Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Abstracts - Environmental Science Seminar Series

Fall 2018

Thursdays, 4:00 - 4:50 pm in S203

View the full seminar schedule.

September 27
Bioinformatics studies on evolution of plant genomes and transposable elements
Lingling Jin, Associate Professor, Department of Computing Science, TRU

Evolution is an on-going process by which an organism’s DNA changes over time. It is extremely interesting in crops, because crops evolve rapidly which allows breeders to constantly select certain traits. The fast increasing number and diversity of sequenced genomes, in addition to advances in computational infrastructure and computing power, opens the door to analyzing the dynamics of evolution at a whole-genome resolution. In this talk, some biological and bioinformatics background will be discussed first, followed by an overview of studies on plant genome and transposable elements evolution. The newly established computational methods in these studies can be applied to any genome or multiple genomes with transposable elements for comparative analysis to advance our understanding about genome evolution.

October 4
Environmental applications of natural zeolites, the magic minerals!
Hossein Kazemian, Professor, Head, Northern Analytical Laboratory Services, UNBC

Environmental pollution (air, water and soil) has become a global challenge since beginning of the industrial revolution. Despite all scientific and technological advancement, because of very divers’ nature of environmental pollutants; developing affordable, yet effective materials and methods for environmental remediation is still a challenge that needs further research. Zeolites are valuable inorganic materials having a wide variety of applications as molecular sieves, ion-exchangers and catalysts. Generally, chemical formula of zeolites is: M2/nOAl2O3.xSiO2.yH2O, where M is the charge-balancing non-framework cation with valence n; x is 2.0 or more, and y is the moles of H2O. Although the SiO4 tetrahedra is charge balanced, the AlO4 tetrahedra has a negative charge balanced by a positive charge on M. The discovery of natural zeolites as widespread, mineable, near-monomineralic deposits in tuffaceous sedimentary rocks opened a new area of useful industrial minerals.  The surface and structural properties of zeolites have been exploited in industrial, agricultural, environmental, and biological technology. Like talc, diatomite, wollastonite, chrysotile, vermiculite, and bentonite, zeolite minerals possess attractive adsorption, cation-exchange, dehydration–rehydration, and catalysis properties, which contribute directly to their use in pozzolanic cement; as lightweight aggregates; in the drying of acid-gases; in the separation of oxygen from air; in the removal of ammonia, heavy metal cations and even anions such as chromate and arsenate, as well as organic contaminants such as VOC compounds  from drinking water, industrial, agricultural and municipal wastewater.  This multitude of uses of natural zeolites has prompted newspapers in Cuba, where large deposits have been discovered, to refer to zeolites as “the magic rock” (La Roca Magica). In this talk, some of my group’s works on environmental applications of natural zeolites will be discussed. The focus will be on our recent works on using Canadian natural zeolite in managing nutrients in contaminated water and soil/compost.

October 18
Human caused climate change at British Columbia’s ski resorts: past patterns and future forecasts
Michael Pidwirny, Associate Professor, Department of Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, UBCO

October 25
Global diversity of AM fungi – a plant ecologist’s view
Martin Zobel, Professor, Department of Botany, University of Tartu

Global diversity patterns have frequently been described for macroorganisms. Although there has been a recent bloom addressing microbial biodiversity on macro scales, our knowledge remains patchy. Even less is known about the spatial covariation of micro- and macroorganisms, either due to the similar response to environmental drivers, or due to functional relatedness. I shall address the biodiversity patterns of important plant symbionts – arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi – and ask why it is important and interesting for plant community ecology.

November 1
Plants on the move: roles of landscape structure and evolution in spreading populations 
Jennifer Williams, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, UBC

In an era of global environmental change, biological invasions and the migration of native species with climate change present two of the greatest disruptions to natural and managed ecosystems. I will discuss recent theoretical and experimental work that contributes to our understanding of the underlying ecological and evolutionary dynamics.

November 8
Title: TBD
Chandra Moffatt, AAFC
Abstract: TBD

November 15
In the Face of Increased Wildfire Activity, How Do We Build and Maintain Resilient Landscapes?
Bob Gray, Fire Ecologist, R.W. Gray Consulting Ltd., Chilliwack, BC

British Columbia has now experienced back to back fire seasons with burned area exceeding one million hectares/year. Hardest hit has been the Cariboo-Chilcotin Region. Climate change models suggest that the province could see a doubling or quadrupling of annual area burned by mid-century. In light of this sobering prognosis, is there anything that can be done to make our landscapes more resilient to wildfire? The Quesnel TSA Landscape Resilience Pilot Project is intended to determine just how to do that. This multi-phase, multi-disciplinary project will investigate novel new disturbance modeling systems to determine how to make our landscapes and the amenities we depend on more resilient to the coming wildfires. Phase I involves an analysis of historical reference conditions of forest pattern and process, the current departed condition, and the effect of climate change on the future range of variation. This analysis is intended to reveal how historic disturbance agents (wildfire, insects) affected seral stage distributions on the landscape and how that distribution of forest conditions in turn, influenced subsequent disturbance patterns. From this analysis of the past we can quantify how different our current landscapes are, and model what those landscapes are likely to look like under a future climate. Phase II involves modeling the spread and intensity of disturbance agents on past, current and future landscapes under a range of management alternatives and assessing the availability of a range of commodities under each alternative. The list of commodities includes, but is not limited to: First Nations traditional values, critical wildlife habitat, forest products, water, carbon, and smoke emissions.

November 22
Title: TBD
Shelly Johnson, Canada Research Chair, TRU
Abstract: TBD

November 29
Testosterone Rules: On Science, Fairness and the Problem With Slowing Women Down
Dr. Lisa Dawn Bavington, University of Otago

This November, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will enact a regulation that places further restrictions on endogenous testosterone levels in women’s middle-distance running events. The IAAF denies charges of sexism and racism: appealing to concerns about ensuring fairness to the majority of athletes, and citing new studies to justify the limited application to events where African women currently dominate. Consistent with its previous regulation suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the IAAF’s testosterone rules are not supported by the evidence. I discuss the hyperandrogenism controversy, showing how policy-makers assemble legitimacy around a theory of advantage in women and making explicit which female athletes are considered deserving of fairness, privacy and protection from harm. I conclude with the problem on the IAAF’s latest attempt to slow women down.