Category Archives: sscience education

Salmon science camps

This story led me to a much larger international story about funding, which is usually not an exciting topic but this time, it was different.

First, there are the Salmon Science Camps.

A January 25, 2022 University of British Columbia (UBC) news release (also on EurekAlert and received via email) announces new funding for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education initiative that focuses on Indigenous youth, salmon, and science,

Imagine a summer camp where you can watch grizzly bears catch salmon in streams, while learning about the migration and preparation of the fish hovering in the water at your feet.

Welcome to the Salmon Science Camp for Nisga’a youth, run by Dr. Andrea Reid (she/her), principal investigator of the Centre for Indigenous Fisheries at UBC. With new funding from the multi-institutional $24 million Ărramăt Project, Dr. Reid plans to expand these camps and open doors to scientific learning.

What are the Salmon Science camps?

We started these camps in 2016, with funding from the Gingolx Village Government Education Department and NSERC [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada] Indigenous Science Ambassadors Program, focusing on Nisga’a Nation youth aged four to 17 years old in Gingolx, my grandmother’s home village in British Columbia, at the base of the Alaska Panhandle. Each summer since, we charter boats and hire buses to get young people out onto the land and water where they follow the salmon life cycle, through all parts of the watershed from spawning grounds to the ocean and back again.

They learn to identify plants and animals, meet technicians working for the Nisga’a fisheries and wildlife department, learn from Elders who carry important stories about hoon (salmon) and how we care for them, and get to play and experiment with different scientific tools, from radio telemetry technology to underwater drones to water testing toolkits!

The Gingolx Village Government education manager Renee Garner said youth return from a day on the water feeling connected to one another. One student told her they had learned how the spirit bear got its name: fish cannot see their paws in the water, making them like ghosts and great hunters, something she would never forget.

What will the Ărramăt Project allow you to do?

Led by the University of Alberta, the Ărramăt Project is focused on strengthening human health and well-being through conservation and sustainable relationships with biodiversity. As one of 51 co-applicants from around the world on the recent New Frontiers in Research Fund Transformation grant awarded to this Indigenous-led project, my work will include expanding the camps to involve youth from the three other Nisga’a Nation villages: Gitlaxt’aamiks, Gitwinksihlkw, and Laxgalts’ap. We also want to create exchanges with neighbouring Nations, so camp attendees can learn about their different relationships with fish, including preparation methods and how they differ across cultures and environmental contexts. These exchanges will also promote cross-cultural learning and relationship building, bringing Indigenous youth together from across the province. All our activities build on the fundamental idea that salmon health and human well-being are inextricably linked, and we all need to do our part to ensure a better future for us all.

Why are these camps important?

These camps open a door to science and immersive learning experiences for Indigenous youth that might not necessarily be available due to the location of Gingolx, and they get to see a whole range of Nisga’a citizens as experts and scientists. This might mean they begin to see science as a future avenue for themselves, and view caring for salmon in the way Nisga’a have always done as not only an act of stewardship, but a truly scientific practice that is based on observation, experimentation, and other systematic ways of building knowledge about the world in which we all live. The camps demonstrate for youth that Indigenous science is science – it’s just as valid and important as conventional academic knowledge.

Interview language(s): English (Reid)

Congratulations to Dr. Reid!

Funding—have patience, it gets more interesting

Anyone who reads my postings with regularity will know I don’t often give compliments to funding agencies or the Canadian federal government for that matter. This time I have to offer kudos.

Breaking it down

As the news release notes, the salmon science camps got their start in 2016 with the Gingolx Village Government Education Department and the NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Indigenous Science Ambassadors Program.

(I found two different webpages for the Gingolx (Village Government) Education Department, this and this.)

NSERC has two programmes, the NSERC Student Ambassadors which was started in 2018 according to their webpage and the NSERC Indigenous Student Ambassadors, which does not include any history on its webpage.

It’s not clear as to whether the salmon science camps will continue getting the Gingolx/NSERC money now that a new agency and a new funding programme have become involved.

New agency

As noted in the news release, the Ărramăt Project (led by the University of Alberta) is funded under the New Frontiers in Research Fund, which itself was launched in 2018. From the About the New Frontiers in Research Fund webpage, Note: Links have been removed,

Launched in 2018, the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) funds interdisciplinary, high-risk / high-reward, transformative research led by Canadian researchers working with Canadian and international partners. The NFRF is designed to support world-leading innovation and enhance Canada’s competitiveness and expertise in the global, knowledge-based economy.

This fund seeks to inspire innovative research projects that push boundaries into exciting new areas and that have the potential to deliver game-changing impacts.

To meet its goals, the NFRF program is innovative in its design and implementation. Its novel merit review processes reflect the objectives of each funding opportunity, and the program offers flexibility in the use of grant funds to support international collaboration.

The NFRF is under the strategic direction of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee. It is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which is housed within the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three federal research funding agencies: SSHRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR] and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

The NFRF has a budget of $275 million over five years (2018-19 to 2022-23), and will grow to have an annual budget of $124 million beginning in 2023-24.

