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UBC Reports 2012-06-06

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a place of mind
June 2012
Blame it on chemo brain:
exercise may help
UBC gets personal:
new enrolment model
Nurses learn in Africa:
lacements to increase
> 11 i j.
Novel methods, new insights 10
Focus on animal
research 4 Blame it on chemo brain
Can exercise reduce the forgetfulness caused by anti-cancer drugs?
Brian Kladko
In their own words
lucie mcneill
Associate Director
randy schmidt
Design Manager
arlene cotter
Public Affairs Studio
ping ki chan
amanda fetterly
martin dee  martin.dee@ubcca
Web Designer
linakang  lina.kang@ubcca
Communications Coordinators
heather amos heather.amos@ubcca
Lorraine chan
jody jacob jody.jacob@ubcca
brian kladko brian.kladko@ubcca
brian lin  brian.Iin@ubcca
andytorr andy.torr@ubcca
basil waugh
maryse zeidler maryse.zeidler@ubcca
pearlie davison
lou bosshart lou.bosshart@ubcca
UBC Reports is published monthly by:
The University of British Columbia
Public Affairs Office
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Vancouver BC Canada V6T1Z1
Next issue: 5 July 2012
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|UBC|      a place of mind
Pub lie Affairs
On page four of this edition, UBC Reports launches the first of a series of
articles meant to help convey the scope and nature of research involving
animals, in support of transparency and dialogue at UBC.
This year, a group of graduate students and their professor also tackled
this topic by organizing the Green College Interdisciplinary Series Bringing
the Collective Together: Nonhuman Animals, Humans and Practice at the
University. Convenors approached UBC Reports to express concern that their
panel series was inappropriately referenced in our publication of faculty
opinions (UBC Reports, Feb. 1, Animals in Research). We have invited them to
share in their own voice the results ofthe series. This is published below.
UBC Reports welcomes further comment by students, faculty and staff on this
important topic as part of respectful dialogue at:
Series convenors question use of animals
This year at UBC, Green College hosted a speaker series on the university's use
of animal lives (Bringing the Collective Together: Nonhuman Animals, Humans
and Practice at the University). As the faculty/student convenors ofthe series, we
reflect here upon its achievements.
The segmented nature of academic disciplines discourages cross-disciplinary
engagement. Against this grain of business as usual, the panel discussions brought
together diverse scholars—from law, animal science, philosophy, zoology, political
science, sociology, applied ethics, genetics, philosophy, anthropology, history,
biology, psychology. Faculty and students explored critical perspectives, including
on how our university should govern itself.
The series demonstrates that the use of animal lives at the university poses
substantial scholarly concerns that are pressing across the disciplines: How
have property and criminal law in Canada left animals largely unprotected by
legislation? What ethical codes are in play, how robust are they, and what do
alternative ethical codes suggest about current practice? How well does current
governance of animals resonate with democratic values? Does Canada's system
for funding research channel researchers toward the use of animals, including
for reasons other than social benefit? Does the system encourage development
of non-animal methods? What are the social and individual benefits and costs
of current research on animals? What exactly do the 200,000 animals who get
used yearly at UBC experience? Do we—can we—fully know? In what ways does
Canadian governance of laboratory animals lag behind approaches in other
liberal-democratic countries such as Sweden and New Zealand? What of India's
new legislation that bans dissections and live animal experiments in biomedical
education and research, requiring non-animal approaches, except in new
molecular research? What does it mean that Canada, unlike other countries,
lacks systematic review to prevent unnecessary repetition of research projects on
animals? Why does Canada, unlike other countries, lack an independent public
body that studies the welfare of animals in laboratories? In Canada, the experts
who assess proposed research on animals are peer researchers who themselves use
animals: in institutionalizing actors as the judge of their own cause, are the checks
and balances of legitimate government not corrupted?
While UBC's Vice President of Besearch [John Hepburn] commends
"ongoing academic dialogue" (UBC Beports, 1 Feb. 2012, Animals in Research),
he simultaneously endorses current "animal research" as something UBC
does "ethically, humanely, and in full compliance with the law." This blanket
endorsement ofthe status quo disregards the questions being posed by UBC
researchers about institutional governance, about the often impoverished standing
ethical justifications, and about tensions between existing law and principles of
justice. (Law and ethical justifications have been used time and again to enslave
and to subjugate; their specific content must be interrogated.) Vice President
Hepburn praises the "courageous and dedicated" researchers at UBC (Vancouver
Sun, 11 Mar. 2012 op ed, Animal Besearch at a Crossroads), but surely this praise
should not stop at UBC's scientists who use animals, and should extend to all
hard-thinking researchers at UBC.
Across the sciences, social sciences and humanities, UBC boasts enormous
capacity for innovation and ethical leadership. The Green College series presses
UBC to consider available alternative codes of ethics that may be more defensible
than current guidelines; to include in the assessment of UBC research projects
voices that represent more diverse concern, expertise and knowledge; and to carry
such innovative thinking onto the national stage to improve the Canadian system.
Series convenors:
Afsoun Afsahi, Darren Chang, Aylon Cohen, Viara Gioreva, Dalaina Heiberg,
Prof. Laura Janara, ManjotParhar, Shirin Shushtarian, Kaitlin Wood
Scenery Slater went to pick up her mail
in the lobby of her West Vancouver
apartment building one day, but when
she got back into the elevator, she
forgot what floor she lived on.
She would try to turn off lamps in her
home with a wall switch, only to realize
that she had to use the lamp switch.
She would make Yorkshire pudding
for herself and her father, determined to
halve the recipe, and wind up doubling it
At first, Slater didn't think any
of this had anything to do with her
chemotherapy for breast cancer. Then
she heard about "chemo brain"—a
decline in cognitive function
experienced while receiving a powerful
cocktail of anti-cancer drugs.
"You don't hear about chemo brain
before starting treatment," says Slater,
49, who is on leave from her job as an
officer with the Canada Border Services
Kristin Campbell (left), an assistant professor, is investigating whether exercise can ameliorate the cognitive decline experienced by cancer patients such as Scenery Slater (rig
Agency. "You get all this information
about the drugs you'll be taking and
the possible side effects, and no one
mentions that. But when I talk to people
who have had chemotherapy, I've only
come across one who hasn't experienced
some sort of cognitive interruption to
some degree or another."
