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
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 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
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
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
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.
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.
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