Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

Canadian poet and spoken word artist Shane Koyczan will address the UBCO graduating class of 2021.

Virtual ceremony recognizes more than 1,800 graduating students

UBC Okanagan is marking its second virtual convocation next week.

More than 1,850 graduates — including 1,600 undergraduates as well as more than 100 masters’ and doctoral students — will tune in to celebrate the success of their educational journey.

“This has been a remarkable year for our students and our faculty,” says Lesley Cormack, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2021.”

There are also some new faces in the procession of dignitaries that will congratulate the graduates this year. UBC’s 19th Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point (xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl), will preside over the ceremony, his first since taking on the role of chancellor last year. And this will be Cormack’s first convocation since joining the university in July 2020.

“Coming to UBC Okanagan during a time when our students are learning remotely has indeed been interesting,” Cormack adds. “Through it all, our students have shown remarkable fortitude while learning and conducting research online. I commend them all for their accomplishments.”

Once the ceremony has begun, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono will address the Class of 2021 live, dressed in full academic regalia and graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono. Along with a congratulatory message from Cormack, graduates will also hear inspiring words from student speakers Ali Poostizadeh, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and Blessing Adeagbo, who has earned a Bachelor of Human Kinetics.

Another highlight of the 50-minute ceremony will be a keynote address from Shane Koyczan. The Canadian poet and spoken word artist will honour the perseverance and resilience of the 2021 graduating class. His message, written from the heart, will inspire all viewers, Cormack adds.

UBC Okanagan’s graduating class will celebrate their accomplishments virtually on June 2, starting at 2:30 p.m. Students and their family members can watch the ceremony on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries.

To find out more about the virtual convocation ceremony, visit: virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

This year’s medal recipients

Governor General's Gold Medal: Sandra Fox

Lieutenant Governor's Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Aidan O'Callahan

UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Jade Zitko

UBC Medal in Arts: Michelle Tucsok

UBC Medal in Science: Jakob Thoms

UBC Medal in Education: Patricia Perkins

UBC Medal in Nursing: Alex Halonen

UBC Medal in Management: Breanne Ruskowsky

UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Marika Harris

UBC Medal in Engineering: Rohan Ikebuchi

UBC Medal in Media Studies Sydney Bezenar

UBC hosts virtual wine tasting on National Rosé Day.

Celebrate National Rosé Day with local wineries at a free wine tasting event

What: Rosés of the Okanagan, virtual wine tasting event
Who: Winemakers, winery owners, UBC alumni and wine experts
When: Saturday, June 12 starting at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Zoom webinar

UBC’s alumni association is raising a glass to toast the university’s many alumni in the winemaking industry in celebration of National Rosé Day.

Rosés of the Okanagan, a virtual wine tasting event, will feature a curated wine pack and wine-tasting tips from expert speakers. Participants can purchase the specially-selected bottles of rosé — products from four alumni-affiliated wineries in the Okanagan. The event takes place Saturday, June 12, starting at 4:30 p.m.

The virtual event is hosted by Bachelor of Arts graduate DJ Kearney, a Vancouver-based wine educator who is also a wine writer, critic, judge, presenter and classically trained cook. Kearney will lead participants in a Zoom presentation where they will sample the wines as they follow along with the program.

“The rosé is the fastest growing wine segment in the wine industry, and in Europe, rosé has become the most successful summer wine,” says Jacques-Olivier Pesme, director of the UBC Wine Research Centre. “There are various types of rosé and British Columbia offers a large palette of tastes, which will be detailed at this virtual event.”

UBC alumni Sarah and Murray Bancroft with Birch Block Vineyard, Graham Nordin from CedarCreek Estate Winery, David Scholefield from Haywire Winery, and Tony Holler from Poplar Grove Winery will explain their rosés while the virtual audience can taste along at home.

Along with the winemakers, special guests and UBC Professor Dr. Wes Zandberg and analytical scientist Sarah Lyons will explain their research on smoke taint from wildfires and how it can impact winemaking.

Participants can purchase a wine pack in advance of the tasting. For each wine pack purchased a $10 donation will be made to the UBC Blue & Gold Campaign for Students.

This free event is offered in partnership with the UBC Wine Research Centre and UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management. To register and purchase the wine pack, or to find out more visit: alumni.ubc.ca/event/roses-of-the-okanagan

The latest research by Drs. Gibson, Ghosh and Zandberg into dietary fat suggest current health guidelines should be reevaluated.

Findings show types of fats matter when it comes to gut well-being

A team of UBC Okanagan researchers has determined that the type of fats a mother consumes while breastfeeding can have long-term implications on her infant’s gut health.

Dr. Deanna Gibson, a biochemistry researcher, along with Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh, who studies the biochemical aspects of dietary fats, teamed up with chemistry and molecular biology researcher Dr. Wesley Zandberg. The team, who conducts research in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, explored the role of feeding dietary fat to gestating rodents to determine the generational effects of fat exposure on their offspring.

“The goal was to investigate how maternal dietary habits can impact an offspring’s gut microbial communities and their associated sugar molecule patterns which can be important in immune responses to infectious disease,” says Dr. Gibson, who studies gut health and immunity as well as causes of acute or chronic diseases like inflammatory bowel disease.

Their study suggests that the type of fat consumed during breastfeeding could differentially impact an infant's intestinal microbial communities, immune development and disease risk.

The three main classes of fatty acids include saturated (SFA), found in meats and dairy products, monounsaturated fats (MUFA), found in plant-based liquid oils, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), found in some nuts, fish and shellfish. PUFAs are further characterized as either n-3 PUFAs or n-6 PUFAs, based on the number and positions of double bonds in the acyl chain.

Previous research has determined both n-3 PUFAs and n-6 PUFAs can have a negative impact on intestinal infections such as Enteropathogenic E. coli, Clostridium difficile, salmonella and gastrointestinal illnesses from eating poorly prepared or undercooked food or drinking contaminated water. In contrast, diets rich in MUFAs and SFAs have been shown to be largely protective against these infections.

Dr. Gibson’s latest research states the beneficial properties of milk fat, or saturated fats, during the pre-and postnatal period might improve protection against infectious intestinal disease during adulthood particularly when a source of n-3 PUFAs are combined with saturated fats.

“Our findings challenge current dietary recommendations and reveal that maternal intake of fat has transgenerational impacts on their offspring’s susceptibility to intestinal infection, likely enabled through microbe-immune interactions,” says Dr. Gibson.

Global consumption of unsaturated fatty acids has increased significantly between 1990 and 2010, she adds, while people are consuming lower amounts of saturated fats during pregnancy because of recommendations to reduce saturated fat intake.

“Although it has been known for decades that high-fat diets can directly alter inflammatory responses, recent studies have only just begun to appreciate how fatty acid classes may have discrete effects on inflammation, and can shift host responses to an infection,” says Dr. Gibson.

Dietary fatty acids can impact inflammatory processes including defensive inflammatory responses following an intestinal infection. This can affect the severity of disease, making dietary fatty acids an important consideration in predicting disease risk, Dr. Gibson explains.

Researchers believe it’s a combination of dietary fat-host interactions with the intestinal bacteriome that can determine the severity of these infections. The intestinal bacteriome, Dr. Gibson explains, is established during infancy and plays a critical role in aiding immune system maturation and providing a barrier against colonization with potential pathogens.

And Dr. Ghosh notes this latest research suggests current health guidelines should be reevaluated.

“Currently, Canadian dietary guidelines recommend nursing mothers replace foods rich in SFA with dietary PUFAs, with an emphasis on consuming n-6 and n-3 PUFAs,” Dr. Ghosh says. “Given that PUFAs worsened disease outcomes in postnatal diet studies, in our views, these recommendations should be reconsidered.”

While breast milk protein and carbohydrate concentrations remain relatively inert, fatty acid contents vary considerably and are influenced by maternal fat intake.

“Overall, we conclude that maternal consumption of various dietary fat types alters the establishment of their child’s bacteriome and can have lasting consequences on their ability to respond to infection during adulthood,” says Dr. Gibson. “At the same time, we show that maternal diets rich in SFA, provide a host-microbe relationship in their offspring that protects against disease.”

It’s important to understand that the intestinal bacteriome is established during infancy because it plays a critical role in aiding immune system maturation which can provide a barrier to potential pathogens, explains Dr. Zandberg. He also notes a healthy bacteriome is dependent on early-life nutrition.

“Sugars decorate important proteins in the gut,” says Dr. Zandberg. “Their patterns are altered in the offspring due to the dietary choices of the mother during gestation and lactation. The change in patterns is associated with changes in the ability of the infant to fight off infectious disease in our model.”

The research, published recently in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and awarded to Drs. Gibson and Ghosh as well as other organizations including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Dairy Farmers of Canada, and a scholarship to the study’s first author Candice Quin from the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

CBC journalist and author Nora Young.

Virtual event explores complex role of data in everyday life

What: From Big Data to Your Data: How Data-Driven Technologies are Shaping the Future, as part of UBCO’s Distinguished Speaker Series
Who: Canadian journalist and author Nora Young
When: Tuesday, April 13 beginning at 7 p.m.
Where: Zoom webinar

In an increasingly data-driven world, data literacy plays an important role in ensuring people understand how their interactions with technology may lead to the gathering, sharing or selling of their personal information.

Though many are aware of these possibilities when choosing to visit a website or enable location services on a device—how often do they consider the effect data may be having on their interpersonal relationships, behaviours and opinions?

On Tuesday, April 13, UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science hosts CBC journalist, author and speaker Nora Young as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series. She will explore how recent advancements in technology and the explosion of data can affect relationships, behaviours and opinions.

Young is a highly-respected Canadian journalist, best known as the creator and host of Spark, CBC’s national radio show exploring technology and culture, author of The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us, and as the founding host of CBC Radio’s pop culture magazine, Definitely not the Opera.

In her talk, Young will cover everything from artificial intelligence and robotics, to smart cities and the internet of things.

She will take a deep dive into the top data-driven trends influencing our world, and discuss the challenges and opportunities that accompany them. She’ll also cover the impacts these shifts are having on the economy and society, and describe how they’re affecting our health, relationships and the types of jobs the next generation will be moving into.

The Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science’s Distinguished Speaker Series brings compelling speakers to the homes of Okanagan residents to share their unique perspectives on issues that affect our region, our country and our world.

This virtual event is free and open to all, but online pre-registration is required.

To register, visit: speakers.ok.ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Acting as natural reservoirs, forests in watersheds release and purify water by slowing erosion and delaying its release into streams.

Human and natural changes to forests impacting natural filtration system

As World Water Day is observed around the globe, new research from UBC Okanagan suggests a systematic approach to forest and water supply research may yield an improved assessment and understanding of connections between the two.

Healthy forests play a vital role in providing a clean, stable water supply, says eco-hydrologist Dr. Adam Wei.

Acting as natural reservoirs, forests in watersheds release and purify water by slowing erosion and delaying its release into streams. But forests are changing—in part because of human activity—and that’s having an impact on forests’ interaction with hydrological processes.

Dr. Wei, Forest Renewal BC’s chair of watershed research and management, is a professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, and study co-author.

He says activities like logging, deforestation, creating new forests on previously bare land, agriculture and urbanization are changing the landscape of forests worldwide.

Dr. Adam Wei, professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences, visits the Williston Reservoir near Fort St. John, BC.

Dr. Adam Wei, professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences, visits the Williston Reservoir near Fort St. John, BC.

“The notion that humans have left enormous, often negative, footprints on the natural world isn’t new,” he says. “It’s why the term Anthropocene was created, to describe these phenomena. But now we need to acknowledge where we’re at and figure out a way to fix what’s broken.”

While humans bear much of the blame, they aren’t the only culprits.

Natural disturbances like insect infestations and wildfires are also contributing to the swift transformation of forests, leading Dr. Wei to examine current forest-water research and management practices. His goal is to identify the gaps and propose a new approach that reflects numerous variables and their interactions that may be at play at any given watershed.

He points to an example in the study to illustrate the need for a new perspective.

“We were looking at the impacts of deforestation on annual streamflow—and though we were able to draw the conclusion that deforestation increased it, the variations between studies were large, with increases between less than one per cent to nearly 600 per cent,” he explains.

Dr. Wei saw similar variations when he researched the ‘why.’

“We concluded this was due to when water in the soil and on plants evaporates due to a loss of forest cover,” explains Wei. “But the amount lost ranged from less than two per cent to 100 per cent—that’s a huge difference that can be attributed to scale, type and severity of forest disturbance, as well as climate and location of watershed properties. There are so many variables that need to be taken into account, and not doing so can result in contradictory research conclusions.”

To limit disparities, Dr. Wei says future research and watershed management approaches need to be systematic, include key contributing factors and a broad spectrum of response variables related to hydrological services.

He also suggests new tools like machine learning and climatic eco-hydrological modelling should be utilized.

“Implementing a systematic approach to all forest-water research will reduce the likelihood of procuring misleading assessment, which in turn will give us a better chance to solve some of the problems we’ve created,” says Dr. Wei.

This study, published in Science, was conducted by Dr. Wei, and his then-graduate student Dr. Mingfang Zhang, with support from the China National Science Foundation.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

A team of researchers has determined the declining caribou population is part of a natural chain reaction from forest harvesting which can attract predators and competition for food.

Researchers examine landscape, food supply, predator-prey relationships

A new study comparing decades of environmental monitoring records has confirmed that Canada’s caribou are not faring as well as other animals like moose and wolves in the same areas—and also teased out why.

The study used 16 years of data to examine changes in vegetation, moose, wolves and caribou.

“Caribou are declining across Canada and have been recently lost in the Lower 48 States,” says Melanie Dickie, a doctoral student with UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

“Understanding why caribou are declining is the first step to effectively managing the species—it tells us which parts of the issue we can target with management actions and how that might help caribou.”

Dickie, along with fellow UBCO researchers Dr. Clayton Lamb and Dr. Adam Ford, describe the decline in caribou populations as an ecological puzzle. Typically, there are multiple factors, all changing at once, making it hard to identify how the pieces fit together. Factors such as predation from wolves and other large carnivores, increasing moose and deer populations, and habitat alteration through resource extraction and wildfires all play a part. The study aimed to sort out the roles each of these play in caribou population declines.

Once land is cleared by either wildfire or harvesting, the mature forest transforms into more productive early seral forage. With the tree canopy removed, there is a significant increase in sunlight, allowing understory plants to thrive. These plants provide food that benefits moose, deer and their predators. These predators then have a spillover effect on the rarer caribou, creating apparent competition between moose and caribou.

“Changes in primary productivity have the potential to substantially alter food webs, with positive outcomes for some species and negative outcomes for others,” Dickie explains. “Understanding the environmental context and species interactions that give rise to these different outcomes is a major challenge to both theoretical and applied ecology.”

To establish the link between habitat alteration and primary productivity, the researchers first examined satellite imagery to show a link between logging and new vegetation growth. They then used data on moose, caribou and wolf numbers to compare the leading hypotheses on how changes in vegetation influence these populations. The analysis was conducted across a 598,000-square kilometre area located in the boreal shield and boreal plains of western Canada.

Ultimately, the researchers determined that lower caribou populations were a victim of an ecological chain reaction. Caribou have a lower population growth rate relative to moose, making them more susceptible to landscape changes.

“We found that increased deciduous vegetation on the landscape, which moose like to eat, increased moose populations, which increased wolves, and in turn, means declining caribou,” Dickie says. “We also found that human land use, like forestry, significantly increased vegetation productivity, suggesting that these kinds of land uses are leading to caribou declines via changes to predators and prey.”

Caribou conservation will be a defining point for Canada in the 21st century, adds Dr. Lamb, a Liber Ero Fellow at UBCO. Caribou highlight an unresolved tension between land stewardship, wildlife conservation and resource extraction. Further, as caribou populations continue to decline, Indigenous Peoples are forced to grapple with mounting threats to food security, cultural traditions, and infringed treaty rights.

“We can't attribute caribou declines to just one factor or another,” he says. “But understanding the relative importance of these factors, and how they interact, can help us understand how we can manage caribou populations in the face of continued climate change and land use.”

The study, published recently in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, was partially funded by the Government of the Northwest Territories, Government of Alberta, the Resource Industry Caribou Collaboration, British Columbia Oil and the Gas Research and Innovation Society, and the Liber Ero Fellowship.

Caribou have a lower population growth rates relative to moose, and are not as resilient, making them more susceptible to landscape changes.

Caribou have a lower population growth rate relative to moose, and are not as resilient, making them more susceptible to landscape changes.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO researchers are concerned about how the actions of some scientists, advocacy groups and the public are eroding efforts to conserve biodiversity, including grizzly bears, wild bees and salmon.

UBCO researchers part of global team working to curb misplaced conservation

A group of researchers, spanning six universities and three continents, are sounding the alarm on a topic not often discussed in the context of conservation—misinformation.

In a recent study published in FACETS, the team, including Dr. Adam Ford, Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology, and Dr. Clayton Lamb, Liber Ero Fellow, both based in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, explain how the actions of some scientists, advocacy groups and the public are eroding efforts to conserve biodiversity.

“Outcomes, not intentions, should be the basis for how we view success in conservation,” says Dr. Ford.

“Misinformation related to vaccines, climate change, and links between smoking and cancer has made it harder for science to create better policies for people,” he says. “Weaponizing information to attack other groups impedes our ability to solve problems that affect almost everyone. We wanted to know if these issues were also a problem for people working to conserve biodiversity.

“Conservation is not perfect and things can go wrong. Sometimes people mean well, and harm ensues by accident. Sometimes people’s actions are much more sinister.”

The study points to multiple examples of good intentions ending badly from across the globe, including the case of the Huemul deer in Patagonia National Park, Chile.

“We reviewed one case where the primary objective of a newly-established park was to protect the endangered Huemul deer. The goal was to make the landscape a little better for these deer in hopes of increasing the population,” explains Dr. Lamb. “In doing so, they removed the domestic livestock from the park, and as a result, the natural predators in the system lost their usual food source and ate many of the deer, causing the population to decline further. It’s a textbook case of misplaced conservation.”

Dr. Lamb points to other cases including mass petitions against shark finning in Florida, although the practice was previously banned there; planting a species of milkweed in an attempt to save monarch butterflies, only to ultimately harm them; and closer to home, the sharing of misinformation in regards to the British Columbia grizzly bear hunt.

“When we see province-wide policies like banning grizzly hunting, those go against the wishes of some local communities in some parts of the province—and choosing to steamroll their perspectives is damaging relationships and alienating the partners we need on board to protect biodiversity,” says Dr. Ford.

He suggests using a ‘big tent’ approach may help combat some of the problems.

“We need to work together on the 90 per cent of goals that we share in common, as opposed to focusing on the 10 per cent of issues where we disagree. There are many clear wins for people and wildlife waiting to be actioned right now, we need to work together to make those happen,” says Dr. Ford.

Dr. Lamb says doing so is likely to improve cooperation among parties and increase the use of evidence-based approaches in conservation; ultimately suppressing the spread of misinformation and occurrences of polarization.

“Although we’re seeing some misplaced efforts, we’re also seeing genuine care and good community energy in many of these cases—we just need to find a way to harness this energy in the right direction.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Assistant Professor of Teaching Dean Richert and student Ram Dershan prepare a workstation that will be used for the industrial automation micro-credential course.

Short-duration, competency-based options aim to help community members improve skills

With an increasing need for continued education among those looking to build their knowledge in high-demand fields, UBC Okanagan has launched two micro-credential programs as part of its career and personal education portfolio. The first of their kind at UBCO, the two new micro-credentials will focus on the fields of technical communication and industrial automation.

“Micro-credentials are short programs that are often competency-based and are designed to respond to the needs of industry,” says Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president academic at UBC Okanagan. “They enable UBC Okanagan to offer unique learning opportunities alongside our academic programs that reflect the evolving education needs of today’s workforce.”

The new micro-credentials are part of British Columbia’s $4 million in funding for similar initiatives across the province. UBCO’s two new programs are delivered online and learners will earn a non-credit letter of proficiency, which includes a traditional paper copy of the credential and one or more digital badges which can be shared on their professional social media profiles.

The Critical Skills for Communications in the Technical Sector course, offered through the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, focuses on developing skills to communicate information accurately, succinctly and unambiguously and is intended for those working or seeking employment in a technical field.

Dr. Edward Hornibrook, head of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences and host of the new credential at UBCO, says the ability to communicate complex topics in a way that can be generally understood is a critical skill for employees across a breadth of industries.

“The program offers eight modules that focus on everything from improving grammar and style to better engaging with clients to producing successful technical proposals,” he says. “While many people focus on developing their technical abilities, this program is a great opportunity to improve on communication skills and will help participants get their ideas out in a clear and concise way—something that can bring a world of new opportunities for those seeking employment or wishing to advance their current position.”

Skills in Industrial Automation, offered through the School of Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science, brings together theory with hands-on practice. Participants have the opportunity to use industry-standard tools to learn about and develop automated systems.

“Not only are these programs designed in close collaboration with industry partners to ensure they provide real value in a professional context, but also students get to hone their skills in a flexible way and network with other people in their fields with the same interests,” says Dr. Homayoun Najjaran, associate director of manufacturing engineering and creator of the industrial automation micro-credential. “This is a new and exciting offering from UBCO and one that’s going to benefit employers and individuals alike.”

While the Skills in Industrial Automation micro-credential is full, Critical Skills for Communications in the Technical Sector is open for enrolment. For more information on both programs visit: provost.ok.ubc.ca/cpe

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

The Okanagan-based CHIME radio telescope detected a fast radio burst from within the Milky Way in April 2020.

UBCO researcher describes significance of findings

In the decade since they were first discovered, astronomers have categorized fast radio bursts (FRBs) as mysterious phenomena. But a recent astronomical event has provided further insight into the origin of these signals.

In a paper published recently in Nature, researchers confirm the evidence that supports their theory of what caused the April 28, 2020 event—a magnetar.

Magnetars, or high-magnetized pulsars, are remnants of dead stars that have gone supernova and left behind a compressed core that has more mass than the sun but is the diameter of a small city. Before this, researchers suspected that FRBs likely originate from magnetars, but no FRB-like event had been seen from any of the Milky Way’s roughly 30 known magnetars.

Alex Hill is an assistant professor of astrophysics in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and a member of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) research team that made this discovery.

What is the CHIME project?

CHIME is a large radio telescope that was originally created to study the properties of dark energy. It was built in 2017 at the National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) just outside of Penticton, BC.

Dark energy is a mysterious form of energy that’s causing the universe’s expansion to speed up over time. It’s challenging to study because we can’t see it—we can only see what it does to things we can see, like galaxies. Researchers from UBC, the University of Toronto and McGill University came together in partnership with DRAO to build CHIME in order to try and map out the properties of dark energy by observing hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe.

My main focus within CHIME is using this telescope to study our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which we must look through to see the distant universe. This is a great challenge for cosmological science but a great opportunity for us to understand where the 'star stuff' we’re all made of comes from.

What makes the CHIME radio telescope different from others?

With a distinct cylindrical design, CHIME is definitely not what comes to mind when most people think of a telescope. It looks like four massive half-pipes laying next to each other, and it’s now the fourth-largest radio telescope in the world. This allows us to see a strip across the whole sky from the southern to northern horizons all at once. CHIME itself doesn’t move. Instead, when the earth rotates, we let the sky rotate over, so we’re seeing the sky in its entirety every day.

This is highly valuable because it lets our team build up many signals so we can detect very faint things. It also lets us see signals that go off periodically, like FRBs. When an FRB goes off, you don’t know in advance where it is, so you need to be seeing as much sky as possible at a given time to see most of them. CHIME is specifically designed to do this.

What did CHIME detect on April 28, 2020 and why is it significant?

CHIME detected a signal from within the Milky Way that appeared similar to FRBs. The team immediately released what’s called an astronomer’s telegram to let our fellow astronomers know something strange just happened and they should point their telescopes at it right away. FRBs are exactly what they sound like: mysterious bursts of radio emissions that go off quickly. Because they go off so quickly and usually leave no signal behind, you have to catch them the moment they appear.

We suspected that they might be coming from magnetars because they’re compact and have strong magnetic fields that produce radio signals. But there just wasn’t enough evidence to say one way or another.

The first FRB was detected in 2007, and there were around 30 to 50 of them detected before we built CHIME. Since then, CHIME has detected hundreds, but none in the Milky Way until 2020. This had us scratching our heads—if FRBs come from magnetars, as we had suspected, and we know our galaxy has magnetars, it was a bit of a puzzle that they’d never happened here.

