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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Nature-inspired materials described by UBC scientist in public talk

Plants and animals have evolved remarkable materials, such as silk, bone, and skin, for structure and function.  Some of these materials have amazing properties that are MacLachlan Photo for Vernoninspiring materials scientists in their pursuit to create new materials with improved strength, durability, and elasticity.  Dr. Mark MacLachlan, researcher and professor of
chemistry and nanomaterials at the University of British Columbia, is in the business of creating such materials and he will reveal some of his latest inventions during his presentation Bug Shells and Butterfly Wings: Can nature inspire the creation of new materials? at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre on Thursday, Apr. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Recently inducted into the Royal Society of Canada, MacLachlan works with materials one-thousandth of the width of a hair and which can only be “seen” with an electron microscope.  In this public talk, he will describe his work to develop new materials that mimic the coloration of beetles and butterflies.

Dr. MacLachlan and his colleagues have created a form of glass with holes arranged in a spiral structure. “Because of the helical structure of the holes,” explains MacLachlan, “the glass is iridescent. It reflects certain wavelengths of light, so the materials look coloured when viewed on a black background. Beetles’ shells actually have the same spiraling structure.” These materials are important for developing reflective window coatings, sensors, and many other applications.

“We’ve developed other materials that have a similar helical structure”, says MacLachlan. “One thing we’re trying to make now is plastics that will change colour when you stretch them. The distance of the spiral dictates what light it reflects, so if you squish the material it changes colour. We’re looking at them for pressure sensors.”

MacLachlan’s talk 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, 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. To subscribe or obtain more information about the Science in Society Speaker Series, visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

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Prominent scientist reveals the dynamic and spectacular interaction between binary stars

Massive stars in our universe are rare, but are frequently born with one or more companions.  For a high percentage of these cases, the separation between the stars is GJP_Reingauclose enough that they will interact and transfer material on a scale and with a spectacular splendor that most of us can barely imagine.  That is, most of us except Dr. Geraldine J. Peters, who has devoted her professional life to studying these extraordinary systems.  Dr.
Peters is a Research Professor at the University of Southern California (Department of Physics & Astronomy and Space Sciences Center) and she will highlight key advancements in her research in a free public talk, entitled “Close Binary Stars: What Spacecraft Observations have Revealed about their Interaction”.  This talk will be presented on Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Okanagan College’s Kalamalka campus.

This free event is sponsored by the American Astronomical Society as part of its Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship program and is also part of the Science in Society Speaker Series.

Dr. Peters is the principal  investigator on 65 former and current NASA grants. She uses spectroscopic and photometric observations from spacecraft to study the mass transfer in close binary stars.  Valuable insight has been provided from spectra obtained with the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE), the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and more recently photometry from the Kepler spacecraft.  “We have confirmed the presence of a gas stream from a cool giant star”, Peters says, “that impacts the surface of a hotter companion and heats its surface. The process also results in the loss of material from the system in the form of splashes and jets.”  High mass stars evolve quickly and changes can be quite dramatic with bi-polar jet streams, hot spots where mass transfer is “hitting” the surface of the star, and “splashes” off the surface – all extraordinary events to be discussed in this talk!

Dr. Peters has been involved with the analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data on early type stars since 1974 (missions include Copernicus, IUE, Uhuru, ROSAT, SAS-3, HST, Voyager UVS, Pioneer 10/11, EUVE, ORFEUS-SPAS 2, FUSE, GALEX, & Kepler).  She is the author of more than 145 publications in refereed journals and books and major conference proceedings.

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

 

 

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UBC Neuroscientist to probe how science can inform the management of sports-related concussions

In recent years, concussions, as the result of sports activity, have gained the attention of sports enthusiasts and scientists alike.  Can we accurately diagnose when a concussion has occurred?  Do we know the best Featured imagetime for an athlete to return to play? Dr. Paul van Donkelaar, professor and Director of the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at University of British Columbia Okanagan, will highlight key discoveries in how the brain is changed as a result of a sports-related concussion and how this knowledge will lead to improved initial diagnosis, management, and return to activity decisions.  This public talk, entitled ‘How can Science Guide the Management of Sport-Related Concussions?” is part of the Science in Society Speaker Series and will be presented on Wednesday, February 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Okanagan College’s Kalamalka campus.

A clinical neuroscientist, Dr. van Donkelaar heads a research program with the goal to gain a better understanding of how the human brain is able to plan and execute body movements. This broad question is studied in both healthy participants as well as in patients with damage to the brain due to a variety of injuries. In particular, Van Donkelaar’s team is studying how a concussion affects blood flow to the brain, and how that affects concentration, balance, and attention span.

“The big question”, van Donkelaar says, “is how do you know if an athlete who has suffered a concussion is really okay to play? They may feel fine, their symptoms may be gone, but what about any underlying, undetected damage to the brain? And a greater potential risk”, he says, “is the cumulative effect of multiple concussions, which could lead to long-term disability or even premature death.”

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 and more information, visit the Okanagan Science Centre at http://www.okscience.ca or call (250) 545-3644.

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Take a walk in space with Bob McDonald, host of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks

There are astronauts, and there are spacewalkers. Astronauts leave the earth’s atmosphere in a spaceship. Spacewalkers don pressure suits and step outside into the universe—a physically demanding, mentally rigorous endeavour. It’s so difficult, in fact, only three Canadians have ever succeeded: Chris Hadfield, Steve MacLean and Dave Williams.Bob McDonald_photo by Sharon MacKenzie

Bob McDonald, award-winning science journalist and host of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, takes us into the world of spacewalking and explores the fascinating and important contributions made by Canadian astronauts during his presentation Canadian Spacewalkers: What’s it like to step into the abyss? at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre on Monday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

McDonald interviewed Hadfield, Maclean and Williams, as well as drew on his own experiences with simulators and zero-g aircraft, for his new book Canadian Spacewalkers (Douglas & McIntyre).

In addition to Quirks & Quarks, McDonald is a regular science commentator for the CBC. His book Measuring the Earth with a Stick: Science As I’ve Seen It was shortlisted for the Canadian Science Writers Association Book Award. McDonald has received the Triple Crown of Canadian science medals: Michael Smith Medal for Science Communication from the National Research Council, Sir Sanford Fleming Medal for science promotion from the Royal Canadian Institute, and McNeil Medal for Public Awareness of Science from the Royal Society of Canada. In November 2011, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

McDonald’s talk 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, the Vernon Morning Star. Clark Robinson and Hollis Wealth provided special supporting sponsorship for this event.

Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. For 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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