Now a UBC researcher is trying to
determine if there might be a simple
Kristin Campbell, an assistant
professor in the Department of
Physical Therapy, is seeking breast
cancer patients for a first-of-its-kind
experiment: one group of randomly
chosen women engage in a cardiovascular workout four times per week for six
months, while another group of women
maintain their usual lifestyle.
At the beginning and at the end of their
participation, the women take tests of
working memory, learning and problem-
solving. While they perform simple
tasks, they also have their brain function
assessed using functional magnetic
resonance imaging and electroencephalograms. The study is receiving support
from the Canadian Breast Cancer
Foundation BC/Yukon chapter.
A growing body of research, some of
it by Campbell's colleague in Physical
Therapy, Assistant Professor Teresa
Liu-Ambrose, has demonstrated that
exercise can improve cognitive function
in older adults.
"Exercise and cognition is an emerging
field," Campbell says. "There's a
consensus that there's something there.
But why, and what type of exercise is
most important, hasn't been answered."
The chemo brain phenomenon gained
attention in the 1990s as a result of
advocacy by cancer survivors, says
Tim Ahles, a behavioural psychologist
at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center in New York.
"The survivors kept telling us, This is
a real problem. It's not just depression,"
Ahles says. "It can affect the ability to
return to work or to school, the quality of
life, and activities of daily living."
Some people improve after months
or a year, Ahles says. Others never fully
regain their cognitive abilities.
Slater, who completed her
chemotherapy in the fall of 2010, is still
grappling with what she perceives to
be diminished mental acuity. Although
she doesn't know how she fared on the
tests, she is confronted almost daily by
a situation or question that temporarily
stumps her. Before cancer and her
treatment, she could plow through a
novel on a day off; now she has trouble
concentrating on anything longer than a
But the study led her to discover
other benefits of exercise. She is more
energetic and sleeping better. Long after
her participation ended, she continues
to work out on the treadmill in her
apartment building, three times a week. •
Anyone interested in participating
in the study should contact research
coordinator Tiffany Moore at or 604-827-1914.
More information on the study can be
found at
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   June 2012 Creatures great and small
Animals and basic science research
Brian Lin
As the home to a world-leading
community of biologists,
zoologists and genome
scientists—and Western
Canada's largest medical school—
you might expect animals to play
an important role in UBC's
research efforts. In fact, you
would be hard pressed to name a
leading university anywhere in
the world where animals do not
play a critical role in life
sciences research.
Yet for most people, the
definition of animal research
begins and ends with laboratory
At UBC, this definition is much
broader and more interdisciplinary.
Research with (and on behalf of)
animals contributes to improvements in human health and animal
welfare, a greater appreciation of
the ethics of animals in society,
species conservation and biodiversity, and a better understanding
of our relationships with animals.
What isn't always apparent is
how these avenues of research
serve the interests of both humans
and animals.
UBC President Stephen Toope
and Vice President, Research &
International John Hepburn have
committed to advancing greater
transparency around animal
research and to enabling a
respectful dialogue among
members of the UBC community.
Solid information is essential to
both these goals, and in this spirit
UBC has published initial statistics
on its animal research web site
revealing that 97 per cent of
research animals at UBC are
rodents, fish, reptiles and birds.
But it's not just about the
numbers or the species involved-
it's about the context, the goals,
the results, and the impacts of the
With this issue, UBC Reports
embarks on an in-depth, multipart series to better understand
basic and applied animal research
on our campuses.  In our July
issue, we will address medical
research involving animals, and
later, we will explore how animal
research is governed in Canada
and at UBC.
We begin the series here, with a
sample of scientific studies that
involve animals. Basic or curiosity-
driven research accounts for
two-thirds of the rodents, fish,
reptiles and birds used at UBC
each year—in the wild, in labs, and
on farms. Here are four such
projects that are helping us to
better understand ourselves and
the world around us. •
Populations of the Steller sea lion have declined by 85 per cent.
Hazy to the rescue
If Steller sea lions had super heroes,
Hazy would be one of them. Along with
marine biologist Andrew Trites, she's
helping save her species from
Hazy and other Stellers work with
UBC researchers and Vancouver
Aquarium trainers to investigate
the unexplained decline of their
counterparts in the wild brethren.
"Populations in the Gulf of Alaska and
the Aleutian Islands have declined by
85 per cent. That's more than 200,000
sea lions that have disappeared under
our watch," says Trites, whose team
has been meticulously documenting
Hazy's foraging behaviour and food
consumption for 15 years, since she
was a pup.
Now, outfitted with a harness carrying
a camera and tracking equipment, Hazy
regularly travels on the Steller Shuttle
boat to the open and frigid waters
near Indian Arm, a glacial fjord in
southwestern B.C. There, she dives to
catch fish at different depths while the
research team monitors her heart rate,
breathing patterns and other vital signs.
"Contrary to popular belief, we've
learned that Steller sea lions actually
expend more energy when foraging near
the surface," says Trites. "So it's not a
matter of having to dive deeper to find
fish that's killing them."
As it turns out, a low-calorie diet does
not a happy sea lion make.
"Sea lions require oil-rich fish, such
as salmon and herring, to meet their
caloric needs," says Trites. "Instead
they're eating primarily low energy fish
such as pollock, and their stomachs are
full before getting enough calories.
"It's like you or me surviving on a
diet of popcorn or celery," says Trites,
who adds that the results from the
project will help build smart fisheries
management strategies to effectively
help the species recover. •
High altitude
flying wonders
They may look unremarkable to the
untrained eye, but bar-headed geese
have long caught the attention of
scientists with their ability to fly over
the Himalayas with apparent ease.
Although they can be bred in captivity,
wild bar-headed geese migrate annually
between India and the plateaus in
China and Mongolia, flying over the
world's highest mountains on their
way—the human equivalent of running
a marathon as high as 5,000 to 9,000
metres above sea level.
"Flying requires up to 20 times more
energy—and an equal increase in oxygen
consumption," says Zoology Prof. Bill
Milsom. "And the bar-headed goose can
do it at altitudes where there is as little
as one-third ofthe oxygen at sea-level.
How they do this is a great mystery that
baffles us."
