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Discussing nature conservation in China

Joining colleagues and conservationists from around the world, Dr. Stephen Lougheed (Biology and Environmental Studies) recently traveled to China to deliver public talks for Shanghai International Nature Conservation Week and the grand opening of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Stephen Lougheed is also the Director of the Queen's University Biological Station. 

In collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) office in Shanghai, Dr. Lougheed, who hold the Baillie Family Chair in Conservation Biology, spent two weeks in April speaking to audiences about the importance of nature conservation and shared insights on Canadian biological diversity. Along with China’s rapid economic development, Dr. Lougheed says there’s a burgeoning interest in environmental protection and research.

“While we don’t have near the environmental challenges that China has, I spoke to issues facing the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system and particularly beluga whales, the challenges of conserving migratory songbirds, and about my own research on endangered snakes and how wetland loss and fragmentation has affected them,” he says.

Dr. Lougheed, corrected some misperceptions of the Great White North as well.

Queen's in the World

“I tried to dispel notions about Canada as being exclusively pristine wilderness or that our comparatively small human population has had negligible impacts on the environment. I did speak about iconic animals like moose, polar bears, and loons, and the issues they may face from climate change and other environmental impacts.”

The first major event of Shanghai’s international conservation week was a celebrity forum for the opening of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History, where Dr. Lougheed spoke about the key role that museums have in educating the public and fostering research. While most of the speakers were academics or museum curators, Dr. Lougheed was joined by Chinese basketball star Yao Ming who spoke about his conservation work. Mr. Ming has become a passionate advocate for protection of African wildlife, and spoke about his global campaign against the poaching of elephants and the profoundly harmful impacts of the ivory trade.

Along with speaking to the public about conservation, Dr. Lougheed also visited a number of universities in Beijing and Shanghai with his Queen’s colleague Yuxiang Wang. Seeking to deepen connections to partner institutions like Beijing Normal University, Fudan University, and Tongji University, Dr. Lougheed gave research lectures, and met with administrators, researchers, and students, including undergraduates who will participate in a Queen’s-China field course this July, and other students who will be part of the inaugural Queen’s-Tongji 2+2 Environmental Studies class this fall.

“China has hundreds of universities and an increasingly well-funded science system. We are hoping to forge greater ties with these universities for research collaboration, student exchanges, and other connections.”

One of the most memorable moments of his trip though, came from something unexpected. From a window of Dr. Lougheed’s hotel room in the ancient city of Xi’an, he had a clear view of a small green space. Untended, the grass and trees were overgrown and the pond at the centre had turned from a clear blue to a cloudy, algal green.

“Around the pond there were all sorts of bird species present, doves, swallows, bulbuls, and an egret. It reminded me that little green spaces, even unintentional, can house remarkable biodiversity. Little things can have significant positive consequences.” 

Sparking curiosity

Science Rendezvous is a free event and is open to children and their families. Join in the fun at the Rogers K-ROCK Centre and The Tragically Hip Way on Saturday, May 9 from 10 am to 3 pm.

This Saturday, downtown Kingston’s K-ROCK Centre will transform into a hive of science activity, complete with bats, bugs, snakes, robots and even a giant walk-through colon for Science Rendezvous Kingston.

Science Rendezvous immerses children from the community in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities that spark their curiosity Queen’s researchers are a fixture at the annual event and this year Tara Diesbourg (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Gillian Mackey (Chemistry), and Alvine Kamaha (Physics) will each host booths aimed at getting kids excited about STEM subjects.

“Children engage with topics early on and sometimes they will develop a negative attitude towards STEM subjects as early as the third grade,” says Lynda Colgan, Director of the Queen’s Community Outreach Centre and the woman behind Science Rendezvous’s roaring success in Kingston. “Science Rendezvous is a chance to give children an informal experience with science and stimulate their curiosity at the same time.”

Science Rendezvous events take place across Canada. Last year, Kingston’s Science Rendezvous had over 50 stations, 300 volunteers and over 3,750 visitors – making it the largest in Canada.

For Tara Diesbourg and her team in the Biomechanics and Ergonomics Lab at Queen’s, their booth is inspired by this summer’s Pan-Am Games and will feature five stations which relate to different events at the Games.

Kids will be able to test their strength in a weightlifting simulation, which will show them a measure of their muscle activity. At a jump-themed station, participants can use a force plate to see how high they jump according to force – an important skill if you’re a basketball player or track and field athlete.

“We’re really hoping to captivate the kids who visit our booth and take part in our stations,” says Ms. Diesbourg, a PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Our team of ten have created some cool activities for the kids, including an accelerometer attached to a tennis racket to test how fast they can swing it, and a rowing machine so they can measure the force exerted by their hands and feet.”

Gillian Mackey, a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry, has been making chemistry magic for the past five years at Science Rendezvous. This year, her booth will show kids safe chemistry experiments they can try at home.

Visitors to Ms. Mackey’s booth will see how  a solution of vinegar and salt can make a copper penny shine like new, and how that same solution can coat the surface of a screw in copper. Outside the K-ROCK Centre, kids will be able to blow bouncy bubbles and watch them bob away.

“I can’t wait to work with the kids and see how energetic they are,” says Ms. Mackey. “Each year, I’m astonished by their high energy and how excited they are to see chemistry at work.”

Taking a break from studying particle astrophysics, Alvine Kamaha is preparing a selection of displays to show the fun in physics.

This year, Ms. Kamaha has chosen two displays: a cloud chamber and a Kelvin water dropper – two physics experiments that can be recreated at home. The Kelvin water dropper uses falling water to generate voltage sparks and a cloud chamber shows signs of ionizing radiation as condensation is produced where charged particles have interacted.

“We chose these experiments because we wanted something that would attract the kids, would be simple to understand, and would be something they could recreate at home as we’ll give them two sheets with instructions,” says Ms. Kamaha. “They’ll also have the chance to build their own experiments in the booth that they can take home with them.”

Flags lowered for Professor Emeritus Gilbert

Flags on campus that are currently lowered will also honour Robert (Bob) Gilbert, professor emeritus in the Department of Geography, who died April 27.

Dr. Gilbert was a highly productive, dedicated and creative scientist. He joined the Department of Geography in 1975 from the University of Alberta where he was a postdoctoral fellow. At Queen’s, his research focused on the processes that occur in lakes and the sea, especially on how sediments are delivered to, distributed through, and deposited in water bodies in the Great Lakes region, western Canada, the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Antarctica, Nepal and the southern United States.

Dr. Gilbert led by example through his passion for research and a deep commitment to teaching at all levels. He taught undergraduate courses in Earth system science, physical limnology, and Arctic and periglacial environments. At the graduate level he taught and supervised students in lacustrine and marine systems. Throughout his distinguished career, he was a champion for the discipline and inspired many over the years.

This story will be updated when service details become available.

The science behind spite

Psychology, biology, and mathematics have come together to show that the occurrence of altruism and spite – helping or harming others at a cost to oneself – depends on similarity not just between two interacting individuals but also to the rest of their neighbours.

According to this new model developed by researchers DB Krupp (Psychology) and Peter Taylor (Mathematics and Statistics, Biology) at Queen’s and the One Earth Future Foundation, individuals who appear very different from most others in a group will evolve to be altruistic towards similar partners, and only slightly spiteful to those who are dissimilar to them.

However, individuals who appear very similar to the rest of a group will evolve to be only slightly altruistic to similar partners but very spiteful to dissimilar individuals, often going to extreme lengths to hurt them. Taken together, individuals with ‘common’ and ‘rare’ appearances may treat each other very differently.

This finding is a new twist on established evolutionary theory and could help explain racism and corresponding forms of prejudice in humans and other species.

“Similar individuals are more likely to share copies of each other’s genes and dissimilar individuals are less likely to. As a consequence, evolutionary theory predicts that organisms will often discriminate, because helping similar partners and harming dissimilar ones increase the fraction of the discriminating party’s genes in future generations,” says Dr. Krupp.

The new theoretical model was developed using inclusive fitness theory – a foundational biological framework that considers how an organism’s behaviour affects its own reproductive success as well as that of its neighbours.

“We tend to think of individuals as caring only about what another individual looks, smells or sounds like, but our model shows that the appearance of surrounding neighbours matters tremendously, too,” says Dr. Krupp. “This work predicts extreme differences in behaviour between what we call ‘common’ and ‘rare’ types of individuals – those that are similar or dissimilar to their neighbours.”

This study has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Queen’s students earn ticket to Global Hackathon Seoul

[Hive Developers]
The team of, from left, Michael Layzell (Cmp'16), Jake Pittis (Cmp'18), Erik Pilkington (Cmp'18) and Max Bittker (Sc'16) are headed to the Global Hackathon Seoul after taking top place at Hack Western with their program Hive. (University  Communications)

Sometimes simplicity is the best strategy.

Queen's in the World

Of course, a good team and a lot of hard work also help and that is what powered four Queen’s University students to first prize at Hack Western last month.

Max Bittker (Sc’16), Michael Layzell (Cmp’16), Erik Pilkington (Cmp’18) and Jake Pittis (Cmp’18) took the top place at Hack Western – a weekend event known as a hackathon, which brings together teams of technology-minded people who try to take an interesting idea from start to finish over the course of the weekend.

The team’s project, Hive, is a programming game where players write code to control the behavior of virtual ants. The game works on two levels – as an artificial intelligence (AI) competition and a fun environment for new coders.

What gave them the winning edge, the team says, was that at the end of the weekend they had a finished, polished product geared toward their audience that was readily available via the internet. Fellow attendees could pull out their mobile devices and play the game while the team was presenting.

“People can play the game themselves, which is cool, because AI is an awesome thing which is usually considered very difficult to get into," says Mr. Layzell. "But with Hive, it's really easy to create a simple five-line AI which still acts in a very ant-like way.”

The game concept not only spoke to the audience, but had the team hooked as well. Once they had the first ants moving in the early stages of development they couldn’t wait to take the ants to the next level.

Another important factor was that the team members are all friends, having met through Hack Nights, an informal group that meets on campus at Queen’s. Knowing their individual strengths and skills they divided up the responsibilities and workload accordingly. And while sleep isn’t a priority the team took turns taking naps throughout the weekend or getting food, while others continued the work.

By pushing their boundaries they learned some valuable lessons. But it also took a toll. Several team members struggled with colds afterwards and catching up on sleep.

“One thing we noticed is that in period of 36 hours, if you are steadily working as a team you can get so much work done. The amount you can get done is comparable to weeks and weeks of work on a more normal schedule,” Mr. Pittis says. “The hope is that the benefits of having this dense cluster of interesting things going on outweigh the costs of having to deal with the aftereffects.”

They also learned more about themselves through the event.

“I definitely learned a lot about how to deal with bigger projects because most of the stuff I was doing was for my own purposes and now, (at the hackathon) I have to collaborate with other people and look at their code and understand  it,” Mr. Pilkington says. “It was more difficult, definitely.”

Looking ahead to Global Hackathon Seoul, set for July 29-Aug. 1, the team is excited about the possibilities the event provides, bringing  together approximately 2,000 hackers from around the world.

“It’s not going to be prize-oriented, it’s all about collaboration and ideas,” Mr. Bittker says. “The Global Hackathon is more focused on collaboration and sharing ideas and bringing in people from all over the world. That’s one of the great things about hackathons – they bring people together from all sorts of universities to the same place with a common goal almost.”

Healthy initiatives for a healthy community

Thanks to the team's initiative, each Kingston Transit employee received a water bottle to encourage regular water intake.

From enhancing nutritional food options of Kingston Transit employees to boosting physical activity among high schoolers, students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies have spent the past eight months applying what they’ve learned in class to the promotion of health in the Kingston community.

For the past academic year, students in HLTH 415: Program Design and Evaluation worked with local organizations to develop or enhance health programs. Their work culminated in an afternoon of presentations to their classmates and community partners as the students explained their initiatives.

