SFU professor sounds alarm on danger of toxins to children’s brain development

Can the pesticides on your lawn and flame-resistant baby clothing cause ADHD and autism in children?Lanphear Headshot

According to environmental-health expert Dr. Bruce Lanphear, even exceedingly low-level exposures to toxic chemicals can contribute to premature births, intellectual disabilities and behavioural problems.

Lanphear will reveal key aspects of the new research supporting the link between widespread exposures to toxic chemicals and childhood disorders in a public talk at Okanagan College.

The presentation will take place in the lecture theatre of the College’s Vernon campus on Thursday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. Lanphear’s talk, entitled “Little Things Matter: The Impact of Toxic Chemicals on the Developing Brain,” is part of the Science in Society Speaker Series.

Lanphear will explain how harmful chemicals, such as lead, tobacco, pesticides and flame retardants, impact brain development and discuss opportunities to prevent brain-based disorders in the early development of children.

He will also discuss the pandemic of consumption – the largely preventable, worldwide epidemic of chronic disease and disability in society due to widespread exposures to industrial pollutants, toxic chemicals and excess consumption.

“The impact of toxic chemicals is usually subtle for an individual child, but it can be substantial at the population level,” asserts Lanphear. “Too little has been done to protect children from these ubiquitous, but insidious, toxins.”

Lanphear, MD, MPH, is a clinician scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute, BC Children’s Hospital and professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. His primary goal is to help quantify and ultimately prevent disease and disability due to exposures to environmental contaminants and pollutants.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at 250-545-3644 or purchase through Eventbrite.

To subscribe or obtain more information visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.

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UBC professor advocates the benefit of exercise for healthy aging

Regardless of disease and disability, a daily dose of exercise has a remarkable benefit on cognitive and physical abilities and health, at any age.  But, according to Dr. Gareth Jones, these benefits may be especially important for our senior populations.

Dr. Jones, professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Development, at UBC Okanagan, will reveal the latest research from his lab on Parkinson’s disease, frailty and exercise to enhance and preserve physical function in a public talk at the Okanagan College as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series.

The presentation will take place at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus in the lecture theatre on Thursday, Mar. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in a talk entitled Is Exercise the Medicine for Successful Aging?

Since 2008, under Dr. Jones’ guidance, the Healthy Exercise and Aging Laboratory (HEAL) group at UBCO has advanced the fields of exercise, prehabilitative and rehabilitative sciences toward understanding the subtle differences observed between men and women, as they transition through the aging process.

“Much of the age- and sex-associated differences observed between older adults can be associated with the aging and/or disuse of muscle and other mechanical tissues,” says Jones. “Therefore, exercise that strengthens muscle will restore and/or maintain physical function, regardless of age and/or sex. Exercise is the medicine for successful aging”.

Dr. Jones’ interdisciplinary research program targeting successful aging has both national and international reach and he is considered a leader in the field of exercise and aging, with specific interest in understanding the impact of frailty on physical function. He has over 50 scientific publications, 60 international and national conference presentations and has received national awards for his work in exercise physiology.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. To subscribe or obtain more information visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.

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Entomologist crime sleuth unveils the clues

Look out Sherlock Holmes!  CSI – stand aside! Enter forensic entomology – the study of insects to help solve real-life whodunnit mysteries. anderson_gail-33fin-colour

Dr. Gail Anderson, SFU professor and forensic entomology pioneer, will uncover all the clues in a public talk at the Okanagan College as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series.

The presentation will take place at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus in the lecture theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in a talk entitled Murder and Maggots: The Use of Forensic Entomology in Criminal Investigations.

Anderson will explain how insects can be used to estimate elapsed time since death and other factors about a crime scene such as position and presence of wounds, and whether a body has been moved or disturbed. She will also discuss the role of entomology in animal abuse and neglect cases.

In this presentation, Anderson will use true case histories to illustrate the underlying fascinating science. But a warning to the public: Some of the images will be disturbing and therefore this talk is not recommended for anyone under 15 without parental permission.

Dr. Anderson is a Professor in the School of Criminology and the Co-Director of the Centre for Forensic Research at Simon Fraser University. She is a forensic entomology consultant to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Municipal Police across Canada as well as the SPCA and Wildlife Enforcement.  She has been analyzing forensic entomology cases since 1988, and has testified as an expert witness in court many times.  Recently, Anderson’s research was used to help convict Robert Pickton for the murder of dozens of Vancouver women.

Dr. Anderson’s work has been featured in numerous television programs. Anderson was a recipient of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 Award and a YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Science and Technology, and the SFU Alumni Association Outstanding Alumni Award in. She was listed in TIME magazine as one of the top five global innovators in the world, this century, in the field of Criminal Justice in 2001 (the only Canadian listed) and as one of the Leaders for the 21st Century by TIME Magazine in 1999. She was awarded the Derome Award in 2001; the most prestigious award the Canadian Society of Forensic Science (CSFS) bestows -for “outstanding contributions to the field of forensic science”. She was listed as one of the 100 most Influential Women in British Columbia by the Vancouver Sun in 2010, received a Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence in 2014, and in 2015 was listed as one of the 6 most influential scientists in BC by the Vancouver Sun.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. To subscribe or obtain more information visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.

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Astro-paparazzo in Search of Goldilocks Worlds

Evidence is mounting that planets are commonplace in the Galaxy. As of late August 2016, there are about 3500 confirmed exoplanets and thousands more candidates—with recently discovered exoplanet Proxima B the closest to earth yet to be found at a mere 25 trillion miles or 4.2 light years away. What about life on those planets? What about liquid water oceans on alien worlds?

IDL TIFF file

IDL TIFF file

Dr. Jaymie Matthews, one of Canada’s foremost astronomers and a self-proclaimed astro-paparazzo, will take stage, in a public presentation at the Okanagan College, to describe his efforts to spy on planets around other stars that might be homes for alien celebrities.

