, or for the lucky ones – a vacation to someplace warm. For the rest of us, some small touches to brighten our home can work wonders.

A healthy spider plant cultivated from cuttings
adorns a home in Raymond and brings some
measure of greenery into the long months 
A few well-curated house plants can be a healthy choice during the indoor winter months. A study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that “indoor plants affect participants’ objective functions positively, particularly in terms of relaxed physiology and improved cognition”.

Aside from the advantages to our mental and physical health, plants can be an enjoyable hobby.

Mary at the Windham Home Depot said, “We sell a lot more (houseplants) at this time of year. People want something green. They like spending time in the greenhouse – it is humid and feels like summer.” She said they have a wide range of plants available in 4–12-inch pots as well as all the accoutrements such as soil, fertilizer, pest control, and plant pots.

Lowes in Windham has an increased inventory of houseplants. Lawn and Garden center employee Luke says there is a real push on hanging plants. He said, “When it’s dreary and grey out, it helps people’s spirits having greenery around the house.” He says that people are buying a lot of pothos and palms this week.

Health benefits

The presence of houseplants can reduce both physiological and psychological stress and potentially improve concentration. Horticultural therapy is a practice where plants are used to boost the mood of those with anxiety or depression. Plants can improve creativity, productivity, and help people recover from illness faster.

Plants can improve the quality of indoor air. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to clean up toxic contaminants in the environment. A 1989 NASA study concluded that houseplants reduced airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) substantially which include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

A plant-filled home can be a peaceful sanctuary where you can recharge from the outside world. The plant-owner relationship can also be positive – the plant depends on you for its care, and they reciprocate by cleaning the air and providing visual charm.

What types?

If you wish to add a clean air plant to your home, it is important to choose the right species.

The University of Florida Gardening Solutions program provides the following suggestions: philodendron, dracaena, or aloe vera. The spider plant and peace lily are extremely hardy varieties that anyone can grow and thrive on neglect.

The spider plant also reproduces readily, developing “spiderettes” on tiny vines that emerge from the base. Simply snip the baby off and place it directly into a new pot of soil. No rooting is necessary, and before you know it, you will have another full-size plant.

Other clean air varieties include bamboo palm, snake plant, English ivy, rubber plant, bromeliad, and Boston fern.

If you are interested in a flowering type, a bird of paradise, chrysanthemum, or gerbera daisy will provide a pop of color.

Where do I buy one?

Acquiring a clean air plant in our area is relatively simple. Blossoms and Studio Flora in Windham have a selection of house plants available. Best of all, experts will be ready to offer advice and guidance. You can also visit a big box store in town, where you will find many types to choose from. Additionally, the local grocery stores offer a modest selection of house plants that could suit your needs.


Some varieties of house plants can be toxic to animals or children so it’s a good idea to become informed before making a plant purchase.

ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants:

National Poison Control center plant list:

Many houseplants can be transferred outdoors in the spring when all chance of frost has passed. They can add a homey touch to decks, steps, or porches and the plants will thrive in the sunlight and fresh air. Just keep an eye out for pests such as aphids that may travel inside. <

Friday, January 5, 2024

Family discovers time capsule in Raymond home

By Kendra Raymond

It’s everyone’s secret wish to discover a hidden treasure in the walls of an old house. For most of us, this once in a blue moon occurrence remains a dream. However, a recent renovation of our historic property uncovered just that – a bona fide treasure trove in a box.

A box of Bric-A-Brac and art items stored in an unused
house addition turned out to be a veritable time capsule
undiscovered for more than 50 years by a family
Eric Rollins, owner of Hometown Furnishings in Standish says he has not personally encountered any hidden objects in the walls of an old home. He tends to focus on the gifts an old building can produce.

“The most valuable piece can be the building itself,” Rollins said.

According to Rollins, you can make shelves from door casement frames, coat hooks from trim, or recycle old barn beams in a home. He even recalls someone making a bench out of barn boards from a cow barn with the rubbed areas still intact.

My former one-room schoolhouse has passed through four generations – my great grandfather, grandparents, parents, and now me. It was moved to its current location in Raymond when the previous farmhouse burned to the ground.

When my grandmother passed away in 1973, evidently the box was packed up and stored in an unused area over a house addition. I was unaware of its existence, so the veritable time capsule has been lying in wait for 50 years.

The cardboard box was clearly labeled on all sides in black magic marker, “Bric-a-brac for Kendra from Nan – Do not open until 1983.”

Miriam-Webster defines bric-a-brac as, “a miscellaneous collection of small articles commonly of ornamental or sentimental value.” The French term originally referred to small artsy objects kept in collections. In modern culture, the term has essentially become obsolete. Nowadays, we refer to similar items as trinkets or knick-knacks.

Considering that I had comfortably passed the required waiting period, I figured it would be alright to delve into Pandora’s Box. The great unveiling was a fun event shared with family, which included lots of laughs and reminiscing.

Each item was carefully wrapped in a piece of 1973 newspaper, still in good condition. We continue to enjoy the news of the day – especially the ads. Who doesn’t want a Zebco 404 fishing reel for $3.88 or two bottles of Hunts ketchup for 68 cents at Bradlees? I’d take the trip to Portland for a Chevrolet Nova for $2,895 - no questions asked. How about an Amato’s bucket of spaghetti (with sauce) for $1.25? Or even better, a men’s ski parka at The Men’s Shop in Windham for $7.50 seems like a square deal.

Sifting through the cache, I discovered English china, small plates, and miscellaneous pieces of dishware and home goods. Most items were in perfect condition. I was thrilled to find many pieces of pottery crafted by my grandmother who was also a ceramics instructor at Camp Wawenock. My favorite discovery was several sculptures she made of babies and children.

My grandmother was an accomplished sculptress who studied under Hungarian sculptor George Julian Zolnay in the early 1900s. She is responsible for creating a bust of Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan which has been displayed in the Peary-MacMillan Museum at Bowdoin College. Her other projects included vast commissioned works such as busts and statues. She even created dolls where the face was an exact replica of the child for whom it was intended.

You may wonder how to find a hidden treasure of your own. Rollins works with a lot of furniture but has some sage advice.

“You never know what you will find in drawers, like heirlooms, cash, or trash,” he said.

So that is a good place to start. When seeking old pieces that could be valuable, Rollins recommends looking for solid pieces of furniture that can be brought back to life.

“You can keep the memories and bring a modern touch,” he said.

My Nan always said, “It takes a heap of living to make a house a home”, which is attributed to the poem “Home” by Edgar Guest.

I found that handwritten quote in some of her other belongings, which made me realize that our little schoolhouse is filled with “a heap of living” – and then some. I can’t wait to see what else may be in store. <