Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

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.”

The post Computer modelling aims to inform restoration, conservation of coral reefs appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

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.”

The post Computer modelling aims to inform restoration, conservation of coral reefs appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of the summit pyramid of Mount Everest

New research from Dr. Kyle Larson’s lab has been able to pinpoint a timeline of when the rocks atop the summit pyramid of Mount Everest were deformed as part of the growth of the Himalaya. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

It’s been a topic of debate among geologists for years—when did the deformation of rocks at the top of Mount Everest take place?

Over the years, several theories have been proposed—but none have stuck—until now.

In a recent study led by UBC Okanagan researcher Dr. Kyle Larson, the team found evidence that shows, for the first time, that the rocks atop Everest were deformed as part of the Himalaya’s development. Dr. Larson explains the rocks were sheared in response to the collision more than 45 million years ago between India and the Eurasian landmass. This collision is responsible for the development of the 3,000-kilometre-long Himalaya range between India, Nepal and Tibet.

Dr. Larson is a professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Director of the Fipke Laboratory for Trace Element Research. His latest study, published in Terra Nova discusses what this means for the future of geological research. Dr. Larson is also UBCO’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the Year.

Can you share some insight as to why determining when these rocks were deformed has been historically difficult?

Given the difficulties in just reaching the summit, including weather issues, the expense of an expedition—and the high altitude that affects physical performance and cognition—collecting samples from the top of Everest is not simple. And it can be potentially deadly.

Without the appropriate samples and the analytical techniques that can date the types of minerals in the summer rocks, as geologists, we’ve been scratching our heads for quite some time trying to figure out which of our theories made the most sense.

Some studies propose the summit rocks were deformed as part of the Himalayan collision, while others suggest it likely happened 500 million years earlier during the formation of the supercontinent, Gondwana. The bottom line is there was never a definitive answer.

What did your results reveal?

Our study shows these rocks were deformed as part of the development of the Himalaya range, specifically about 45 million years ago.

Interestingly, the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is very rare because typically deformation happens in discrete zones—it takes a lot of energy to deform rocks and it usually follows specific horizons of weakness in Earth’s crust.

Deformation of the entire crust at once indicates a large-scale change—or event. And if you look at what was happening regionally at this time, there was a plate tectonic reorganization in the South Pacific including a significant bend in the Emperor/Hawaiian seamount chain. This can be easily seen on Google Earth. This is why we argue that the top of Everest provides a “plate tectonic view” as it seems to record the time at which all this regional plate tectonic shift was happening.

How were you able to come to this conclusion?

We applied a relatively new method for dating rocks that was not previously possible. It looks at the amount of uranium and lead in the mineral calcite. Uranium is unstable and radiogenically decays to lead. Because we know how fast this happens, we can measure how much uranium versus how much lead was in the rocks to calculate its age exactly.

How will your results affect future research in this area?

Getting access to rocks from the summit of Mount Everest is rare, so this research is an excellent example of how we can take a small bit of rock and use the information we obtain through dating techniques to tell a massive plate tectonic story—it’s a pretty extraordinary process.

A photo of Mount Everest

Researchers have determined the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is a very rare occurrence and indicates a large-scale geographic change took place. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

The post UBCO prof digs into geological history of rocks atop Everest appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of the summit pyramid of Mount Everest

New research from Dr. Kyle Larson’s lab has been able to pinpoint a timeline of when the rocks atop the summit pyramid of Mount Everest were deformed as part of the growth of the Himalaya. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

It’s been a topic of debate among geologists for years—when did the deformation of rocks at the top of Mount Everest take place?

Over the years, several theories have been proposed—but none have stuck—until now.

In a recent study led by UBC Okanagan researcher Dr. Kyle Larson, the team found evidence that shows, for the first time, that the rocks atop Everest were deformed as part of the Himalaya’s development. Dr. Larson explains the rocks were sheared in response to the collision more than 45 million years ago between India and the Eurasian landmass. This collision is responsible for the development of the 3,000-kilometre-long Himalaya range between India, Nepal and Tibet.

Dr. Larson is a Professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Director of the Fipke Laboratory for Trace Element Research. His latest study, published in Terra Nova discusses what this means for the future of geological research. Dr. Larson is also UBCO’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the Year.

Can you share some insight as to why determining when these rocks were deformed has been historically difficult?

Given the difficulties in just reaching the summit, including weather issues, the expense of an expedition—and the high altitude that affects physical performance and cognition—collecting samples from the top of Everest is not simple. And it can be potentially deadly.

Without the appropriate samples and the analytical techniques that can date the types of minerals in the summer rocks, as geologists, we’ve been scratching our heads for quite some time trying to figure out which of our theories made the most sense.

Some studies propose the summit rocks were deformed as part of the Himalayan collision, while others suggest it likely happened 500 million years earlier during the formation of the supercontinent, Gondwana. The bottom line is there was never a definitive answer.

What did your results reveal?

Our study shows these rocks were deformed as part of the development of the Himalaya range, specifically about 45 million years ago.

Interestingly, the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is very rare because typically deformation happens in discrete zones—it takes a lot of energy to deform rocks and it usually follows specific horizons of weakness in Earth’s crust.

Deformation of the entire crust at once indicates a large-scale change—or event. And if you look at what was happening regionally at this time, there was a plate tectonic reorganization in the South Pacific including a significant bend in the Emperor/Hawaiian seamount chain. This can be easily seen on Google Earth. This is why we argue that the top of Everest provides a “plate tectonic view” as it seems to record the time at which all this regional plate tectonic shift was happening.

How were you able to come to this conclusion?

We applied a relatively new method for dating rocks that was not previously possible. It looks at the amount of uranium and lead in the mineral calcite. Uranium is unstable and radiogenically decays to lead. Because we know how fast this happens, we can measure how much uranium versus how much lead was in the rocks to calculate its age exactly.

How will your results affect future research in this area?

Getting access to rocks from the summit of Mount Everest is rare, so this research is an excellent example of how we can take a small bit of rock and use the information we obtain through dating techniques to tell a massive plate tectonic story—it’s a pretty extraordinary process.

A photo of Mount Everest

Researchers have determined the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is a very rare occurrence and indicates a large-scale geographic change took place. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

The post UBCO prof digs into geological history of rocks atop Everest appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of the summit pyramid of Mount Everest

New research from Dr. Kyle Larson’s lab has been able to pinpoint a timeline of when the rocks atop the summit pyramid of Mount Everest were deformed as part of the growth of the Himalaya. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

It’s been a topic of debate among geologists for years—when did the deformation of rocks at the top of Mount Everest take place?

Over the years, several theories have been proposed—but none have stuck—until now.

In a recent study led by UBC Okanagan researcher Dr. Kyle Larson, the team found evidence that shows, for the first time, that the rocks atop Everest were deformed as part of the Himalaya’s development. Dr. Larson explains the rocks were sheared in response to the collision more than 45 million years ago between India and the Eurasian landmass. This collision is responsible for the development of the 3,000-kilometre-long Himalaya range between India, Nepal and Tibet.

Dr. Larson is a Professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Director of the Fipke Laboratory for Trace Element Research. His latest study, published in Terra Nova discusses what this means for the future of geological research. Dr. Larson is also UBCO’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the Year.

Can you share some insight as to why determining when these rocks were deformed has been historically difficult?

Given the difficulties in just reaching the summit, including weather issues, the expense of an expedition—and the high altitude that affects physical performance and cognition—collecting samples from the top of Everest is not simple. And it can be potentially deadly.

Without the appropriate samples and the analytical techniques that can date the types of minerals in the summer rocks, as geologists, we’ve been scratching our heads for quite some time trying to figure out which of our theories made the most sense.

Some studies propose the summit rocks were deformed as part of the Himalayan collision, while others suggest it likely happened 500 million years earlier during the formation of the supercontinent, Gondwana. The bottom line is there was never a definitive answer.

What did your results reveal?

Our study shows these rocks were deformed as part of the development of the Himalaya range, specifically about 45 million years ago.

Interestingly, the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is very rare because typically deformation happens in discrete zones—it takes a lot of energy to deform rocks and it usually follows specific horizons of weakness in Earth’s crust.

Deformation of the entire crust at once indicates a large-scale change—or event. And if you look at what was happening regionally at this time, there was a plate tectonic reorganization in the South Pacific including a significant bend in the Emperor/Hawaiian seamount chain. This can be easily seen on Google Earth. This is why we argue that the top of Everest provides a “plate tectonic view” as it seems to record the time at which all this regional plate tectonic shift was happening.

How were you able to come to this conclusion?

We applied a relatively new method for dating rocks that was not previously possible. It looks at the amount of uranium and lead in the mineral calcite. Uranium is unstable and radiogenically decays to lead. Because we know how fast this happens, we can measure how much uranium versus how much lead was in the rocks to calculate its age exactly.

How will your results affect future research in this area?

Getting access to rocks from the summit of Mount Everest is rare, so this research is an excellent example of how we can take a small bit of rock and use the information we obtain through dating techniques to tell a massive plate tectonic story—it’s a pretty extraordinary process.

A photo of Mount Everest

Researchers have determined the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is a very rare occurrence and indicates a large-scale geographic change took place. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

The post UBCO prof digs into geological history of rocks atop Everest appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of the summit pyramid of Mount Everest

New research from Dr. Kyle Larson’s lab has been able to pinpoint a timeline of when the rocks atop the summit pyramid of Mount Everest were deformed as part of the growth of the Himalaya. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

It’s been a topic of debate among geologists for years—when did the deformation of rocks at the top of Mount Everest take place?

Over the years, several theories have been proposed—but none have stuck—until now.

In a recent study led by UBC Okanagan researcher Dr. Kyle Larson, the team found evidence that shows, for the first time, that the rocks atop Everest were deformed as part of the Himalaya’s development. Dr. Larson explains the rocks were sheared in response to the collision more than 45 million years ago between India and the Eurasian landmass. This collision is responsible for the development of the 3,000-kilometre-long Himalaya range between India, Nepal and Tibet.

Dr. Larson is a Professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Director of the Fipke Laboratory for Trace Element Research. His latest study, published in Terra Nova discusses what this means for the future of geological research. Dr. Larson is also UBCO’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the Year.

Can you share some insight as to why determining when these rocks were deformed has been historically difficult?

Given the difficulties in just reaching the summit, including weather issues, the expense of an expedition—and the high altitude that affects physical performance and cognition—collecting samples from the top of Everest is not simple. And it can be potentially deadly.

Without the appropriate samples and the analytical techniques that can date the types of minerals in the summer rocks, as geologists, we’ve been scratching our heads for quite some time trying to figure out which of our theories made the most sense.

Some studies propose the summit rocks were deformed as part of the Himalayan collision, while others suggest it likely happened 500 million years earlier during the formation of the supercontinent, Gondwana. The bottom line is there was never a definitive answer.

What did your results reveal?

Our study shows these rocks were deformed as part of the development of the Himalaya range, specifically about 45 million years ago.

Interestingly, the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is very rare because typically deformation happens in discrete zones—it takes a lot of energy to deform rocks and it usually follows specific horizons of weakness in Earth’s crust.

Deformation of the entire crust at once indicates a large-scale change—or event. And if you look at what was happening regionally at this time, there was a plate tectonic reorganization in the South Pacific including a significant bend in the Emperor/Hawaiian seamount chain. This can be easily seen on Google Earth. This is why we argue that the top of Everest provides a “plate tectonic view” as it seems to record the time at which all this regional plate tectonic shift was happening.

How were you able to come to this conclusion?

We applied a relatively new method for dating rocks that was not previously possible. It looks at the amount of uranium and lead in the mineral calcite. Uranium is unstable and radiogenically decays to lead. Because we know how fast this happens, we can measure how much uranium versus how much lead was in the rocks to calculate its age exactly.

How will your results affect future research in this area?

Getting access to rocks from the summit of Mount Everest is rare, so this research is an excellent example of how we can take a small bit of rock and use the information we obtain through dating techniques to tell a massive plate tectonic story—it’s a pretty extraordinary process.

A photo of Mount Everest

Researchers have determined the rocks at the top of Everest were deformed at the same time as the rocks at the base of the Himalaya, more than 50 kilometres below Earth’s surface. This is a very rare occurrence and indicates a large-scale geographic change took place. Photo credit: Kyle Larson.

The post UBCO prof digs into geological history of rocks atop Everest appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

The post Gold-medal tennis player, human rights activist win UBCO honours appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

The post Gold-medal tennis player, human rights activist win UBCO honours appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

The post Gold-medal tennis player, human rights activist win UBCO honours appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

The post Gold-medal tennis player, human rights activist win UBCO honours appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.