Compared to low-altitude waterfowl,
bar-headed geese have larger lungs and
approximately six- to 10-per-cent more
aerobic muscle fibres. Each fibre also
has more bloodvessels surrounding
it to provide it with oxygen-rich
blood cells—and these blood cells
pick up oxygen more readily from the
Among unanswered questions, says
Milsom, is whether these finely tuned
physiological features, adapted over
millions of years, will be affected by
climate change.
"To conserve the wild population, we
need to understand how the warming
climate would impact high-altitude
performance of these birds and their
ability to migrate," says Milsom. "This
species suffered greatly from the avian
flu outbreak in China in 2008, and
understanding how their physiology
dictates migratory routes will also give
us a better handle on the spread ofthe
flu along those routes."
To get a closer look at how oxygen is
utilized during flight, a small number
of geese raised by a postdoctoral fellow
in Milsom's lab have been trained to
wear tailor-made oxygen masks and
tiny "backpacks" to monitor their
temperature, heart rate, oxygen usage,
and blood oxygen levels while flying in
UBC's wind tunnel.
"It's like monitoring an Olympic
runner on a treadmill," says Milsom.
"Except the geese are just doing
what they do naturally—with a little
encouragement from their human
Understanding how the geese can soar
so high without suffering hypoxia could
also help develop better strategies to
curb the permanent damaging effects of
stroke and heart attacks, characterized
by the lack of oxygen delivery to vital
organs. •
Of mice and men
Rodents and humans have more in
common than you'd think, just ask
neuropsychologist Catharine
In 2009, she developed the world's
first rat experiment to successfully
model human gambling—and assess
drugs to moderate the addictive
behaviour. In the experiment, rats had
a limited amount of time to "gamble"
for sugar pellets. High-risk options
offered more rewards and the greater
probability of longer "timeout" periods
where no reward is earned. In order to
maximize rewards, rats must learn to
avoid risky options.
Winstanley then tested the effects
of drugs currently being explored
as treatment options for gambling
The study, published in the
high-impact Nature journal
Neuropsychopharmacology, found that
rodents treated with drugs that reduced
serotonin levels—a naturally occurring
chemical associated with impulse
control in humans—could no longer
"play the odds." Meanwhile those treated
with drugs that reduced their dopamine
levels—a chemical associated with
pleasure in humans—exercised better
The results, consistent with human
clinical trials, further validated the
technique as a viable model for studying
the neurological aspects of human
gambling behaviours and treatment.
But Winstanley wasn't surprised.
"Bodents and humans share a similar
brain anatomy and use the same
neurotransmitters and receptors," she
says. "More importantly, we share
the same mechanism that builds
neurological pathways that ultimately
lead to decision-making and impulse
The Canadian Centre on Substance
Abuse estimates that 680,000, or
two per cent of Canadians, suffer
from gambling problems. Better
understanding the neurological
underpinnings of gambling addiction
could impact millions more.
"The inclination of pathological
gamblers to make risky decisions has
been observed in substance abusers
and those with frontal brain damage,"
says Winstanley. "Similar impaired
judgment has also been documented in
people suffering from schizophrenia,
personality disorders and obsessive-
compulsive disorder."
One in five Canadians suffer from
a mental health problem or illness,
costing our economy $50 billion a
year, according to a report released
last month by the Mental Health
Commission of Canada.
One of Winstanley's latest
studies, also published in
Neuropsychopharmacology, shows
that rats, like humans, have natural
inclinations to be keeners or
slackers—and that stimulants affect
them differently.
"The study shows that mental
attention—a cognitive process also
governed by chemistry in the brain-
may be a factor in how stimulants affect
brain chemistry," says Winstanley,
adding that stimulants are often used
by patients with brain injuries and
attention deficit hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD) to combat drowsiness and
"And this points to greater need
for personalized treatment and
monitoring." •
A race against time
on the Fraser
Fraser River sockeye productivity has
been in decline since the mid-1990s,
with the 2009 return of 1.4 million
being the lowest return in more than
50 years. Scientists and fisheries
managers, were mystified in the
following year, when 34 million made
their way up the Fraser, marking one of
the highest returns on record.
In addition to providing food and
ceremonial values to First Nations
communities, the five species of Pacific
salmon generate more than $1 billion
annually for the economy, supporting
more than 10,000 jobs in communities
throughout the province.
By linking large-scale telemetry
observations with physiological
and genomic assays on thousands
of migrants, and by conducting lab
swimming performance and thermal
tolerance experiments, Scott Hinch and
Tony Farrell are identifying key factors
to inform conservation and fisheries
In one study, published in the journal
Science, researchers biopsied tissues
and implanted telemetry tags into
salmon in the ocean and in the Fraser.
"We were able to predict survivorship
of salmon based on a gene expression
recorded more than 200 kilometres
before they enter the Fraser Biver," says
Hinch, Director ofthe Pacific Salmon
Ecology and Conservation Laboratory
and a professor in the Department of
Forest Sciences.
"This gene expression profile is
consistent with an immune response
known to be associated with exposure
to pathogens and viruses," says Farrell, a
professor in the Department of Zoology
and Canada Besearch Chair in Fish
Physiology, Culture and Conservation.
"This tells us that disease can be a very
important factor limiting successful
In another study, featured on the
cover of Science, researchers measured
the swimming ability of adults from
eight populations by monitoring
metabolic and heart rates as they swam
in an experimental "fish treadmill"—a
tunnel capable of producing various
water speeds and temperatures.
They found that populations with the
longest and most arduous migrations,
were more athletic, displaying superior
swimming ability and specialized heart
adaptations than coastal populations.
They also found that the optimal
water temperature for a population—
the temperature at which the fish
performed the best in the treadmill-
matched the historical river
temperatures encountered by each
population on its migration routes. In
water temperatures above their optimal,
the salmon's swimming ability declined.
Some populations, like those that spawn
at Chilko Lake, were very resilient to
high temperatures whereas others were
less able to cope.
"This gives us critical knowledge to
prioritize populations that require the
most urgent protective measures," says
"The Fraser has experienced two
degrees Celsius summer warming
compared to 60 years ago—with nearly
half of that warming occurring since the
early 1990s—and water temperatures in
13 ofthe past 20 summers have been the
warmest on record," says Hinch.