The April 28 event was really affirming for our team. It was a pretty exciting day for astronomers because it was a first, and we finally had this new, concrete evidence that we were on the right track.

What makes the Okanagan ideal to host Canada’s national radio observatory?

In our line of work, we’re trying to detect radio signals. And to do so effectively we need a site that is as radio quiet as possible. Cell phones, TV towers and any other electronic device that produces radio frequency interference can threaten our success.

Our site is one of the best in the world for what we do. It’s ideal because, through a combination of regulation and geography, it is well-protected from radio signals. We’re one valley over from Penticton, so the mountains block radio signals from the city. At the observatory, we don’t use microwaves to heat our lunch, all of our computers are kept in metal cages that keep radio signals in, and we can’t use cell phones even in airplane mode. The observatory staff test every piece of electronics on-site to make sure they don’t harm our radio-quiet environment.

It may sound extreme but we’ve worked incredibly hard to keep our site radio quiet—it’s an enormous benefit to science. I don’t think there’s an observatory in the world with a better combination of an outstanding radio-quiet environment and easy access to a major population centre.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Gino DiLabio, inaugural dean of the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

Faculty of Science’s inaugural dean shares bright vision for future

It was a summer to remember for UBC Okanagan’s newly-minted Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

The new Faculty of Science was formed in July alongside the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences after the previously combined faculty grew and evolved into two new independent academic units.

The transition from one faculty into two marked a milestone for UBC Okanagan and signals the growth that the campus has experienced since its inception 15 years ago—expanding from 3,500 students in 2005 to more than 11,000 today.

The Faculty of Science’s inaugural Dean Gino DiLabio was recently appointed and is navigating his first term in the newly-created role. DiLabio, a chemistry professor and former head of UBCO’s chemistry department, explains the rationale for the new faculty and its commitment to research and partnerships within the community.

Why was it time to create the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science at UBC Okanagan?

A lot of factors were taken into consideration when making this decision—but I’d say the biggest factor was that the sciences here on campus have grown so much since its inception in 2005.

The former Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences had nearly 55 per cent of all of UBCO’s students, who were enrolled in many different programs. Transitioning into two separate faculties allows us to focus our attention and resources on advancing science education and research and in leading the growth of the campus as outlined in UBC’s Okanagan’s Outlook 2040 strategic plan.

What types of research are currently underway in the Faculty of Science?

Our faculty does everything from making new molecules to understanding ecological landscapes and nearly everything in between. We have expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and medical physics. We’re a relatively small faculty in comparison to other institutions, yet have a broad range of research that we’re engaged in locally, garnering national and international attention.

Initially, we will focus on identifying how we can combine our strengths across the research disciplines in the faculty to do truly unique things in the research and educational programming spaces.

Why are increased partnerships between the Faculty of Science and local industry important for both?

If we can use our skillset to conduct world-renowned research while helping local industry solve a problem, to me it’s a win-win. We have some incredible partnerships within the community already, but I’d like to see more.

The first that comes to mind is Chemistry Professor Wesley Zandberg’s partnership with local grape growers. He’s working with farmers to develop a preventative strategy that protects wine grapes from the negative effects of wildfire smoke. Another example is the work of Professor Lael Parrott, who is collaborating with Indigenous traditional knowledge holders to find sustainable ways to manage the Okanagan landscape.

These are great examples of Okanagan researchers solving Okanagan problems; not only do they allow our community to be more self-reliant, it’s also pretty cool.

How do you see the Faculty of Science evolving over the next five years?

Broadly speaking, I’d like us to continue on this growth trajectory. Over the past couple of years, the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences has hired several faculty members in the sciences, both educators and researchers, and I hope to work with them on continuing to grow our undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as our research output.

The Faculty of Science is, and will continue to be, an important part of this campus’ identity in the years to come. We’re not a stand-alone entity, we’re an integral part of the community, helping to develop the socio-economic landscape in the region—but we don’t do it on our own. We do it in partnership with other faculties on our campus, local Indigenous communities, broader communities and industry partners. I’d like to see us continue to nurture these relationships and leverage them to do good for all involved—that, to me, would be a true success.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca