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Research Prominence

Research storytelling events captivate audiences

[IGnite Research poster]

Featuring topics from medical miracles to environmental policy, the IGnite lecture series has showcased the diversity of research happening at Queen’s to a captivated audience of campus and community members. On Thursday, March 28 the public will hear about the future of gender policy in the Canadian school systems and innovative methods to solve environmental problems.

IGnite is a collaboration between the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute and the University Relations portfolio. Each event features two researchers from different fields discussing their projects and research experiences, while also including interactive demonstrations and poster presentations from students and additional researchers. The series offers a public platform where researchers can share what first ignited their curiosity and motivates them to pursue their research.

Lee Airton (Education) is a SSHRC-funded researcher and will present “The future of gender: Policy and practice playing catch-up to an ever-changing phenomenon.” They recently published a popular press book on welcoming gender diversity in everyday life, Gender: Your guide. Dr. Airton has also received a 2017 Youth Role Model of the Year Award from the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity and founded They is My Pronoun (TIMP) and the No Big Deal Campaign

Dr. Airton explains that research should be shared with those it impacts. 

“I study something that is relevant to every single member of the public, but is thought of as something that only transgender people care about: how other people read and respond to our gender expression, every day,” Dr. Airton says. “Events like the IGnite lecture allow me to bring the implications of my research directly to people who might not have thought about how they participate in gender, and encourage them to act on what we know about making gender into a safer and more comfortable experience for everyone.”

Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry Philip Jessop (Chemistry) will discuss his research on carbonated water as it applies to solving environmental problems. An expert in switchable surfactants, Dr. Jessop received the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award in 2008 and is the technical director of GreenCentre Canada.

Dr. Jessop further elaborates that for him IGnite is an opportunity to return the public’s investment in his research.

“Society allows me to do research and it is only fair that in return I let society know what I’m doing,” he says. “I find that many people like to hear about new ways to reduce environmental harm.”

The event, the final in a three-part series for the 2018-2019 academic year, will take place Thursday 6:30-9 pm at the Biosciences Complex at 116 Barrie Street. Registration is free on Eventbrite and light refreshments will be served.

For more information on the series, visit the McDonald Institute’s website.  

The Conversation: Hurricanes to deliver a bigger punch to coasts


[Hurricane Idai flooding]
Flood waters cover large tracts of land in Mozambique after cyclone Idai made landfall. Rapidly rising floodwaters have cut off thousands of families from aid organizations. (World Food Programme)

When tropical cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira, Mozambique on March 14, a spokesperson for the UN World Meteorological Organization called it possibly the the worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere.

This massive and horrifying storm caused catastrophic flooding and widespread destruction of buildings and roads in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi feared the death toll might rise to more than 1,000 people.

Cyclones, also known as hurricanes or typhoons, are intense wind storms that can take thousands of lives and cause billions of dollars in damage. They generate large ocean waves and raise water levels by creating a storm surge. The combined effects cause coastal erosion, flooding and damage to anything in its path.

Although other storms have hit this African coast in the past, the storm track for cyclone Idai is fairly rare. Warmer-than-usual sea-surface temperatures were directly linked to the unusually high number of five storms near Madagascar and Mozambique in 2000, including tropical cyclone Eline. Warmer ocean temperatures could also be behind the intensity of cyclone Idai, as the temperature of the Indian Ocean is 2 C to 3 C above the long-term average.

Climate change and ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms making landfall and to the development of strong hurricanes reaching places not affected in recent history. These regions may not be prepared with the coastal infrastructure to withstand the extreme forces of these storms.

The role of climate change

Scientists are working to improve their forecasts for hurricane winds and waves, and research on ocean and atmosphere interactions is boosting our understanding of the relationship between climate and the formation of hurricanes. Still, there is considerable uncertainty in predicting trends in extreme weather conditions 100 years into the future. Some computer simulations suggest possible changes in these storms due to climate change.

[Hurricane Idai]
Tropical cyclone Idai rapidly strengthened to a category 3 storm in the warm waters between Mozambique and Madagascar. (NOAA)

For example, scientists have computed detailed simulations of hurricane-type storms for future climate-warming scenarios and revealed that in some cases the hurricane season could be longer. The intensity of storms could also increase so that there are more major hurricanes (categories 4 and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) with winds reaching speeds greater than 209 km/h.

Since these storms are fuelled by ocean heat, warmer ocean conditions will influence their intensity and longevity. This may enable them to travel further over ocean water at higher latitudes, and further across the continent after they make landfall.

With global sea level rise expected to continue to accelerate through the 21st century, the impacts of coastal flooding from tropical cyclones is also expected to worsen.

Atlantic hurricanes

On the Atlantic coast of North America, the hurricane season starts in June and runs to November. We have very recent reminders that these storms can be catastrophic. Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in 2017, caused infrastructure damage of US$90 billion and may have killed more than 4,600 people.

Urban areas can take weeks or months to recover from the flooding caused by the storm surge, which can be compounded by heavy rainfall. When the category 4 hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, it caused US$125 billion in damage, mostly due to flooding in the metropolitan area.

Hurricanes that reach places that historically have not been affected have major and long-lasting impacts. An example is hurricane Sandy in 2012, the largest storm on record in the Atlantic Ocean. This storm made a westward turn that is very different from typical tropical hurricane tracks.

Its waves and storm surge pounded the coasts of New Jersey and New York, with a huge impact washing over coastal dunes, eroding beaches and causing flooding in New York City.

It also had a major economic impact, costing US$71 billion with long-term effects on the coastal environment and lasting socioeconomic impacts in a densely populated area.

Damage to coasts

Hurricanes can cause severe erosion and breach islands, creating new pathways for water flow between the ocean and back-barrier estuaries. As these storms impact land, they can also create a dangerous multi-hazard environment of fast-moving air, water and debris.

[Hurricane Irma]
Hurricane Isabel made landfall on North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Sept. 18, 2003. Its effects were felt as far as western New England and into the eastern Great Lakes. (NASA)

Urban coastal areas are under a major threat, since coastal structures may not have been designed for the waves and surges that these storms generate. Hurricane Katrina, the mega-disaster that took more than 1,200 lives and cost US$161 billion in 2005, taught engineers the hard way that hurricanes can cause unanticipated loads on bridges, buildings and coastal structures.

The amount of damage a hurricane creates depends on the intensity and characteristics of the storm, combined with the physical and social setting of the coastal area that it hits. Cities face a high risk of hurricane-related disasters, since they contain higher populations and more infrastructure. This can lead to widespread and catastrophic impacts, such as the massive storm surge and flooding generated by typhoon Haiyan, which lead to more than 6,000 deaths in the Philippines in 2013.

Future Impacts

Regardless of changes to the climatic conditions that cause hurricanes to form and intensify, the fact is that these storms already occur frequently. Each year, 80 to 100 tropical storms occur globally. Of these, 40 to 50 are hurricanes, with 10 to 15 classified as major hurricanes.

Climate change projections suggest the number of intense hurricanes will rise. Ocean warming will enable these storms to travel further, and we may see greater hurricane impacts on coasts in the future.

This could include more storm strikes to northern coasts in places like Atlantic Canada, where hurricane Juan made landfall in 2003.

We may also see more hurricanes reaching large inland lakes such as the Great Lakes, affecting major cities like Toronto and Chicago. Rare events, such as hurricane Ophelia that hit Ireland in 2017, may become more common.

When we build houses, roads and bridges and increase population density in low-lying coastal areas, we walk a fine line if these coastal regions are not prepared for the ferocity of extreme storms in the future.The Conversation


Ryan P. Mulligan, is an associate professor in Civil Engineering at Queen's.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.  

Bank of Canada honours Queen’s excellence

​Ryan Riordan receives research grant while three masters students earn scholarships in economics and finance.

Ryan Riordan, an associate professor at Smith School of Business, is this year’s recipient of the Bank of Canada Governor’s Award.

[Ryan Riordan]
The 2019 recipient of the Bank of Canada Governor’s Award is Ryan Riordan, an associate professor at Smith School of Business. 

The Governor’s Award is a research grant for academics who study areas that the Bank of Canada deems important. The grant is worth up to $30,000 a year over two years.

Dr. Riordan, who is also Distinguished Professor of Finance at Smith, says he is delighted to receive the award. While central banks tend to focus on the economy as a whole, his studies delve into the behaviour of individual traders, investors, lenders, borrowers and firms.

“So this award is a confirmation that our research is important to the overall economy,” he says.

Dr. Riordan intends to use the grant to further his research in two areas: the use and misuse of technologies in banking and financial markets; and climate change.

On climate change, Dr. Riordan has teamed up with colleagues from the University of Augsburg in Germany to study how financial markets have responded to the transition to a green economy. They’ve developed a methodology to measure the carbon risk of companies and countries. 

