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Tracking the elusive eel

Queen’s University researcher Colleen Burliuk is diving deep into the world of the endangered American eel, in hopes of unravelling the mystery of its life.

Working with Queen’s researcher and supervisor John Casselman (Biology), Ms. Burliuk has been tracking the eels living in the St. Lawrence River to learn more about their little-known winter habitat requirements as part of the research that will be used in her graduate program.

Colleen Burliuk holds the elusive and mysterious American eel that is now listed as endangered.

“The American eel population has been in decline for a while,” explains Ms. Burliuk, who is conducting winter fieldwork for her graduate studies. “They are mysterious creatures and nothing is really known about their winter habitat. This research can help us learn more about eels and improve their habitat to increase the population.”

Last fall, Ms. Burliuk implanted small radio-acoustic transmitters into six American eels. She used that technology to track their movements in the river over the winter months. Though the data is preliminary at this point, she will continue to gather data this spring and add another dozen eels to her current tracking project.

Stabilizing and increasing the American eel population is important for a number of reasons. “These eels are a very ancient fish with large cultural significance. If abundant, they would control such invasive populations as gobies and keep the river ecosystem balanced.”

Along with gaining new knowledge into the local eel population, Ms. Burliuk hopes to spawn new interest in the American eel in the younger generation. She herself didn’t become interested in the eel until she joined Dr. Casselman’s lab. Now she is giving presentations to early grade school classes and asking them to pass their new knowledge along to others.

Policy series celebrates inaugural director's legacy

As the inaugural director of Queen’s School of Policy Studies (SPS), Tom Courchene strived to bring together the academic and professional policy communities through the school’s programs, conferences and lectures.

Queen's School of Policy Studies has developed a speakers series to honour Tom Courchene, the school's inaugural director and a distinguished member of the Canadian public policy community.

SPS has recognized the former director’s enduring legacy by establishing the Tom Courchene Distinguished Speakers Series. The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair, commissioner and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), will give the first lecture in the series this Friday at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

The speaker series is supported by the Margie and Tom Courchene Endowment Fund. It was established in 1999 with an initial gift by the Courchenes. Since that time, generous donations from Dr. Courchene’s colleagues at Queen’s and across the country have supplemented the fund.

“This speaker series will provide our students, and the Queen’s community more broadly, with a bridge between academics and policy-makers,” says Kim Nossal, Director, Queen’s School of Policy Studies. “This series will encourage an on-going discussion on critical issues, in particular Indigenous policy and governance, a policy field Tom has been increasingly engaged with in recent years.”

The Tom Courchene Distinguished Speakers Series
“What do we do about the legacy of Indian Residential Schools?”
The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair, Commissioner and Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Friday, March 27, 11:45-1:15 pm, Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts (390 King St. West) Transportation available More information

Dr. Courchene came to Queen’s in 1988 as the Stauffer-Dunning Chair in Public Policy and the first director of the new School of Policy Studies. From 1991 until his retirement in 2012, he held the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Professorship in Economics and Financial Policy at Queen’s, where he was a member of the Department of Economics, the School of Policy Studies and the Faculty of Law.

Dr. Courchene has written more than 300 articles and authored or edited 60 books. The recipient of many awards and accolades, Dr. Courchene is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada. 

Justice Sinclair was Manitoba’s first Aboriginal judge and the second Aboriginal judge in Canada. He has received numerous honours for his work in the field of Aboriginal justice. Justice Sinclair chairs the TRC, which was established in 2007 with a mandate to inform all Canadians about the 150-year history residential schools, and guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.

Testimony on the Hill

Dr. Christian Leuprecht

Queen’s professor Christian Leuprecht testified yesterday on two different bills before Parliament.

Dr. Leuprecht spoke to the Senate of Canada’s Standing Committee on National Security and Defence about Bill-C44 and later that day to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on National Security about Bill C-51. He is one of just 48 witnesses who have been called to testify on Bill C-51.

“As an academic, I was honoured to be called to testify at both a Senate and a House Committee on the same day, and on bills as controversial as these,” says Dr. Leuprecht, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Political Studies and School of Policy Studies.

Bill C-44 is an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Act to give greater protection to CSIS human sources and to more effectively investigate threats to the security of Canada. Bill C-51, an anti-terrorism bill, would authorize government institutions to share information that could undermine the security of Canada and amend the Criminal Code with respect to terrorist activity or a terrorism offence.