“The first step in finding abodes for life is to find planets in the Habitable Zones of their stars, whose surface temperatures would allow liquid water,” explains Matthews. “These are known as ‘Goldilocks Worlds’ – not too hot, not too cold, but just right for life as we know it. We live in a revolutionary era for the understanding of the origin and evolution of planets, including our own Earth.”

Matthews’ presentation, entitled Goldilocks and the Three Thousand Worlds: Searching for planets that are “just right” will take place at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus in the lecture theatre on Monday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. The talk launches the tenth season of the Science in Society Speaker Series, which co-presented by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre.  This talk is also in recognition of the Community Science Celebration.

Matthews is a Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia. He leads the MOST (Microvariability and Oscillations of STars) mission – Canada’s first space telescope – and is an expert in the fields of stellar seismology (using the vibrations of vibrating stars to probe their hidden interiors and histories) and exoplanets.

In 2006, Prof. Matthews was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2012, he received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

In addition to his accomplished academic record, Matthews is an ambassador in the promotion of astronomy and public science education in general. He holds a 1999 Killam Prize for teaching excellence in the UBC Faculty of Science, and the 2002 Teaching Prize of the Canadian Association of Physicists. Matthews is a co-founder of and instructor for UBC’s Science 101 course for disadvantaged residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He was a “Human Library Book” in Surrey, BC where “readers” could reserve him to ask about science or life, and a storyteller at the Kootenay Storytelling Festival in Nelson, BC. Matthews was featured in the Discovery Channel series “Light: More Than Meets The Eye”, and the documentary “LUNARCY!” He’s a producer and writer for Knowledge (BC’s educational TV network) of Space Suite – a series of astronomy/space ‘music videos’. Matthews was awarded the Canadian Astronomical Society’s Qilak Award for education and outreach in 2016. Qilak is an Inuit word for the “canopy of the heavens” or the sky overhead.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. To subscribe or obtain more information visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.

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Speaker Series committee is planning for the new season!

We are very excited about how the speaker line-up for the up-coming season is developing!

We are planning talks in forensic entomology, neurodiversity (e.g. autism), ethnobotany, conservation biology, and exercise physiology for an ageing demographic.

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Addressing public resistance to vaccination

Vaccines are generally regarded as among the most effective public health interventions of marcuse_2all time. New knowledge of immunology and new technologies have made possible the development of many new vaccines that protect against diseases that were common only a generation ago.

Why is it then that, paradoxically, public confidence in safety and effectiveness of vaccines has declined in recent decades?

Dr. Edgar Marcuse, MD, and Emeritus Professor, Pediatrics, University of Washington, will address this question in a public talk titled “Let’s talk vaccines: Was there ever an Age of Reason?” on Thursday, Apr. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre.

The crux of the issue is that “our understanding of the science of vaccine development far exceeds our understanding of individual decision making and how best to influence it,” claims Dr. Marcuse.

In this talk, Marcuse will review the history, origins, scope and impact of vaccine hesitancy, highlight some common concerns and explore the relative role of science, culture and emotion in parents’ vaccine decision making.  He will make the case that timely and complete immunization should be the normal behavior for individuals from diverse backgrounds and life styles. He will suggest that values play a central role in both individual decision making and policy development and will argue for a public discussion of values.

Dr. Marcuse is an academic general pediatrician with special interest in immunization: policy, practice, ethics, economics and vaccinology.  Dr. Marcuse has served as a member and Chair of the US Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Advisory Committee, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases (Red Book), Associate Editor of the Red Book, and most recently on the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. He has authored over 100 publications relating to immunization, general pediatrics and public health.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. To subscribe or obtain more information visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.

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Science advocate promotes informed policy-decision making

kgibbsA new era of optimism for science in Canada appears to have emerged.  Within days of taking the political power, the Federal Liberal government reinstated the long-form census and government scientists have once again been given permission to speak directly to the media and the public.

Do these changes herald a new, more important role for science in government-decision making?

Dr. Katie Gibbs, cofounder and Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy, will address this question in a public talk Evidence for Democracy: is science on the rise? on Tuesday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre.

Canadian government scientists play a key role in safeguarding our environment, air, water, and food.  They are also extensively involved in the review and regulation of industrial and consumer products such as pesticides and medicine. Scientists’ ability to communicate freely about their work and their concerns to the media and to the public is paramount to ensure government decision-making is supported by the best available science.

A number of government actions in recent years have weakened our foundation of informed decision-making. These changes have happened in three distinct ways: reduction in the ability of government scientists to communicate their research to the public, the erosion of our science capacity – especially with respect to fundamental research and environmental monitoring, and a reduction in the role of evidence in policy decisions.

“The impacts of these changes go far beyond science,” asserts Dr. Gibbs. “Science and evidence are essential elements of a functioning democracy, which requires informed citizens and transparent decision-making.”

The recent changes invoked by the Liberals are promising but there is still much work to be done. This includes the need to enshrine the right of scientists to open communication in formal policies and the rebuilding of our research capacity through publically funded science.

Katie Gibbs is a scientist, organizer and advocate for science and evidence-­based policies. While completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa researching threats to endangered species, she was one of the lead organizers of the ‘Death of Evidence’ rally ­ – one of the largest science rallies in Canadian history. She has a diverse background organizing and managing various social and political campaigns at the local and national level. Dr. Gibbs is frequently asked to comment on science policy issues and has been quoted and published in numerous media outlets, including the CBC, The Hill Times, the Globe and Mail and the National Post.

The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College) is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Cooper’s Food, and the Vernon Morning Star.

Admission is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. To subscribe or obtain more information about the Science in Society Speaker Series, visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

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