The NFRF is split into four streams: Exploration, Transformation, International, and Special Calls. The Ărramăt Project has been funded as part of the Transformation stream. (For more about the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, the NFRF, and funding opportunities, go here, scroll down and you’ll see what you’re looking for on the right side of the screen.)

Fanfare: the Ărramăt Project

There’s a brief January 12, 2022 announcement on the Denakayeh website and here’s a PDF version of the announcement,

“There are very few places left on earth where nature and Indigenous Peoples
are not under stress. We urgently need solutions that can ensure health and well-being for future generations.” (Danika Billie Littlechild)

Biodiversity decline is a major issue in Canada and globally. Species extinctions, along with problems of land and water quality, are not just environmental issues. These losses are also leading to impacts on human health and well-being, particularly for Indigenous Peoples. As more and more lands, rivers, plants, and animals are lost and degraded, disease risks and food insecurity will become more common. Indigenous cultural practices, languages, and knowledges are threatened; however, they can also guide us towards necessary transformation.

“Conventional policy approaches don’t help us understand and address the linkages between environmental losses and human health problems like zoonotic diseases (e.g., COVID19). We have to get out of our disciplinary and bureaucratic silos and recognize that these ecological losses are interconnected to human health. They also cause economic and social stresses on families and communities.” (Brenda Parlee)

Ărramăt is a new project funded for 2021-2027 by the New Frontiers Research Fund Transformations Program (NFRF-T) in Canada, that is being launched in response to this global biodiversity and health crisis.

“The Ărramăt Project is about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth, life and livelihood, identity and expression, biodiversity and sustainability, and stewardship and well-being. Arramăt is a word from the Tamasheq language spoken by the Tuareg people of the Sahel and Sahara regions which reflects this holistic worldview.” (Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine)

Over 150 Indigenous organizations, universities, and other partners will work together to highlight the complex problems of biodiversity loss and its implications for health and well-being. The project Team will take a broad approach and be inclusive of many different worldviews and methods for research (i.e., intersectionality, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary). Activities will occur in 70 different kinds of ecosystems that are also spiritually, culturally, and economically important to Indigenous Peoples.

The project is led by Indigenous scholars and activists Danika Billie Littlechild (Carleton University), Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (former President of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), and Sherry Pictou (Dalhousie University). John O’Neil (former Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University) and Murray Humphries (Co-Director for the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition, and Environment at McGill University), are also Co- Principal Investigators of the project. The University of Alberta is the lead institution for the project (led by Brenda Parlee, Nominated Principal Investigator).

“The research builds on the momentum and opportunities created in Treaties, by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We want to harness that momentum in ways that can create fundamental change to the status quo around biodiversity and health.” (Sherry Pictou)

Over half of the $24 mil research budget will go directly to Indigenous governments and organizations to lead their own work in ways that respect, protect, and elevate the knowledges and Indigenous ways of life. Cultural security and social justice for women and those of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ and ancestral gender diverse communities, will be central to the work of this Team as they address fundamental questions of common concern. How can food security be strengthened for Indigenous Peoples? What are Indigenous-led approaches to conservation that support wild species and agrobiodiversity? What are the best practices for decolonizing education and science? How can we include the voices of Indigenous youth? How can we address the widespread and recurring violence against Mother Earth and Indigenous Peoples? Can we foster healthier relationships to nature? How can we emotionally and spiritually heal from the stresses and losses caused by colonial practices (e.g., residential schools), land and resource development, and climate change?

The diversity of Indigenous Peoples, knowledges, and interdisciplinary Team expertise will be mobilized through the project to produce action at local to global scales of decision-making. Dene, Nisga’a (Canada), and Batwa (Uganda) aim to produce new models of conservation for ‘species at risk’ [emphasis mine]. Other groups such as the peoples of Treaty 8 and Treaty 3 (Canada), Yawanawà (Brazil), and Aymara (Bolivia) will focus on improving land and water security. Alternative economic and livelihood strategies (e.g., Indigenous Guardians) that benefit people and nature will be a focus for Indigenous Peoples in regions such as northern Canada, the Sahara and Sahel regions, and Thailand. The knowledge and customary strategies of Māori (Aotearoa-New Zealand) will contribute to the reconnection communities to their land and seascapes and regeneration of their cultural-ecological systems. The knowledges of Nêhiyawak (Cree), Sámi, and Tribal Peoples of India will be a foundation for action to rewild or restore cultural values and uses of other degraded landscapes. More than 140 projects will be funded on these and other themes over the 6 years.

“It is an honour and a profound responsibility to be part of this Indigenous-led project. It is unique from many other large projects in its embrace of governance models like ethical space, Indigenous research methodologies, and Indigenous Knowledges.” (John O’Neil)

“I am excited to see the work reveal how Indigenous Knowledges and stewardship practices define both the origins and contemporary centres of ecological research, biodiversity science, and conservation biology.” (Murray Humphries)

By 2027, the project will have produced a diversity of holistic and actionable solutions for improved stewardship and care for people and the planet.

“Strategies for biodiversity conservation have not historically been positive for Indigenous Peoples. They have a very small voice, if any, at the tables of decision-making. We don’t just want to be token members of the colonial structures that currently exist, we want to decolonize and Indigenize decisions about nature and health. Everyone needs to be accountable. We will not give up on Mother Earth and the possibility of renewing, strengthening, and elevating the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples, their lands and waters, and all beings who rely upon them.” (Danika Billie Littlechild)

The compliments and getting back to the salmon science camps

The Ărramăt Project’s scope is breathtaking and necessary. Bravo!

I want to recognize the funding agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR). Bravo!

Plus the Gingolx Village Government Education Department. Bravo!

And, I want to acknowledge one other group (from the Acknowledging New Frontiers in Research Fund Support and Communicating the Value of your Research webpage),

Federal support for research is an investment by the people of Canada [emphasis mine]. It is important for taxpayers to know how research dollars are being spent. By demonstrating the value of your research, New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) award recipients help strengthen public understanding of and support for high-risk, high-reward, interdisciplinary and international research.

Finally, Brava Dr. Reid! I don’t imagine it was easy to start your project and keep it running.

Canadians and their government have a great deal to grapple with in regard to indigenous people and much of it quite ugly. This funding doesn’t negate the past or absolve anyone of their sins but it does point to new possibilities for our relationships with each other and with our planet. (For anyone unfamiliar with the history of the relationship between the Canadian government and its Indigenous peoples there’s this essay on Wikipedia. Also, here’s the Residential Schools in Canada essay in the Canadian Encyclopedia and and there’s more here on the federal government’s Residential schools in Canada webpage.)

Not to get too carried away with grand visions, here’s a science salmon camp video,

Small steps, eh?

Simon Fraser University (SFU; Vancouver, Canada): Nobel Lectures and Café Scientifique February and March events

I got a February 4, 2022 notice via email that three SFU Science events are planned over the next several weeks.

Nobel Lectures

From the February 4, 2022 SFU Science notice,

Nobel Lectures

Wednesday February 16, 2022, 5:00-7:00 pm [PST] via live stream

Celebrate the 2021 Nobel awardees with us as our faculty members present the awardees’ work as it relates to their own research. Rob Britton from Chemistry, Edgar Young from Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Kirsten Zickfeld from Geography [likely acting as the host/interviewer] will present at this year’s event.

Register here.

I found some information about the SFU presenters and the work being recognized on the SFU Nobel Prize Lectures 2022 eventbrite webpage,

Dr. Robert Britton completed his PhD at UBC with Professors Edward Piers and Raymond Anderson in 2002 studying natural product isolation and synthesis, and was then an NSERC [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada] Postdoctoral Fellow in Cambridge working with Professor Ian Paterson on the synthesis of structurally complex marine natural products. He then joined the Merck Process Chemistry Group in Montreal before beginning his independent research career at Simon Fraser University in 2005. He is currently a Professor at SFU and his research program focuses on reaction discovery, natural product synthesis, medicinal chemistry and radiopharmaceutical chemistry.

Topic: The catalysis of chemical reactions has historically relied on expensive and often low-abundance metals such as gold, palladium and platinum. The discovery that inexpensive and naturally occurring organic molecules can catalyze the same reactions has caused a paradigm shift that has led to more environmentally friendly and economic processes, and served as an enabling tool for scientific discoveries.

Dr. Edgar Young is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry at SFU. His research lab investigates ion channel proteins that switch their structure in response to electrical and chemical signals, producing complex behaviour in the cardiac and nervous systems.

Topic: The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, for their discovery of key molecules in our nervous system that enable our sense of touch. In this talk, we’ll see how these molecules called ion channels work as electrical switches to convey sensations of pressure, pain, heat and cold — and we’ll explore the prospects for medical benefit.

From Nobel Prize Lectures 2021:

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 was awarded “for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems” with one half jointly to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann “for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming” and the other half to Giorgio Parisi “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2021/summary/

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021 was awarded jointly to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.”

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2021/summary/

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 was awarded jointly to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.”

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/2021/summary/

SFU Café Scientifique for February and March 2022

From the February 4, 2022 SFU Science notice,

February 17 & March 24 via Zoom

Engage with award-winning researchers from SFU Science for a series of informal discussions connecting research to important issues of interest to the community.

Aging actively: Why choose to move?

Thursday February 17, 2022, 5:00-6:30 pm

Dr. Dawn Mackey, SFU Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology

Discover the benefits of regular movement for older adults, explore what they want out of physical activity and find out how to create sustainable habits.

Register here.

[from the eventbrite registration page,

Choosing to move can be as simple as moving more, and moving more often – it doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. In this interactive cafe, Dr. Dawn Mackey from SFU’s Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology Department will explain the benefits of regular physical activity for older adults, as well as some risks of not being active enough. We will also explore what older adults want to get out of physical activity, and ways to make physical activity a sustainable habit.]

From the South Pole to the edge of the universe, and back to the coast of British Columbia

Thursday March 24, 2022, 5:00-6:30 pm

Dr. Matthias Danninger, SFU Physics

Learn about neutrinos and how British Columbia may soon hold a dominant role in neutrino astronomy.