"Currently, the Fraser Biver's
peak river temperatures during the
summer months exceed the optimal
temperatures for every population
studied and cardiovascular collapse is
clearly one explanation for migration
mortality at high temperatures." •
UBC Reports
invites your letters
Throughout the month of June we
encourage an ongoing dialogue on the
use of animals in science by inviting
feedback from students, faculty and
staff. To make your contribution, visit:
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UBC gets personal
A new service model for students
Heather Amos
Jared Singh sees sustainable agriculture as a way to steward family land while contributing
directly to food security.
Growing growers
at UBC Farm
Lorraine Chan
Growing up on a 220-acre farm in Delta, Jared Singh knows
good soil from bad. But less familiar is the notion of towing
mobile henhouses from field to field as part of crop rotation
to enrich the soil.
"I'm learning that animal manure can be used to create
valuable, high quality compost," says Singh, who since March
has been involved with the Centre for Sustainable Food
Systems at UBC Farm.
Singh is one of 10 students in the Sustainable Agriculture
Practicum Program that provides hands-on experience, from
natural pest control to cleaning produce for food safety. They
grow vegetables on a small personal plot of land and cultivate
the larger UBC Farm fields. During the eight-month program,
they also delve into business aspects such as different
distribution models and networks.
"That's why I came to UBC. I want to figure out how to make
a living while doing it sustainably," says Singh, whose family
owns Hakim and Sons Farm Ltd. along the Fraser River.
Singh says the family's agricultural roots go back four
generations to the early 1900s, when his great-grandfather
emigrated to B.C. from India and worked as a farm labourer.
His grandfather started a dairy farm but subsequent
generations sold off the herd and focused instead on growing
vegetables. Singh's father, now retired, specialized in potato
Singh, 24, took some time to decide to become a "career
farmer." After high school, he worked briefly in construction
and took some horticulture classes at a nearby college.
However, the appeal of increasing food security and land
stewardship has grown exponentially, he says. "Farming
makes sense since I have the acreage. Besides, growing food is
such a direct way of giving back to society. Both my parents are
really excited and want to help out."
With his first growing season in 2013, Singh plans on
starting small with a few acres of carrots, lettuce, spinach and
broccoli. His long-term goal is to obtain organic certification
while testing out various distribution channels, such as
farmers' markets and community supported agriculture
(CSA)—where customers subscribe for regular deliveries of
just-picked produce.
"Delta is a very small community where we all know each
other, so I think community-supported agriculture might
work really well here."
Piloted in 2004 and officially
launched in 2008, UBC's Sustainable
Agriculture Practicum Program has
graduated four cohorts—a total of 35
students. More than half have gone on
to start their own farms. For example,
Sarah McMillan and Simone Maclsaac
hit it off while doing their practicum in
2008. A year later, they set up Rootdown
Organic Farm, a two-acre property near
"That first year was really scary,"
recalls McMillan. "We discovered that
the soil hadn't been farmed before
and lacked a lot of nutrients. Another
surprise was dealing with the pests in
the region like the flea beetle which was
devouring our brassica (cabbage family)
A piece of advice she gives practicum
students is to take a notebook into the
UBC Farm fields and write everything
down. "My notes helped me a lot. I was
constantly referring to them."
Now entering their fourth growing
season, Rootdown is more solid, says
McMillan, with two apprentices
and innovations like the "pig share"
program. McMillan and Maclsaac
are raising 16 Tamworth pigs, a breed
known for its high quality meat. For a
$150 deposit, customers invest in half
or a whole pig which will be raised and
then slaughtered in the fall.
"I sent an email to our regular
customers and within 24 hours, the pig
shares were sold out. I never imagined it
would be so popular." •
For more information, visit:
Brian Teghtsoonian (left) and Ly Dich are part of a team of 19 new enrolment services professionals.
Dealing with big organizations can
leave you feeling like you're in a pinball
machine—bounced around from one
office to another, unheard, uncared for,
frustrated and lost.
UBC wants its students to lose that
pinball feeling.
This spring, the university is turning
its enrolment model inside out and
hiring a team of 19 Enrolment Services
Professionals (ESP) to help students
navigate the system.
Every new undergraduate to the
Vancouver campus will be assigned an
ESP to work with from the beginning to
the end of their time at UBC.
This go-to specialist will support
students in everything from registering
for courses and switching programs to
applying for scholarships. The ESPs
will also work in close partnership
with academic advisors and student
development professionals to address
any problem along the way.
Ly Dich has been a UBC admission
coordinator since 2010 and is now part
ofthe new ESP team. He contrasts past
and present models for a student who is
experiencing financial problems, hasn't
paid tuition and cannot register for
"First I'd send them over to financial
services where someone could help them
apply for a bursary or access emergency
funding. When they came back to my
office, then I would have to reopen
registration for them," he said. "Now I
can handle all that myself without having
to get the student to shuffle back and
For Dich, the other advantage will be
the continuity ofthe relationship.
"In the past I might see 100 students
each day. But I didn't see the same
students the next day, so I couldn't
make sure they received the service they
required. Now I can follow up and make
sure they get what they need. "
Training for the new ESPs began May
14 with a focus on course registration,
financial awards and university policies
and procedures. They'll be ready in time
for first-year students to register for
classes in June.
"I've wanted this job for twenty years,"
said Brian Teghtsoonian, who has been
at UBC since the 1980s and remembers
a registrar who dreamed ofthe "super
clerk" to answer all student enquiries.
"We thought it wasn't possible because
UBC is too big and too diffuse. But I
always thought that would be a fabulous
thing to do."
Now, Teghtsoonian is joining the
ESP team from the Sauder School of
Business, where he handled admissions
and recruitment. He will offer students
a personal touch, tailoring his advice to
each situation.
"We're going to get the opportunity
to be one-on-one with students to talk
about their strengths, weaknesses, and
direction," Teghtsoonian said.
By June 2013, the ESP program will be
extended to include all undergraduate
students at the Vancouver campus. An
estimated 60 ESPs will be needed to
cover the campus; each will have a
caseload of several hundred students.
"UBC's new service model is a key
piece ofthe foundation that supports
students to achieve success in their
UBC endeavours," said Maggie Hartley,
director and associate registrar for
Enrolment Services. "It is about treating
students as individuals and welcoming
them into the UBC community."
The changes to Enrolment Services are
part of a broader initiative to enhance
student experience. The University
admission process now includes
consideration of personal profiles to
complement students' grades. UBC is
also planning to expand what it calls the
learning plan strategy, where students
are encouraged to identify academic
goals and seize all the opportunities
available so they get the most out of their
university experience. •
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   June 2012 Forestry: the new high-tech
:Genes may hold the secret to forest survival
Heather Amos
UBC's three
other large-
scale forest
Fighting fungus
Sally Aiken will be analyzing genes from more than 15,000 lodgepole pine and interior spruce seedlings.
Zoom in—way in—from the macro view
of B.C.'s vast forests, right down to the
micro level where researchers are
looking into genes that could lead to
improved forest health, productivity
and economic opportunities.
UBC researchers are leading four
massive projects to sequence the genes
of thousands of trees. With co-funding
from Genome BC as a result of Genome
Canada's 2010 Large-Scale Applied
Research Project Competition, the
results sought are to tackle emerging
challenges such as climate change,
fuel shortages and declining natural
Sally Aitken, a professor in the
Department of Forest Sciences and
University of Alberta colleague Andreas
Hamann are collaborating on a project
to better understand how trees adapt to
local climatic conditions.
As climate change alters forest
environments, trees that have adapted
to the climate in one geographic area
may not be well suited to thrive there in
30 or 40 years—a serious concern for an
industry that plants 230 million trees in
British Columbia every year.
Aitken's team is looking for genetic
variation in trees across Western
Canada and comparing this to
geographic information and differences
in temperature, moisture and day length.
Using climate change models, the team
hopes to predict where trees with
specific adaptations can thrive in the
"Ultimately we want to know where
to find the seeds that are best adapted
for the future climatic conditions of a
region," says Aitken.
Her team is working with the two most
planted and economically important
species in Western Canada: lodgepole
pine and interior spruce. Because these
trees are so abundant, they also play
a key role in shaping forest habitat,
affecting the carbon cycle, water flows,
and snow melt.
In total, Aitken's team will be
sequencing and analyzing genes from
more than 15,000 seedlings, mostly
grown in a range of simulated climates
in growth chambers in the basement of
the Forest Sciences Centre.
"Research like this involves experts
who have very different skill sets,
knowledge and backgrounds. We don't
have enough resources to do this for
every species so we're hoping to find
better ways to tackle the same questions
in other trees," she says.
Since 2001, UBC scientists have been
awarded more than $65 million by
Genome BC and Genome Canada for
research in the forestry and bioenergy
In 2001, the "Treenomix" project
became the first forestry genomics
research project funded in Canada with
an $11 million award from Genome
BC and Genome Canada. It remains
among the largest funding contracts
awarded to any genomics research team
in the province. Led by a team of UBC
researchers including Joerg Bohlmann,
Kermit Ritland, Brian Ellis, and Carl
Douglas, the Treenomix project has
set the groundwork for the success of
forestry genomics in British Columbia.
"Forestry has been changing over the
past 20 years, but the speed of change is
accelerating," said John Innes, dean of
UBC's Faculty of Forestry. "Increasingly,
forest science is being recognized as
a high-tech subject, using state-of-
the-art equipment to unravel complex
environmental problems. Genome BC
has played a major part in encouraging
this change by providing funding for
advanced forest research." •
Genome BC In funding research, Genome BC and Genome
Canada take a unique approach. Instead of issuing research
grants, the organizations provide research contracts known as
Collaborative Research Agreements that enable translatable
research with socio-economic benefits. When a proposal is
approved, Genome BC plays an integral role in the research
process through milestone development and achievement,
financial monitoring and facilitating follow up with potential
"Genome BC acts as a catalyst between government,
academia and industry. Our goal is to translate outstanding
research carried out in universities into applications for users in
industry, such as the Ministry of Forests," said Dr. Alan Winter,
President & CEO of Genome BC.
Richard Hamelin, a professor in the Department of Forest
Sciences, is applying modern techniques common in health
sciences to forest health issues in an effort to protect B.C.'s
trees from some ofthe most common fungal pathogens.
Working in partnership with researchers at the Michael Smith
Genome Sciences Centre, Hamelin is sequencing the genomes
of 20 fungal species, identifying the genes that make trees sick
and looking for variation in these genes. He will then map the
spread of disease using this information, in a sense studying
tree epidemiology and using this to predict how the pathogen
will spread.
Hamelin and his team will then develop DNA-based
diagnostic tools that can be used for the treatment of these
pathogens. Right now, trees infected with disease must be
identified visually, which can be misleading or problematic if
the tree is asymptomatic for a number of years. "Using these
technologies from the medical field to generate actionable
assays is a powerful approach," said Hamelin.
Biofuel from poplar trees
In the ongoing pursuit to develop new products from forests,
biofuel is an attractive option. UBC researchers Carl Douglas
and Shawn Mansfield are identifying gene variations in the
fast-growing poplar tree to select varieties with optimal
characteristics for biofuel production. Their hope is to breed
poplars with denser wood and higher cellulose content- the
molecule that gets broken down into ethanol for biofuel.
They're also hoping to breed poplars with less lignin—
a molecule that makes it difficult to convert cellulose
into ethanol.
"We're not just interested in how much trees grow but also
in the chemistry and morphology of the wood," said Douglas,
a professor in the Department of Botany. He and Mansfield, a
professor in the Department of Wood Science, will sequence
the genomes of 700 trees—each tree has about 40,000 genes.
"We'll have a catalogue of total genetic variation and also
of trait variation in these trees so we can do a better job
at identifying genetic variants that underlie differences in
important wood and growth traits," said Douglas.
Sustainable spruce forests
Joerg Bohlmann, a researcher at the Michael Smith
Laboratories at UBC and a professor of Botany and Forest
Sciences, and Laval University professor John MacKay, are
working with a team of world-class co-investigators and
end-users to develop applications from genomics research
in spruce trees. Spruce trees account for more than half
of all the tree seedlings planted each year in Canada.
The researchers aim to improve the yield and value of
spruce forests.
The project, called SMarTForests, is sequencing the genome
of white spruce and is using genomics to develop markers
for improved insect resistance, growth, wood properties, and
adaptation to climate. SMarTForests is part of an international
consortium that will also be among the first in the world to
sequence a conifer genome.
"Until recently, nobody would have been able to develop a
decent genome sequence assembly for a conifer tree," said
Bohlmann. "These genomes are larger and more complex
than anything that has ever been sequenced. Thanks to our
collaboration with Dr. Steven Jones at the Michael Smith
Genome Sciences Centre we are in an ideal position to take on
this enormous challenge."
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   June 2012 SAGE
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Nursing students
learn from
African colleagues
Jody Jacob
Working with colleagues in Zambia and Ghana, nursing students from UBC's
Okanagan campus often find what they experience changes their understanding of
what it means to be a nurse.
"Many of our fourth-year nurses go over to Africa expecting to change the world,
but it is their view ofthe world that changes the most," says Fay Karp, associate
professor of nursing.
"Students develop advanced levels of cultural sensitivity. They also discover what
words like 'global citizen' and 'advocacy' truly mean."
Each year, a group of fourth-year nursing students at UBC's Okanagan campus
travel to Ghana or Zambia for six weeks, consolidating four years of nursing theory
and practice into one practicum. They work in a variety of clinical settings, including
medical and surgical units, pediatrics and maternity, HIV clinics and community
health outreach in remote villages.
"One ofthe most important aspects of this experience is the community
development model we embrace—we are not there to fix problems or tell the
Zambians or Ghanaians what they need," says Muriel Kranabetter, associate
professor of nursing. "We assist as colleagues and follow their lead as to what
"We assist as colleagues and follow their
lead as to what supports them in their needs
and objectives.
Fallon Smith, a fourth-year student at UBC's Okanagan campus School of Nursing, comforts a young Zambian patient whose hand was bitten by a cobra.
supports them in their needs and objectives."
Fallon Smith, who graduates this month from the School of Nursing at UBC's
Okanagan campus, was one of 24 students who travelled to Zambia last spring.
Eighteen others went to Ghana.
During her practicum, Smith worked in the Lewanika General Hospital in a variety
of areas, including the HIV clinic. Alongside two Zambian nurses and a few Zambian
clinicians, she attended to 150-200 HIV patients a day. Smith also worked in the
villages of Chunga and Mukambi.
"Working with the Zambian nurses has allowed me insight into what nursing looks
like in an undeveloped country," says Smith.
"Their strenuous work hours, tough working conditions and lack of supplies
has left me with a new appreciation for our own medical system, resources, and
working conditions as a nurse. I also learned a lot about accepting, respecting, and
coordinating the balance between compromising and maintaining my nursing
practice standards and ways, while collaborating with other nurses who have a
different set of standards and practices."
One of their Zambian partners says what the UBC nurses lack in familiarity with
local conditions is more than offset by their knowledge in other areas and ability to
respond quickly to changing situations.
"The collaboration with Canadians has helped to improve nursing care by providing
audit and quality assurance in areas
such as patient monitoring, critical-care
nursing and neonatal resuscitation," says
Dr. Seke Kazuma, a medical officer from
Lewanika General Hospital in Mongu.
"One thing I like about Canadian
nurses is they are sharp and know
how to respond to emergencies. They
may not have a lot of experience
with tropical diseases and infectious
conditions, but they are well trained."
One ofthe most difficult parts of
Smith's practicum was performing
procedures without pain medication on
children, and seeing children die who
may have lived if treated in Canada.
"I had never seen a child die before
Zambia, and it is a haunting image and
helpless feeling I don't think I will ever
forget," she says.
One of Smith's most profound lessons
was learned from a woman on her
deathbed. Smith bathed her, changed
her clothes and sheets and made
her comfortable. Next morning, the
woman's bed was empty.
"I advocated for my patient to have her
right to a humane death," says Smith.
"This is my most significant memory of
nursing in Zambia, because it is never
far from my mind when I am in practice
here in Canada."
Smith notes both the ups and the
downs made the experience rewarding.
"I learned a lot about myself, my
strengths and my abilities. My critical
thinking and problem-solving abilities
grew tremendously. My ability to step
back and take in the bigger picture
improved. I found strengths that I
didn't know I had, such as being able
to remain calm during emergency
situations, and making decisions under
extreme stress."
Students accepted into the practicum
in Ghana and Zambia cover their own
$5,000 travel expenses, but they can
apply for a $1,000 grant through UBC's
Go Global program. In addition, nursing
students fundraise approximately
$10,000 annually to support health care
in Africa.
Among the biggest challenges is
finding funding, says Karp. Committed
financing would ensure that fourth-year
nursing students get the international
experience, and allow the School of
Nursing to continue supporting the
work of colleagues and partners within
Zambia and Ghana.
The School of Nursing plans to
increase practicum placements through
local connections and partnerships in
Africa, develop potential student and
faculty exchanges with the University of
Zambia, and create additional collaborative research initiatives in health areas
identified as priorities by Zambians and
"Our academic partnerships with
colleagues and communities in Africa
provide UBC's Okanagan nursing
faculty and students with invaluable
opportunities to develop and contribute
as global citizens," says Patricia Marck,
director for the School of Nursing and
associate dean for the Faculty of Health
& Social Development's international
partnerships. •
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   May 2012
11 Uncertain times on the
'roof ofthe world'
A conversation with leading Tibet scholar Tsering Shakya
Basil Waugh and Gudrun Jnnsdottir
All in the family:
passing it on to
the next generation
Lorraine Chan
Tsering Shakya, UBC Institute of Asian Research, says Tibetan protests are becoming more extreme.
The Dalai Lama's short visit to Canada this spring highlighted
again the difficult situation he and his Tibetan followers face.
'Living in exile in India since 1959 and facing persistent
condemnation from China, the Dalai Lama must witness his
homeland's troubles from afar.
Tibetan activists say resentment has turned to desperation
-as Tibetans witness massive changes brought on by China's
'economic and political policies in the area. Adding to the
-tensions is the fear that Chinese authorities will try to anoint
^their own successor once the Dalai Lama passes away. UBC's
^Tsering Shakya discusses the situation with UBC Reports.
'Why are monks and nuns turning to self-immolation?
- "In the past year, more than 36 Tibetan monks and nuns
-have burned themselves to death to protest Chinese rule. Not
-only is this a more extreme form of protest, it is a major new
challenge for China. By its very nature, this kind of act is much
-harder to control or punish than mass demonstrations. How
'do you stop someone from lighting themself on fire?
'„ "China will view this as a Tibetan escalation of this situation,
supported by the Dalai Lama. But much of this results from
the lack of proper channels in China for people to voice their
grievances to the authorities, without fearing for their safety.
We have recently seen self-immolation elsewhere, in places
such as in India, Tunisia and Greece, so this new style of
protest is a global trend."
What is at stake in the Dalai Lama's succession?
"The succession ofthe Dalai Lama, who is 76, will be a
major issue between China and Tibet. This is a question
of power for China. It wishes to demonstrate its authority
over Tibet by choosing the next Dalai Lama. However, the
Tibetan Buddhists will reject China's selection as illegitimate.
Tibetans will choose their candidate, but this individual will
almost certainly live in exile.
"This would not be the first dispute over a high-ranking lama.
For example, the Chinese government and Tibetans disagreed
over the selection ofthe Panchen Lama, the second highest
ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, the succession
process can typically take up to four years as Tibetans seek out
their next 'chosen one.' However, in the present situation, China
will be very reluctant to have the search go on for long. They will
likely appoint someone shortly after the death ofthe Dalai Lama
in an attempt to end the issue."
Will the incoming Chinese leaders change the country's
approach to Tibet?
"In my view, China's incoming leaders will essentially take
the same approach to Tibet. No politician in the Communist
Party would risk his political position in the system by taking
up the issue of Tibet. In the short term, I see very little chance
of Tibet concerns—freedom of religion and culture, the
independence movement—being resolved.
"However, the unprecedented economic growth in China
has created great inequality and increasing levels of social
unrest, and China's leaders are aware they must address these
issues. If they take a more liberal approach to the relationship between citizen and state, where there is the rule of law
and people can legitimately raise their grievances, I think the
situation will definitely improve."
Where can different voices be heard on the Tibet debate?
"The internet and social media are playing an important
role to aggregate and translate news, blogs, twitter feeds and
political cartoons about Tibet and China. In the past, Tibetan
bloggers would post about arrests, but very few people outside
Tibet understood that language. New media give journalists,
activists and the public access to much more information.
Good examples include the China Digital Times (chinadigi-, which is maintained by the University of
California Berkeley's School of Journalism, and High Peaks
Pure Earth (, a blog that I co-edit.
Ongoing issues: Surveillance, culture, and the economy
"China's other major issue is economic development. The
level of state expenditure in Tibet and Western China is
enormous: 90 per cent of all expenditures currently come from
government sources. So there is huge interest in developing the
local indigenous economy to make the region more sustainable
in the future.
"Similarly, there remains a strong sentiment for
independence in Tibet. There has been economic growth, but
to most Tibetans, it comes at the expense of cultural autonomy,
freedom of religion and language as Chinese culture
assimilates the region. They see their culture and identity as
vulnerable, and with little hope for recourse, this is producing
an increasing level of more extreme resistance, particular
within the Buddhist community." •
Learn more about UBC's Institute of Asian Research at
Family dynamics can be tough. Even
tougher is running a business with
mom, dad or siblings.
Clashes over who's the boss, sharing
profits and setting growth targets
have toppled many a successful family
enterprise. In fact, only 30 per cent
of family businesses survive into the
second generation—a sobering fact, given
80 per cent of businesses in Canada are
owned or operated by families.
To improve the odds, the Sauder
School of Business established the
Business Families Centre (BFC) in
2001 with the involvement of more
than 30 founding families, including
those of Brandt Louie, Gordon and
Leslie Diamond and Peter Bentley
BFC integrates services, education and
research to address issues including
governance, relationships, wealth
preservation and succession.
The Road Map seminars, provide
family members with practical tools to
chart a course for multi-generational
success. Last fall, BFC unveiled
Canada's first national database to
foster family business research and
innovation. In addition, BFC pioneered
the 10-month Family Enterprise
Advisor Program (FEAP), now in its
fourth year. Designed for lawyers,
accountants, bankers, therapists and
other family advisors, FEAP builds on
their technical skills with strategies
specific to the family enterprise.
This spring, FEAP graduated two
groups of 30 students each in Toronto
and Vancouver. One ofthe Toronto
grads is Nora Jones—ranked RBC's top
Family Enterprise Advisor Program grad
Nora Jones—ranked RBC's top
private banker.
private banker in Canada.
"I was curious to see how one could
systematically study this complex
labyrinth of family influences and
determine how it impacts the business,"
says Jones, who acts as a "personal chief
financial officer" to high net worth RBC
clients and their families, delivering
sophisticated banking, investment and
credit solutions.
"I have already started to talk to clients
in a more meaningful way about dynamics
in their businesses. Interestingly, many
clients are surprised that anyone
outside ofthe family recognizes the
complexity and inherent conflicts that
they face on a daily basis, due to the
'family' aspect of their business."
Jones holds an MBA in finance and
accounting along with designations
that include chartered accountant,
chartered financial analyst, trust
and estate practitioner and certified
financial planner. She has found in
her two decades of doing tax work and
her current role as a private banker
that business owners are "profoundly
affected by decisions that were made
by their parents, decisions that they
are making now for their own children
and by relationships—often with legacy
issues—with other family members."
Identifying the conflicts and
synergies among and between family
members is a challenging exercise, says
Jones. However, FEAP curriculum has
helped to fill those knowledge gaps.
"The main skill that I acquired
through the program was the ability to
identify the different 'buckets' or circles
into which business family members
belong—first as members of a family,
second as owners of a business and, lastly,
as management decision-makers for the
business. This course has shown me that
this type of analysis is not only possible
but can be an incredibly rewarding
process for family members." •
For more information, visit:
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   June 2012
13 Mysteries of unconsciousness
The Ouija board as a window into our "second intelligence"
Starting small, aiming big
Go Global student works for sustainable change
Basil Waugh
Maryse Zeidler
products safer and more intuitive to use.
But before that can happen, Rensink says researchers need
more ways to study our unconscious processes. "As a field of
research, the unconscious is still very much 'terra incognita'—
the iceberg largely beneath the surface," he says. "One of the big
challenges, I think, is that we need to develop more techniques
for investigating it."
With that in mind, Rensink and postdoctoral researcher
Helene Gauchou recently completed a study using Ouija
boards. Their research, to be published in the June issue
of Consciousness and Cognition, not only demonstrates the
intellectual power lying beyond our consciousness, but also
represents an important advance in identifying how to access
and study people's unconscious minds.
They found that, when asked to answer questions they think
they don't know, people give significantly better responses (65
per cent accuracy) when answering "yes" or "no" with a Ouija
board compared to answering verbally (50 per cent accuracy).
When participants believed they knew the answers, both types
of response scored almost identically.
"These surprising findings suggest we have a powerful 'second
intelligence' resting beyond our conscious minds that can be
accessed under the right conditions," says Gauchou, a native
of France whose only previous exposure to Ouija boards was
through American movies. "We may believe we don't know an
UBC psychologist Helene Gauchou is using novel techniques to investigate our unconsciousness.
Ouija boards and magic tricks may sound like unconventional
science, but a pioneering team of UBC psychologists are
using these tools to unlock the mysteries of the human mind.
"Most people think they have complete control of their minds,
but they are wrong," says Ron Rensink, an associate professor
of computer science and psychology. "The truth is, we perform
thousands of unconscious mental and physical tasks every day."
These "mindless" acts range from such basics as breathing
and dreaming to others with life or death implications,
says Rensink, who joined UBC in 2000 after conducting
post-doctoral research at Harvard's Vision Sciences Laboratory.
"Driving is a perfect example," he says. "In many cases, we are
navigating through dangerous situations, thinking only about
what we want for dinner. We get home and often remember very
little about the trip."
Rensink belongs to a team that recently received $1.25
million from Boeing to design visualization systems to help
people quickly analyze large amounts of data. His ultimate
goal is to advance our knowledge of unconscious cognition and
perception to help make planes, cars, homes and consumer
Our findings suggest we have
a powerful 'second intelligence1
resting beyond our conscious
answer consciously, but actually have the answer right there in
our subconscious. Maybe we heard it on the radio, but weren't
really paying attention."
Study participants were paired with partners, blindfolded
and instructed to simply follow the direction ofthe Ouija's
moving planchette. However, when questions were asked,
their partners were instructed to remove their hands from the
planchette, meaning that participants were playing alone.
According to Gauchou, the study triggered "ideomotor actions"
in participants, movement unaccompanied by conscious
thought—similar to driving or washing the dishes - which
provides greater access to our unconsciousness. The research
team, which also includes UBC Electrical and Computer
Engineering Prof. Sid Fels, is now exploring how to improve
upon the Ouija board by creating a computerized version.
In another study, recently published in Perception journal,
Rensink and SFU researcher Jay Olson explored the psychology
of card tricks to better understand unconscious thought
processes. While people may think they have a free choice of
any card, their study suggests otherwise.
For example, when asked to name a playing card, they
found most people chose only one of four: the ace, queen or
king of hearts, or the ace of spades. When asked to visualize a
card, people are twice as likely to pick the ace of hearts, they
found. "We hope these studies will help to give us a better
understanding of memory, decision-making and awareness,"
Rensink says. •
Learn more about UBC psychology research at
In the haste to do good work,
international development projects
sometimes overlook the true needs and
existing strengths of the communities
they're meant to assist. This summer,
Trevor Hirsche will be serving a rural
community in Bolivia, but not without
first understanding local conditions.
Hirsche is one of two students this
year who received $30,000 in special
funding from the International
Service Learning program of UBC's Go
Global office, which offers students
opportunities to learn abroad. The
funding, a one-time grant from a family
foundation, helps students implement
and learn from projects they have
developed themselves, instead of
programs that send students on already
established ventures.
For 12 months, Hirsche—a recent
graduate of UBC's masters program in
geological sciences—will be working
with the COBAGUAL, a small Bolivian
water and sanitation organization, to
help a rural community in Eastern
Bolivia improve sanitation, access
to water and food security. Although
Hirsche and COBAGUAL have a broad
idea of local needs, their first step is to
consult with the community and get
to know their social structures, their
survival strategies and the resources
they already have at their disposal.
According to Hirsche, this is not a
top-down process. "At the end ofthe day
we're going to define what it looks like
to work with the community."
At the heart of this process lies the
hope to create sustainable change to
"You start to
develop a different
perspective about
what's important
in life."
alleviate poverty. The project is based
on a community development model,
which empowers people to define
and attain their own goals. Enabling
individuals and groups to obtain the
skills they need enables them to become
more self-reliant in the long term and
are a large part ofthe long-term success
ofthe project.
Hirsche and COBAGUAL have been
working together since 2006 when
Hirsche co-founded the Canadian-
Bolivian Clean Water Network. They
have already introduced biosand water
filters supplying clean drinking water in
that community.
While COBAGUAL was spending time
in rural villages installing the filters,
community members began telling
them about other needs, like sanitation,
irrigation, and malnutrition. Hirsche
and COBAGUAL decided it would
be better to involve the community
Trevor Hirsche received special funding to work with a community in Bolivia to improve water sanitation, access to
water and food security.
from the early planning stages ofthe
project. "We started to see the value
in making the planning process with
the communities as participatory as
possible," explains Hirsche. They
hypothesized that a participatory
process based on mutual respect would
ensure the sustainability ofthe work
they would undertake.
Hirsche's interest in community
development stems from his passion
for environmental protection. He has
wondered if there are ways people
can sustain their livelihoods with
minimal impact on the ecosystem. He
was inspired by the social movements
that were spreading across Latin
America in countries like Bolivia, where
indigenous people were striving to take
leadership on these issues. "I started
to become really interested in the idea
that changes could be made at the
community level that could later be
scaled up and form the basis of more
sustainable ways of living."
Hirsche is hoping to make a difference,
but this is a two-way process. "I also am
going to learn a lot from implementing
the project. I'm already learning so
much through this program."
On a more personal note, he is
interested in the kind of society that
fosters happiness. "Being in rural
communities that aren't as tied into the
mainstream consumerist economy and
values, you start to develop a different
perspective about what's important
in life." •
For more information about the
International Service Learning program,
visit UBC's Go Global website:
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   June 2012
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