Bits and bobs about the Canadian science scene: ecology news from Manitoba; Canadian space news; scientists in residence in BC

In the last ten days, I’ve gotten news of three Canadian science blogs and a scientist in residence program in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Andy Park, Associate Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Winnipeg (Manitoba), writes the ‘It’s the Ecology, Stupid!;  A grumpy professor tells you what he really thinks about environmental issues in Canada’ blog. From his About page,

As you’d quickly find out if you met me, I was not born in Canada.  I moved here from the UK in 1988, having previously taken refuge from Thatcher’s Britain in Saudi Arabia for several years.

Since that time, I have finished an undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University, worked as a forestry consultant in northern British Columbia, acquired a PhD, lived in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and of course, Winnipeg, and travelled extensively within Canada from Tadousak to the McKenzie Delta.

Allied to my academic qualifications, I believe that these experiences make me at least somewhat qualified to comment on Canadian environmental issues.

Here’s a sample from Park’s June 7, 2012 posting (Note: I have removed links.],

You would have to have been living under a rock over the last couple of weeks not to have heard of the federal government’s decision to withdraw funding for Canada’s world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).  Research emerging from this network of 58 small lakes in northwest Ontario has helped to clean up Lake Erie (see Figure 1), saved municipalities millions of dollars on the design of sewage plants, and shed light on the ecological pathways by which acid rain harms lakes.

The imminent closure of the ELA has not gone unnoticed internationally, and threatens to add another twist to the death spiral of Canada’s environmental reputation.

Water experts from around the world have weighed in to condemn the closure, and a who’s who of leading aquatic experts have written an open letter to Steven Harper requesting that he reverse the closure.

(I mentioned the ELA in a May 3 2012 posting about a major three-year project (starting in 2012) to study silver nanoparticles and their impact in the ELA ecosystem.)

Welcome to Andy Park and his lively blog!

Chuck Black contacted me about his two blogs both focused on outer space. There’s ‘Commercial Space‘ which is subtitled,  Focused on Canadian money making activities high above the skies… From the About this Blog page,

Businesses operating space related ventures have been commercially viable since at least the 1960’s, when the first Early Bird satellite was successfully launched into geosynchronous orbit according to David M. Livingston in his paper, Space: The Final Financial Frontier.

And Canadian companies have always been leaders in this area, beginning with the launch of the Allouette and Anik satellites and moving forward from there.


In fact, it’s got to the point where former Cabinet Minister Jim Prentice went so far as to say that “Canada has more than 200 firms that are involved in space” employing thousands of skilled workers who know that “working in space or working in the space-based industries is just another career option.”

This blog will focus on those industries, the partnerships developed to maintain and grow them and the politics surrounding those partnerships.

And perhaps somewhere along the line, we’ll even get around to discussing the next big opportunity to make some money.

The June 9, 2012 posting features the cancellation of a long-running high school science contest (Note: I have removed links from the excerpt),

The University of Toronto Space Design Contest (UTSDC), will not be holding a competition in 2012 and seems unlikely to be revived anytime soon.

The contest was an independent, student run organization operating out of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto and held annual competitions from 2004 until 2011 for high school students to solve challenging space-related science and technology problems.

But the contest website hasn’t been updated since last years results were posted in May 2011, the contact form for the website is “offline” and inquiries to the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering (which links from the UTSDC for contest “donations“) have gone unanswered.

Black’s second blog is called Space Conference News, from the About this Blog page (Note: I have removed a link from the excerpt),

Approximately 14,000 government and private organizations are considered as part of the international space systems industry, according to the 2011 Space Report.

Theses organizations generated $276.52 Billion USD last year and employ over 300,000 people throughout the world

But this industry is notoriously lacking in collaboration or cohesion and is composed primarily of narrow silo’s of skills distributed widely across political boundaries which possess little interconnectedness.

This is a shame, since these organizations need to connect with each other (and to students who will eventually become their future employees) in order to fill in knowledge gaps, develop useful contacts and present current proposals or provisional scientific findings for peer review.

So pretty much everyone is going to eventually end up needing to attend one or more of the 1000+ yearly conferences that have grown up over the last 20 years to cater to the people and organizations involved in this industry.

Black’s May 13, 2012 posting provides a listing of space-related events in June 2012. As for Chuck Black himself, here’s a description from the Space Conference News About the Author page (Note: I have removed links from the excerpt),

I’m a writer, “sales rainmaker,” aerospace pundit and the Treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

My background is cold calling “C” level executives, networking to build industry specific expertise and developing options for the building of long-term profitable sales relationships in situations with multiple key decision makers.

I also have a background in conference organizing, sponsorship and management. If you’d like to see some of my recent events, check out the National Conferences and Bimonthly Meetings sections of the CSCA website.

I write the Space Conference News website (which tracks upcoming international space science and engineering conferences) and the Commercial Space Blog (which focuses on the Canadian space systems industry).

My last item is about the Scientist in Residence Program in British Columbia. From the About page,

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Scientist in Residence Program excites, inspires and supports elementary school children and teachers to discover the world through hands-on science. Scientists collaborate with teachers throughout the school year and engage children in the process of science through six or more visits in classrooms and on field trips. Through these direct interactions, scientists are positive role models, teachers enhance their comfort and abilities to teach science, and students develop positive attitudes and have fun while they learn about diverse aspects of science. Children gain skills such as keen observation, critical thinking, and thoughtful communication. These are essential life skills as well as science skills.

Paige Axelrood, Ph.D., is the Founder and Managing Director of the Scientist in Residence Program. Catriona Gordon, M.Sc., is the Assistant Program Manager of the Scientist in Residence Program. They collaborate with Valerie Overgaard, Ph.D., Associate Superintendent of Learning Services, and others at the Vancouver Board of Education to deliver the Program to Vancouver schools. Since 2004, 114 teachers, 20 scientists in residence, and more than more than 2700 students in kindergarten through grade 7 have participated in the Program at 37 elementary schools in the Vancouver School District, plus one elementary school in the West Vancouver School District.

The scientists in residence have M.Sc. or Ph.D. degrees in fields including botany, plant pathology, environmental sciences, fish physiology, marine biology and deep sea ecology, cell biology and medical genetics, human biology, physics, and electrical engineering. The scientists are researchers, instructors, project managers, and consultants. Many of them have had some affiliation with the University of British Columbia.

Scientists and teachers, together or separately, can apply to participate in the program. You can find forms and additional information here.

3 thoughts on “Bits and bobs about the Canadian science scene: ecology news from Manitoba; Canadian space news; scientists in residence in BC

  1. Andrew Park

    Hi Froghaeart,

    Thanks for mentioning “itstheecologystupid”. When I looked at the web quote I noticed an erratum in my own post. Instead of saying that the federal budget was “about $75 billion”, I should have said “275 billion”. With that correction what follows makes a whole lot more sense.

    Mea Culpa (I’m new to this…”

  2. admin

    Hi Andy! No worries regarding erratum. I blush whenever I look at an older posting and notice yet one more typo or mistake. The thing about blogs, I really appreciate being able to fix the errors so easily. I did mention that posting of yours twice today. The OECD report has an item about Canadian research into the impact of nanomaterials in aquatic environments and I suspect some of that research was to take place in the ELA. Cheers, Maryse

  3. Pingback: Ottawa science protest (Death of Evidence rally) inspired by UK Science for the Future funeral « FrogHeart

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