Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A move to Churchill

Well I have been absent from here for quite awhile but want to direct your attention some new work I am involved with at the CNSC...stay tuned!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Gordon Street Hill

Almost everyday I bike (ok in winter I walk) up the hill to the university. Earlier this year some wonderfully encouraging signs appeared on hydro poles lining the bike lane.

"Keep going!" and "You're almost there!"

Well, eventually those disappeared, but this week were replaced with several signs with slogans such as the one below (top sign):

As a thank-you to this wonderful anonymous sign leaver, my housemate and I added our own addition to these signs (bottom one).

Interestingly, I think the trudge up this hill is much like academia. Sometimes you just don't want to do it. But then, something clicks and you are almost like a stunt biker (ugh almost).

Friday, March 4, 2011

More in the R Art Series...

With the digital age (ok so we are way past digital) has come more and more options for visual learners as well as some truly amazing collaboration tools. Times have changed even since I was a kid. Ok, so I never used an abacus in school (though I distinctly remember my kindergarten classroom having one), and I definitely used my parent's old side rule as a glorified ruler. But still I remember computers with roll balls so I'd like to think I can call those the "old days".

Because of advances like webcams, screen sharing programs, and google docs to name a few; teaching, learning and communicating has become infinitely easier. But every once in a while we get a wake up call that reminds us just how important good, descriptive language skills are. A friend of mine is working on a program evaluation of a diabetes treatment program at a public health clinic in Nicaragua. Now if you complain and whine about statistics and R long enough it is inevitable that one of two things will happen. Either your friends will stop listening, or they will ask you for help (notice I didn't say "you will get good at statistics and R"). So my friend asked me for some advice on the statistical part of her evaluation and I (eager to apply my "skills" to the real world) agreed. And here enters the communication wake-up call. It can be tricky to introduce someone to R, let alone if they need to use it for multivariate statistics. Now try that explanation verbally, over Skype and while the the other person is in Central America. Needless to say you may end up with some particularly stunning graphics that, like some of my previous R abstract art are worthy of display. Here's an example:

The great thing about this plot is it actually sort of does what it is supposed to (guess)! And you learn a word in Spanish (Fecha= date).

So to my friend and her newly minted trials and tribulations with R- Great job so far! And I'll get back to the rest of the help I said I'd do...when I'm done procrastinating here...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The buzz about kids and science

Marc Cadotte has this great research blog called The Eeb and Flow. It is full of interesting tidbits from the world of ecology, but this one about "The Bees of Blackawton" is especially worth a read. I think whenever I get discouraged by the world of publication I will just remember this article and work a little harder.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Translating research

Many of you have probably seen the comic "The Science News Cycle" from phd comics.

I like this comic because it pokes fun at a common frustration voiced by scientists (perhaps more so in high profile medical research than ecology but still...). However I also appreciate this comic because it reminds me that knowledge transfer is not solely the responsibility of the media. Yes, that is their job and there are some stellar journalists out there. But we have to remember that journalists, like scientists are also limited by time resources, money and external/internal pressures. Though in their case that may be the public rather than an University department or funding agency. What this means is that that scientists also have the responsibility to get relevant information from their research out to those who need and can put it to use. I think this is as important as the research itself.

I thought it would be fun to recreate the above comic with insertions from my own research (i.e. this is what could happen with my research...well ok, only if it was high profile enough to get picked up by the U of G's PR department):

No matter what type of research you are doing. Think about where it is going and who could use it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sustainability at the University of Guelph

Students arguably shape attitude and policy on university campuses, and rightly so. Universities have much to offer students: an open learning environment, mentors a plenty and a world of resources. Universities also offer a platform where students can organize themselves around interests and issues. Sometimes these issues involve the University itself. Sustainability and climate change are two such issues.

In late January, the University of Guelph's President's Task Force on Sustainability released an interim report on the state of sustainability issues and views on campus. As a response to this report as well as coverage by the local press, here is a letter myself and a few friends wrote to the Guelph Mercury.

Needless to say, I feel that the U of G has a long ways to go in terms of facing climate change issues and reducing negative impacts. The good news is I firmly feel that the University has the resources and motivated individuals to do so, but we can't be complacent. Just thinking about this is not enough, we need to move forward with actions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A school for Attawapiskat

This blog started as a collection of stories from my first field season in Churchill, continued onto a 2nd field season and now is a bit of a forum for sharing news related to my MSc and the activities of the other Planktoneers. I've come across an article that I wish to share and I feel it is appropriate to use as many channels as possible, hence this posting.

This article is about the Cree community of Attawapiskat and their fight for a new elementary school.

Additional information can also be found here.

We talk a lot about education in my lab and usually we focus on education at the post-secondary level, debating the merits of new methods in undergraduate education and perhaps sometimes lamenting resistance we may face in our departments and from students when confronted with new ideas in teaching. However, we take for granted the base education that has gotten all of us to this post-secondary level; our time spent at the elementary and high school levels. However we feel about the education we have received in the past, or the direction we feel the education system is going...we can't deny that many of us have been very fortunate. During the holiday season we often think more about inequality in the world (and rightly so), but let's not forget about similar issues facing people in our own backyard.