Category Archives: sscience education

Science Fuse: a STEM initiative for children in Pakistan and beyond

A June 3, 2022 article by Abdullahi Tsanni for Nature journal features an interview with Lalah Rukh, founder of Science Fuse, a non-governmental agency dedicated to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for youth and which is located in Lahore, Pakistan, Note: Links have been removed,

My interest in science began when I was 12, after reading an article about personalized medicine in a children’s magazine published by a leading newspaper in Pakistan. I was fascinated by this idea, and I cut out the article and pasted it by my bedside so that I could see it every morning when I woke up.

In 2003, I moved back to Norway, where I was born, and studied molecular biology and biotechnology at university. But I realized that I didn’t enjoy doing science in the laboratory as much as I enjoyed engaging people with science. So, I joined Forskerfabrikken, a non-profit organization based in Oslo that encourages children to engage with science. We organized hands-on science programmes for schoolchildren. I worked there for five years as a science communicator, and I learnt about science engagement and social entrepreneurship. I discovered the core features that make for great small-scale school exhibits, and I saw how the organization established revenue streams and structures to expand its team and expertise across Norway. And I realized that science communication is where my passion truly lies.

In summer 2013, when I was in Pakistan to get married, I visited a small charity-run school for children living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Karachi. I did a 3-hour science workshop for the children with fun demonstrations — from creating giant bubbles to making beads that change colour under sunlight, and chemical reactions that make water ‘pop’. There were big smiles on the children’s faces and the experiments sparked their curiosity. It felt more meaningful for me to do this kind of work in Pakistan. Since 2016, Science Fuse has reached more than 45,000 children, trained 650 teachers and nurtured a community of more than 200 science communicators. We have worked closely with about 250 schools and partner organizations to deliver world-class science education across the country.

In Pakistan, 44% of children are out of school, one of the highest percentages in the world — and the majority of those who do go to school attend low-income private or government schools. Many low-income families don’t have access to good-quality STEM education. …

Tsanni’s June 3, 2022 article is a short read that offers insight into STEM, youth, girls,and science in Pakistan, if you have the time.

Science Fuse creates posters featuring Pakistani women in science to break stereotypes and encourage children to follow their science passion.Credit: Sana Nasir, Maria Riaz & Sana Kirmani/Science Fuse [downloaded from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01566-6]

You can find Science Fuse here. At a guess, they, along with so many other groups, were affected by COVID and this interview in Nature is intended as a relaunch of their programmes. It’s good to see these initiatives coming back and, in the meantime, you can access their older (the most recent being from November 2020) ‘Incredible Questions of Science’ podcasts here or here at Anchor.fm.

H/t to Gary McFarlane (@GaryM) for his tweet about the interview.

Ethọ́s Lab (youth STEAM academy) launches physical space in Vancouver (Canada) with a block party on June 18, 2022

The Ethọ́s Lab offers extra-curricular programming through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) for youths between 12 and 18 . Here’s more from Rebecca Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article on her Miss604.com website, Note: A link has been removed,

… has been offering virtual, STEAM-based education (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) within an antiracist, technology-forward framework throughout the pandemic, and will now be able to add in-person programming.

Ethọ́s Lab was founded to increase access and representation in STEAM,” says parent and founder Anthonia Ogundele.

“These past two years have shown us that this goal is more important than ever before. The ‘metaverse’ has become a hot topic since Facebook’s name change to Meta, the rise of NFTs, and the digital pivot the world underwent at the start of the pandemic. Parents are realizing that their kids need equitable access to tools and information that will help them challenge and shape a digital future that is quickly arriving upon us. We need young, diverse voices co-creating innovative solutions and leading change, in order to ensure we aren’t just perpetuating antiquated, unjust systems — whether those hierarchies are found in coding, urban planning, or the art market. We can’t wait to connect with even more young people with our new home in Mount Pleasant.”

Here’s the Grand Opening/party information (from Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article),

Ethọ́s Lab Opens in Mount Pleasant

  • What: Opening Block Party
  • When: Saturday, June 18 from 10:00am to 8:00pm
  • Where: 177 East 3rd Ave, Vancouver
  • Admission: Free!

According to Katie Hyslop’s February 26, 2021 article for The Tyee, Ethọ́s Lab began with a search,

When Anthonia Ogundele was looking for after-school programs for her 11-year-old daughter in 2019, she was frustrated by the lack of options. Particularly when it came to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs.

“Innovation in STEM is often reserved to gifted, enrichment-type kids or programs, streams and mini-schools,” she said.

“And if you don’t have access, you end up missing out on really great project-based learning, or competitions, or even just the basic tools and equipment to be able to innovate within that space.”

Access to current STEM after-school programs can be limited by an inability to afford program fees, but also by class, race and who you know.

When Ogundele, who is Black, spoke to other parents about after-school program options, she found she wasn’t alone in her struggle. She wondered: what would a program look like that provided access for all young people, but especially Black youth, to technology and STEM skills and addressed needs like belonging and self-worth?

Hyslop’s February 26, 2021 article provides a couple of examples of early Ethọ́s Lab programmes,

… a four-week session on 3D modelling exposed young people to 3D technology and skills. The session had young people design housing specifically for Hogan’s Alley, the Black community in Vancouver that was razed in 1970 to make way for the Georgia Viaducts.

“The theme was ‘place, race and space.’ So the young people come in to learn about place, race and space, but it’s actually a 3D modelling course and they learn how to build homes in a geographical context of Hogan’s Alley,” said Ogundele, who has a master’s in urban planning and launched the Hogan’s Alley Land Trust, now known as the Hogan’s Alley Society.

“We would talk about monuments, and what it means to create or build things that have meaning and place. That’s how we contextualize it.”

Korinne Tsang’s first introduction to Ethọ́s Lab was a screen-printing session last summer [2020]. The 16-year-old student was a bit reluctant to participate at first due to shyness, but she eventually decided to give it a try.

Eight months later, Tsang is still taking Ethọ́s Lab workshops, including sessions on bias in artificial intelligence, coding and creating a personal avatar.

“One of the interesting things is we look at the bias in every part of technology, where I may try to go make an avatar in a video game. And you can’t always make one that looks like yourself because we don’t have those features, and figuring out how to change that,” said Tsang, who is of Chinese and European descent.

I gather the A (arts) was added to this STEM initiative after Hyslop’s article was written.

Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article describes the building which will house Ethọ́s Lab, Note: A link has been removed)

The organization is housed inside a new building owned by the City of Vancouver and operated over the next 60 years by non-profit cultural organization 221A [emphasis mine] in collaboration with the Community Land Trust. In addition to a nearly 1,000-sq.-ft. dedicated space, Ethọ́s Lab has shared access to a 2,700-sq.-ft. production facility.

The site is the physical manifestation of the thriving community that Ethọ́s Lab built in their own proprietary metaverse over the pandemic, a virtual hub called Atlanthọ́s that was co-created with youth members and developed by local tech start-up Active Replica. Now, the organization will be a hub for the broader community, a place for members and their families to gather and collaborate. 

The space features a mix of organic, sustainable materials and digital elements, and makes use of the site’s natural light. Local firm Tectonic Architecture, which prioritizes community-based work, led design discussions with youth members — also known as Ethósians — to ensure their vision was incorporated into the space. Comic artist and illustrator Jazz Gordon-Gillquist and Chase Gray (who recently designed the Vancouver Canucks’ First Nations Night warmup jersey) created an original mural in collaboration with curator Krystal Paraboo. Microsoft, Sony, and Heritage Office Furnishings equipped and furnished the space. 

Given 221A’s involvement (see my June 17, 2021 posting; scroll down to the “Arts and blockchain events in Vancouver” subhead), it’s no surprise that Ethọ́s Lab offers a course on blockchain and NFTs (nonfungible tokens).

As for events at the block party and information about Ethọ́s Lab’s summer programmes, check out Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article or, for events at the block party only, the Ethos Lab 3rd & Main Grand Opening page on eventbrite. Finally, the organization is fundraising and, as of May 17, 2022, was 3/4 of the way ($75,000) to their goal of $100,000.

Enjoy!

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]