Among their findings to date: the valuation of banks and other financial firms are strongly related to the carbon risk of the firms they finance. And European countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as Japan, have lower carbon risk than most countries. Canada, South Africa and Brazil have the highest carbon risk.

The Governor’s Award is part of the Bank of Canada’s Fellowship Program. Lawrence Schembri, deputy governor at the bank, says the program aims to “foster collaboration between our researchers and outstanding academics who are advancing knowledge in fields that support the Bank of Canada’s core functions.”

Dr. Riordan joined Smith in 2014. His research into technology’s impact on financial markets has included how high-frequency traders improve stock market efficiency and studying how automated bidders affect the behaviour of human bidders on electronic financial markets and online auctions such as eBay 

In November, Dr. Riordan received Smith’s Research Excellence Award. The annual prize recognizes outstanding research by faculty at the school.

In other news, the Bank of Canada marked International Women’s Day by announcing the recipients of the Master’s Scholarship Award for Women in Economics and Finance. Of the four winners, three are from Queen’s University.

Earning scholarship awards are, from left: Vivian Chu, Sanjana Bhatnagar, Stephanie Renaud. 

Sanjana Bhatnagar is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Economics. Prior to this, she completed a BA Honours in Economics from the University of Calgary and worked at the Bank of Canada as a research assistant. Her areas of research include applied econometrics, macroeconomics and macrofinancial studies.

Vivian Chu is completing a Master of Arts in Economics. She completed a BSc in Financial Modelling at Western University and was a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Awards recipient for two consecutive years. Her research interests include monetary economics and macroeconomics.

Stephanie Renaud is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Economics. She completed her BA in Economics at the University of Ottawa and, as part of the co-op program, she worked at the Department of Finance and received the CO-OP Student of the Year Award for the faculty of social sciences in 2016. Her research interests include macroeconomics, fiscal policy, and monetary policy.

The award includes a $10,000 scholarship and is combined with the opportunity for permanent employment at the Bank of Canada upon successful completion of a master’s degree by a recipient.

Tree swallows expose state of our climate

Queen's University research examines local bird population to reveal how weather patterns are changing.

For many of us, birds are an interesting distraction or a sign of spring. For Fran Bonier and her former master's student Amelia Cox, bird populations provide vital data about the health of the world. Their new research adds to growing evidence that the climate is changing – and not for the better.

Established in 1975 by Raleigh Robertson at the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) north of Kingston, a box-nesting population of tree swallows has provided long-term data sets that a number of Queen’s researchers have used. In her most recent study, Dr. Bonier and Cox have determined rainy springs are linked to poor nestling growth in this species.

The data shows that from 1977 to 2017, the nestlings’ body mass has declined substantially and adult body mass, particularly in males, has also been declining.

“We examined 42 years of data and have determined the decline started in the late 1980s,” says Cox, who took the lead on the study. “Tree swallows are avian aerial insectivores, which means they eat flying insects. These insects are inactive during cold, wet, or windy conditions which effectively reduces food availability to zero.”

Looking at the long-range weather data, the researchers also determined that rainfall amounts have increased over the decades and springs are getting cooler. Dr. Bonier says these weather changes, which she attributes to climate change, are affecting more than just tree swallows.

“This isn’t going to affect just one bird species; it’s happening with all aerial insectivores, like bats,” she says. “These populations are important to the entire food chain and their decline could lead to an insect population explosion, which could be critical in many areas.”

Cox adds there are a few simple things we can do to start addressing the threats facing aerial insectivores, including providing good habitat, putting up nest boxes, leaving barn doors open for barn swallows (which are declining even faster) and leaving wetlands alone. But to get to the root of the problem, we must tackle climate change.

“I really enjoy working with huge datasets like this one and I’m hoping, with my experience, I can move on to studying other bird species,” Cox says. “I’m optimistic this research can contribute to the larger conversation on climate change.”

Along with examining the population dynamics of tree swallows, the Bonier Lab has a number of other research foci including the influence of urbanization on birds, the effects of warming temperatures on carrion beetles, and the ways malarial parasites affect a local population of red-winged blackbirds.

For example, in a global citizen science study of birds, she and collaborator Paul Martin discovered that competitive interactions among closely-related birds might be limiting avian biodiversity in cities. Overall, this work is revealing the ways that different animals respond to the challenges they face, including many threats that are increasing because of human activities.

The latest research into the tree swallow population was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The Conversation: Echoes of 2008 – Could climate change spark a global financial crisis?

Increasingly severe losses for insurers due to climate change could result in a global financial crisis.


[Forest Fire]
A forest fire rages in Klamath National Forest. (Photo by Matt Howard/Unsplash)

The dire climate change situation continues to make headlines and inspire actions like the Sunrise Movement.

Recently, United States congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey pushed the debate about addressing climate change forward by introducing resolutions for a Green New Deal to transform the American economy.

[The Conversation]The Green New Deal is supported by politicians currently seeking the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Proponents of the proposed deal, like Ocasio-Cortez, rightly point out the pressing urgency to implement policy to reduce the impact of climate change. She likened this effort to other massive undertakings in U.S. history, such as the moon landing and the civil rights movement. The Green New Deal represents an endeavour on a similar scale aimed at addressing climate change.

But despite all the climate change buzz, its impact on the insurance industry has been largely absent from discussion. This is especially significant considering the importance of insurance in managing risk. It’s surprising that media coverage on the Green New Deal has not included some mention of insurance especially because insurers, and particularly American insurers, enable and invest in the fossil fuel industry. All of the largest U.S. insurance companies, including AIG and Berkshire Hathaway, continue to invest in and underwrite the coal industry.

The intersection of insurance and climate

A recent report from Cambridge University has underlined just how necessary it is to have conversations about the intersection of insurance and climate in the context of the Green New Deal. The Cambridge report was produced in partnership with top global insurance and reinsurance firms.

Alarmingly, the report highlights that increasingly severe losses for insurers due to climate change could result in a global financial crisis. Given the historical precedent for economic crises caused by insurance losses, the industry is justifiably concerned.

The history of insurance is in fact the history of crisis. Since its inception, the insurance industry has had to grapple with its exposure to catastrophe. The traditional way it’s done so is by transferring catastrophic risk to reinsurance companies —firms that specialize in providing insurance coverage to insurers and spreading the risk globally so as to dilute its impacts.

However, these efforts are not always successful, and massive catastrophes continue to result in the bankruptcy of insurers.

As I discussed in a previous article written in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, significant changes have occurred in the insurance industry in an attempt to better insulate primary insurance companies from catastrophic risk.

These changes have largely been focused on increasing the amount of what’s known as reinsurance capital available to cover insurers’ exposure to catastrophe.

New strategies involve the introduction of alternative sources of reinsurance capital provided by bringing capital market investors into the insurance sector. This process has been accomplished through the packaging of risk into insurance-linked securities, and then selling those securities to institutional investors like sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and dedicated hedge funds specializing in catastrophic risk.

Pattern repeating

The scenarios raised in the Cambridge report about a global financial crisis brought on by the collision of climate change and insurance fit the historical pattern of the industry.

Changes to the insurance industry since the mid-1990s, along with the proliferation of alternative reinsurance sources through the integration of capital markets and institutional investors, are significant. That’s why initiatives like the Green New Deal must take into account the changes occurring in the insurance industry.

The primary source of systemic risk outlined in the Cambridge report stems from rising global temperatures and untenable losses to insurers as a result. For example, the authors warn that if climate change is left unchecked, the world will witness the tripling of catastrophic losses on property investments over the next 30 years.

Eerily reminiscent of 2008

While this is a shocking and extremely disturbing finding, there are other equally troubling ways that the intersection of insurance and climate change could produce global financial systemic risk.

That’s due to the transformation of risk into securities which are then sold to capital market investors.

The creation of insurance-linked securities to increase the availability of reinsurance capital to primary insurers — and better protect them from catastrophic risk — creates at the same time a perverse incentive structure. It’s very similar to the mortgage-backed securities that formed the underlying risky assets that caused the 2008 crisis.

With the growth of alternative reinsurance capital in the sector and massive government programs, as well as global institutions turning towards the securitization of catastrophic risk in response to climate change, another global financial crisis is certainly a possibility, just as the authors of the Cambridge report warn.

While massive and courageous transformations to our economies and societies like the Green New Deal are necessary in the face of climate change, we must broaden our conversations to include the increasing integration of insurance and finance.

If we don’t, strategies adopted to address climate change, like the buying and selling of catastrophic risk, could produce calamitous outcomes themselves.The Conversation


Korey Pasch is a doctoral candidate in the fields of international relations and comparative politics in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University  

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Building research infrastructure

Queen’s University researchers have secured more than $1 million in research infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

“Through this support, researchers will be able to build the foundational research infrastructure required to conduct cutting-edge research, and contribute to important new developments in their fields,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research).

 A total of nine Queen’s researchers will receive the federal funding in a variety of fields, from the ongoing search for dark matter to investigating stem cells, to probing the transition from suicide ideation to attempts to establishing a mobile-inclusive music theatre makerspace.

The following Queen’s researchers have received funding:

Sheela Abraham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $162,500 to further the study of cancer stem cells in relation to chronic myeloid leukaemia using systems biology. With the funding, she plans to investigate cell signaling events outside cells controlled by extracellular vesicles and look into if these extracellular vesicles may be key controllers in the aging of stem cells and how this could lead to cancer. Dr. Abraham will also investigate the possibility of using extracellular vesicles as biomarkers for chronic myeloid leukaemia, which would help doctors detect the disease more efficiently, and improve patient treatment and survival.

Joseph Bramante (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $49,970 to better determine dark matter’s origin, character, and connection to known physics. Novel new physics search techniques are being developed alongside identified techniques, including using thermal emission of neutron stars as a signature of dark matter, searches for multiply interacting massive particles at underground laboratories, the abundance of elements like gold in dwarf galaxy as a tracer of so-called “asymmetric” dark matter, and charting dark matter’s interaction with neutrinos.

Julia Brook and Colleen Renihan (Dan School of Drama and Music) has received $40,800 to create a music theatre makerspace in order to examine the development and implementation of music theatre activities with underserved populations, such as students in rural and on-reserve communities as well as seniors and adults with cognitive exceptionalities. Participants will work with facilitators to develop music theatre activities using acoustic and digital music tools as well as custom made sets and costumes from the makerspace.

Kenneth Clark (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $189,951 to develop a scintillating bubble chamber to support the ongoing search for dark matter. Direct detection involves the interaction of dark matter in a purpose-built detector such as that used by the PICO collaboration. This group has produced world-leading results for a spin-dependent interaction of dark matter with the backgrounds being the largest issue. The scintillating bubble chamber would identify these backgrounds, leveraging the current efforts for a significant improvement in the dark-matter hunt.

Vahid Fallah (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has received $125,000 to support research into improving the process of selective laser melting, also called metal 3D printing. In this research program, the selective laser melting processing of reactive/sensitive metals will be optimized for more stability and a less reactive build environment. The former will be achieved by optimizing the laser optics assembly, and the latter will be realized by strictly controlling the build atmosphere through an innovative build enclosure design.

Madhuri Koti (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $150,000 to support her research program’s goals of identify tumour-specific genetic features that specifically associate with the anti-tumour immune responses and whether these could aid in decision making for combination immunodulatory treatment; design optimal combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy approaches for use with immune stimulating drugs; and  develop markers of chemotherapy-specific host immune alterations for future design of biomarker guided clinical trials to improve patient outcomes.
Bhavin Shastri (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $132,500 to establish a facility with an experimental test and measurement platform and an optical probe station to demonstrate photonic integrated circuits for neuromorphic computing. Photonic neuromorphic processors have the potential to outperform microelectronics in energy efficiency and computational speeds by seven- and four-orders of magnitude, respectively.

Jeremy Stewart (Psychology) has received $100,000 to support research into identifying factors that predict the transition from suicide ideation to attempts. This transition is a pivotal target for suicide prevention, but little is known about which youth will make this shift and what processes are involved.  The research will employ electrophysiology, laboratory-based behavioural observation, and real-time, daily Smartphone-based assessments to gain novel insights into the processes involved.

Aaron Vincent (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $50,000 for his research into developing novel ways to search for and detect dark matter, using its effect on stars such as the sun, and how to use neutrinos as probes of new physics beyond the Standard Model. This research relies on computer simulations of particle physics and astronomical systems such as stars, clusters, and the cosmos, as well as statistical methods aimed at exploring the many possible models of new physics to compare them with data from dozens of different experiments conducted in underground laboratories, ground-based observatories, and in space.

For more information on the supported projects, or to learn more about the John R. Evans Leaders fund, visit innovation.ca.

Find out more about research at Queen’s.

Don’t miss out on research funding opportunities, subscribe to the University Research Services Funding Opportunities listserv. 

The Conversation: A U.S.-China trade deal does not slow China’s rise

America may have missed a window of opportunity to curb China’s rise when it pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


[Shaghai waterfront]
 The Donald Trump administration is focused on greater access to subsidized Chinese industries and addressing intellectual property theft linked to alleged forced technology transfers to China. (Photo by Ralf Leineweber/Unsplash) 

The original March 1 deadline has passed as the United States and China hash out a trade deal amid deadlocked negotiations.

Any U.S.-China trade deal likely falls short compared to what the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could have been.

Within current talks, Donald Trump’s administration is focused on greater access to subsidized Chinese industries and addressing intellectual property theft linked to alleged forced technology transfers to China. All of this has an impact on America’s economic competitiveness in the short term.

But is the U.S. adequately managing long-term Chinese efforts to don the mantle of global leader?

On the third day of his administration in 2017, Trump honoured a campaign promise by withdrawing from the contentious TPP. The historic 12-nation agreement was on track to cover roughly 40 per cent of the global economy.

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, advocacy groups and some members of the American public flatly opposed the agreement. Concerns about the oversized influence of multinational corporations and the controversial investor-state dispute process was a feature of the public discourse.

Lost opportunity to rein in China?

But America may have missed a window of opportunity to curb China’s rise when it pulled out of the TPP.

Scholars Graham Allison and Kori Schake have grappled over if and how China can replace America as the world’s ranking power. Allison’s recent work, Destined for War, discusses the “windows of opportunity” the U.S. can exploit to slow the pace of the rising power.

If history is any credible guide, the transition from Pax Britannica to Pax Americana may help U.S. policy-makers and the public alike to understand the imperatives that surround China’s rise.

At the turn of the 20th century, America had unprecedented growth, thanks to Alfred Thayer Mahan’s vision of American sea power. And in the early years between the two World Wars, the United States, Great Britain and Japan headlined a global naval arms race.

In 1921, President Warren Harding held the Washington Naval Conference to disarm tensions among the competing navies in the Pacific. The naval powers agreed to discontinue their shipbuilding programs and capped their naval fleets in the region. America also protected holdings in East Asia from the threat of a rising Japan.

The agreement was a triumph for America. But for Britain, their naval power was now at “eye level” with the United States.

The U.K. could not challenge the U.S.

An overstretched Britain had neither the political will nor the financial ability to oppose America’s demands, aware that an arms race with the U.S. would likely bankrupt the British economy.

Pax Britannica, a symbol of Britain’s naval dominance, was forced to deliberately accommodate America’s rise. Britain’s reduced Pacific fleet and degraded Anglo-Japanese relations marked a turning point in America’s ascendancy.

It was not the first time Britain missed an opportunity to slow America’s rise. The American Civil War offered the chance, but Britain decided against joining on behalf of the Confederacy due to the issue of slavery. Schake also notes the Venezuela crisis of 1895 marked an early turning point in the leadership transition. This could have also been a window of opportunity.

How does this apply to current U.S.-China relations? The “battleground” remains the same as in 1921; instead, China plans to supplant America to become the global leader.

Barack Obama’s administration crafted the TPP as a geopolitical instrument to halt China’s plans. It presented east and southeast Asian nations with an alternative to China’s coercive diplomacy in the region, such as in the case of Sri Lanka.

Reducing trade barriers had the potential to provide America with greater investment opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. It could have weakened China’s diplomatic clout while also creating economic incentives for American investment in the area. It exploited a window of opportunity that targeted the source of China’s rise — its economy.

Pulling out of the TPP was not solely a product of the current administration —a Hillary Clinton administration may have withdrawn too. America’s anti-free trade mood reflects the priority of the public and lawmakers, which is to preserve U.S. jobs and sovereignty.

Shifts in global power are afoot

But shifts in global power may be under way with implications beyond what happens on the home front. A tech Cold War is brewing, China’s plans for expansion under the Belt and Road initiative continue and South China Sea claims are an extension of China’s sovereignty.

The rebooted TPP, the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, is likely to reduce barriers to trade and increase investment opportunities across Asia and Latin America for its member countries, including Canada.

But the agreement, without U.S. representation, hardly lives up to America’s once-desired aim to create a trade zone in a large swath of East Asia that would isolate China while addressing the global power shifts under way. A renegotiated CPTPP, with American backing, may have even strengthened the Trump administration’s position in its current trade negotiations with the Chinese.

The U.K. was unable to prevent the last global leadership transition due to missed windows of opportunity and deliberate accommodation. An America that views China’s rise through a short-term bilateral lens runs the risk of accidentally accommodating Chinese efforts to replace America.

Taking advantage of a window of opportunity may be key to curbing the next global leadership transition —and the CPTPP may be the window that America needs before we are forced to accommodate to China’s interests. The U.S. should reconsider joining the pact if it wants any shot at slowing China’s rise.The Conversation


James L. Anderson is a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at Queen's University's Centre for International and Defence Policy.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Queen’s professor receives award from Women in Mining Canada

Queen's professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering named the 2019 winner of the Rick Hutson Mentorship Award.
Heather Jamieson, a professor and researcher in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, is the 2019 winner of Women in Mining Canada's Rick Hutson Mentorship Award. (Supplied Photo)

Heather Jamieson, a professor and researcher in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, has been named the 2019 Rick Hutson Mentorship Award winner from Women in Mining Canada (WIMC).

This award is being presented to Dr. Jamieson in recognition of the role she has played in mentoring, supporting and guiding young women in their studies and in taking their first steps, and then beyond that, in helping them to manoeuvre in the early days of their mining careers. 

An outpouring of letters of support from Dr. Jamieson’s students, both past and present, solidified her candidacy for this award and speaks to the impact that she has had on these women and countless others in their careers. 

A critical part of Dr. Jamieson’s career has been sharing her enthusiasm for environmental geochemistry with students, introducing them to fieldwork at mine sites, and exposing them to the complex issues affecting communities in the Canadian North.

“During the first summer that I worked as a geological field assistant (at age 17), I met two female geologists who were truly inspirational pioneers. I was also taught at Queen’s by Dr. Mabel Corlett, one of the first tenured women professors of geology in Canada,” Dr. Jamieson says. “It was pretty unusual for women to be in the field of geology and mining in the 1970s, and there was some resistance to sending women to remote mines or field camps. Over the years things have improved but there are still challenges. I have supervised more than 50 graduate students, about half of them women, and I have been delighted to watch them progress in their careers since leaving Queen’s.”

Women in Mining Canada identifies the three pillars of its organization as: “Educate, Empower and Elevate.” Dr. Jamieson has certainly been a model for these pillars. She believes that teaching and supervising includes respect for a good work-life balance, and translates this to all of her students. 

Of the more than 50 graduate students that Dr. Jamieson has supervised, all have found professional employment shortly after graduation with mining companies, environmental consultants, or as government regulators. 

It is also worth noting that the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering consists of 50 per cent female faculty members, one of the highest of any geological program in Canada. This ratio is similar for undergraduate and graduate students in the department, as well. Dr. Jamieson has played a significant role in achieving this ratio, and has been a strong mentor and influence on young women entering the mining industry for decades. 

This award was presented to Dr. Jamieson during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual convention. Women in Mining Canada hosted an event at the convention on Tuesday, March 5 to celebrate all of their Trailblazer Award Winners, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. 

Further information about the Rick Hutson Mentorship Award and the WIMC awards presentation can be found on the Women in Mining Canada website.

National recognition for computing trailblazer

In the field of computing, efficiency and effectiveness are key. Researchers are continuously searching for solutions to the computational challenges that come with processing massive amounts of data in a timely fashion.  Selim Akl, professor in the School of Computing and a pioneer of parallel computation, has garnered worldwide recognition for his success in finding efficient and improved solutions to this issue. Recently, Dr. Akl was recognized by CS-Can/Info-Can, the national computer science academic organization, with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding and sustained contributions to the field.

[Selim Akl]
The School of Computing's Selim Akl has been recognized by CS-Can/Info-Can, the national computer science academic organization, with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding and sustained contributions to the field.

“It’s a huge honour and I owe a lot to my colleagues in the School of Computing and to my students. They really are inspiring,” Dr. Akl says. “Queen’s is a special place because it gives you unfettered freedom to follow your research interests.”

Dr. Akl felt this sense of autonomy in pursing his research program when he began his career at Queen’s in 1978. Parallel computation involves the use of several computers to solve a problem simultaneously, a concept which was introduced through Dr. Akl’s book Parallel Sorting Algorithms in 1985.The work was the first of its kind in this area of specialization, allowing Dr. Akl to become a pioneer in the field.  

“There are real-life situations that necessitate the use of a specific number of computers and if you have one less, you cannot solve the problem,” he says. “The big weather centres use massive parallel processors to give us up-to-the-minute updates on the weather but sometimes they are not even enough because if a storm decides to hit and you hadn’t predicted it in enough time to warn people, it would be too late.”  

 Dr. Akl has used parallel computation as the core foundation of his research program while branching out into other areas of computing, including computational geometry and cryptography, in which his work on security in hierarchical organizations remains state-of-the-art. He also explored biomedical computing, developing algorithmic techniques to analyze electrocardiograms for better diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. In recent years, he has been studying computational processes in nature and more generally, unconventional computation. In 2009, he originated the idea of quantum chess.

“Dr. Akl’s research contributions span many facets of computing that influence virtually every aspect of daily life,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).  “The lifetime achievement award is a fitting recognition of his leadership and continued impact on the field internationally.”

As the Queen’s School of Computing celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Dr. Akl’s colleagues and collaborators are thrilled to celebrate this significant milestone in his career.

“I would like to dedicate this award to the School of Computing as it’s been a wonderful home for me,” Dr. Akl says. “If you have a good working environment, then you have no complaints.”

Dr. Akl will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual CS-Can/Info Can meeting at McGill University on June 3.  

Decolonizing Canada’s national game

Indigenous Hockey Research Network looks at hockey as a vehicle for reconciliation.

IHRN members at a pick-up game of hockey during the visioning gathering at Queen's University.
Indigenous Hockey Research Network members pause during their "visioning gathering" at Queen's for a pick-up game at the Leon's Centre in Kingston.

One of the first things that comes to mind when people think about Canada is ice hockey. For many Canadians, the sport is deeply linked to perceptions of national identity, and hockey stories help explain who they are and where they belong. But where do Indigenous peoples fit in these narratives about what it means to be truly Canadian? Queen’s University researcher, Sam McKegney, helped create the Indigenous Hockey Research Network (IHRN) with hopes of illuminating, complicating, and developing how we view our national pastime.

“Given its popularity, we see hockey as a potential meeting place for community building and Indigenous empowerment,” says Dr. McKegney, who received a $305,000 Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in 2018 to conduct the IHRN’s work. “Understanding our shared and contrary experiences within the context of the sport could also shed light on a potential vehicle for the ongoing pursuit of reconciliation in our country.”

Through archival research, personal interviews, data analysis, and Indigenous community-led approaches, Dr. McKegney’s team looks to uncover and engage with the sport’s Indigenous past, present, and future to understand its role in relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

Hockey occupies a complicated space between Indigenous self-determination and ongoing settler colonialism in Canada, as in the past it served both oppressive and liberating roles for Indigenous people. According to Dr. McKegney, the sport was employed in residential schools and elsewhere as a tool of “colonial social engineering” designed to encourage Indigenous youth to shed connections with their traditional cultural values and enforce new, prescriptive identity formations. Conversely, many survivors of residential schools claim playing the game helped them endure the trauma of those years.

"This duality in hockey’s history could present a means through which to support Indigenous sovereignty, community well-being, and gender equality,” he says, “as well as to promote settler understanding of colonial history and potential pathways toward righting injustice. ”

From Friday, March 1 to Saturday, March 2, Dr. McKegney hosted 15 IHRN scholars and graduate students at the Queen’s Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts for a “visioning gathering”. These experts in sport history, sociology, gender theory, narrative studies, and filmmaking, together with Indigenous and non-Indigenous community advisors, worked to hone the research objectives and methodologies of the multi-year project.

“There was so much knowledge and experience present at the gathering in Kingston. To have that focus and attention on our work makes our projects that much stronger,” says Janice Forsyth, IHRN member and director of the First Nations Studies program at Western University. “The network is and will be an important site for us to share information, and to test and refine our ideas and analysis, as well as a critical source of support for the graduate student members, who now have a well-defined research community to rely on for assistance and feedback.”

Vision gathering participants also took time to develop skills and expertise necessary to best share their future findings, during a daylong series of workshops facilitated by Abenaki filmmaker Kim O’bomsawin. The IHRN team aims to produce a documentary film on the project as work progresses over the next five years.

In keeping with the project’s aim to promote community building, the vision gathering participants bonded further over a pick-up hockey game at the Leon’s Centre on the evening of March 1.

“Research on Indigenous hockey is really important because if we’re able to figure out the keys to positive experiences and skills and passions that last a lifetime, then that’s great,” says Mike Auksi, Ojibway/Estonian international and University of Toronto/Ryerson varsity hockey player. “On the other end of that, if we can figure out what’s leading to negative experiences or leading people to stop playing the game, then we may have a small part to play in improving that as well.”

Learn more about Dr. McKegney’s research project: “Decolonizing Sport: Indigeneity, Hockey, and Canadian Nationalism”.


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