Patty Wellborn



A photo of graduating students throwing their hats

UBCO is hosting a unique fall graduation ceremony Thursday. Students who graduated in 2020 and 2021 will now have the opportunity to toss their caps in celebration like these students did in 2018.

They’re baaack!

This week UBC Okanagan’s campus will be filled with students, now alumni, who graduated and were celebrated with a virtual ceremony during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 600 are returning to campus to take part in a special ceremony on November 10. The event will recognize the accomplishments of those who didn’t have the chance to experience that iconic opportunity of crossing the stage to receive their degree at a live graduation.

This will be the first time UBC Okanagan has hosted a fall graduation ceremony and it’s a special event for those who graduated in 2020 and 2021, says UBCO Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lesley Cormack. Those graduates were surveyed and many indicated they were interested in coming back to campus for a make-up graduation ceremony.

“These are students who completed their studies during a particularly difficult and disconnected time,” Dr. Cormack says. “While UBC honoured our graduates during the height of the pandemic with virtual ceremonies, nothing can compare to the distinction of an in-person event, complete with student speakers and a gym full of proud family members.”

Each ceremony will be complete with speeches from students and special moments to recognize people who received honorary degrees during the pandemic.

Evangeline Saclamacis, who graduated with an applied sciences degree in 2021, is currently working with an international renewable power generation business in Vancouver. She says there are a lot of emotions flowing as she looks forward to returning to UBCO for the ceremony and connecting with former classmates.

“I’m excited to see how the campus has changed since I was last there, and also inspired to see how much I have changed since I first started as a student in 2016,” she says. “UBCO was a place that not only allowed me to grow as an individual, but also allowed me to connect with people with similar aspirations and goals. I’m really excited to return and walk the stage, closing the chapter on my bachelor’s degree.”

Aneesha Thouli, who graduated from UBC Okanagan’s Health and Exercise Sciences program in 2020, is now back at school and is currently a third-year medical student in the Southern Medical Program based at UBCO.

“While this ceremony will look different than any of us expected, I’m grateful we have the chance finally to celebrate,” she says. “I think having been alumni for a few years gives us a unique perspective on the ceremony overall and gives us an opportunity to celebrate our successes in a totally different way than previous classes.”

Three ceremonies will take place on November 10, the first starting at 8:30 am with School of Engineering graduates. Following that, graduates in the School of Education, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science will cross the stage. The final ceremony takes place at 1:30 pm where graduates in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Development and the Faculty of Creative and Critical studies will be celebrated.

Rain Inaba graduated with an undergraduate degree in microbiology and remained at UBCO to begin his master’s in biochemistry and molecular biology. Inaba is excited to reconnect with the many friends he made while living in residences and says Thursday’s ceremony will allow his fellow graduates to relive past moments and finally celebrate with their families, friends and faculty members.

“With these ceremonies, alumni from all faculties are welcomed back to the campus we all called home for many years,” he says. “This is a day of deserved festivities and a moment of recognition for our graduates. Let us make the ceremonies loud and memorable for each of our classmates as they cross the stage.”

As they have already technically been conferred as UBCO graduates and are officially UBC alumni, these ceremonies will be slightly different from spring convocation. However, Dr. Cormack says every student, especially those who persevered with their studies online, should enjoy the moments of being celebrated at their own graduation ceremony.

“While different, these ceremonies will include many of the traditions of graduation to honour the profound achievements and celebrate the resiliency of these students,” Dr. Cormack says. “We’re proud to have these incredibly engaged alumni who are going out of their way to come back for their graduation. I’m looking forward to congratulating each and every one of them in person.”

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Young Grizzly Bear with Salmon

A UBCO researcher suspects misadventures with traps set to catch small furbearing animals are causing grizzly bears to damage and lose their front toes.

A UBC Okanagan researcher is suggesting changes to fur trapping practices to help prevent the accidental amputation of grizzly bear toes.

Dr. Clayton Lamb’s latest research, published recently in Wildlife Society, is calling attention to a small number of grizzly bears in the southeast corner of British Columbia missing toes on their front paws. While it’s not a large number of bears, Dr. Lamb says there is enough data to confirm that the accidental amputations, likely due to fur trapping bycatch, are frequent enough to raise concern.

Now a postdoctoral researcher with UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, and an experienced trapper himself, Dr. Lamb conducted a live-capture research project to better understand grizzly bear mortality as part of his PhD work at the University of Alberta. Lamb captured and collared almost 60 grizzlies. He noticed several of the bears were missing some of their front toes.

“These were not birth defects,” says Lamb. “Identifying how those toes were amputated and mitigating the source of amputation became one of the objectives of this study.”

Of the 57 bears captured, four were missing toes on one of their front feet, which could make it hard for the bears to dig for food or defend themselves. While the injuries had healed, they were all similar and Lamb suggests the wounds were from a misadventure with a trap designed to catch furbearers.

Small body‐gripping traps are used to capture martens or weasels and are typically set with a baited box attached to a tree, he explains. They can be set in early November and remain in place until late winter.

The researchers discussed the issue with trappers, Indigenous communities, scientists, conservation officers, wildlife managers and guide outfitters. Comparing data from other collaring projects in adjacent areas of BC, they found a pattern to the toe loss and even confirmed reports of grizzly bears killed with small mammal body-gripping traps still on their feet.

