Patty Wellborn



UBC research shows both forest vegetation and climate change have an impact on water supply

Freshwater resources are critical to both human civilization and natural ecosystems, but UBC researchers have discovered that changes to ground vegetation can have as much of an impact on global water resources as climate change.

UBC Okanagan Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences Professor Adam Wei, PhD candidate Qiang Li and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Forestry recently published a study examining the impacts of how changes in forest vegetation effect water supplies. Using several decades worth of data, their work examined how water resources are responsive to vegetation ground cover and climate change.

“As we urbanize land and continue to convert forests for other uses, our water regimes change,” says Wei. “We end up with the systems we do not design for, and entire watersheds are being affected.”

Forested areas are critically important water resources, explains Li. But as land is developed or the green vegetation is destroyed, watersheds are irreversibly damaged.

“We need to recognize the importance of vegetation,” says Li. “Forest cover is an important element and we need to keep this in mind for the future. Scientists talk about how climate change affects water when they measure global warming. We’re suggesting they also need to keep an eye on forest vegetation. It’s a key indicator of the health of our water resources.”

Forests cover more than 30 per cent of the world’s land surface and Li says about 21 per cent of the global population directly depends on these catchments for their water supply. Using computer modelling, the researchers examined historical data from 2000 to 2011. They looked at changes in land vegetation and annual water yield in boreal and tropical forests in locations such as British Columbia, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Finland and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Along with development, intensive forest logging, fire, and insect infestation were reasons for forest and ground vegetation loss.

“Our simulations show that the average global alteration in annual water flow due to vegetation change is as high as 31 per cent. Our results also show that on average, in 51 per cent of the study area, vegetation change and climate change operate together and can lead to either fewer water resources, meaning higher chances of drought, or an increase in water supply and higher chances of devastating floods.”

These findings have far-reaching implications for assessing and managing future global water resources, says Wei.

“Our watersheds and landscapes are experiencing significant pressures from vegetation or land cover change and climate change,” he adds. “Because vegetation change and climate change play a similar role in water resources change, ignoring either one will likely lead to an incomplete understanding and ineffective management of our future water resources, particularly for the regions where intensive forest change occurs.”

Future water resource assessment must, he says, consider both climate and vegetation or land cover change, and our management paradigm should be shifted from “adapting and mitigating climate change impacts” to “managing both climate and land cover change together.”

This research was recently published in Global Change Biology and was partially funded by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Research Program for Public-welfare Forestry and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

UBC researchers (from left to right) Abby Yang, Associate Professor Adam Wei, Krysta Giles-Hansen and Qiang Li discuss the role forest vegetation plays while monitoring water resources.

UBC researchers (from left to right) Abby Wang, Professor Adam Wei, Krysta Giles-Hansen and Qiang Li discuss the role forest vegetation plays while monitoring water resources.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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. For more visit

UBC Professor Lael Parrott is working to protect low-elevation ecosystems that are important habitat and wildlife movement routes.

Ecological corridor will create north-south migratory route

UBC research is paving the way for a route that will serve as a pilot project to protect green space and allow wildlife to move throughout the Okanagan Valley.

Kelowna was identified in the 2016 Stats Canada census as one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. With growth comes development and UBC Professor Lael Parrott says the region is in danger of fragmenting low-elevation ecosystems and losing the habitat and movement routes needed by wildlife, especially on the east side of Okanagan Lake.

“This is the last chance we have to protect these areas which are important for at-risk species and many migratory animals,” says Parrott. “If we develop these areas, wildlife that depend on low-elevation habitats will have no chance of moving north to south.”

Four years ago, Parrott’s team began mapping and computer modelling the Okanagan Mountain to Kalamalka Lake corridor, a route many wildlife species already migrate through. The corridor, a combination of different ecosystems including large tracts of low-elevation grasslands and open woodlands, will be a one kilometre-wide area that will connect the approximately 75 kilometres between the two parks. Parrott notes this has been a collaborative effort including several levels of government and the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program, Regional District of the Central Okanagan, local First Nations, and BC’s Ministry of Agriculture.

In addition to protecting habitat, the ecological corridor provides many benefits for humans, including water flow regulation and filtration, habitat for crop pollinators, natural pest control and landscape aesthetics.

UBC Professor Lael Parrott

UBC Professor Lael Parrott

“We can’t fragment our ecosystems,” says Parrott, director of the Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience, and Ecosystem Services. “A landscape is like a human body and is connected in so many ways. It has water running through it, vegetation and wildlife. If, like a body, it becomes fragmented, it then becomes a series of disconnected sections that don’t function well.”

The corridor is a variety of Crown land and privately-owned property. Much of the area is used for recreational purposes and is populated by animals such as elk, badger, bighorn sheep and a variety of snakes and bats. Protecting this corridor will contribute to maintaining wildlife, ecosystem function and human quality of life in the region.

“We’re hoping to set an example for many parts of Canada because our landscape and our growth and development are not unique to this area,” she adds. “This is an excellent example of UBC Okanagan research having a real-world impact. We live in one of the most beautiful places in Canada, and most of us live here because of the quality of life that comes from our natural ecosystems. We have an opportunity to develop differently, and set an example for other places.”

Parrott recently made a presentation to the Municipality of Lake Country and the corridor is being considered for implementation in the Lake Country Official Community Plan.

This pilot project is partially funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant, Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO), Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP) and BC Ministry of Agriculture.

More information about the wildlife corridor can be found at:


UBC student Raphael Nowak (left) poses with his mentor Ian Walker, professor of biology.

Saving lives and acing school just an ordinary day for this student

Being a top-level student isn’t easy, especially when you’re literally saving lives in your free time. But that’s all in a day’s work for UBC Okanagan’s Raphael Nowak, winner of a top $10,000 academic prize.

Nowak is this year’s winner of the Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

Now in its eighth year, the prize recognizes a top graduating student in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences for academic and community leadership.

“It’s a huge honour,” says Nowak. “It’s very kind for organizations like this to recognize individuals who have gone above and beyond in the community while remaining committed to academics as well.”

While studying Earth and Environmental Sciences (Freshwater Science), Nowak is also a tireless volunteer at Kelowna General Hospital and with the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue. He’s accumulated a lengthy list of qualifications and accomplishments, and remains on call to take part in lifesaving operations around Lake Okanagan—all while managing to stay on the Dean’s list for three straight years.

“He represents the kind of smart, community-engaged, socially-conscious, and public service-oriented leaders that our faculty endeavors to cultivate and prepare for Canada and the world,” says Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences Dean Wisdom Tettey. “He’s not only an exemplar of an excellent and dedicated student, but also a model of the future generation of citizens and leaders from UBC who understand the value of giving back.”

Serving the community is a big part of Nowak’s drive, and that work, along with his stellar academic record, is a key reason why he is the recipient of the largest undergraduate award given to a UBC Okanagan student. Nowak has maintained a perfect attendance record in class, despite spending thousands of hours volunteering.

“During my entire undergraduate degree, I’ve been associated with search and rescue involvement, balancing callouts, sometimes all night, in addition to volunteering at KGH on weekends. I try and discipline myself. I don’t go beyond what I know I can do. My highest priority is always my education.”

With such an impressive list of accomplishments, it is easy to see why James Paterson, managing partner at Pushor Mitchell LLP, says the firm is proud to support Nowak through the award.

“The lawyers and staff of Pushor Mitchell LLP have a commitment to support student excellence and achievement for both academic and community leadership with the Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Prize,” says Paterson. “Raphael’s achievements exemplify the highest standard in that regard.”

Nowak also acknowledges the impact being a student at UBC Okanagan has had on him. It’s not just about the knowledge he has gained, but the skills he has developed to be able to think critically and analytically, whether in a chemistry class or a search and rescue situation.

And he’s thankful of the strong support he’s received from his professors, most notably from Bernard Bauer, Jeff Curtis and Ian Walker.

“As I reflect on my past four years, all my instructors have been fantastic,” says Nowak. “Professor Walker recommended that I take freshwater science. I corresponded with him when I was in Grade 10, when I was identifying some aquatic plants in Okanagan Lake. He’s been a big supporter, and kept my interest going.”

Nowak plans to stay busy following convocation. He’s writing a book on Okanagan Lake, drawing on years of personal research and investigations. He also aims to apply for UBC’s Southern Medical Program, saying the Pushor Mitchell prize will help him stay committed to his education and extracurricular involvement.

“This scholarship will help me to remain focused on these values, and enable me to give back to society in an even greater way as a result of my future education.”


The Okanagan Research Forum will discuss changes this region is facing due to climate change, population growth, and land use changes.

What: Okanagan Research Forum
Who: UBC Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience, and Ecosystem Services (BRAES) and UBC Okanagan Institute for Community Engaged Research (ICER)
When: Monday, December 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with keynote lecture 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Kelowna Yacht Club banquet room, 1370 Water St, Kelowna

The Okanagan Research Forum invites the community to listen to experts and take part in an open discussion about the future of the Okanagan landscape.

Hosted by UBC Okanagan’s BRAES Institute and ICER Institute in collaboration with partner organizations, the forum will be about sharing information and encouraging conversation between members of the community, locally engaged organizations, government and academia. Event partners include the Okanagan Basin Water Board, Okanagan Nation Alliance, BC Wildlife Federation, City of Kelowna (Imagine Kelowna), and the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program.

The theme of this year’s event is resilience and will include plenary presentations and discussions by expert panelists to explore how the concept of resilience applies to social, cultural and ecological systems. The afternoon will include a facilitated working session and group discussions.

The evening keynote lecture on community resilience will be presented by Assoc. Prof. Kyle Powys Whyte, indigenous philosopher and activist from Michigan State University.

Both the daytime session and the keynote lecture are open to the public. There is a nominal registration fee for the daytime sessions to cover the cost of food and beverages. The keynote is free.

To register, or get more information visit or contact Carolina Restrepo at


Time with his dying father leads to new book, and profound new quality of life

Award-winning musician, journalist, and writer Wab Kinew will talk about his new book The Reason You Walk when he visits Kelowna September 30. Kinew is the next speaker in UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series. Photo courtesy of: Katelyn Malo

What: Distinguished Speaker Series: The Reason You Walk
Who: Wab Kinew, Canadian journalist, author, hip-hop musician
When: Wednesday, September 30 at 7 p.m.
Where: Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St., Kelowna 

A celebrated journalist, writer, musician, and hip-hop artist Wab Kinew knows what it’s like to be at a major crossroads in life. Growing up, initially on a reserve in northern Ontario and then in the inner city of Winnipeg, Kinew could have become a victim of circumstance and his family’s history. His father was raised in a residential school; stories of abuse, rape, alcoholism, and brutality were the constant shadows of his family’s background.

Kinew’s path could have taken any direction. He made mistakes. But he also asked questions. And he expected changes. When those didn’t come, he made his own changes and began speaking out about why Aboriginal people are treated differently than non-Aboriginals.

Already successful in his career, Kinew decided to spend time reconnecting with his dad shortly after his father was diagnosed with cancer. His book, The Reason You Walk, is the result of that time together and the conversations and healing that took place. This chapter in his life will be the main topic of Kinew’s talk when he visits Kelowna as part of UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series September 30.

Talented, passionate and smart, Kinew — who has a degree in economics — has become an accomplished journalist and a motivational speaker. He helped produce and host the acclaimed CBC series 8th Fire, has hosted Canada Reads, is an Aljazeera America correspondent, and at the same time is the Associate Vice-President of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Winnipeg. His hip hop music has won an Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award, his journalism has won accolades, and he’s been nominated for a Gemini. Postmedia News has called him one of “nine Aboriginal movers and shakers you should know.”

Kinew will speak at the Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water Street on Wednesday, September 30 at 7 p.m. His visit is part of the UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series which is presented by the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences. This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.

To register, visit:

The Reason You Walk will be published this fall and UBC’s Bookstore plans to provide the book for sale at the event.

The Distinguished Speaker Series brings to the Okanagan compelling speakers, with unique perspectives on issues that affect our region, our country and our world. The theme of the series is A Civil and Sustainable Society.


Award-winning writer and broadcaster Jay Ingram is UBC Okanagan’s next distinguished speaker. He will discuss the science of Alzheimer’s on Wednesday, February 25 at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

High demand in community for Alzheimer’s speaker

UBC Okanagan has added a second evening to its Distinguished Speaker Series presentation by Jay Ingram.

