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Exploring the local environment

It's Sustainability Week and Friday is local environment day. Today’s event is an eco-walk at the Queen’s University Biological Station. Throughout Sustainability Week (Oct. 6-10) the Gazette Online brings you a series of stories highlighting the week’s events and sustainability initiatives at Queen’s.

  • Dr. Stephen Lougheed poses with a bearded lizard
  • A view of Lake Opinicon
  • A Cecropia Moth (QUBS Outreach Flickr)
  • Two of the Biological Station's sleeping cabins
  • A Grey Tree Frog rests on a leaf (QUBS Outreach Flickr)
  • The Raleigh J. Robertson Biodiversity Centre, the station's headquarters
  • An Environmental Studies student looks out on Lake Opinicon
  • Snakes like to lay eggs in decaying vegetation and so QUBS have constructed a number of compost heaps to help local populations
  • A Five-Lined Skink, Ontario's only native lizard (QUBS Outreach Flickr)

Communications Officer Andrew Stokes sat down with biology professor and QUBS Director Stephen Lougheed to discuss his research and the flora and fauna that call QUBS home.

Andrew Stokes: What makes QUBS a good place for research?

Stephen Lougheed: What makes it remarkable is the high level of biodiversity it contains. It’s about 34 square km and contains myriad water bodies from small wetlands to substantial lakes, shorelines, ridges and swaths of intact forest. There are over 200 species of birds, many salamanders, frogs, turtles, snakes, flowering plants and fungi that exist on its land. What’s most interesting though is that it sits upon the Frontenac Arch, a southward extension of the Canadian Shield that stretches down through eastern Ontario and links the Adirondack Mountains to more northern parts of Ontario.

AS: How is that reflected in the local species?

SL: We have a mix of flora and fauna from both northern and southern regions, making it one of the most diverse regions in all of Canada. QUBS is home to both typically northern species like ravens, and tanagers and cuckoos, which are more characteristic of southern climes. Many of those southern species, such as the grey rat snake and the five-lined skink, Canada’s only lizard species, reach their range limit around QUBS and don’t live any farther north. It makes for excellent opportunities for research.

AS: What have you learnt about range limits?

SL: Along with many other researchers, we’ve shown that in recent years, range limits and phenology (the timing in the annual life cycle of fauna) are shifting. Things like beginning of breeding of certain frog species have shifted much earlier as a consequence of climatic change and rising mean annual temperatures. We’re unsure whether these animals have the plasticity to cope with such changes, whether we will see adaptation, or whether we might see local extinction.

AS: We can see the effects of climate change that close to home then?

SL: Certainly, it’s happening already in ways we may not realize. People in Canada like to make the glib joke that we could use some global warming when we’re in the depths of a severe winter, but it could also lead to increased frequency of severe ice storms and sustained droughts. At QUBS for example in some years we’ve seen some drier cliffs lose their vegetation because of insufficient water. We actually now have eight climate stations that are collecting data in real time, everything from solar radiation, through air and water temperatures to precipitation rates. It will allow us to test hypotheses about how individual species or even entire communities respond to changing environments by comparing directly to our climate data.

AS: Part of your work is also species and habitat recovery and land stewardship. Are there any success stories?

SL: Well it’s easy to be pessimistic but we have had some positive outcomes. For many reptile species of conservation concern, we have been combining genetics, ecology and population censuses to then make conservation recommendations based on these data. For example, the eastern foxsnake in southwestern Ontario was classified as “threatened” under the federal Species at Risk Act when we began studying it, but our research contributed to its elevation to “endangered.” This affords it greater protection. In biology it’s sometimes important to celebrate these small victories. 

Meeting the needs of our aging population

  • Dr. Samir Sinha
    Dr. Samir Sinha was the speaker for the 2014 Duncan Sinclair Lecture in Health Policy.
  • Dr. Samir Sinha
    Dr. Samir Sinha was the speaker for the 2014 Duncan Sinclair Lecture in Health Policy.
  • Dr. Samir Sinha
    Dr. Samir Sinha discusses the looming increase in senior care during the 2014 Duncan Sinclair Lecture in Health Policy.

Dr. Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network Hospitals in Toronto, was the speaker Wednesday for the 2014 Duncan Sinclair Lecture in Health Policy.

In his lecture, titled Canada’s Coming of Age: How ready are we to meet the needs of our aging population?, Dr. Sinha outlined the current state of affairs of the health-care system when it comes to seniors as well as the looming increase in the number of seniors.

A respected advocate for the needs of older adults, Dr. Sinha was appointed by the Government of Ontario in 2012 to serve as the expert lead of the Ontario's Seniors Strategy. He also completed his undergraduate studies at Queen’s.

The event was held at Grant Hall and hosted by the School of Policy Studies.

Examining terrorist propaganda

New research out of Queen’s University could give insight into what terrorists are thinking. Professor David Skillicorn (School of Computing) analyzed language used in two jihadist magazines to gain intelligence about terrorist strategy.

He examined the language used in Inspire, an online magazine reportedly published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which aims to increase the availability of their message, and the Islamic State News published by ISIS. Inspire has attracted attention because of its goal of attracting lone-wolf attacks in Western countries.

Queen's professor David Skillicorn is examining terrorist propaganda.

“The payoff from understanding how this all works is that intelligence and law enforcement analysts can get insight into what the ‘bad guys’ are doing from the speeches and documents that they produce, often for other purposes,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “And because so much of it is impossible to manipulate because it's subconscious, it provides unfiltered insights.”

Dr. Skillicorn’s research focuses on reverse engineering language to get access to the mental state that generated it. This latest paper is one in a series exploring how mental state affects language (e.g. influence in elections, deception in legal proceedings, and fraud in financial statements), and how language reveals mental state (e.g. jihadist language in Islamist forums).

The research revealed several facts including:

  • Jihadist language intensity has been steadily increasing over the past few issues of Inspire, after being much more stable during the Anwar al-Awlaki years. al-Awlaki was a senior talent recruiter for al-Qaida.
  • Inspire is experimenting with using gamification (the real-life use of gaming ideas such as levels of achievement and competition) strategies to increase motivation for lone-wolf attacks and/or to decrease the reality of causing deaths and casualties. It’s hard to judge whether this is being done deliberately, or by osmosis — the levels of gamification language waver from issue to issue.
  • The intellectual level of these magazines is comparable to other mass market magazines — they aren’t particularly simplistic, and they assume a reasonably well-educated readership.

Dr. Skillicorn worked with Edna Reid (James Madison University) on the research. The paper was recently published in Security Informatics.

Lives Lived: A quiet supporter of the arts

Liliane Stewart and her late husband and long-time collaborator, David Stewart, had a direct impact on the education of more than a generation of students who have participated in the Queen's Venice Summer School in Art History.

[Liliane Stewart]
Liliane Stewart

Established in 1970 by art historian George Knox, the Summer School continued for many years under the leadership of Brian D'Argaville. Others at Queen's, including myself, have taken on their mantel and, happily, the VSS continues to thrive as one of the longest-running programs of its type in the country. Prospects were not always so bright.

In 1975 Queen's summer school programs in Venice faced challenges; those in music and in Italian, which ran concurrently with ours, ceased operation. This is when the Stewarts stepped in.

David Stewart had inherited the Macdonald tobacco fortune, although he was by inclination a scholar. To further his passion for history and Liliane's for the decorative arts, they jointly founded the Macdonald Stewart Foundation of Montreal. It has created and enriched a series of museums and historic sites at home and as far afield as the reputed house of John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) in Venice.

In 1973 the Stewarts inaugurated a symposium series and published proceedings appeared in the Canadian Collector. I attended a couple of the symposia and met the magazine's editor, Marion Hahn Bradshaw. The connection with Marion proved crucial. Knowing of her Italian interests, those of the Stewarts, and of the close connection between the three, I made Marion a hurried phone call when it became clear that the VSS was under imminent threat of closure. Marion suggested a formal request be written to the Foundation's director, James Carroll. We asked for and received specific help to subsidize our bus excursions on the mainland, or what the Venetians call the terra ferma. The funding did not amount to a large sum, but coming as it did from an outside source and at a critical moment, it saved the day.

For more than three decades annual subventions to the VSS flowed from the Macdonald Stewart Foundation, due to the steadfast support of David, Liliane who survived him by 30 years, and James Carroll. The Stewarts made one proviso: that Queen's seek to attract students from outside the university and the province. Quiet and unassuming, Liliane never sought – nor received – official recognition from Queen's until our Head of Department, Venetian specialist David McTavish, took the initiative to see that the Stewarts were publicly remembered. He directed that any surplus monies from the Summer School endow the biennial Macdonald Stewart Lecture in Venetian Culture – a scholarly version of the famous Venice Biennale. The Macdonald Stewart Lectures over the past 20 years have showcased renowned authorities who have come to share their knowledge about Venetian art. The lectureship affirms Queen's as one of the premier centers of Venetian art historical studies in the world, and acknowledges the Stewarts' far-sighted generosity to students.

Pierre du Prey is Professor and Queen's Research Chair Emeritus in the Department of Art History. His exhibition at Queen's in 2008, Palladio in Print, with its catalogue of the same name, capped off his long-standing love affair with Venice.

This article is published in the Oct. 7 edition of the Gazette. Pick up your copy at various locations around campus.

Queen's drama premiere production to open Isabel theatre

Orbit Rehearsal
Queen's drama student Maddy Schaefer Scovil, who plays one of Galileo's daughters in the upcoming performance of Orbit, uses a telescope prop during a rehearsal at the Power Corporation of Canada Studio Theatre. (Supplied photo)

When the Queen’s Department of Drama’s production of Orbit takes to the stage on Friday, Oct. 17, it will be a kind of double premiere.

Not only will it be the first show to be held at the Power Corporation of Canada Studio Theatre at the recently-opened Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, it will also be the first time the play will be performed.

“We will be the first performance to occur there, which is quite exciting because it’s a new space and a new play – all sorts of premieres,” says Adrienne Miller (Artsci’15), marketing manager for Orbit and a stage and screen student herself.

While Orbit revolves around Galileo Galilei, the father of astronomy and one of the great scientific minds in history, the play focusses more on his personal life, especially how differently he treated his son in comparison to his daughters.

The contrast is stark.

“As much as we are saying ‘stars and Galileo’ it is more a story about family and how women were treated at that time,” Ms. Miller says. “He completely cast off his two daughters to live with the Poor Clares as nuns. And we see him visit and he sends letters but we also see how he treats his son, who has a free life and lives off his father’s riches, while these daughters are in poverty in a convent. So it’s more of ‘here’s Galileo, this great man, but he’s very flawed, especially as a father figure.’”

Written by Jennifer Wise, associate Professor of theatre history at the University of Victoria, the play was initially commissioned to mark the Year of Astronomy in 2009.

With the play yet to make it to the stage, Craig Walker, head of the Department of Drama and an acquaintance of Ms. Wise, vowed that Queen’s would bring the piece to life.

A premiere is a rarity for a drama department and has already proven a valuable experience for those involved.

“It’s been interesting working with a playwright directly because normally with the drama department we’ll receive rights to a play and there’s usually not a connection like there is with this one,” Ms. Miller says.

Ms. Wise will be attending the preview and opening night and is also involved in a special advance event called “Orbit Under the Stars,” set for Wednesday, Oct. 8, starting at 9 pm.

Being held at the Queen’s Observatory at Ellis Hall, the event is a natural setting for anything Galileo related. Ms. Wise will take part in a question and answer session via Skype, while there will also be a demonstration of telescopes by local members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and a presentation by David Hanes, head of the Queen’s astronomy group.

The studio theatre at the Isabel has already proven to be a benefit for the drama department, says Dr. Walker, adding that the opening production will put its full potential on display.

“Producing this new play in the Isabel studio has been thrilling. While there has been drama at Queen’s since 1843, moving into the Isabel studio marks a major step forward for us,” says Dr. Walker. “In fact, the Isabel studio is the first purpose-built theatre the Department of Drama has ever occupied. It is far more advanced in terms of the possibilities for lighting, set design and sound than any space we have used up until now. In effect, the ceiling for aspiration has been raised, and so working in this space has encouraged everyone to ‘up their game,’ so to speak.”

He also points out that helping foster a higher level of work is the presence of professional actor Paul Rainville, in the role of Galileo. A veteran actor from the Ottawa area, Dr. Walker says Mr. Rainville “brings a presence and theatrical power to the role of Galileo which provides terrific motivation for the otherwise all-student cast.” 

The play opens Friday, Oct. 17, coinciding with the start of Homecoming, with drama alumni being invited. There will also be a special dram homecoming reception held after the play.

The show continues Oct.18, 23-25, 30 and Nov. 1 at 8 pm. Matinees are set for Oct. 18, 25 and Nov. 1 at 2 pm

Tickets are $22 for general admission and $15 students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at theisabel.ca/tickets; at the Isabel box office (12:30-4:30 pm); or at the door prior to performances.

 

Fashion, history merge in exhibition

[Carolyn Dowdell]
Carolyn Dowdell, guest curator for Artful Dressing: The Fashion of Agnes Etherington, stands beside the fur-trimmed wedding dress of Agnes Etherington. (University Communications)

Carolyn Dowdell has developed a close, personal relationship with Agnes Etherington. 

It’s a relationship built over the past couple of years. However, the two have never met.  

In fact, Etherington, an integral character in the history of Queen’s University, passed away decades before Ms. Dowdell was even born. 

Ms. Dowdell is the guest curator for an exhibition featuring some of Etherington’s clothing, primarily evening gowns, and there are few better ways to know someone than through their clothing, she says. 

“I feel that historical clothing is the most intimate and personal witnesses to history,” says the Ph.D. candidate whose focus is on 18th-century clothing. “So you are looking at these and you know there was a human body in this. When you put these on display and you get them padded out and mounted properly, it’s like you are seeing the historical body again. There’s all these little details that you get that make you realize these are real people. It’s one of the mediums of connecting with the past that’s really visceral. These things, they get dirty, they get torn, they get mended.”  

Etherington was well known for her love of fine clothes. While at times private, Etherington, Ms. Dowdell says, was no shrinking violet and had a definitive frame, one that Ms. Dowdell has come to know very well. In creating the exhibition she also needed to get to know Etherington the person. 

“While I feel like I have gained a few insights into Agnes, it’s almost ended up raising more questions about her though,” she says with a laugh. “It’s made me feel more and more that I wish I could have met her. She would have been a really interesting person.” 

The exhibition is being held at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC), which includes her former home. Etherington donated it to the university to be the first home of the arts department. 

Walking through the exhibition, Ms. Dowdell explains each piece – a formal gown, something for a nice garden party, Etherington's fur-trimmed wedding dress, and a black intricate creation holding centre court that grabs attention as much today as it likely did a century ago. 

The complexity of the dress is not lost on Ms. Dowdell. 

“The way that dress goes together…” she says before pausing. “I am a highly-experienced seamstress myself and that dress is incredibly complex. There are so many layers to it. Angles, layers, textures, the piecing, there’s so much more inside it that you don’t see. There are multiple layers on the inside that aren’t visible.” 

The result is stunning. 

The idea for the exhibition began in 2009 when Ms. Dowdell volunteered at the Agnes, using her expertise as a dress historian to help identify pieces in the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress, including some that belonged to Etherington. After graduating from the University of Alberta and entering the PhD program in Art History at Queen’s, Ms. Dowdell continued her work with the collection under a practicum. More quality pieces, such as the wedding dress were identified and the idea became a reality when the Agnes invited Dowdell to curate an exhibition.  

“It was decided that it would be nice to show a different side of Agnes,” Ms. Dowdell explains. “It was such an interesting thing for the art centre to have this clothing collection belonging to the founder.” 

Artful Dressing: The Fashion of Agnes Etherington continues at the AEAC until Nov. 9.

Puppets as a tool for transformation

Lisa Figge was working in the military when she first noticed that her boots were feeling unusually heavy.

“Going up stairs got hard. Fueling airplanes got hard,” she recalls. “I thought it was because I had just had a baby and was tired.”

Lisa Figge Project: Need to Be Adored is on exhibition at the Isabel until October 8.

Instead, Ms. Figge was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system.

Eighteen years after that diagnosis, Ms. Figge, a PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies program, is exploring her own disability in an exhibit at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.  She says the hand-stitched puppets on strings and 29-minute loop of video work that make up Lisa Figge Project Work: Need to be Adored are part of a larger, autoethnographic project that has allowed her to put herself at the heart of her research.

“I am exploring my specific experience of disability as my PhD research project,” says Figge, who now uses a mobility scooter to get around since losing the use of her legs. “And because I am an artist, that has turned out –to my surprise – to be puppets as well as very personal-feeling experimental films.”

It was Figge’s diagnosis that first drew her to Queen’s as a mature student in 2003, where she started with a single undergraduate course in English literature.

“It was the only thing I could do,” she says simply. “I couldn’t work, but I could sit for three hours in a lecture.”

By the time she started her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies in 2008, Ms. Figge was using a cane to get around, eventually relying on a walker for support. By 2010, when she started her PhD, she was unable to cross campus without the scooter.

“After my Master’s degree I had wanted to do more environmental work,” says Ms. Figge, “but I realized that I had an able bodied aesthetic that was impossible for me to participate in. It felt cruel, but it led me into disability studies, which is a vital and blossoming area of research in the humanities.”

Ms. Figge says that her puppets are not only providing her with a way of accessing her past, they are also giving her a voice.

“My education has turned me into a performance artist who is also a painter and a sculptor and a sewer. I had wanted to make big things, but I couldn’t manage it,” she says simply. “I make things that I can make now. I had to find a new relationship with materials that could express this alternative mobility that I now have. The puppets have helped me to do that.”

Ms. Figge is particularly thrilled that her exhibit will be among the first to be held in the Isabel’s Media Lab, a building she loves for its many accessible features.

“I love the elevator, I love the ramp all the way down to the water, and the accessible bathrooms,” she says. “The entrance ramp is magnificent, and they also have a whole bunch of disability parking spots out front. I want us to make the Isabel the most accessible space in Kingston.”

Lisa Figge Project Work: Need to be Adored runs until October 8 in the Media Lab (Room 124) at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. The exhibition is open from 11am - 4pm, Monday through Friday. 

An even playing field

Queen’s University professor Jean Côté (School of Kinesiology) is pushing policy makers to use guidelines developed by his research group when creating youth sports programs as a way of engaging more youth in amateur sport.

Queen's Professor Jean Cote.

Dr. Côté researched and developed the 3Ps - performance, participation and personal development – three areas that should be included in all policy decisions regarding youth sports.

“When structured properly, youth sport has the capacity to build important personal assets such as competence, confidence, connection with others, and character that are important for future sport involvement,” says Dr. Côté. “Using the 3Ps together is critical for success of these programs.”

The challenge for countries and national governing bodies is structuring sport to simultaneously facilitate the achievement of excellence as well as participation.

 “Youth sport programs that focus on diversification and deliberate play, or what we describe as the ‘sampling years,’ during childhood build a solid foundation for long-term physical activity participation, future elite performance in one sport, and personal development,” says Dr. Côté.

The research was published in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics.

Film and Media settles into new home

With the opening of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, the Department of Film and Media has relocated from its former residence on Stuart Street. Having resided in the Film House since 1969, the space will be remembered fondly even while the department embraces its new home on the Isabel’s third floor.

The Department of Film and Media Studies has resided in the Film House, 154-160 Stuart Street, for 45 years.

The new location brings the department access to more space and resources with lecture and seminar rooms, film editing suites and a state of the art sound studio. The move has also brought them new neighbours.

“We were somewhat isolated before as we were at the edge of campus,” says Dr. Susan Lord, Department Head. “Our students are now going to have much greater proximity to other creative arts students in drama, music and fine arts, and I hope it will lead to greater interdisciplinary collaboration.”

The now-vacant Film House will be retired and is slated for demolition in early November.

“The Film House was a space of immense creativity for generations of film students,” says Dr. Lord. “It was a special place, and we hope to take all of its spirit with us to our new home while leaving behind the bats and the old carpet.”

Last renovated in 1990, the house was rife with structural and maintenance problems that made further renovation cost-prohibitive. Among its issues are a lack of air conditioning, code compliance issues with its stairs, fire alarm systems and electrical services, and the building’s lack of accessibility, which makes it non-compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“For 45 years the Film House was a beloved part of campus life, but the building has now reached the end of its lifespan,” says Yvonne Holland, Campus Planning. “The shape of campus shifts over time and this change reflects how the space can best serve the university community at this time.

The area the Film House currently occupies will be converted into a parking lot for the time being, until a plan is made for its redevelopment. Revenue generated from the lot will offset the costs of its demolition and create more parking space on the southern edge of campus.

In order to memorialize the Film House, the Film and Media Department will be preserving a number of its features, such as stained glass windows, light fixtures and doorknobs, and will hold an auction for them during Homecoming weekend. A number of the house’s bricks will also be saved and used to recognize donors for their support of the Film Department.

Proceeds from the fundraising efforts will support student initiatives such as film screenings and creative projects.

 

Coptic Pope delivers Mathers Lecture

  • [Pope Tawadros II]
    Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church delivers the Donald Mathers Memorial Lecture Friday afternoon at Grant Hall.
  • [Pope Tawadros II]
    Richard Ascough, Director of the School of Religion, introduces Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church.
  • [Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church]
    Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church listens to his introduction Friday before giving the Donald Mathers Memorial Lecture.
  • [Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church]
    Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church delivers the Donald Mathers Memorial Lecture Friday afternoon at Grant Hall.
  • [Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church]
    A sold-out crowd listens as Pope Tawadros II delivers the Donald Mathers Memorial Lecture Friday at Grant Hall.

In a well-attended lecture at Grant Hall, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, focused on strengthening the bonds between different denominations of Christianity.

The lecture, “The Role of the Coptic Church in Strengthening Unity and Narrowing Gaps between Denominations,” dealt with the formation of the Coptic Church and the greater role it plays in Christianity today.

Richard Ascough, Director, School of Religion, and Susan Mumm, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, both said they were honoured to host His Holiness. Also in attendance was Sophie Kiwala, Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands, Archbishop Brendan Michael O’Brien of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese Kingston, and the Rt. Rev. Michael Oulton, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ontario.

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