As an academic, I was honoured to be called to testify at both a Senate and a House Committee on the same day, and on bills as controversial as these.
- Dr. Christian Leuprecht

“In general, I’m sympathetic to the strategy and the ends of both bills and so I expressed support for the broad rationale and the gaps they fill,” says Dr. Leuprecht. “I stressed the way Bill C-51 actually makes good on Canada’s obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373, 1624, and 2195 on preventing radicalization leading to politically motivated violent extremism, prohibiting incitement of terrorist violence and recruitment for such purposes, disrupting financial support for terrorism and foreign terrorist fighters, interdicting travel by foreign terrorist fighters.  I also made concrete proposals to make the review process of intelligence activities more robust and effective.”

First, in regards to both Bill C-44 and Bill C-51, Dr. Leuprecht proposed that the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) be able to follow CSIS intelligence throughout federal agencies to ensure that intelligence is handled in accordance with the law and the Constitution. Second, he pointed out that CSIS is already the most reviewed security intelligence service in the world but suggested enhancing SIRC’s effectiveness by adopting the UK model of a separate parliamentary committee composed of select Members of Parliament, including the opposition, who have been security-cleared to be briefed by SIRC as well as the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).  

Dr. Leuprecht recently laid out his position in two editorials published in the Globe and Mail: “Will Bill C-51 protect or imperil Canadians?” And “Done right, C-51 can balance freedom and security.”

Follow these links to hear Dr. Leuprecht’s testimony on Bill C-44 and Bill C-51.

As well as being a professor at Queen’s, Dr. Leuprecht is a Fellow at the Centre for International and Defence Policy and the Institute for Intergovernmental Relations. Dr. Leuprecht is also the associate dean at the Faculty of Arts at the Royal Military College of Canada and a professor in the Department of Political Science.

Internships now available to ArtSci students

Students in the Faculty of Arts and Science will have the opportunity to get job experience before graduating with the creation of the Arts and Science Internship Program.

Students in the Faculty of Arts and Science will now be able to apply for 12- or 16-month internships. (University Communications)

The program, which was approved by University Senate at their Feb 24th meeting, will allow students to develop professional skills and gain exposure to a field of work while still enrolled at Queen’s.

The new internship program is modeled on the Queen’s University Internship Program (QUIP), which has been available to students in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Computing. QUIP has students enrol in career-related workshops and coaching sessions which are then followed by a 12- or 16-month paid internship opportunity at a company related to their field of study. Internships typically happen after their third year of undergraduate study and, if successfully completed, students receive a professional designation on their diploma.

“When we hear from our former interns who’ve taken part in QUIP, they all say what a transformative experience it’s been,” says Cathy Keates, Director of Queen’s Career Services. “They develop skills, build their networks and have great success taking the things they’ve learnt on campus and bringing them to the workplace, and vice versa. We see an enormous amount of career development over that year.” 

During the internship, participating students undergo a number of evaluations by their employer and are given performance feedback. Upon completion of the internship, they must write a self-reflection document, reviewing their experience and what they learned from their foray into the working world. 

Adam Grotsky, (ArtSci’15) President of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society, strongly believes in the benefits of internships. Establishing Arts and Science internships were a major component of his election platform when he campaigned for his position. He aided in the development of the Arts and Science Internship Program and wrote a letter of support for its creation.

“This is an opportunity for students to develop tangible skills that will help them in the workforce,” he says. “There’s a big difference between learning in classroom and in the workplace, and to have that experience while still doing a degree is a huge advantage.” 

The internship program will be open to students in the Faculty of Arts and Science beginning in September 2015. More information can be found at Career Services’ website.

US-Cuba relations at turning point

[Esteban Morales and Karen Dubinsky]
Esteban Morales Dominguez, a professor from the University of Havana, visited Queen’s University as part of an exchange program. Karen Dubinsky is one of the professors involved in the course, DEVS 305 – Cuban Culture and Society, that plays a central role in the exchange. (University Communications)
Queen's in the World

While the road to normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba will be long and complicated, the fact that the process has started is a positive development for both countries says a leading expert in US-Cuba relations.

Esteban Morales Dominguez, a professor from the University of Havana, visited Queen’s University recently as part of an annual exchange between the two schools. The focus of his studies is race relations within Cuba and international relations, particularly US-Cuba relations.

Following 18 months of secret negotiations, President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17, that their governments are working toward normalizing relations, bringing an end to 55 years of confrontation and embargo.

While Dr. Morales points out there remains a lot of work to be done, he believes that both countries will benefit from a return to normal relations.

“I think the two countries cannot stop the possibility of this opportunity to resume relations. (After) 55 years this really can be very good, not only for Cuba but also for the people of the United States,” he says. “But we think the necessity of the process of normalization is not only a necessity for Cuba but for the US as well, because the US lost, during all this time, (many opportunities for) commerce with Cuba, many possibilities for investment with Cuba. Cuba has many things to give to the United States and I think the interchange between Cuba and the United States can be very good for the two countries.”

Dr. Morales says the first step on this road will be the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C., a process that is already well underway.

The steps that follow won’t be so easy, however.

Dr. Morales says that for Cuba there are a number of major obstacles that need to be resolved, first and foremost of which is the economic embargo of the island country. Throughout his two terms, President Obama has shown a willingness to ease some of the economic restrictions, but the ultimate decision on the blockade lies with Congress. That, Dr. Morales says, makes it more difficult as both the Democrats and Republicans have powerful groups that oppose easing the embargo.

Other important issues for Cuba is its inclusion on a list of terrorist countries, restrictive immigration policies and the continuing US control of Guantanamo Bay.

Difficult issues, certainly, but not impossible to resolve, he says.

Hope, however, lies in the long shared history of the countries. Separated by a mere 90 miles, Cuba and the United States are intrinsically linked, whether in conflict or friendship. That’s part of the reason the American efforts to isolate the country didn’t work.

“I think there is a very important connection. When the policy of the United States was to isolate Cuba it resulted in the isolation of the United States,” Dr. Morales says. “At the same time really the United States could not isolate Cuba. Not only internationally but also inside the United States there was a very big impact, a very big influence of Cuba. (Over) the years the Cuban-American community became, from the beginning very aggressive, to today where it has many connections with Cuba. There are many families in both countries as well.”

Despite the complexities, Dr. Morales has hope for the future and sees many mutually beneficial opportunities including tourism, investment, and collaboration in areas such as medicine and science.

Dr. Morales’ visit was sponsored by the Principal’s Development Fund. The Queen’s University-University of Havana Exchange was initiated in 2008. Each year, 30 students travel to Cuba as part of the DEVS 305 Cuban Society and Culture course and a visiting scholar from the University of Havana is brought to Queen’s to give lectures and aid the learning expereience.

When research goes pop

Dr. Robert Morrison

At the intersection of academic research and popular culture comes the resurrection of a long dead opium eater.

The opium eater in question is the 19th century English essayist Thomas De Quincey, known for his autobiography Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. De Quincey also happens to be Queen’s professor Robert Morrison’s academic raison d’être and the subject of novelist David Morrell’s two latest books.

Dr. Morrell, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Iowa, turns back the clock to Victorian England in his book Murder as a Fine Art (2013) to write about De Quincey as the suspect in a gruesome murder case. In his newest book, Inspector of the Dead (2015), Morrell follows De Quincey as he races to halt an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria.

The timing was perfect as when Dr. Morrell was beginning research for his De Quincey-inspired novel, Dr. Morrison was releasing his biography of De Quincey, The English Opium-Eater.

After Dr. Morrison offered his research expertise to Dr. Morrell to ensure the historical accuracy of the novels, both of Dr. Morrell’s books were co-dedicated to Dr. Morrison. Now, the burgeoning interest in De Quincey as a result of the novels means Dr. Morrison’s research, his biography and a new edition of De Quincey’s finest essays forthcoming with Oxford University Press, are reaching an ever-widening audience.  

“The relationship between my scholarship and David’s fiction is a very good example of the ways in which academic research can reach out to and eventually shape popular culture,” says Dr. Morrison, a professor in the Department of English. “Research in the humanities matters because it deepens our understanding of the past, and often triggers imaginative and fictive engagements that inform the present and future. Society, for example, has been struggling for a long time with the issue of addiction. From different angles, David and I try to reveal the history and impact of that struggle.”

While the two have never actually met in person, emails back and forth for the last four years have kept their academic affiliation a prime example of how scholarly research can aid in the development of pop culture, and how pop culture frequently capitalizes on information and insights brought forward by scholarly research in the Humanities.

“When I was researching for these novels I had access to a variety of materials, but nothing compares to the kind of information Robert was able to provide me with,” says Dr. Morrell, whose debut novel First Blood saw the introduction of the action hero John Rambo. “To me, Rob comes across as the kind of professor that every student should want to spend hours with.”

Both Dr. Morrison and Dr. Morrell are big proponents when it comes to the importance of an education in the humanities or liberal arts.

“A humanities or liberal arts education is something of an education in cultural survival. We’re teaching an open, creative and vital approach to culture so that we’re not sleepwalking through life but instead engaging with the world around us and moving forward,” says Dr. Morrell.

Inspector of the Dead will be released on March 24, 2015. For more information on Robert Morrison’s research, please follow this link.

A flawed system

Queen’s University professor Allyson Harrison has uncovered anomalies and issues with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV), one of the most widely used intelligence tests in the world. IQ scores are used to predict educational success, to help identify intellectual disabilities or intellectual giftedness and to establish whether a person has a specific learning disability.

For her research, Dr. Harrison and her colleagues examined the differences between Canadian and American WAIS-IV scores from 861 postsecondary students from across Ontario. The research identified a trend where the individual’s scores were consistently lower using the Canadian test scoring system. The WAIS-IV scores are used to make diagnostic decisions on the person’s ability relative to their peer group.

“Looking at the normal distribution of scores, you’d expect that only about five per cent of the population should get an IQ score of 75 or less,” says Dr. Harrison. “However, while this was true when we scored their tests using the American norms, our findings showed that 21 per cent of college and university students in our sample had an IQ score this low when Canadian norms were used for scoring.”

The trend was the same across all IQ scores, with Canadian young adults in college or university consistently receiving a lower IQ score if the Canadian norms were used. There were fewer gifted students identified when Canadian norms were used, as well as more students who were said to be intellectually impaired.

When scoring the WAIS-IV, Canadian psychologists have the option to compare the obtained raw score with the normative data gathered in either Canada or the USA.

Dr. Harrison notes these findings have serious implications for educational and neuropsychological testing. “Research shows that you can go from being classified as average to intellectually impaired based only on whether American or Canadian norms are used to rank the obtained raw IQ score.”

The research was published in the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment.

Giller Prize winner visits campus

Equipped with his whirring theremin, the winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Sean Michaels, visited campus on Friday.

Sean Michaels performs a short song on his theremin. (University Communications)

Mr. Michaels, whose debut novel Us Conductors received one of Canada’s top literary prizes, kept an audience at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre riveted with a lecture, reading and question and answer period. He even gave a brief performance on his theremin, an instrument that plays a central role in Us Conductors.

The novel tells the mostly true story of Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor and spy who created the theremin, as he rises to prominence in the Soviet Union and moves to the United States to promote his new electronic instrument and perform espionage for the Russian government.

Though not a musician himself, music has been important to Mr. Michaels’ career. He created one of the internet’s first mp3 music blogs, Said the Gramophone, and the creation and performance of music runs throughout Us Conductors.

“I guess I took the easier path, in that I wasn’t particularly gifted in performing music and I didn’t take that much pleasure from it,” Mr. Michaels says. “Playing music never clicked that strongly, whereas writing does … To me [making music] is less fun than being alone with my adjectives.”

That preference for writing has served him well, making him only the second debut novelist ever to win the Giller Prize, something he’s still in disbelief about.

“The Giller feels like something that happened to me, rather than something I actually did,” he says. “I’ve always wanted three things from my writing career: to produce work which I feel is good, to connect through my writing to other people, and to be able to have enough of a readership that I can support myself to write. The Giller’s made the third one that much easier.”

Mr. Michaels’ visit was facilitated by the Department of English Language and Literature, which has hosted the recipient of the Giller Prize annually for eight years. 

'Harrowing stories' on the Ebola frontline

The battle against the spread of the Ebola goes on in Sierra Leone with posters in the capital city Freetown providing information on how to reduce the chances of spreading the deadly virus. (Submitted photo)

While the Ebola crisis in West Africa has primarily disappeared from the headlines, the ravages of the deadly virus continue.

Mainstream media attention has moved on, yet the international effort to contain the outbreak continues and a Queen’s University professor is in Sierra Leone and Liberia working to improve the response to the disease.

Udo Schuklenk (Philosophy) traveled to the affected areas to produce a report on expanded access to experimental drugs for Ebola patients for Medecins Sans Frontieres. Dr. Schuklenk has done continuing research on the issue of access to experimental drugs for catastrophically-ill patients ever since he undertook his doctoral research in the 1990s.

It’s been an eye-opening experience he says. Hearing the stories from survivors first-hand and seeing the effects of the virus will certainly have a lasting impact.

“As part of the consultancy work I am undertaking I had to talk to a number of Ebola survivors. The harrowing stories of whole families being wiped out one after another is not something that I will forget for quite some time to come. Truly devastating experiences,” he says. “It will take a long time for those survivors’ wounds to heal, if they ever will.”

Those who enter the outbreak zone are walking into another world, one where nobody is allowed to touch another person. Dr. Schuklenk says the no-contact policy takes some getting used and affects daily interactions.

Also, to prevent further spread of the virus there are “endless disinfection rituals,” involving chlorine solutions of various strengths. Hand washing is so regimented and rigorous that it takes up a significant portion of the day. Even shoes are sprayed pretty much continuously, he says.

There are reminders that the crisis is far from over.

A day after Dr. Schuklenk sent his replies to the Gazette’s questions Sierra Leone’s vice president was put into quarantine after his bodyguard died of Ebola. On the same day in the capital city Freetown all public transportation was halted at 6 pm and parts of city were quarantined.

As he has traveled through the country he has also gained a better understanding of its people’s plight, even without the virus. Sierra Leone was devastated by a civil war and average life expectancy is around 40 years while basic necessities of life like reliable electricity or water supply do not exist in many parts of the country.

“One village we visited had neither electricity nor access to clean water,” he says. “People fetched their water from a nearby swamp. In that same small village 40 people died of Ebola virus disease. I met a few of those who survived it, all complained about their infection’s continuing negative effects on their quality of life, including severe joint pain, problems with their eye sight and other issues.”

Still Dr. Schuklenk says there are positives to be seen.

Despite all Sierra Leone has been through Dr. Schuklenk says he “can't help but feel optimistic about the country.”

Roadblocks where people are checked for signs of Ebola infection are everywhere yet infrastructure work continues. Schools have been closed for about 10 months due to the outbreak but the government is considering re-opening them by the end of March, he says.

And, amazingly, there are chance encounters.

Dr. Schuklenk met a Queen’s nursing alumnus, Rebecca Ngan (NSc’07), at an emergency medical centre near the village of Makambo where she was taking care of Ebola patients, donning her protective ‘space’ gear in temperatures over 30C.

Getting back to Gaelic

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Danny Doyle (MAC’15) is reminding campus that we’re more Irish than we realize.

Danny Doyle stands in front of the official Gaelic translation of "O Canada". (University Communications)

On Thursday, March 12, he’ll be delivering a public lecture on the history of the Gaelic language in Canada, from its early spread and use, to the large influx of speakers during the Great Irish Famine and the causes for the language’s eventual decline.  

“It’s accepted in scholarship that people left Ireland speaking Gaelic, but what’s never been discussed is what happened to them when they arrived in Canada,” says Mr. Doyle. “It’s not as though they got off the boat and stopped speaking the language.”

On the contrary, Mr. Doyle says that Gaelic, in its various dialects, was once Canada’s third-most spoken language. One in 10 Canadians were fluent in Gaelic at the time of confederation and it was the mother tongue of many of the country’s political founders — Sir John A Macdonald himself spoke Scottish Gaelic. There was once even a bill in the House of Commons that proposed making Gaelic Canada’s third official language.

The beginning of the decline in Gaelic’s popularity came with the Great Famine, a period of mass starvation that afflicted Ireland from 1845-52 when a blight ravaged the country’s potato crop.

“The famine did horrible things to the language, because it primarily affected rural farmers who were mostly Gaelic speakers. People’s opinion of the language was devastated. It was an ancestral indigenous language which people believed had been spoken since the Tower of Babel,” says Mr. Doyle. “Suddenly, after the famine, it became the language of death and poverty. Speaking English symbolized moving on with your life.”

Mr. Doyle is part of a small but dedicated group who are trying to revive Gaelic in Canada. As the group’s unofficial heritage officer, he began assembling a record of the language’s use, a project that grew and grew until he had enough content for a manuscript, which will be published later this year. Thursday’s lecture is culled from the content of his book, which brings to light information about the country as a whole as well as some places close to home.

“In 1847, more than 49,000 Gaelic speakers came through Kingston as they travelled along the Rideau Canal. They stopped here before redistributing to other communities, but Kingston became a big centre for Gaelic speakers,” he says.

Along with having a Gaelic newspaper, Kingston began celebrating traditional Irish holidays, and Mr. Doyle says the first recorded celebration of Halloween (derived from the Irish festival of Samhain) in North America was in Kingston.

By bringing to light Gaelic’s history in Canada, Mr. Doyle hopes to reignite people’s interest in a language that was fundamental to the country.

“It’s said that Gaelic culture is a tapestry that’s been ravaged by time, so we have to gather together all those threads lest we lose it,” he says.

Mile Mile I gCein: 500 Years of Irish Gaelic in Canada is Thursday, March 12 at 7 pm in 517 Watson Hall.


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