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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Acclaimed biologist promotes public appreciation for insects

JNM_cutAlthough insects are ubiquitous and have a crucial role in the balance of the planet’s ecosystems, many humans fear or have an aversion to them.  Dr. Jeremy McNeil, Professor, Department of Biology at Western University, met this attitude first hand when he showed his neighbours’ 7 year-old son a hornworm caterpillar from his garden. The young boy stared for a minute and then squashed it in the palm of his hand. When asked why, he replied “Insects are not nice.”

This interaction sparked nearly 40 years of public outreach, where Dr. McNeil has attempted not only to educate the public about insects (and hopefully reduce insecticide use) but also to instill a real appreciation for the natural world around us.  Dr. McNeil continues his campaign in a public talk Are humans really smarter than insects? on Tuesday, November 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre.

In this talk, he will compare insects to humans, and show that they have a lot in common, such as making paper, building solar panels and “houses,” as well as applying the same physics principles for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Dr. McNeil, was born in England, but was mainly educated in North America.  He was professor for 30 years at Department of Biology at Laval University in Quebec City until he took early retirement the end of 2002. At this time, he received a Humboldt Prize and spent 2003 at Hamburg University. In 2004 he accepted a position as a professor in the Biology Department at Western University, and in 2008 also became the Scientific Director of the Biotron, a research facility on campus, set up to study different aspects of climate change.

Dr. McNeil’s research interests are in behavioral and chemical ecology, studying fundamental aspects of mate choice, seasonal migration, as well as plant-insect and host-parasitoid interactions from an interdisciplinary perspective. With his students and collaborators, McNeil has published more than180 papers in primary international journals and more than 10 book chapters. He has received many national and international awards, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and this year he was named to the Order of Canada for his work in studying the reproductive biology in insects and for his dedication to increasing public appreciation of science.

The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College) is sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, 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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Conservationist provides a rare look into the Great Bear Rainforest coastal waters

IanHighRes_v_ smallThe coastal waters of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia contain more than a thousand uninhabited islands and are one of the planet’s most ecologically rich marine environments. Stretching 21 million acres from Vancouver Island to Southeast Alaska, the area includes the largest coastal temperate rainforest on earth and is globally renowned for its astonishing biodiversity.

Based on his summer 2015 expedition, long-time Great Bear Rainforest resident, Ian McAllister will describe his efforts to generate a more complete picture of the B.C coast from both below and above the water.  This will be presented in a public talk, Where the ocean meets the rainforest: exploring Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest on Monday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre.

“British Columbia’s offshore world is as real as the mountains we climb and the rivers we swim in, but not nearly as familiar,” says the acclaimed photographer and co-founder and Executive Director of the wildlife conservation organization Pacific Wild.

Using advances filming techniques, McAllister and his team have captured some of the Blue Shark and salmon shark_small
lesser known stories of right whale dolphins, blue sharks, salmon sharks and studied their relationship to the waters of what is now known as the Great Bear Sea of the central and north coast of British Columbia.  McAllister has described this experience as “the most spectacular display of aquatic ballet I could ever imagine”, and hopes through the sharing of spectacular photography, videography and storytelling, he can continue to inspire others to protect this precious region.

An award-winning photographer and author of six books including Great Bear Wild, McAllister’s images have appeared in publications around the world. He has been honoured by the Globe & Mail as one of 133 highly accomplished Canadians, and he and his wife, Karen McAllister, were named by Time magazine one of the “Leaders of the 21st Century” for their efforts to protect British Columbia’s endangered rainforest. He is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers and has won the North America Nature Photography Association’s Vision Award and the Rainforest Action Network’s Rainforest Hero award.

Where the ocean meets the rainforest is presented in collaboration with Pacific Wild, and is part of the Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College), which is sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, Cooper’s Foods, Starbucks Coffee, and the Vernon Morning Star.

Admission is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For tickets, call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644.

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Natural scientist to shed light on BC’s changing landscape and climate

Have we reached the environmental “Tipping Point”?  Possibly

Is there anything we can do to ameliorate the effects? Probably

Should we prepare?                                                         Definitely!!!!

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to climb and temperatures are likely to follow.
Arctic sea ice extent and character is changing and extreme weather events appear to be increasing.  These observations are being related to changes in major atmospheric processes such as the behavior of the jet stream.  According to Dr. Richard Hebda, curator of Botany and Earth History at the Royal British Columbia Museum and provincial paleontologist for BC, we may already be committed to crossing the tipping point or threshold of irreversible change.

Dr. Hebda will draw upon his extensive research with plant fossils and their distribution over time and place to shed light on the condition, history and evolution of BC’s landscape and climate, in a public talk, entitled “What can we do to adapt to a changing planet?”  This talk is the first of the 2015/16 season for the Science in Society Speaker Series and will be presented on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:30 pm at the Okanagan College’s Vernon campus.

“Ever-evolving impact models clearly reveal that ecological transformation on a continental scale is on its way”, says Hebda.  “It is vital that we strive to understand what defines the ecological integrity of our ecosystems and embed those characteristics in their management”.  In this talk, examples will be used to show how to explicitly define ecological integrity and develop adaptation strategies.  Further, recent discoveries concerning BC’s alpine flora will be used to contemplate appropriate large scale adaptation approaches.

Dr. Hebda is also a faculty member at the University of Victoria where he teaches in the Restoration of Natural Systems Program, which he was instrumental in establishing. His tireless field research has resulted in over 125 refereed scientific papers and 12 major reports and books. As an avid gardener, he also has over 400 popular articles to his credit. With his boots in the field and his hands in the soil, Dr. Hebda is uniquely qualified to acquaint a Vernon audience with some of the local challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in our changing world.

The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College) is sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, 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.

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