To test their theory, they set up four small mammal body-gripping traps—rigged so the traps could trigger but not fully close—and monitored them with remote cameras for two weeks. Grizzly bears visited all four traps and sprung two of them.

“Even with the small sample, it was clear that baited traps attracted bears and that bears set off the traps to get the food. We have pictures and videos showing the bears investigating the traps and manipulating the boxes with their paws.”

The researchers also determined it wasn’t the initial snap of the trap that caused the bears to lose their toes, but the prolonged duration of the trap stuck on their foot.

“The bone loss observed in the bears either happened from a weakening of the bone during necrosis and infection, or from force applied to the bone from the trap while the bear walked or ran with the trap still on its foot.”

Small mammal trapping is generally done in the early winter when fur is prime and most valuable. While some trappers voluntarily delay the start of their marten and weasel trapping season, Dr. Lamb is suggesting an official delay from November 1 to early December to buy the bears time to fully hibernate.

“Shifting the start of most trapping that coincides with the active bear season would eliminate the overlap, and trappers should generally be able to avoid accidentally catching bears,” he says. “This not only reduces the risk to the bears, but also prevents the traps from being destroyed by the bears.”

Another suggestion involved a different trap with a smaller, constricted entrance so most bear paws could not fit inside to grab the bait.

Neither suggestion is perfect. Dr. Lamb recognizes both will impact the trappers’ livelihood and require compliance monitoring, adding additional responsibilities to conservation officers.

“The most viable solution to the amputated toe issue requires that bears’ feet do not enter these traps at all,” he says. “The solutions we present have various pros and cons, and we hope this work can help policy-makers choose a solution that will resolve the amputated toe issue while ensuring trappers continue to have the important opportunity to trap furbearers.”

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A photo of a coral reef

A UBCO researcher has created a modelling program that can help scientists plan for the restoration and conservation of coral reefs impacted by climate change. Photo credit: Jean-Philippe Maréchal.

A UBC Okanagan research team has created a computer modelling program to help scientists predict the effect of climate damage and eventual restoration plans on coral reefs around the globe.

This is a critical objective, says Dr. Bruno Carturan, because climate change is killing many coral species and can lead to the collapse of entire coral reef ecosystems. But, because they are so complex, it’s logistically challenging to study the impact of devastation and regeneration of coral reefs.

Real-world experiments are impractical, as researchers would need to manipulate and disrupt large areas of reefs, along with coral colonies and herbivore populations, and then monitor the changes in structure and diversity over many years.

“Needless to say, conducting experiments that will disturb natural coral reefs is unethical and should be avoided, while using big aquariums is simply unfeasible,” says Dr. Carturan, who recently completed his doctoral studies with the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science. “For these reasons, no such experiments have ever been conducted, which has hindered our capacity to predict coral diversity and the associated resilience of the reefs.”

For his latest research, published recently in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Dr. Carturan used models to create 245 coral communities, each with a unique set of nine species and each occupying a surface of 25 square metres. The model represents coral colonies and different species of algae that grow, compete and reproduce together while also being impacted by climate.

Crucially, he notes, all the key components of the model, including species’ traits such as competitive abilities and growth rates, are informed by pre-existing, real-world data from 800 species.

The research team simulated various scenarios—including strong waves, a cyclone or intense heat—and then measured each model reef’s resilience taking note of damage, recovery time and the quality of the habitat 10 years after the disturbance.

By running so many scenarios with computer modelling, the team found that more diverse communities—those with species having highly dissimilar traits—were most resilient. They were better at recovering from damage and had greater habitat quality 10 years after the disturbances.

“More diverse communities are more likely to have certain species that are very important for resilience,” Dr. Carturan explains. “These species have particular traits—they are morphologically complex, competitive and with a good capacity to recover. When present in a community, these species maintained or even increased the quality of the habitat after the disturbance. Contrastingly, communities without these species were often dominated by harmful algae at the end.”

Coral diversity determines the strength and future health of coral reefs, he adds. Coral species are the foundation of coral reef ecosystems because their colonies form the physical habitat where thousands of fish and crustaceans live. Among those are herbivores, such as parrotfish and surgeonfish, which maintain the coral habitat by eating the algae. Without herbivores, the algae would kill many coral colonies, causing the coral habitat to collapse, destroying its many populations.

“What is unique with our study is that our results apply to most coral communities in the world. By measuring the effect of diversity on resilience in more than 245 different coral communities, the span of diversity likely overlaps the actual coral diversity found in most reefs.”

At the same time, the study provides a framework to successfully manage these ecosystems and help with coral reef restoration by revealing how the resilience of coral communities can be managed by establishing colonies of species with complementary traits.

Looking forward, there are other questions the model can help answer. For instance, the coral species vital for resilience are also the most affected by climate change and might not be able to recover if strong climatic heatwaves become too frequent.

“It is a very real, and sad conclusion that we might one day lose these important species,” Dr. Carturan says. “Our model could be used to experiment and perhaps determine if losing these species can be compensated by some other, more resistant ones, that would prevent the eventual collapse of the reefs.”

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