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CONNECT 3 | 2012: News and events for UBC Science alumni

Seabirds in Pacific Northwest getting a belly full of plastic

Plastic pollution off the northwest coast of North America is reaching alarming levels – leaving seabirds with bellies full of plastic.

A study led by UBC zoologist Stephanie Avery-Gomm looked at the amount of plastic ingested by northern fulmars, which feed exclusively at sea. Necropsies performed on 67 beached fulmars found in BC, Washington and Oregon indicated 92.5 per cent of the birds had plastics – twine, Styrofoam, candy wrappers – in their stomach. One bird was found with 454 pieces of plastic in its stomach.

The study substantiates the use of northern fulmar as biomonitors of plastic pollution in the North Pacific. “Like the canary in the coal mine, northern fulmars are sentinels of plastic pollution in our oceans,” says Avery-Gomm.

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Apple Festival

Apple festival
A family event for all ages, the UBC Apple Festival celebrates one of BC's favourite fruits. Join us at the UBC Botanical Gardens.
» October 13-14, 2012


Watercolour birds
Watercolours by Lex Alfred Hedley, an artist with an interest in North American birds, are on exhibit at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
» To November 12, 2012


Gairdner symposium
Two prominent scientists, William Kaelin and Jeffrey Ravetch, give free lectures as part of the 2012 Gairdner Symposium.
» October 22, 2012

Sneaky parasites steal genes from host

Single-cell parasites co-opt genes

Two species of single-cell parasites co-opt ‘ready-made’ genes from their hosts and use the genes to further exploit their hosts. This process aids the parasites’ rapid evolution.

The study by UBC and University of Ottawa researchers shows that the parasitic microbes Encephalitozoon hellem and Encephalitozoon romaleae, commonly found in the intestines of vertebrates, can acquire genes that assist them in the production of folate.

“Two species have actually acquired new genes that work together to make an essential nutrient that the parasites would otherwise have to steal from their host – opening up new tissues or even new hosts as targets for infection,” says UBC biologist Patrick Keeling, director of the Centre for Microbial Diversity and Evolution.

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Rebuilding global fisheries would make them more valuable

Tuna swimming

Rebuilding global fisheries would make them five times more valuable while improving ecology. A UBC study, published in the online journal PLoS ONE, outlines ways global fisheries could go from losing US$13 billion per year to making $54 billion.

Reducing the size of the global fishing fleet, eliminating harmful government subsidies, and putting in place effective management systems, are some of the ways fisheries could become more effective and eco-friendly.

“If the environmental and sustainability reasons alone can’t convince global governments to take action, the financial incentives should,” says Rashid Sumaila, a fisheries economist and director of the UBC Fisheries Centre.

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Class Connections: Memory Elvin-Lewis

Memory Elvin-Lewis

Memory Elvin-Lewis, renowned ethnobotanist and infectious disease microbiologist, will be recognized with an Alumni Award of Distinction on November 14. This spring, UBC awarded Memory and Walter Elvin-Lewis honourary degrees.

Elvin-Lewis graduated from UBC in 1952 and went on to obtain a PhD at the  University of Leeds. Together with her husband she catalogued hundreds of traditional herbal remedies used in the tropics, preserving the knowledge of indigenous peoples so that ancient healing methods can be analyzed and applied to modern medicine.

Memory and Walter’s interest in herbal medicine led to the release of Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man’s Health in 1997 – recognized as a standard work in the field. Memory was also involved with the treatment of the patient who suffered from the first recorded case of AIDS in the United States. She is a professor of biomedicine at Washington University in St Louis.

Read more Class Connections»
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UBC's New Earth Sciences Building

UBC Earth Sciences Building

Get a sneak peek at UBC’s new Earth Sciences Building on Flickr, or read more.

ESB is the largest panelized wood building in North America.

The wood materials in the ESB will sequester about 2,600 tons of CO2.


Cosmologist Gary Hinshaw

UBC researchers win top cosmology prize
UBC cosmologists Mark Halpern and Gary Hinshaw (pictured) have been awarded the 2012 Gruber Cosmology Prize for their work as part of a 2003 NASA mission that pinpointed the age of the Universe at 13.75 billion years.

Math outreach recognized with Adrien Pouliot Award
Melania Alvarez, outreach coordinator for Mathematics, has received the 2012 Adrien Pouliot Award. The award, sponsored by the Canadian Mathematical Society, recognizes contributions to mathematics education in Canada. Alvarez was singled out for her work with Aboriginal students and her role in promoting math to the general public.

Simon Peacock re-appointed dean
Simon Peacock has been appointed to a second six-year term as Dean of Science. His second term will run July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2018. Prior to joining UBC, Peacock was Divisional Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Arizona State University.

Two new graduate training programs arrive at UBC Science
UBC Science has received CREATE grants totaling $3.3 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The two newly funded programs – QuEST: Quantum Electronic Science and Technology and MAGNET: Multidisciplinary Applied Geochemistry Network – join four other CREATE graduate training programs housed at UBC Science.

Statistics student receives Centers for Disease Control and Prevention award
UBC statistician Liangliang Wang has won a Charles C Shepard Science Award for her co-authorship of a paper that calls into question results derived from a common algorithm used in Chlamydia trachomatis screenings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considered 69 papers for the honour.


Stay in touch! Update your information


How do I update my address, email and/or contact information with UBC Science? 

There are several easy ways to update your contact information – through our online form; via e-mail alumni@science.ubc.ca, or by phone 604-822-1864. We use a central alumni database, so if you have changed your contact information through the web link above, we will automatically receive your update from Alumni Affairs. Likewise, if you change your contact information through us, those changes will be made in the alumni database.


Arctic ducks inspire mathematical modelling

Eider duck diving

UBC mathematicians, initially inspired by the behaviour of ducks diving for sea urchins, have employed computer simulations to show that searching-exploiting resource systems exhibit spatial patterns resembling 'waves of pursuit' as individuals rush between resource sites. The researchers also discovered that overall strategies may fluctuate over time if individuals switch behaviours either by learning or by reproductive fitness.

"Lots of people have studied so called producer-scrounger strategies, but never in this particular way," says UBC mathematician Leah Edelstein-Keshet. "We're showing that these strategies affect – and are affected by – the way food is distributed in space."

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Chemistry, Biology Added to Mentor-for-a-Day Menu

We’ve added new Career Nights in chemistry and biology to our 2013 mentorship roster. A short-term investment of your time can be a huge source of inspiration and guidance for students. And the earlier we hear from you, the more time we have to find the right option for you - opportunities that focus on women in science, discipline-specific events, or sessions that look at a broad array of careers in science.

Visit science.ubc.ca/support/alumni/getinvolved or contact alumni@science.ubc.ca.


UBC Science swag

UBC Sciente t-shirt

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UBC Science lanyard

UBC Science lanyard

UBS Science t-shirt

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