<h1>UBC Science Connect</h1>

School Kids Bone Up on Ecology, Conservation at Blue Whale Workshops

Environmental educator Natalie Bowes teaches students from Frank Hobbs Elementary about whale feeding. Photo: Derek Tan.

School children from across the Victoria area are enjoying front row seats this summer at UBC's Blue Whale Workshop, where researchers are working to prepare a 25-meter long whale skeleton for display at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

"Students get to see and touch the biggest bones on earth, and learn about evolution, biodiversity and conservation along the way," says Kim Woolcock, who manages outreach and exhibits at the Museum. "The workshops give the public a small taste of the outreach programming we'll bring to the Beaty Museum next year at UBC Vancouver."

Throughout June school groups have been visiting the workshop in Victoria's inner Harbour—warehouse space donated by Ellice Recycle. Students can compare their own hand to an X-ray of the blue whale's flipper, take part in a hands-on activity that demonstrates how whales feed, and learn how Mike deRoos, the project's master articulator, will prepare the bones for connection and transportation to Vancouver.

The Blue Whale Workshop will also be offering open houses throughout July and August, allowing Victoria-area enthusiasts to tour the facility. The blue whale skeleton was exhumed last summer after having been buried in Prince Edward Island for 20 years. There are currently only four other blue whale skeletons on display in North America. The UBC display will be the first in Canada.

» Read more | Attend a Blue Whale Workshop open house

Uncovering the Mechanics of a Promising Cardiovascular Treatment

Researchers led by UBC chemist Juergen Kast have identified a range of blood platelet proteins that are modified by Nitroxyl, a chemical compound that shows great promise as a cardiovascular drug. "Very little is known about how Nitroxyl works mechanically, and its effects are rarely linked to specific blood protein targets or to the actual chemical changes that the proteins undergo," says Kast. "These results provide the first possible link between the compound and the physiological effects in blood platelets." Nitroxyl-releasing drugs—developed at The Johns Hopkins University in 2004—exhibit important pharmacological effects, including inhibition of platelet aggregation, which ultimately leads to clots.

» Read more about the findings

Aboriginal Student Summer Camp
Takes a Literary Turn

CEDAR, UBC's science day camp program for Aboriginal youth, has joined forces with Michael Smith Labs to put together extended programming this summer. This July, CEDAR campers will also have the opportunity to take part in MSL's science literacy program, which blends lab experiments with creative reflection and writing.

» Visit the CEDAR website | Volunteer with CEDAR

UBC Astronomers Adapt OS Software to Crunch Planck Data

Photo: Rendering courtesy European Space Agency.

UBC researchers led by cosmologist Douglas Scott are adapting open source software to help analyze the reams of data set to be produced by the Planck satellite. Canadian scientists helped develop the rapid interpretation software for both the low and high frequency cameras on board Planck, launched last month by the European Space Agency. Scott is leading the development of so-called Quick Look software for Planck's low frequency instrument, which will operate alongside a high frequency counterpart to cover different areas of the light spectrum. Planck will collect and characterize cosmic background radiation with unprecedented detail. The measurements should produce the best ever maps of the radiation field, providing an amazingly clear picture of the very early universe, just 300,000 years after the Big Bang.

» Read more about the project

The Rewards of Tri-Mentoring

Are you a UBC Science alumni with advice to share with current students? UBC Science Tri-Mentoring gives you the opportunity to make a real difference in the personal and career development of a senior student in Science.

» Learn more about Tri-Mentoring

CS Student Improves Access to Transit Info, Wins Microsoft Competition

Photo: Science Undergraduate Society.

Navigating public transit schedules has always been a bit of a pet peeve for Carson Lam. "I live near Metrotown, so on my way home from UBC I could take the 99, 87, 41, 43 or 25 bus," says the second-year UBC Computer Science student. "I've always been annoyed that I couldn't easily figure out which bus is arriving next."

So Lam took matters into his own hands and built TransitDB, a site that might just transform the way commuters interact with public transit information. Among other improvements, TransitDB pulls data from Vancouver's public transit authority's online timetables and aggregates the results by bus loop and exchange, not by route or stop. The useful solution was impressive enough to win Microsoft's Make Web Not War competition this June. The 'Joes Vs. Pros'-style programming challenge pits students against professional rivals.

» Read more about TransitDB | Visit the TransitDB site

Travel in Style: UBC Sci Luggage Tags

We want your feedback on Science Connect, and have the swag to prove it: New UBC Science luggage tags. The rugged tags made out of recycled circuit boards let fellow travellers know that you're both tech-savvy and environmentally responsible!

Should We Move Species to Save Them From Climate Change?

Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

An international team of researchers including UBC conservation biologist Mark Vellend have developed a tool designed to help scientists navigate some of the difficult questions around managed relocation. Managed relocation has become a much-discussed—and controversial—strategy to help species survive changes in their local habitat by moving them to new areas. That could involve moving animals threatened by human encroachment to new ranges, or moving fish trapped in dying lakes to new waters. The drawback is the potential for the relocated species to harm the receiving ecosystem and endanger more species and biodiversity. "This isn't about advocating managed relocation," says Vellend, an assistant professor with Botany and Zoology and Canada Research Chair in Conservation Biology. "It's really about developing a framework for the process, a systematic approach that conservationists can use for making decisions in difficult times."

» Read more about evaluating managed relocation

Featured Alumni

Barry James Price (1965, BSc and 1972, MSc)

Current position: President, BJ Price Geological Consultants.

Best UBC memory: Massive snowball fights against UBC engineering students on Main Mall, and beer nights in the Geology Department technicians' area on Fridays. Geological field schools at Oliver and on Saltspring Island stand out, as do field trips to mines in USA and Mexico with Dr Evans of the UBC Metallurgy. Other strong memories include helping out with Geology 101 labs for Dr Ted Danner (currently Professor Emeritus, Earth and Ocean Sciences) and making pyrrhotite from scratch—particularly when the mixture blew up!

Favourite professor or course: Geology 101 with Dr Ted Danner was an inspiration—lots of slides and fabulous mineral and gem collections. Mathematics with Dean Gage was a real treat. Later, mineralogy with Dr RM Thompson and petrography with Dr Ken McTaggart (currently Professor Emeritus, Earth and Ocean Sciences) who wisely, or absent-mindedly, didn't give us a final exam. Beyond UBC Science, certainly my instructors in French and German deserve medals for persistence.

Importance of science background: Several of my class went to work for oil exploration companies in Calgary and our solid grounding in stratigraphy and sedimentation helped us out. Later, experience with other UBC geology graduates in mining exploration was enhanced by a good basic grounding from UBC in geology. One course in invertebrate zoology was very useful in fossil identifications during field work.

Most memorable experience after graduating: Field work in the Rocky Mountains for the Geological Survey of Canada and in the Mackenzie Mountains for Chevron and Archer Cathro. Later, property inspections in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Panama, Ecuador, China and Tajikistan. Travelling to other countries and talking with the locals was exciting—addressing classes of students in a small Chinese village was intimidating but fun.

Overall UBC Science experience: I enjoyed both my stints at UBC Science. The initial session for my BSc was harder—I was from a very small town (Smithers). The camaraderie of graduate school was enjoyable, and led to many close and enduring friendships. Working in exploration, one realizes how well-respected UBC Science and geology graduates are all over the world.

Class Connections


While at UBC, Peter McWilliams (BSc '65, Diploma Urban Land Economics '90) worked on Shell Oil's offshore geophysical marine seismic program, helping to run underwater seismic tests off the west coast of Vancouver Island. After graduation, McWilliams went to work as an owner-operator for Shell, but left after nine years to launch a condominium development company at British Columbia's Whistler Mountain in 1974—"back in the day" as he describes it. After being involved in the early development of the town centre, he emigrated to sunnier climes in 1986 to continue his development business, and settled in south Laguna Beach, California with his wife.


Frances Liang-Ehrlich (BSc '96 Honours Physiology, BSc '01 Computer Science + Co-op) has pursued her IT career in North America and Europe and is currently working for IBM France as a project manager in Java and business software solutions in the French telecommunications sector. Liang-Ehrlich is married, the mother of two young boys, and the organizer of the Paris Expat Canadian Meetup Group which brings together 600 members.


Linda Hanson (MSc '06, Zoology) just can't seem to pry herself away from UBC. After completing her degree she became a research assistant in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems' animal physiology lab. She enjoys the variety and challenges of the position—including international research trips to Brazil and Norway. "Who knew studying fish hearts could be so rewarding?" jokes Hanson. To maintain her perspective and ensure a less UBC-centric view she also does some independent science consulting, teaches hands-on science activities to elementary school students as part of the Vancouver School Board's Scientist in Residence Program, and volunteers with the Burnaby RCMP.

Recent travels? A new family addition? A promotion or career transition? Whatever it is, we'd love to hear from you. Connect by sending a brief note to: science.connect@ubc.ca. We'll make every effort to include it in our next issue.


Searching for Stable Strange Quark Matter in Lunar Soil
Presented by Ke Han from Yale University.
» July 20, 2009

Verlinde Algebra and its Connection with Quantum Cohomology
With Christian Korff, University of Glasgow.
» July 10, 2009

Peak Oil and Climate Change
Featuring James Murray from the University of Washington School of Oceanography.
» September 17, 2009


Five UBC Science Projects Receive Research Infrastructure Boost
Research into geochemical analysis, infectious disease, ultra-cold materials and the plant-environment interface receive $12 million in Canadian Foundation for Innovation funding.

PIMS Education Coordinator Lauded for Aboriginal Outreach
Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences' Melania Alvarez nominated for a YWCA Vancouver Woman of Distinction Award for her educational outreach work with British Columbia's Aboriginal community.

EOS, Microbiology and Immunology Welcome New Heads
Professors Greg Dipple and Michael Gold take over leadership of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Microbiology and Immunology respectively this summer.

Science Students Tackle Maritime Surveillance Problem to Win Intelligent Systems Challenge
Adam Williams (Computer Science and Physics and Astronomy) and David Fagnan (Math and Physics and Astronomy) devise algorithm to detect suspicious maritime activity for Canadian Artificial Intelligence Association-Precarn Intelligent Systems Challenge.

Government of Canada Boosts Sustainable Mineral Exploration and Mining Research at UBC Science
A $960,000 investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada helps establish a smart mineral exploration and mining research centre within Earth and Ocean Sciences.

Four UBC Science Students Named Vanier Scholars
Doctoral students receive prestigious Vanier Canada Scholarships—Canada's equivalent of Britain's Rhodes scholarship—to study biodiversity, nuclear physics, cell sequencing for cancer research, and the mathematical sciences.

Two UBC Researchers Invited to 2010 Congress of Mathematics
Mathematicians Zinovy Reichstein and David Brydges invited to speak at prestigious international congress, held only once every four years.


The Bioenergetics of the Leatherback
Zoology doctoral student and leatherback turtle researcher Todd Jones talks to CiTR Radio's Prof Talk. Courtesy Proftalk on CiTR 101.9 FM.


1994: A Piece of the Big One
Canadian scientist and UBC alumnus Bertram Brockhouse shares the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics with American Clifford Shull for developing neutron scattering techniques for studying condensed matter.


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