[from the eventbrite registration page:

What is a neutrino? What can we learn from neutrinos about the Universe? Dr. Matthias Danninger from the Department of Physics will discuss answers to these questions and how British Columbia could play a dominant role for neutrino astronomy in the near future.]

Register here.

Hmmm

I have some comments about both SFU Café Scientifique presentations.

With regard to the “Aging actively: Why choose to move?” event in February 2022, it seems to be oriented to students, i.e., future gerontologists and other professionals focused on geriatrics. I can’t help but notice that the presenter (assuming this photo is relatively recent) is not any danger of being described as aged or as a senior,

Dr. Dawn Mackey [downloaded from https://balancefalls.ubc.ca/people/dawn-mackey]

There is nothing inherently wrong with having a youngish professional share work focused on seniors. The problem lies in the fact that presenters for events/talks/conferences/etc. on older folks are almost always young or youngish. I expect that as these professionals age they will find they are no longer participants in the conversation but the objects of the conversation.

As for “From the South Pole to the edge of the universe, and back to the coast of British Columbia,” this claim seems a little optimistic, “… British Columbia may soon hold a dominant role in neutrino astronomy.”

The centre for neutrino and dark matter physics in Canada is the SNOLAB. (There was a talk about the work at the lab in my June 6, 2019 posting Whispering in the Dark: Updates from Underground Science a June 12, 2019 talk in Vancouver …, another mention of the lab in May 12, 2021 posting about a former SNOLAB executive director, TRIUMF [Canada’s national particle accelerator centre] welcomes Nigel Smith as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on May 17, 2021and …, and, most recently, a September 6, 2021 posting about an art/science exhibit where SNOLAB was a partner, ‘Drift: Art and Dark Matter’ at Vancouver’s … .)

British Columbia will soon be dominant? There was this in 2015 (from the SNOLAB’s Awards and Recognition webpage),

The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics
2015-10-06
Arthur B. McDonald was co-awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics with Takaaki Kajita for the contributions of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Collaboration and Super-Kamiokande Collaboration for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass. The discovery changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and proves crucial to our view of the universe.

While I have doubts about the stated goal of being dominant soon, I look forward to being proved wrong. If that happens.

Tiny Matters: podcast from the American Chemical Society (ACS)

I was expecting a news release mentioning some of the smaller scales at which scientists work, e.g., micro, nano, pico, femto, etc. That was not the case.

From a January 26, 2022 American Chemical Society (ACS) news release on EurekAlert,

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is producing a new, biweekly science podcast called Tiny Matters, which is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Head to ACS’ website or your favorite platform and subscribe.

The first episode drops today. Hosts Sam Jones, Ph.D., and Deboki Chakravarti, Ph.D., chat with experts about the ancient beasts that went extinct 65 million years ago, but whose remains still captivate us today — dinosaurs. Scientists around the world regularly discover new fossils, and that helps piece together the mystery of what dinosaurs and other extinct creatures were like. That information doesn’t just inspire movies like “Jurassic Park”; it also helps researchers predict Earth’s future and could even lead to more sustainable technology.

Tiny Matters is a science podcast about things small in size but big in impact. Every other Wednesday, the hosts will uncover little stuff that makes big stuff possible. Upcoming episodes will find them answering questions such as “How does our brain form memories?”, “Why haven’t we terraformed Mars yet?” and “Why isn’t there a vaccine for HIV?” Tune in!

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people. The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

I was not expecting dinosaurs and fossils. So, I listened.

First, it’s not that easy to define what a fossil is. (I had no idea this was a problem.) And, the hosts interview a scientist who studies what happens to fossils at the molecular level, which in this case means DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and proteins. it;s a field known as molecular taphonomy.

I found the programme fascinating (scientists think dinosaurs were feathered; they mention evolutionary photonics and structural colour). This despite the fact I’m not very interested in dinosaurs or fossils. Bravo to the hosts for keeping it interesting and light while providing lots of technical information.

(I imagine that the excessive perkiness and multiple declarations that something or other is cool are a consequence of nerves when recording the first episode in a brand new podcast series.)

Getting back to the strengths, the hosts (Jones and Chakravarti) have taken some very technical material and found a way to describe it without patronizing the listener or making it impossible to understand.

For people who prefer to read, there’s a transcript of the first episode here. The scientists interviewed in the “Dinosaur Fossils: Inspiring Jurassic Park and helping us predict Earth’s future” episode were Caitlin Colleary, a paleontologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (Ohio), Emma Dunne, a paleobiologist at University of Birmingham (England), and Vinod Saranathan, a physicist and evolutionary biologist at Yale-NUS [National University of Singapore] College in Singapore.

‘Find the Birds’ mobile game has a British Columbia (Canada) location

Adam Dhalla in a January 5, 2022 posting on the Nature Conservancy Canada blog announced a new location for a ‘Find the Birds’ game,

Since its launch six months ago …, with an initial Arizona simulated birding location, Find the Birds (a free educational mobile game about birds and conservation) now has over 7,000 players in 46 countries on six continents. In the game, players explore realistic habitats, find and take virtual photos of accurately animated local bird species and complete conservation quests. Thanks in a large part to the creative team at Thought Generation Society (the non-profit game production organization I’m working with), Find the Birds is a Canadian-made success story.

Going back nine months to an April 9, 2021 posting and the first ‘Find the Birds’ announcement by Adam Dhalla for the Nature Conservancy Canada blog,

It is not a stretch to say that our planet is in dire need of more conservationists, and environmentally minded people in general. Birds and birdwatching are gateways to introducing conservation and science to a new generation.

… it seems as though younger generations are often unaware of the amazing world in their backyard. They don’t hear the birdsong emanating from the trees during the morning chorus. …

This problem inspired my dad and me to come up with the original concept for Find the Birds, a free educational mobile game about birds and conservation. I was 10 at the time, and I discovered that I was usually the only kid out birdwatching. So we thought, why not bring the birds to them via the digital technology they are already immersed in?

Find the Birds reflects on the birding and conservation experience. Players travel the globe as an animated character on their smartphone or tablet and explore real-life, picturesque environments, finding different bird species. The unique element of this game is its attention to detail; everything in the game is based on science. …

Here’s a trailer for the game featuring its first location, Arizona,

Now back to Dhalla’s January 5, 2022 posting for more about the latest iteration of the game and other doings (Note: Links have been removed),

Recently, the British Columbia location was added, which features Sawmill Lake in the Okanagan Valley, Tofino on the coast and a journey in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the local bird species included are Steller’s jays (BC’s provincial bird), black oystercatchers and western meadowlarks. Conservation quests include placing nest boxes for northern saw-whet owls and cleaning up beach litter.

I’ve always loved Steller’s jays! We get a lot of them in our backyard. It’s far lesser known bird than blue jay, so I wanted to give them some attention. That’s the terrific thing about being the co-creator of the game: I get to help choose the species, the quests — everything! So all the birds in the BC locations are some of my favourites.

The black oystercatcher is another underappreciated species. I’ve seen them along the coasts of BC, where they are relatively common. …

To gauge the game’s impact on conservation education, I recently conducted an online player survey. Of the 101 players who completed the survey, 71 per cent were in the 8–15 age group, which means I am reaching my peers. But 21 per cent were late teens and adults, so the game’s appeal is not limited to children. Fifty-one per cent were male and 49 per cent female: this equality is encouraging, as most games in general have a much smaller percentage of female players.

And the game is helping people connect with nature! Ninety-eight per cent of players said the game increased their appreciation of birds. …

As a result of the game’s reputation and the above data, I was invited to present my findings at the 2022 International Ornithological Congress. So, I will be traveling to Durban, South Africa, next August to spread the word on reaching and teaching a new generation of birders, ornithologists and conservationists. …

You can find the game here at FindtheBirds.com and you can find Thought Generation here.

For the curious, here’s a black oystercatcher caught in the act,

Black oystercatcher (Photo by Tracey Chen, CC BY-NC 4.0) [downloaded from https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/find-the-birds-british-columbia.html#.YdcjWSaIapr]

Science and stories: an online talk January 5, 2022 and a course starting on January 10, 2022

So far this year all I’ve been posting about are events and contests. Continuing on that theme, I have an event and, something new, a course.

Massey Dialogues on January 5, 2022, 1 – 2 pm PST

“The Art of Science-Telling: How Science Education Can Shape Society” is scheduled for today (Wednesday, January 5, 5022 at 1 pm PST or 4 pm EST), You can find the livestream here on YouTube,

Massey College

Join us for the first Massey Dialogues of 2022 from 4:00-5:00pm ET on the Art of Science-Telling: How Science Education Can Shape Society.

Farah Qaiser (Evidence for Democracy), Dr. Bonnie Schmidt (Let’s Talk Science) and Carolyn Tuohy (Senior Fellow) will discuss what nonprofits can do for science education and policy, moderated by Junior Fellow Keshna Sood.

The Dialogues are open to the public – we invite everyone to join and take part in what will be a very informative online discussion. Participants are invited to submit questions to the speakers in real time via the Chat function to the right of the screen.

——-

To ensure you never miss a Massey Event, subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/masseyco…

We also invite you to visit masseycollege.ca/calendar for upcoming events.

Follow us on social media:

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Support our work: masseycollege.ca/support-us

You can find out more about the Massey Dialogues here. As for the college, it’s affiliated with the University of Toronto as per the information on the College’s Governance webpage.

Simon Fraser University (SFU; Vancouver, Canada) and a science communication course

I stumbled across “Telling Science Stories” being offered for SFU’s Spring 2022 semester in my twitter feed. Apparently there’s still space for students in the course.

I was a little surprised by how hard it was to find basic information such as: when does the course start? Yes, I found that and more, here’s what I managed to dig up,

From the PUB 480/877 Telling Science Stories course description webpage,

In this hands-on course, students will learn the value of sharing research knowledge beyond the university walls, along with the skills necessary to become effective science storytellers.

Climate change, vaccines, artificial intelligence, genetic editing — these are just a few examples of the essential role scientific evidence can play in society. But connecting science and society is no simple task: it requires key publishing and communication skills, as well as an understanding of the values, goals, and needs of the publics who stand to benefit from this knowledge.

This course will provide students with core skills and knowledge needed to share compelling science stories with diverse audiences, in a variety of formats. Whether it’s through writing books, podcasting, or creating science art, students will learn why we communicate science, develop an understanding of the core principles of effective audience engagement, and gain skills in publishing professional science content for print, radio, and online formats. The instructor is herself a science writer and communicator; in addition, students will have the opportunity to learn from a wide range of guest lecturers, including authors, artists, podcasters, and more. While priority will be given to students enrolled in the Publishing Minor, this course is open to all students who are interested in the evolving relationship between science and society.

I’m not sure if an outsider (someone who’s not a member of the SFU student body) can attend but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

The course is being given by Alice Fleerackers, here’s more from her profile page on the ScholCommLab (Scholarly Communications Laboratory) website,

Alice Fleerackers is a researcher and lab manager at the ScholCommLab and a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, where she works under the supervision of Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin to explore how health science is communicated online. Her doctoral research is supported by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from SSHRC and a Michael Stevenson Graduate Scholarship from SFU.

In addition, Alice volunteers with a number of non-profit organizations in an effort to foster greater public understanding and engagement with science. She is a Research Officer at Art the Science, Academic Liaison of Science Borealis, Board Member of the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC), and a member of the Scientific Committee for the Public Communication of Science and Technology Network (PCST). She is also a freelance health and science writer whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post, and Nautilus, among other outlets. Find her on Twitter at @FleerackersA.

Logistics such as when and where the course is being held (from the course outline webpage),

Telling Science Stories

Class Number: 4706

Delivery Method: In Person

Course Times + Location: Tu, Th 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
HCC 2540, Vancouver

Instructor: Alice Fleerackers
afleerac@sfu.ca

According to the Spring 2022 Calendar Academic Dates webpage, the course starts on Monday, January 10, 2021 and I believe the room number (HCC2540) means the course will be held at SFU’s downtown Vancouver site at Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street.

Given that SFU claims to be “Canada’s leading engaged university,” they do a remarkably poor job of actually engaging with anyone who’s not member of the community, i.e., an outsider.

A little more Christmas: “Kitty Q” award-winning game app explains quantum physics

Caption: Kitty Q. Credit: Philipp Stollenmayer

It kind of reminds me of ‘Hello Kitty’. However, you can see in this larger version that 1/2 of this cat has a skeletal paw giving it kinship to Erwin Schrödinger’s cat.

The app was first announced in a September 28, 2021University of Würzburg press release on EurekAlert,

Cute but half-dead

Ding, dong. There is a box in front of the door. And inside there is … a cute but half-dead cat! The main character of the new game app “Kitty Q” of the Würzburg-Dresden Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat–Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter of the Universities of Würzburg and Dresden accompanies children and teenagers aged 11 and older into the crazy quantum world. The adventure is intended to primarily get girls excited about the fascinating phenomena of quantum physics. The model for the lovingly designed “Kitty Q” is a popular thought experiment in quantum mechanics by Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger (1887 – 1961), known as Schrödinger’s cat–alive and dead at the same time.

But fun first

Those who embark on adventure with “Kitty Q” can tinker, try out, experiment on their smartphones and solve more than 20 attractive brainteasers along the way. Importantly, the kids don’t have to be math whizzes or physics geniuses. After all, “Kitty Q” is all about fun!

“The game is an Escape Game after all, even though it conveys quite serious scientific content. It is intended to awaken curiosity and encourage trying things out. Indeed, that’s what science is all about: discovering new things by thinking and experimenting,” says the app designer Philipp Stollenmayer, explaining the character of the game app he developed. “The gamers experience an exciting world, collect stickers and design their cat individually. Just like in real life, you need to work in the quantum world to acquire your knowledge. It was important to me to show how much fun this could be!” “Kitty Q” is the first commissioned project for Stollenmayer who otherwise works exclusively on his own and has won all the major prizes in game design since 2013–most recently the Apple Design Award 2020.

Donuts, randomness, cold chips

The focus of the game app is on the more than 20 puzzles based on scientific facts from quantum physics–the concept of chance, donuts as “symbol” of topological quantum physics, cold chips for revolutionary high-tech and quantum computers, to name a few examples. Those who like can access background knowledge, edited in a popular way, as “Kittypedia articles” as soon as a puzzle has been solved.

“The research field of our Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat–topological quantum physics–promises revolutionary insights and groundbreaking developments. But the subject is still so young that it will take quite a few years before it arrives in classroom. We are trying to bridge this gap with the app,” explains Matthias Vojta, Professor of Theoretical Solid State Physics at Technische Universität (TU) Dresden and spokesperson of the Dresden branch of the ct.qmat research alliance. Topological quantum physics uses topology–a branch of mathematics–as a tool to theoretically describe the interior of novel quantum materials. This is a Nobel Prize-winning research approach that ct.qmat applies.

Attracting female physicists

The game takes unusual approaches to attract children and teens to mathematics, computer science, natural and technical sciences (STEM)–and especially to quantum physics–at an early age. The focus is particularly on girls, since young women are underrepresented in physics degree programs in particular. The game targets at an age group in which interest in physics and the natural sciences is shaped.

“At least since the German government passed the economic stimulus package last year and more than two billion euros flow into German quantum research, our field of science has arrived in society. Unfortunately, there is already a significant shortage of skilled personnel in physics. With our mobile game, we want to make physics an experience, appeal to tomorrow’s researchers and Nobel Prize winners, and thus keep Germany’s high tech economy running,” comments the spokesperson of the Würzburg branch Ralph Claessen, Professor of Experimental Physics at Julius Maximilian University (JMU) Würzburg.

The latest about Kitty Q can be found in a December 21, 2021 Technische Universität Dresden press release on EurekAlert,

“We are thrilled that our app ‘Kitty Q’ was honored as a ‘Serious Game’ at the Games Innovation Award Saxony. The references to quantum physics are always there, but our game can also be played completely without math or physics know-how. Detailed background knowledge is optionally available in the ‘Kittypedia’. We invested a lot of work in compiling these generally understandable encyclopedia articles on quantum physics. We are immensely pleased that this award highlights the aspect of knowledge transfer in particular,” explains Prof. Matthias Vojta, Professor of Theoretical Solid State Physics at Technische Universität (TU) Dresden and spokesperson of the Dresden branch of ct.qmat.

The next round of ” Kitty Q” is now starting with the project “QUANTube–Science Break”: “From January 2022 on, our young researchers will be answering questions about quantum physics sent to us by players from all over the world in entertaining explanatory videos. We are challenging ourselves in terms of easy comprehensibility and language suitable for children and young people,” explains the spokesperson of the Würzburg branch of the Cluster Prof. Ralph Claessen, Professor of Experimental Physics at Julius Maximilian University (JMU) Würzburg. “The fact that the DFG has now awarded a Community Prize to ‘QUANTube’ is a special honor for us because it is awarded by marketing experts from the research community and not by a specialist jury. Perhaps there is even some curiosity about our implementation behind the vote.”

The game app “Kitty Q” has so far been downloaded 65,000 times worldwide. “It’s great to see how enthusiastically people are playing and how great the feedback and ratings are. That is anything but a matter of course for a game that imparts knowledge,” says app designer Philipp Stollenmayer, who developed the game for the Würzburg-Dresden Cluster of Excellence. So far, Stollenmayer has won all the major prizes in game design for the games he has developed on his own–most recently the Apple Design Award 2020.

Answering questions from the players using video

Whoever solves a certain puzzle in the mobile game “Kitty Q–a Quantum Adventure” earns a bonus app, which can be used to ask the researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat a question. So far, more than 45 questions on physics and quantum physics have been sent via the in-game bonus app.

All questions will be answered by the doctoral and postdoctoral researchers of the Cluster of Excellence on a topic-related basis in YouTube explanatory videos starting as of January 2022–in school break length of about five minutes and in line with the Science Year 2022, which has the motto “Inquire into a matter”. For recruiting next generation of scientists, the cluster also relies on its strong network with five non-university partner institutes: Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden Rossendorf, Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids Dresden, Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems Dresden and Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research.

“QUANTube–Science Break” #1 Schrödinger’s Cat

The first QUANTube episode answers questions about “Schrödinger’s cat”. The video will be published on the YouTube channel of the Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat at the end of January: https://www.youtube.com/c/ClusterofExcellencectqmat

America, England, Vietnam, China, and Germany–questions about cats were sent in from all over the world: What does the Q in kitty Q stand for? Why is the cat half dead? How long do cats live when they are half dead? What do the cat’s atoms look like when it is dead and alive at the same time? Why did Schrödinger use a cat and not another animal in his thought experiment in the first place?

A little preview of the new QUANTube video series is provided by a teaser video that answers the question, “What do cats actually have to do with physics?”

Here’s the QUANTube–Science Break video series teaser/preview,

You can find out more about Kitty Q (English language version) here or you can access the Katze Q (German language version) here.

Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN)

If I understand the message from the Canadian Black Scientists Network’s (CBSN) president, Professor Maydianne CB Andrade correctly, the first meeting was in July 2020 and during that meeting the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN)* was born and the website was established (in August 2021?).

The Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN) is a national coalition of Black people possessing or pursuing higher degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine/Health (STEMM), together with Allies who are senior leaders with a demonstrated commitment to action for Black inclusion. Our network is young and growing. We were founded by a small group of faculty and held our first meeting in July 2020. Since then, we have expanded to include hundreds of members from across the country, including academics, graduate students and postdocs, research administrators, and STEMM practitioners. We have established a very active steering committee of volunteers, an online presence, and are increasingly recognized as the face of a multidisciplinary, national vanguard of Black excellence in STEMM.

….

We focus on those who identify as Black, which we define as those of Black African descent, which includes those who identify as Black Africans, and those found worldwide who identify as descendants of Black African peoples. We acknowledge and will be open to working in partnership with other organizations that focus on dismantling the challenges, discrimination, and barriers to inclusion in STEMM that are experienced by others.  We simultaneously emphasize the need to maintain our network’s focus on Black Canadians. Deliberate, tailored interventions for Black communities are required to remove the long-standing discrimination, exclusion, and oppression that was initially created to justify slavery, and the ways in which those structures and stereotypes still manifest in systematic anti-Black racism in the lives of Canadians (see: the United Nations Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada). We will not shirk from pointing to these realities, but will maintain a strong commitment to joining with all Canadians to build a more equitable society. 

Prof Maydianne CB Andrade
Inaugural President & Co-Founder
August 10, 2021

They’ve already been in involved in a number of media programmes and events. That’s a lot to get done (i.e., establishing a network, participating on [10 – 13] panels, podcasts, etc., and organizing a conference [BE-STEMM conference for January 30 – February 2, 2022], developing sponsorships, putting together a website, and more) in a little over 18 months.

Funding, conference, award-winning CBC programme

They must have gotten money from somewhere and while they don’t spell it out, you can find out more about the CBSN’s sponsors (i.e., funders and other supporters) here. As one would expect, you’ll find the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Natural Research Council of Canada (NRC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Information about the BE-STEMM Conference (January 30 – February 2, 2022) can be found here,

We are pleased to announce our first annual conference for Black Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine/Health (BE-STEMM 2022).

This virtual, interdisciplinary conference will highlight established and rising star Black Canadians in STEMM fields through plenary talks and concurrent talks sessions. Three days of academic programming will be anchored by a fourth day dedicated to leadership summits aimed at sharing best practices for actions supporting justice for Black Canadians in STEMM across sectors, educational levels, professional roles, and intersectional identities. Other highlights include a career fair, public panels and talks, and sessions featuring research of high school and undergraduate students.

Funded by grants from CIHR, NRC, NSERC, FRQNT [Fonds de recherche du Québec], and supported by MITACS [Canadian, national, not-for-profit organization designing and delivering research and training programs] and several academic partners, this bilingual, accessible conference invites all to attend. Black Canadians, Indigenous Canadians, and Allies of all identities from across the STEMM landscape are welcome. Visit this site often for more details on how to participate or become a sponsor.

The timing for the establishment of a Canadian Black Scientists Network couldn’t be much better. Just months after the July 2020 meeting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) radio broadcasts a February 16, 2021 interview featuring Maydianne Andrade and Kevin Hewitt, co-founders of the Canadian Black Scientists Network, on the Mainstreet NS [news stories?] with Jeff Douglas.

On February 27, 2021, CBC’s Quirks and Quarks radio programme broadcasts an award-winning, three-part special “Black in science: The legacy of racism in science and how Black scientists are moving the dial,” which featured an interview with Angela Saini (author of 2019’s SUPERIOR; The Return of Race Science), as well as, Prof Maydianne CB Andrade (CBSN Inaugural President & Co-Founder), and many others.

The 2021 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Kavli Science Journalism Award for “Black in science …,” was announced November 10, 2021,

Audio

Gold Award:

Amanda Buckiewicz and Nicole Mortillaro

CBC/Radio-Canada

“Quirks & Quarks: Black in science special”

Feb. 27, 2021

Buckiewicz and Mortillaro, producers for a special edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s long-running “Quirks & Quarks” program, looked at the past and future of Black people in science. The episode examined the history of biased and false “race science” that led to misunderstanding and mistreatment of Black people by the scientific and medical community, creating obstacles for them to participate in the scientific process. Buckiewicz and Mortillaro spoke to Black researchers about their work and how they are trying to increase recognition for the contributions of Black scientists and build more opportunities and representation across all disciplines of science. Judge Alexandra Witze, a freelance science journalist, called the program “unflinching in describing science’s racist history, such as how Carl Linnaeus classified people by skin color and how Black scientists have been intentionally marginalized and pushed out of research.” Through a variety of interviews with expert sources, she said, the episode illuminates the work required to make science more equitable. Rich Monastersky, chief features editor for Nature in Washington, D.C., said: “The show explored the difficult and important topic of racism in science—from its historical roots to the impact that it still has and to the ways that researchers are combating the problem. It should be required listening for all students studying science—as well as practicing scientists.” Commenting on the award, Buckiewicz and Mortillaro said: “We often think of the practice of science as being this unflappable, objective quest for knowledge, but it’s about time that we face some hard truths about the way science has been misused to justify the mistreatment of generations of people. With this radio special we really wanted to shed light on the long legacy of racism in science and unpack some of the ways we can do science better.”

Congratulations to Amanda Buckiewicz and Nicole Mortillaro; good luck to the CBSN; and thank you to Alon Eisenstein (https://twitter.com/AlonEisenstein) for the November 20, 2021 tweet that led me to the CBSN.

*Canadian Black Science Network (CBXN) corrected to Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN) on February 1, 2022.