“Experiential learning isn’t always easy,” says Janette Leroux, instructor for HLTH 415 and a PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “But this HTLH 415 cohort has shown what can be accomplished when we work with our community to achieve mutually defined objectives.”

Five students from HLTH 415 had the opportunity to work with Kingston Transit office and bus drivers, and developed “the route to better health.”

The students achieved this by making small changes to the Kingston Transit lunchroom (adding appliances for food preparation, adding new and healthier options to the vending machine), partnering with the neighbouring ‘Healthy Beat’ café and establishing catered healthy food days, and working with the Kingston Transit office to establish a complimentary fruit supply.  Water bottles for each Kingston Transit employee were also provided in order to promote regular water intake throughout their shifts.

“As drivers for Kingston Transit spend much of their time sitting down, making sure they get proper nutrition while at work is very important to ensure their overall health,” says Ekaterina Manoilenko (Artsci’15). “Our aim was to improve the availability of nutritious food options within the immediate and surrounding environment of the Kingston Transit office.”

Much of the ActivPass team's initiative was carried out over social media to reach Grade 9 students.

In another group, five students worked to create a buzz around the Kingston Gets Active ActivPass, which gives all Grade 9 students in the Limestone District School Board free access to local recreational facilities.

Through questionnaires and focus groups, the HTLH 415 students identified that many students did not know about the ActivPass. The team also learned that 45 per cent of Grade 9 students weren’t aware of the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines that recommend youth ages 12-17 to accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.

The students then devised a social marketing campaign, and also had the opportunity to promote the ActivPass during some high school assemblies. In the end, the team was able to reach almost 200 Grade 9 students in-person, and many more through social media, resulting in a doubling of ActivPass usage compared to previous years.

 “After Grade9, students living in Ontario are no longer required to take part in physical education class. These students are at a crucial age where making healthy lifestyle choices are of the utmost importance for their future health,” says Mariah Maddock (Artsci’15). “It’s important that the ActivPass be promoted to Grade 9 students so they can adopt lifestyle opportunities which will enable them to build healthy active lifestyles.”

Beginnings and endings

  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Francesca Pang and her painting "Apertures of Interest".
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Emily Gong creates a meditative sand mandala.
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Jonas Azeredo Lobo, "Eu Tembem Era Grande".
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Iris Fryer, "Untitled".
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Lauren Rosentzveig, "Standoff", "Withhold", "Conceal".

The culmination of four years of study, creativity and hard work is on display this week as the graduating class from the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program hosts their annual year-end exhibition.

Begin Anywhere has transformed Ontario Hall into an art gallery featuring the work of 20 fourth-year students. There is an impressive range and depth to the artworks, from delicate fabrics and multi-layered print to paintings that take up an entire wall and a massive male form created out of layer upon layer of wood.

According to Otis Tamasauskas, a professor in the BFA program, the exhibition marks a transition point in the students’ lives and potential careers.

“This is their moment, where they get to participate as professionals,” he says. “This is what the program has been culminating to: to get them to be professionals. That’s the end result.”

He adds that the exhibition also offers an “oasis,” where students, staff and faculty, as well as the public, can step away from the status quo and absorb the creative works.

Paintings, sculpture, prints and mixed-media installations “physically and intellectually illuminate” the halls and rooms of the building.

Reflecting on the graduating class, Professor Tamasauskas says they are a “good group,” adding that a number of students will be moving on to post-graduate studies in Saskatchewan, Calgary, Montreal and New Zealand.

“They sort of live through the credence of creativity. You have to be independent, and individual, you have to think outside of the box. Well, they certainly do,” he says. “They have maintained their individuality after the four years. It shows. They definitely are more sophisticated and mature in their interpretations of aesthetics now.”

For Francesca Pang (BFA’15), the exhibition not only marks the end of her studies at Queen’s but a new beginning as an artist on her own. She says she has learned a lot about herself through the process as well.

“It’s very rewarding I think. It really helps me figure out how I see my art and how people are going to be able to view it. I think setting something up like this it becomes very professional,” she says. “I think for myself, seeing my work up like this in relation to each other, I’m seeing the original intent of my work and then, as a series, how they are coming together.”

Begin Anywhere continues through to Saturday, April 25 at Ontario Hall 9 am-4 pm daily. A closing reception will be held on Saturday from 7-10pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Looking back to go forward

Students are able to use the materials on display in the Archives to put together their final essays.

Students in Steven Maynard’s “History of Sexuality in Canada” (HIST 210) class are taking an in-depth look at Queen’s history of tackling sexual violence on campus.

At Queen’s, principals, deans, rectors, faculty, staff and students have all grappled with the topic of sexual assault for close to four decades and, in many cases, implemented preventative measures and responsive initiatives, which are highlighted in a display in the foyer of Kathleen Ryan Hall.

“I try to structure each year of my HIST 210 class to speak to different present-day concerns,” says Professor Maynard. “Sexual assault has been a big topic on Canadian university campuses this year and so it made sense to focus on its history.”

With the help of university archivist Heather Home, Professor Maynard compiled materials for a timeline of Queen’s efforts to tackle sexual assault on campus so his HIST 210 students could conduct research for their final essays. The display includes 1970s Queen’s Journal articles, photographs of the 1989 “No Means No” protests, and ends with the recent interim Sexual Assault Support and Response Protocol.

Students Kaitlyn Puffalt and Kirsten Andersen used the display for their final essays.

“This was my first time using primary documents and I found being able to see the processes behind campus initiatives very interesting,” says Ms. Puffalt, Artsci’17. “For example, Walkhome and the blue lights on campus were a result of a safety audit conducted in the 1980s.”

The final essays involve analysis of the archival documents and then cross-referencing those primary sources to other media reports so that each student is able to think about what it means when initiatives are forgotten or the institutional memory is lost.

“You never know what you can find in the Archives until you’ve been there and had a look for yourself.”
- Steven Maynard

“By studying the display I’ve been able to understand what techniques worked for the university, and what didn’t,” says Ms. Andersen, Artsci’15. “As history students, it’s important for us to be able to look back and learn from the past in order to make decisions about the present and future.”

While the display was primarily for HIST 210 students to examine for class, it will remain posted well into the summer. Professor Maynard hopes that members of the Queen’s and Kingston community will go and take a look for themselves.

“You never know what you can find in the Archives until you’ve been there and had a look for yourself,” says Professor Maynard. “I want to help history students see the present-day value of historical archival research and how it can help them understand an issue in their lives today.”

This topic is one that continues to be addressed on campus today. This academic year, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group (SAPRWG) has finalized an interim sexual assault protocol that will be used while the permanent policy is developed. A subcommittee of SAPRWG is currently working on a draft policy and progress report with recommendations for the final policy and procedures to be presented at the end of April.

Most recently, SAPRWG embarked upon a campus climate study that will examine student perceptions and incidences of certain types of sexual and physical experiences in relationships on campus. The results of this study will provide important information on the campus climate and help the university enhance its sexual assault prevention and response efforts.

What's old is new again

More than 400 students have graduated from Queen’ University’s Master in Art Conservation (MAC) program and founder Ian Hodkinson has proudly kept track of many of them. For 40 years, graduates of MAC - the only program like it in Canada - have gone on to important positions at museums all over the world.

“We have students in key museum positions all over,” says Mr. Hodkinson with a smile. “I’m just over the moon with how this program has turned out thanks largely to the talented colleagues who helped get it started and have improved it over the years.”

Mr. Hodkinson felt there was a better way to train conservators than he had experienced and realized that Queen’s had all the ingredients necessary for an integrated interdisciplinary conservator training program within the Department of Art. In 1970 he met with Duncan Sinclair- then Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, who encouraged him to approach then Principal John Deutsch with his proposal

Second year students Laura Hashimoto (l) and Lauren Buttle discuss a painting with Ian Hodkinson during a visit last week.

“He was enthusiastic about the idea so we continued the process of approval,” says Mr. Hodkinson. “I presented the proposal within Queen’s and to various organizations and levels of government – 28 times in all – until it was approved.”

However it was not until 1972 with the announcement of a new National Museums Policy and the creation of the Museums Assistance Program that funding became available to realize the dream

The first intake of 12 students was in 1974 and the first cohort graduated in 1976. The students spent the first year in the basement of Gordon Hall before the program moved to its current location on Bader Lane, behind the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

Rona Rustige, Curator of Cultural Property at the Glanmore National Historic Site in Belleville, has worked with Queen’s MAC students for more than 25 years. She has first-hand knowledge of the skill and dedication of the students as they have worked on a wide range of Glanmore pieces.

“When Queen’s works on our pieces, I always put them proudly on display, they never go back into storage,” says Ms. Rustige.  “Queen’s has worked on about 100 of our pieces. It’s expensive to get conservation work done so we are fortunate Queen’s has such an exemplary program. Museums just don’t have a lot of money to spend on conservation.”

Ms. Rustige said it’s also a benefit Queen’s has three streams of conservation – fine art, paper and objects. Glanmore currently has nine pieces undergoing conservation at Queen’s.

On a recent visit to the MAC labs, Mr. Hodkinson took a number of opportunities to interact with students and ask questions about their work. The professor emeritus says his favourite memories are summers spent with his students, doing internship work in the field. Two project highlights include the conservation of The Croscup Room, a group of scenic wall murals in Nova Scotia, now in the National Gallery of Canada, and the Church of Our Lady of Good Hope in the Northwest Territories. The church is now a national historic site.

“Those are special memories. They were wonderful experiences for the students,” says Mr. Hodkinson, “and an important extension of their studies in the labs at Queen’s to help them achieve the success that they have.”

The public is welcome to visit the MAC labs and interact with staff and students during the open house Saturday, April 25 from 12:30-2 pm.

Queen's University offers the only Master of Art Conservation program in Canada. Students specialize in the conservation of paintings, artifacts or paper objects or carry out research, for example in conservation science.

Exceptional research showcased in lecture event

The Prizes for Excellence in Research public lectures. Monday, April 27 from 4:30 to 6:15 pm at the School of Medicine, 15 Arch Street.

The Queen's community will have the opportunity to hear from five of the university’s top researchers. The free, public lecture event will see each researcher present a 12 minute overview of their work, so that in just over an hour audience will hear about a gamut of exceptional research from philosophy to nanophotonics to Vitamin D.

The annual Prizes for Excellence in Research public lectures are set for Monday, April 27.

The Prizes for Excellence in Research Public Lectures features the 2014 recipients – Stephen Hughes (Physics), Glenville Jones (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), John Kirby (Education), Ian Moore (Civil Engineering) and Christine Overall (Philosophy).

An internationally renowned researcher, Dr. Hughes has made a number of outstanding contributions to the field of nanophotonics and quantum optics. In a series of landmark papers Dr. Hughes and his group developed an accurate way to understand the influence of fabrication imperfections on the propagation of light in photonic crystals, and designed a “single photon gun” for use in quantum information processing.

Dr. Jones is a widely respected biochemist and authority in the metabolism of vitamin D, a compound whose dysregulation or deficiency is correlated with a broad spectrum of diseases including osteoporosis, rickets, psoriasis, renal failure, cancer and various hypercalcemic conditions.

Dr. Kirby is one of Canada’s preeminent educational scholars and is most renowned for his contributions related to theories of reading, intelligence and students’ conceptions of learning. He is also cross-appointed to the Department of Psychology and is a member of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies.

Dr. Moore received the award for his achievements in fundamental and applied engineering research and advances in the understanding and design of buried pipes. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and in 2002 he became the second civil engineer to be awarded a Killam Research Fellowship.

Dr. Overall has made important and diverse contributions to both applied ethics and social philosophy. Her pioneering insights into reproductive ethics, where she has contributed to debates about conception, pregnancy, birthing, and reproductive technologies, continue to be influential. In 1998, Dr. Overall became the first feminist philosopher to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

For more information on the Prizes for Excellence in Research visit the website.

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