Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

June 28, 2024

Forest-based economy, jobs will be focus of Maine higher ed partnership

Jars are full of cellulose in various forms. Photo / Courtesy, University of Maine Nanocellulose, derived from trees and wood pulp, is a forest product that's attractive as a material for many uses.

Maine’s forest economy and workforce are the focus of a $7 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The money will go toward a four-year collaborative project, led by the University of Maine, to foster resilient forest communities in the state.

The project is called Maine-FOREST, or Forest-based Opportunities for Resilient Economy, Sustainability and Technology.

The goal is to strengthen the capacity of rural communities and the Wabanaki Nations to leverage culturally inclusive opportunities in the forest products sector. The project will tap into and integrate a broad variety of fields and interests — including artificial intelligence and informatics, wood-derived alternatives to plastic, rural and Wabanaki resilience, and economically diverse rural development.

In addition to UMaine, Maine-FOREST includes the University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Other partners include Colby College, Bates College and the Maine Development Foundation.

The grant will directly support more than 45 faculty, 85 undergraduate students, 10 graduate students and four postdoctoral researchers. It’s expected there will be collaborations between the universities and nonprofit organizations.

“Integrating new knowledge on the forest with emerging products and rural communities is essential for future climate-smart progress in Maine,” said Aaron Weiskittel, professor of forest biometrics and modeling, director of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests and the project’s lead investigator.

A key outcome for the project is expected to be a forest economy and workforce dashboard updated in near real-time to help the forest products sector make data-driven decisions. 

Other goals include:

  • Create a new forest sector business development faculty position through a partnership between UMaine and the Maine Forest Service.
  • Foster rural and Wabanaki resilience and smart rural development themes, with a key focus on helping rural students discover potential educational and career pathways in their local communities, rather than pursuing opportunities elsewhere.   
  • Collaborate with K-12 schools in forest communities.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF