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UBC Reports Jul 5, 2007

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VOLUME   53   I   NUMBER   7   I   JULY   5,   2007
Lindsay Litis, seen with image of a TB enzyme, wants to create a multidisciplinary TB research centre at UBC.
Researchers Find Way to Starve TB
Insight offers route to combat drug-resistant strains
Sleuthing through soil has led UBC
researchers to a key discovery about the
world's most lethal infection - tuberculosis
Lindsay Eltis, a microbiologist and
biochemist, spent the first part of his career
in soil bacteria research, looking at how
microbes in dirt degrade or break down
pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs). He has expert knowledge of a
process called biocatalysis, where enzymes
activate or accelerate chemical reactions.
TB scientists had earlier identified genes
suite of genes that contain the information
required to make enzymes that degrade
the cholesterol found in macrophage cell
membranes. The bacilli use the degraded
cholesterol for fuel to survive. In most
infections, the macrophage is the enemy. In
TB it's dinner.
The discovery offers the potential for
an entirely new class of therapeutics
- answering a critical need for new
treatments to combat emerging drug
resistant strains. Now that scientists
know cholesterol is essential for TB
bacilli's survival, they can work to inhibit
microbiology and immunology. "You just
can't predict the benefits that spin off from
good research. This work re-inforces the
need for funding basic research."
Next steps for the researchers include
purifying the cholesterol-degrading enzymes
and developing and testing compounds to
inhibit the action of the enzymes.
TB is the leading killer among infectious
diseases and is responsible for one in four
adult preventable deaths, according to the
World Health Organization (WHO). One-
third of the world's population is currently
infected. Particularly susceptible include
Patients generally feel better within weeks
and often stop taking the drugs, allowing
drug-resistant strains to develop.
One in 10 cases of TB are resistant to
some first-line drugs and are described as
multi-drug resistant TB or MDR-TB. The
treatment for such cases involves using
second-line drugs that must be taken for
a year or more. TB resistant to both first-
and second-line drugs is called extensive
drug resistant TB or XDR-TB.
"XDR-TB is now virtually untreatable,"
says Eltis, who joined UBC in 1999 from
Quebec's Universite Laval. "It's on every
"You just can't predict the benefits that spin off from good research.
This work re-inforces the need for funding basic research."
that helped Mycobacterium tuberculosis
- the bacterial agent that causes TB - to
survive, but no one knew exactly how the
process worked. TB bacilli are unusual in
that they can survive in macrophages - large
immune cells that normally devour invading
Eltis, UBC colleague Bill Mohn and co-
investigators from UBC and Europe looked
at similarities in the function of enzymes
involved in PCB degradation and enzymes
involved in TB. What they uncovered helps
explain how TB survives. They found a
the enzymes that are responsible for
cholesterol degradation. In effect, they
would be taking cholesterol off the menu
and starving the infection to death.
UBC's University Industry Liaison
Office has filed a patent application for the
technology leading to the discovery, and
the work was published recently in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of
"This is a classic example of the
serendipitous nature of discovery," says
Eltis, a UBC alumnus and professor of
those with a compromised immune system,
elderly, homeless and undernourished
people, and those living in overcrowded
environments with poor ventilation such
as some hospitals or prisons. In Canada,
individuals of Aboriginal and Inuit heritage
have a higher incidence of TB than the
general population.
There have been no new drugs for TB
in the last 40 years and the bacilli have
developed drug resistance over time.
Current treatment usually involves taking
drugs over a period of six tol8 months.
major continent, and developed countries
are making a serious mistake by not
dealing with it aggressively. This disease is
going to bite us."
The WHO reports that TB takes an
annual toll of two million lives, with
eight million people developing TB every
year. The highest rates per capita are in
Africa with 29 per cent of all TB cases,
often affecting HIV/AIDS patients. Half
of all new cases are in six Asian countries:
Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia,
Pakistan, and the Philippines.
continued on page 5 2     |     UBC    REPORTS     |    JULY   5,    2007
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Psychology Prof. Stanley Coren says a new study shows that dogs have a
higher level of consciousness.
Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in June 2007. compiled by basil waugh
Performance Pay Drives
Mergers and Income Inequality
The New York Times reported
on two UBC studies in June
- one by UBC economist
Thomas Lemieux on income
inequality and another by Sauder
School of Business Prof. Kai Li
on why mergers are win-win
propositions for CEOs.
Lemieux co-authored a study
that found that performance-
based pay accounted for 25
per cent of the growth in wage
inequality among male workers
from 1976 to 1993.
"All the evidence we have
suggests that this trend is
continuing," said Lemieux, who
noted that in 2003, 44.5 per
cent of workers at Fortune 1000
companies received some form of
performance-based pay, up from
34.7 percent in 1996.
Li co-authored a study
published in the U.S.-based
Journal of Finance that
found CEOs have personal
economic incentives to proceed
with questionable mergers.
Looking at 370 mergers of U.S.
companies, Li found that CEO
compensation was "completely
insensitive" to poor post-merger
What Are Dogs Thinking?
More Than We Knew
UBC canine expert Stanley
Coren featured prominently in
international news coverage of
a study that found dogs can do
situation-specific imitations - a
capability previously considered
unique to humans.
Coren, a professor of
psychology, said the Austrian
study demonstrates that dogs
have a sense of awareness. "It
really shows a higher level of
consciousness. This takes a real
degree of consciousness."
Coren's commentary appeared
in the Washington Post, FOX
News, MSNBC, Seattle Times
and Australia's The Age.
Superconductor Discovery
Solves 20-Year-Old Mystery
U.S.-based science journals
Nature and Science Daily, along
with the Globe and Mail and
the Toronto Star, reported that
a UBC team has contributed
to the greatest advancement in
superconductor research in a
decade by growing the purest
samples of superconductors to
Superconductors are a class of
materials that conduct electricity
with no resistance. They are used
in medical imaging scanners,
power lines and levitating
trains, but advances have been
stalled for 20 years because of
a lack of understanding of their
fundamental properties.
"We were able to supply our
Canadian collaborators with the
purest superconductor samples
ever developed, which led to the
unequivocal discovery that they
are metal," said UBC Physics
Prof. Douglas Bonn. "Up to
now, it was unclear whether
these materials were metals or
The UBC team also included
Prof. Emeritus Walter Hardy
and Materials Scientist Ruixing
UBC Astronomer Looks for
Extraterrestrial Life
USA Today, MSNBC, Space,
com, CBC and Toronto Star
reported that, according to UBC
astronomer Jaymie Matthews,
light produced by the star Gliese
581 may support habitable
Using Canada Space Agency's
suitcase-sized space telescope, the
Microvariability and Oscillations
of STars (MOST), Matthews
conducted a scientific stakeout
of Gliese 581, approximately
20.5 light years from the Earth.
Matthews presented his findings
at the annual meeting of the
Canadian Astronomical Society.
"Gliese 581 seems remarkably
stable over the six weeks it was
monitored by MOST," said
Matthews. "The brightness of
the star changed by only a few
tenths of a percent over that
time. This level of stability means
that it provides a stable source
of light - hence heat - to the
surface of planet Gliese 581c." 13
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A Raw Deal:
Do Canadians benefit from our oil wealth?
When it comes to black gold,
Canada may have more in
common with Iraq than first
meets the eye.
"Canada and Iraq are among
the world's five top oil reserves,"
explains Philippe Le Billon, an
assistant professor in the Dept.
of Geography and a researcher
at the Liu Institute for Global
Given that international oil
companies are looking for oil
reserves with a 15-to-30- year
time horizon. "Canada and
Iraq could be among the only
oil countries with both major
reserves and open energy
sectors," he says, adding, "There's
little appetite to nationalize the
oil sector in Canada and lots of
appetite to privatize oil in Iraq."
Le Billon is one of a dozen
scholars worldwide studying the
intersection between violence,
governance and primary
commodities. A common thread
in his research is what Le Billon
calls the "resource curse." This
occurs when local populations
receive little or nothing from
their land's wealth, but suffer
the most when war or fighting
He has mapped logging
disputes in Cambodia's civil war
Geography Asst. Prof. Philippe Le Billon looks at issues of governance and natural resources.
for revenue transparency, which
require government and industry
to publish what they pay, earn or
spend in the oil, gas and mining
In terms of energy security
issues, about 80 per cent of
the world's oil reserves are
under nationalized systems,
says Le Billon. In these cases,
government rather than private
attention to how major oil
companies are poised to strike
deals in Iraq. Prior to the 2003
U.S. invasion, the state-owned
Iraqi National Oil Corporation
(INOC) controlled the oil sector,
which had been progressively
nationalized from western
companies in the 1960s. Since
2003, the U.S. has promoted
legislation to open Iraq's
population of the provinces,
explains Le Billon. It will also
authorize regional authorities
to develop new oil fields in their
own area, rather than being
subject to dictates from Baghdad.
"These measures are supposed
to address regional concerns,
notably Kurdish and Shia desire
to avoid control by the central
government. For the Sunni areas,
Unsurprisingly, notes Le
Billon, oil has done little good
for Iraqis. Until the 1960s,
oil revenues largely flowed to
foreign oil companies and then
under Saddam Hussein's regime
oil fields were nationalized
and revenues were spent on
disastrous wars.
"Given the poor state of
institutions and ongoing
insecurity in Iraq, it is unlikely
that Iraqis will soon finally
benefit from the development
of oil beneath their feet, either
because of continued delays
in oil production increase,
unfair agreements passed with
companies or corruption."
And although Canada and
Iraq sit at opposite ends of the
spectrum in overall economic
and social development, Le
Billon says there are clear
parallels with Canada's
liberalization of the energy
"Do Canadians have cheaper
oil prices than in the U.S.? No.
The price of oil in Canada
is the same as elsewhere. Do
Canadians get the best deal out
of their oil wealth? Well, this is
a question that deserves serious
In fact, says Le Billon,
Canada's energy and resource
sector sees a pattern similar to
"Do Canadians have cheaper oil prices than in the U.S.? No."
and the brutal impact of 'blood
diamonds' in Sierra Leone. A
priority issue for him is oil and
governance in conflict-prone
Le Billon recently took part in
a UN Security Council seminar
organized by Belgium on natural
resources and armed conflict, and
mechanisms that could reduce
the likelihood of future conflicts.
One such measure, he says, could
be to extend global standards
corporations control oil fields
and reap the profits.
He says the major exceptions
are oil fields in the Gulf of
Guinea off Africa's west central
coast in the Atlantic Ocean;
Alberta's tar sands; and Iraq (if
a new law opening the sector is
passed). "But oil reserves in the
Gulf of Guinea are less than half
of those in Iraq and a third of
those in Canada."
Le Billon will be paying close
Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies
Exploratory Workshop Grant
The Peter Wall Exploratory Workshop Program awards $15,000
to $25,000 to interdisciplinary core groups of UBC researchers to
create new research initiatives by bringing outstanding
international experts to the University. Your proposal should be
broadly interdisciplinary, involve basic research and be
innovative. The application deadline for the Fall 2007
competition is October 1,2007.
For more information, please visit our website at
www.pwias.ubc.ca or call us at (604) 822-4782.
nationalized oil sector to foreign
direct investment.
"Before, a major question for
the U.S. was how could U.S.
companies access the oil," says
Le Billon. "They could do that
only if oil laws changed and they
could find local allies. In other
words, make them need your
New legislation in Iraq will
allow for a distribution of oil
revenues proportional to the
largely devoid of known reserves,
the law should also guarantee
equal access to oil revenues."
He says now with "civil war"
in Iraq, the country's 26 million
people are, in effect, divided into
three major groups. "Each region
is seeking security by setting up
militias and their own sources
of revenue. One of their primary
sources has been tapping oil
through smuggling and extortion
Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies
Upcoming Exploratory Workshops
August 1,2007 - August 4,2007
Coherent Control of Ultracold Molecular Systems
Principal Investigators: Moshe Shapiro, Chemistry and Physics, and Roman Krems, Chemistry
August 15,2007 - August 18,2007
Habituation: The Foundation of Learning and Attention
Principal Investigator Catharine Rankin, Psychology
August 22,2007 - August 24,2007
Close Relationships and Health: Developing an Interactive Approach to Research and Theory
Principal Investigators: Dan Perlman, School of Social Work & Family Studies, and Anita DeLongis, Psychology
September 6,2007 - September 8,2007
Genealogies of Virtue: Ethical Practice in South Asia
Principal Investigator Anand Pandian, Anthropology and Institute of Asian Research
October 19,2007 - October 21,2007
Developing Sustainable Human-Natural Systems: The Greater Serengeti Ecosystem as a Case Study
Principal Investigator Anthony Sinclair, Zoology
October 21,2007 - October 25,2007
Exploring Development of a Birth Cohort to Understand and Prevent Disease of Children in the
Developing World
Principal Investigator David Speert, Pediatrics
November 16,2007 - November 19,2007
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Managing Human-Wildlife Interactions
Principal Investigator David Fraser, Land & Food Systems and Centre for Applied Ethics
that in many African countries,
where foreign companies
dominate and wealth is
distributed through the market
toward company executives
and shareholders. "The only
major difference is the level of
embezzlement by local political
elites - something that largely
relates to stronger democratic
institutions and a more
diversified economy."
In addition, there are
significant energy supply security
aspects. Canada has committed
under NAFTA to export 63 per
cent of its oil and 56 per cent
of its natural gas to the U.S.
Canada is a net exporter, but
ends up importing 1.2 million
barrels of oil a day to supply
Atlantic Canada, Quebec and
A role model for Canada could
be Norway, which developed and
maintained control of its oil and
gas in the North Sea. In 1990,
Norway set up a petroleum fund
now worth about $323 billion
- compared to Alberta's Heritage
Fund of $16.3 billion.
"That's twelve times more per
capita in Norway than Alberta,"
observes Le Billon. "Although
the oil sectors are different in
a number of respects, Alberta
has produced about as much
oil as Norway since 1976 when
Alberta set up the Heritage
Le Billon's research has
received support from the
Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada. 13 4     I     UBC    REPORTS     |    JULY   5,    2007
GMOs Next Global Lightning Rod Issue
Our ability to tinker with nature
has outstripped our ability to
regulate what we create, says
Yves Tiberghien, a political
scientist who specializes in global
regulatory mechanisms for
technology and trade.
Consider that almost 70 per
cent of the products we buy
at the grocery store contain
genetically engineered food.
Yet we don't know their long-
term impact on our health, the
environment, or how they may
tip the future balance of power in
the global economy.
"Corn and soy are the two
main culprits since nearly all
processed foods uses ingredients
such as corn syrup, corn starch
or soy lecithin," says Tiberghien.
GMO corn and soy first
entered into the human food
supply in 1996.
"It's a very big experiment -
11 years of genetically engineered
corn and soy thus far," observes
Tiberghien. "What does this
mean? No one really knows."
Asst. Prof. Tiberghien teaches
in the Dept. of Political Science
and also heads a Liu Institute
for Global Issues research
initiative that looks at the global
battle over the governance of
genetically modified organisms
Between 2004 and 2006,
he conducted 200 interviews
with policy makers in Europe,
Japan, Korea, and international
organization bureaucrats.
With further funding from the
Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada,
Tiberghien is extending this
research to Canada and China.
To date, studies conducted
on GMOs have found no proof
of harm, but the amount of
independent data is extremely
limited. Tiberghien explains
A fresh ear of corn or frankenfood? The struggle to settle this question has been far from democratic, says
political scientist Yves Tiberghien.
that GMO toxicology testing is
carried out by industry, which
generally does only what is
required to get approval.
Overseeing the companies
and labs that produce GMO
seeds are national regulatory
agencies and international
bodies such as the World Trade
Organization, the UN, the Codex
Alimentarius Commission and
the Organization for Economic
Other common GMO foods
found at North American stores
include canola oil, papayas
and soon, rice. But even the
most conscientious label-
reading shopper wouldn't be
themselves are fragmented
vertically and horizontally over
the issue of "frankenfoods."
"The legitimacy of
international and national
regulatory bodies is in question.
For example, Australia on a
national level is pro GMO, yet
nine of its 10 states are rabidly
anti-GMO and have passed a
moratorium on growing GMO
Tiberghien says India and
China are shaping up as the two
largest future GMO battlefronts.
China, for example, has the
second largest GMO research
next to the U.S. But bowing to
public outcry, both countries
now require mandatory
labeling for GMOs, while at
the same time are pouring
millions of dollars into research
and development in a bid for
technological advances that
could alleviate poverty.
"It's a very unstable situation,"
says Tiberghien. "On any
given day, there are dozens of
confrontations over GMOs
taking place around the world."
By contrast, Canada is
relatively quiet with very
little media attention on the
topic. Compared to 29 OECD
countries, Canadians see the
least amount of media reporting
on GMOs.
"Canadians place a higher
trust in the governmental
regulatory agencies, which for
GMOs is Health Canada."
He warns, however, that
Canada is vulnerable to a
backlash that would then
catapult the issue into news
headlines. Already, public
opinion polls in B.C. and Quebec
show that 85 per cent of the
population support mandatory
labeling of GMOs.
"These polls highlight the
gap between between citizens'
preferences and existing
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Already, public opinion polls in B.C. and Quebec
show that 85 per cent ofthe population support
mandatory labelling of GMOs.
Co-operation and Development
The present framework is
outmoded and rickety, says
Tiberghien, with a decisionmaking process that's "essentially
dominated by industry, the
bureaucratic elite and scientific
experts without citizens'
He says as a society we are
making decisions that are
irreversible and far reaching, and
we are doing it in a way that
weakens democracy rather than
strengthens it.
"Yes, we want wealth," says
Tiberghien, "but not at any cost.
We don't want to cross red lines
where we endanger our health
or the environment forever. We
also want transparency and
able to detect GMO products.
Seed producers argued
against mandatory labeling,
insisting there was "substantial
equivalence," which means
that GMOs provide the same
nutrients as conventional
crops and shouldn't be treated
"Industry pushed for this and
governments acquiesced," says
Since then, civil society
mobilization has forced the
European Union and Japan to
enact more stringent measures,
including additional testing and
mandatory labeling of GMOs. In
turn, the EU seeks to sway other
countries to do the same.
Overall, says Tiberghien,
tensions are rife between global
coalitions and nations, which
regulatory outcomes, offering
room for groups or individuals
to gain political mileage."
Tiberghien says GMOs could
easily become the next climate
change, a lightning rod that
unites a broad spectrum of
protestors as diverse as the anti-
globalization movement, organic
farmers, Greenpeace supporters,
consumer organizations and the
Council of Canadians.
An alternative to these
pitched battles would be a
more democratic process, says
Tiberghien, pointing to a citizens
assembly as one possible model.
"Imagine 400 citizens who
are trained, know the issues and
they're able to give input on
regulatory design of GMOs." 13 UBC    REPORTS     IJULY   5,    2007     |    5
Graduate student Genevieve Creighton found surprising moral overtones in health literature about teen mothers.
Stigmatized or supported? How
do teen mums fare in the healthcare system?
Educational Studies and Health
Promotion graduate student
Genevieve Creighton wants to
find out.
In a master's thesis project,
Creighton reviewed and analyzed
newsletters, Canadian public-
health magazine articles and
journals that discussed teen
pregnancy and motherhood to
find out how teen mums are
characterized in public health
The average number of teens
who give birth in Canada is 42
out of every 1,000 with Aboriginal
teens becoming mothers at 18
times this rate, according to
research published in 2005.
"There are lots of blaming
messages out there for teen
mothers," says Creighton. She
found that mothers who didn't
take health-care providers'
advice on issues such as diet,
substance use and exercise were
characterized as immature and
Creighton's interest in the issue
developed when she worked
many helping agencies," says the
34-year-old. "I found many of
these mums to be strong, dedicated
individuals who wanted to be
good mothers. For some, having a
child turned their lives around and
motivated them to create a better
life for themselves and their baby."
Her research showed that
within the mainstream health-care
system in Canada, adolescent
mothers are characterized in
academic health journals and
nursing magazines that describe
programs for young mothers, as
poor decision-makers who risk
their health and that of their child
negative impact on the health
of these women, because they
are reluctant to seek health-care
services for fear they will be
judged and not treated with the
same respect as other patients."
A key problem, says Creighton,
is a strong tendency to separate
teen mothers from their social
context when offering advice and
care, and inadequate attention to
the complexities of their lives. For
example, health-care providers
may focus on quitting smoking
without understanding that
smoking may be the woman's sole
stress reliever in a demanding and
in Canada.
What do teen mothers need?
"They need the same things that
make life better for all mums and
kids - social and financial support,
child care, and good nutrition,"
says Creighton.
She is concerned that
progressive health-care policies at
the federal level can be over-ridden
at the community level. Local
communities and school boards
can refuse to offer sex education
or services of a public-health nurse
in schools.
Creighton would like to see the
women themselves creating and
I found many of these mums to be strong, dedicated individuals who wanted to be good mothers.
literature and practice. Terms
such as "babies having babies"
and "sexually unrestrained" are
common, she says.
"I was surprised by the moral
tenor that still exists," she says.
"Despite relatively progressive
government health policies about
youth and sexuality, teen mothers
are still stereotyped as emotionally
and socially lost or damaged girls
and poor mothers."
for two-and-a-half years in a
neighbourhood house in Surrey,
B.C. She set up an educational and
health-care program for young
mothers whose situation did not
match eligibility criteria, such as
the age or number of children, for
similar programs offered by the
school district.
"My experience of these
women was very different from
the common perception found in
with the decision to continue their
pregnancy. Stated risks included
increased incidence of pre-and
post-natal complications and
increased risk of child abuse.
Creighton does not dispute the
risks, but her research has led
her to conclude that factors such
as poverty, isolation and lack of
social support are the causes, not
the age of the mother.
"These attitudes can have a
socially complicated situation.
Models of enlightened and
empowering relationships
between health-care providers
and young mothers do exist
here in Canada, says Creighton,
but are more commonly
found in countries such as the
Netherlands and Sweden where
attitudes toward sex education
and adolescent sexuality don't
carry the moral overtones found
driving health-care and education
programs that are meaningful
for them, rather than having
authorities impose programs.
More and better programs for teen
dads are also needed.
Starting a doctoral degree is
the next step for Creighton. She
will interview pregnancy clinic
clients and health-care providers to
assess how youth are treated and
determine best practices. 13
STARVE TB continued from page 1
In Canada, approximately
1,600 new cases of active TB
are diagnosed annually and
63 per cent of those cases are
found in people born outside
of the country, according to the
Canadian Lung Association.
Eltis and colleagues are working
to create a multidisciplinary TB
research centre at UBC, involving
investigators in areas such as
microbiology, chemistry and
immunology. Their objective is
to establish a "pipeline" for the
development of new therapies.
Eltis cites UBC strengths such
as top investigators, special lab
facilities being constructed for
biocontaminant research, and the
Centre for Drug Research and
Development that helps ready new
therapies for commercialization.
"UBC is uniquely positioned to
make a major contribution to a
global threat," says Eltis.
There are currently only two
centres for TB research - in
Lausanne, Switzerland and in
Seattle, WA.
Along with UBC colleagues
Yossef Av-Gay, Richard Stokes,
Charles Thompson and others,
Eltis envisions the centre offering
shared services to enable targeted
gene studies and development of
inhibitors and vaccines.
For more information on TB,
visit www.who.int. 13
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Safeguarding the Keys to Knowledge
Indigenous scholar says preserving languages keeps cultural knowledge alive
If indigenous languages
disappear so, too, will
invaluable knowledge about our
environment and sustainable
ways of life, warns Lester-
Irrabina Rigney, a visiting
research fellow with UBC's
Department of Education Studies.
"The world's indigenous
languages are in crisis," Rigney
points out. "The way things
are going, only a few hundred
languages amongst the world's
6,000 or so look like surviving
in the long term. The rate of
extinction of languages and
cultures far exceeds that of fauna
and flora."
An Aboriginal scholar from
South Australia's Narungga
Nation, Rigney is an associate
professor with the Yunggorendi
First Nations Centre for Higher
Education and Research at
Australia's Flinders University.
He holds a PhD in indigenous
research, and is collaborating
with the newly formed
Indigenous Education Research
Institute of Canada located at
UBC. The institute, he explains, is
developing a Pacific consortium
Australian scholar Lester Rigney is at UBC on a research fellowship until January 2008, sharing his knowledge of Indigenous research, literacy,
education and languages.
on research into indigenous
education in partnership with
researchers in Australia, Hawaii,
New Zealand and Indonesia.
Rigney recently conducted
a week-long seminar for UBC
Okanagan's Summer Institute
in Interdisciplinary Indigenous
languages in Canada, so they
suffer a range of fates. Once
they go to sleep, it's very hard to
awaken them."
aware of a host of complex
issues, legalities and ethics, and
employ research techniques that
are sensitive and productive for
"The rate of extinction of languages and cultures far exceeds that of fauna and flora."
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Studies, now in its second year
offering PhD- and master's-level
seminars for mature, mid-
career indigenous students. He's
teaching a new generation of
researchers about pitfalls and
best practices in conducting
research with indigenous
"Researchers are now starting
to advance what we know
about how you keep indigenous
knowledge intact," says Rigney.
"We now need to look at
different ways for accessing
indigenous knowledge. In any
society, language holds the key
to knowledge - indigenous
communities are no different.
The key to indigenous knowledge
is indigenous language."
Rigney has observed the
threatened state of these
languages in all the colonized
areas of the world he has visited,
including Canada.
"What astounds me is that in
Canada there's lots of emphasis
on saving wildlife, rivers, and
so on, yet you have indigenous
languages that are not found
anywhere else in the world,"
he says. "They are not official
He argues that when an
indigenous language is firmly
supported, it creates a stronger
sense of place for its people, and
allows services to be provided
in ways that make people feel
comfortable. That can lead to
better education and greater
development opportunities. For
all these reasons, he says, "we
need more numeracy and literacy
in these languages."
Improving how research is
conducted is important in the
quest to better understand and
help preserve First languages and
cultures. Historically, researchers
haven't done a good job, Rigney
"Over the first 150 years of
Australian - and Canadian -
colonization, indigenous peoples
were viewed as static, as if they
were statues behind glass," he
says. "In the past, research was
done pretty inappropriately."
Communities were studied
without engaging or even
showing much consideration for
the people who were studied. In
what Rigney describes as being
akin to "intellectual gymnastics,"
today's researchers must be
He views programs like
the UBC Okanagan Summer
Institute as an important part
of the solution. Only in the last
decade or so, with a small but
growing number of indigenous
students earning advanced
degrees, have indigenous people
around the world become
involved in researching their own
communities, he observes.
A history of invasive research
in indigenous communities
remains sharp in people's minds,
yet positive changes are taking
place, Rigney suggests. "Research
is still a dirty word for some. But
now more and more people want
to be a part of research - they
see that it's a part of building the
"It's exciting - it has taken
a long time to get indigenous
researchers and scholars,
and there are now some
extraordinary researchers,
from ethnobotany to speech
pathology. I'm fortunate to be
working with some of Canada's
most skilled PhDs, and they will
all make a difference." 13
Professor Ed Perkins, Canada Research Chair in the Department of Mathematics, has been elected to
the Royal Society of London. As a Fellow of UK's national academy of science, he joins the likes of
David Attenborough and Stephen Hawking.
Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said, "These new Fellows are at the cutting edge of
science in the UK and beyond. Their achievements represent the enormous contribution science makes
to society."
Fellows are elected for their contributions to science, both in fundamental research resulting in
greater understanding, and also in leading and directing scientific and technological progress in
industry and research establishments.
UBC has 8 faculty members who have been elected to the body. UBC    REPORTS     IJULY   5,    2007     |     7
New Sustainability Director
Looks Beyond Kyoto
You are about to successfully
reach Kyoto Protocol targets.
What next?
The question may seem
premature considering
disagreement among world
leaders on how to tackle climate
change, but that is precisely
the challenge facing Charlene
Easton, the new Director of
UBC's Sustainability Office (SO).
By the end of 2007, UBC will
have reduced C02 emissions
six percent below 1990 levels,
meeting Canada's 2012 Kyoto
targets five years early. That
achieved, along with more than
$18-million in energy savings,
Easton says the university
has turned its attention to a
new challenge set by the B.C.
government: zero net greenhouse
gas emissions.
years in Jamaica, where she led
the creation and adoption of a
national environmental education
plan and a comprehensive
sustainable development plan for
the city of Kingston.
In 2004, Easton moved to
Vancouver, where she co-founded
the Sustainability Purchasing
Network and worked with mining
companies to advance corporate
social responsibility initiatives in
Canada and Latin America.
Easton says she sees North
America's West Coast as "an
emerging sustainability hub with
UBC right at the centre." She
says she is most excited to work
with the university's brain trust
of students and researchers such
as Prof. Bill Rees, creator of the
environmental footprint analysis.
Easton, who telecommutes
one day a week to reduce her
car use, is currently looking
questions we are asking is 'What
attributes does a UBC grad have,
sustainability-wise, regardless of
their field of study?'"
Easton replaces the recently
retired Freda Pagani, who
helped establish UBC as a
sustainability leader among
Canadian universities through
initiatives, including: Canada's
first campus sustainability office,
green buildings and the largest
campus energy retrofit in the
country - efforts that have twice
been recognized by the U.S. World
Wildlife Green Campus.
"In my experience, in capacity-
building for sustainability it takes
20 years to influence systemic
change, so it is amazing what UBC
has achieved in the last 10 years,"
Easton says. "With such a strong
foundation already in place, this
is a very exciting time for campus
sustainability at UBC." 13
Easton says she sees North America's
West Coast as "an emerging sustainability hub
with U BC right at the centre."
Charlene Easton has led green projects around the globe, including seven
years in Jamaica.
"In the 2007 throne speech,
the B.C. government committed
to become carbon neutral,"
says Easton, a native of Sarnia,
Ont. "It is a monumental,
but exciting challenge - and
as an international leader in
sustainability research and
innovation, UBC has a major
role to play in this enterprise."
Easton arrives at UBC with
25 years of experience with
sustainability solutions and
strategies. She has a Masters
in Environmental Studies
from York University and has
worked to advance sustainability
leadership and innovation across
a variety of sectors in Canada,
the Caribbean, Africa, Latin
America and South East Asia.
Career highlights include seven
to engage stakeholders about
how the university will go
forward in the next 10 years.
She says the process will further
incorporate UBC's Trek 2010
sustainability values into campus
life, addressing everything from
student learning, climate change
and academic planning.
"UBC has been very successful
at empowering students to
authentically contribute to climate
change solutions," says Easton
of initiatives such as UBC's
Social, Ecological, Economic
Development Studies (SEEDS),
an academic program that brings
together students, faculty, and
staff in projects that address
sustainability issues.
"But I think there is still more
we can do. One of the big-picture
UBC's Sustainability Coordinators Program has become an international model for how to create a
culture of sustainability in the workplace.
Earlier this year, 24 universities, governments, businesses and other organizations from all over
North America came to UBC to learn about how nearly 150 faculty and staff have helped save $75,000
in electricity annually and inspire positive changes in waste generation and energy and transportation.
Due to popular demand, the Sustainability Office, in partnership with Continuing Studies and
University-Industry Liaison Office, will be taking the workshops on the road this year. Sessions are
planned for Maine, California and Vancouver.
"It's inspiring to see how UBC's leadership is helping others to foster sustainability in their
organizations - from as far away as Texas and Toronto to right here in Vancouver and Victoria," says
Ruth Abramson, Sustainability Office Marketing Manager.
» This summer marks the launch of the UBC Climate Action Partnership. This collaborative, student-
led sustainability network brings together student groups including the Alma Mater Society, the
Graduate Student Society, the UBC Okanagan Student Union and Common Energy.
» The Sustainability Office will lead a six-month audit of UBC's greenhouse gas emissions, including
those from buildings, automobile traffic and university-related air travel, including student exchanges.
UBC Press
would like to congratulate
David A. Green
Jonathan R. Kesselman
& the contributors to
of Inequality
in Canada
for winning the
2007 Doug Purvis
Memorial Prize
for Canadian Economics
awarded by the
Doug Purvis Foundation
"Too often inequality is considered
only in terms of incomes. This book,
written by some of the best researchers in the field, expands the economic
perspective ... and focuses on specific
groups for which inequality is a compelling issue: kids, women, and ethnic
groups. Its multidimensional perspective on inequality in Canada is so
successful that it could be a model for
future attempts in other countries."
- Barbara Boyle Torrey co-editor
of The Vulnerable
order online: www.ubcpress.ca
lequality in Canada
Also available in the
Equality I Security I Community Series:
Racing to the Bottom?
Provincial Interdependence in the
Canadian Federation
Edited by Kathryn Harrison
Social Capital, Diversity,
and the Welfare State
Edited by Fiona M. Kay and
Richard Johnston
UBC Public Affairs is now able to offer high-quality photography for our campus community.
This includes the work of award-winning photographer Martin Dee. Formerly of UBC Telestudios, Martin has
recently taken the position of University Photographer in UBC Public Affairs. Martin's award-winning work has been
featured in UBC Reports, the UBC Annual Report and other high-profile campus publications
Contact Martin at 822-4775 or martin.dee@ubc.ca
Check out the gallery at www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/photography I     UBC    REPORTS     |    JULY   5,    2007
High-flying Honkers Have Superhuman Power
Zoology PhD candidate Graham Scott is studying how bar-headed geese are capable of physical exertion in high altitudes.
They may seem deceptively innocuous
mixed in with other waterfowl, but bar-
headed geese can do with ease what most
elite high altitude athletes can't. Now a
UBC zoologist is learning how.
Native to South and Central Asia, bar-
headed geese, named for the dark stripes
on the backs of their heads, are often bred
in captivity as domestic garden birds. In
the wild, they migrate annually between
India and the Tibetan plateau in China,
flying over the world's highest mountains
on their way.
"They fly at altitudes up to 9,000
metres," says Zoology PhD candidate
Graham Scott. "That's the equivalent
of humans running a marathon at the
altitudes commercial airlines fly."
Even at rest, humans struggle to cope
with the low oxygen environments at high
altitude. Mountaineers train for years
before attempting to reach the peak of
Mount Everest, where less than a quarter
of the oxygen at sea level is available. Even
with supplemental oxygen it takes them
several weeks to summit. Some members
of the highest human settlement - La
Rinconada, a mining village in Peru, at
5,100 metres elevation - still suffer from
lifelong symptoms of mountain sickness
including headaches, nausea and sleep
Scientists have known that the blood
of bar-headed geese - specifically their
haemoglobin - is better at holding onto
oxygen than low-altitude birds. "But
there's long been suspicion that something
else is contributing to their extraordinary
abilities," says Scott.
By simulating high altitude conditions in
the lab, Scott has learned one of the bar-
headed goose's secrets: Unlike humans and
many other mammals, which take more
frequent breaths to accommodate a lack of
oxygen - think running up stairs - bar-
headed geese take much deeper breaths.
"They take in almost twice as much
air per breath as low-altitude birds and
thus extract a lot more oxygen," says
Scott. "That, coupled with the ability to
carry more oxygen in their blood, allows
bar-headed geese to send more oxygen to
their flight muscles, fueling the metabolism
required to fly."
The new insight allows scientists to
better understand the limitations of
human physiology and potentially find
ways to exceed them, says Scott. 13
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