The iconic Canadian writer and broadcaster will speak about his new book The End of Memory: A Natural history of Alzheimer’s disease on Thursday, February 26 at the Mary Irwin Theatre. The talk, free and open to the public, will be his second presentation on the topic, as his first presentation the previous evening is fully booked.

This is the first time a Distinguished Speaker Series presentation has been extended to a two-night engagement.

"It's not surprising there is a thirst for knowledge about Alzheimer's disease,” says Ingram. “It's now the subject of plays and novels, but it is also important to understand the history of the disease and the science.”

In his latest book, The End of Memory, Ingram explores the mystery of Alzheimer’s and how it attacks the brain. Alzheimer’s is a growing concern as more and more people are being diagnosed with the disease as populations are living longer.

Ingram, the former host of popular science shows such as CBC’s Quirks and Quarks and Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet, will speak about the mystery of Alzheimer’s and the desperate need for more research funding.

The Science of Alzheimer’s Distinguished Speaker event is presented by UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, and takes place Thursday, February 26, at the Mary Irwin Theatre, 421 Cawston Avenue, Kelowna. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m.

Registration is required:


Award-winning writer and broadcaster Jay Ingram is UBC Okanagan’s next distinguished speaker. He will discuss the science of Alzheimer’s on Wednesday, February 25 at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series tackles mystery of the tragic illness

Jay Ingram describes Alzheimer’s as a wicked disease that society has ignored for too long. While much research has been done on memory loss, the cruelty of Alzheimer’s is the tragic effect it has on the life of the patient, and how it devastates those left to care for a person who no longer knows who they are.

In his latest book, The End of Memory, the award-winning science author explores the mystery of Alzheimer’s and how it attacks the brain. And he raises valid questions: where did it come from? Why weren’t we talking about it 50 years ago? Do we understand what is really going on in a patient’s afflicted brain?

German neurologist Alois Alzheimer first diagnosed the disease in 1906. While it’s been recognized for decades, Ingram argues research money set aside for Alzheimer’s still trails far behind funding for other deadly illnesses such as cancer and lung disease. And as society continues to live longer than previous generations, more and more people will be diagnosed and begin the long, lonely demise of Alzheimer’s.

Ingram says it’s time for a rethink on how we deal with Alzheimer’s. Being informed, he says, is a good thing and his goal with his new book is to help people understand the disease. Ingram will unravel some of the mystery of Alzheimer’s at UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series in Kelowna on Wednesday, February 25.

Ingram is an iconic Canadian writer and broadcaster, hosting several shows including CBC’s Quirks and Quarks and Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet. His book The End of Memory: A Natural history of Alzheimer’s disease will be available for sale and signing at the Distinguished Speaker Series event.

The Science of Alzheimer’s is presented by UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, and takes place at the Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m.

Registration is required:


Award-winning photographer Edward Burtynsky collects images from an oilfield. His October 22 presentation, Landscape of Human Systems, is part of UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
(Photo credit: Noah Weinzweig)

Award-winning artist is UBC Okanagan’s next distinguished speaker

World-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky is returning to UBC Okanagan.

Burtynsky, who was presented with an honorary doctoral degree from UBC Okanagan in June 2013, is the first guest of this year’s Distinguished Speaker Series. In his Landscape of Human Systems presentation, Burtynsky presents a collection of his work, including large-scale colour photographs and recent film footage. While his large photographs will be displayed behind him, he will discuss the technique behind his image-making as he explores society’s troubling relationship with nature.

Born in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, a town dependent on auto assembly plants, he grew up in a heavily industrial yet picturesque part of the country. He started taking pictures at age 11, shortly after his father purchased a used camera and some darkroom equipment. He earned his degree in photography from Ryerson University, and studied graphic art at Niagara College.

Burtynsky’s imagery explores the link between industry and nature, and the damage society has done to the planet through mining, quarrying, manufacturing, shipping, and oil production. His remarkable large-format photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of more than 50 major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In 2006, Burtynsky became an Officer of the Order of Canada. His other distinctions include the TED Prize, the Outreach award at the Rencontres d’Arles, the Roloff Beny Book award, the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, and the Award in Contemporary Art from Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

Burtynsky’s The Landscape of Human Systems takes place at the Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St, on Wednesday, October 22, at 7 p.m. His visit is presented by the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, as part of UBC's Distinguished Speaker Series.

This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. To register, visit:

Edward Burtynsky has spent decades photographing modern society's troubling relationship with nature. His Landscape of Human Systems presentation on October 22 is a combination of new photographs and film production that document his findings.

Edward Burtynsky has spent decades photographing modern society's troubling relationship with nature. His Landscape of Human Systems presentation on October 22 is a combination of new photographs and film production that document his findings.


Col. Chris Hadfield plays the song, Is Somebody Singing, with students at École KLO Middle School.

Canada’s most famous astronaut recounts times in space and on earth

How do you tune your guitar in space? Or sleep? Even breathe?

Col. Chris Hadfield makes a point during his talk to students at École KLO Middle School.

Col. Chris Hadfield makes a point during his talk to students at École KLO Middle School.

The questions came fast and furious for Chris Hadfield, “Canada’s spaceman,” during two appearances in the Okanagan Monday as part of UBC’s Distinguished Speaker Series. He was greeted like a rock star, first at École KLO Middle School, where more than 600 students thundered their approval. The adulation continued again later, when Hadfield delivered his story of life in space, electrifying 800 people packed into the Kelowna Community Theatre and sparking a standing ovation.

Hadfield, who commanded the International Space Station (ISS) for five months earlier this year, became a global sensation for his videos, tweets and music from space. Audiences estimated in the millions worldwide followed Hadfield’s exploits as he displayed breathtaking photos of Earth and demonstrated vignettes of life in space, such as what happens when you wring out a washcloth in a weightless environment.

Hadfield is a master story teller. From describing some of the 200-plus experiments performed aboard the ISS during his command, to tales about his personal life – ambitions to be an astronaut from age nine – Hadfield engaged his audience with a spell-binding narrative and video presentation.

Asked about his music from space, where Hadfield co-wrote and recorded the song Is Somebody Singing with Ed Robertson of the Bare Naked Ladies, the retired astronaut said he found music relaxing and therapeutic. It also added a dimension to space exploration that Hadfield treasured.

“To bring the arts into space was really something special,” Hadfield said. “We need to remind ourselves of our own humanity, whether it’s on earth or in space.”

His most fascinating time in space? Going on spacewalks Hadfield said, is an incomparable experience.

The astronaut told a heart-felt story about his wife Helene and three children and the struggle to make ends meet early in his space career, starting in the 1980s when he joined the Canadian space program. Hadfield, an engineer and accomplished test pilot, decided he would abandon his pursuit of space for the relative comfort and lucrative pay as a commercial airline pilot.

Helene told him to forgo any such notion. Not pursuing his lifelong dream, the regrets would make him miserable – and in turn make his family miserable, the astronaut’s wife said. So pursue the dream and we will find a way to get by, she advised him. Without his family’s support, Hadfield said he would never have accomplished everything he did.

Hadfield’s appearance in the Okanagan in the Distinguished Speaker Series was sponsored by an endowment from the late Irving K. Barber, after whom UBC’s Okanagan campus School of Arts and Sciences is named.

Col. Chris Hadfield describes the Australian outback as seen from outer space.

Col. Chris Hadfield describes the Australian outback as seen from outer space – and captured in his photo from the International Space Station, during his Distinguished Speaker Series talk.

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In response to overwhelming demand for the UBC Distinguished Speaker Series talk with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield this Monday, the university has opened a lecture theatre to simulcast the live event.

Approximately 150 seats remain open for the simulcast event. Ticket registration is free online at:

The simulcast takes place at 7 p.m. Monday October 7 in the Charles E. Fipke Centre for Innovative Research, 3247 University Way, UBC’s Okanagan campus, Kelowna. Check-in for the event starts at 6 p.m.

Paid parking is available for $3 in campus parking lots E, F and G. Ticket dispensers accept coins, Visa and MasterCard.

A campus map can be viewed at: