Wednesday, September 20 – Honouring Science Communication
Join us as we partner with the Ontario Science Centre and Science Literacy Week to honour author Simon Shapiro for his outstanding contribution to science writing for youth. Shapiro will be presented the SWCC Youth Book Award for his book Faster Higher Smarter, which looks at the science behind inventions and improvements in sports – from swimming to basketball and skateboarding to wheelchair athletics.
Hear Shapiro talk about Faster Higher Smarter and ask him your questions about research, writing and communicating science.
Hot Zone, Level 6
Included with general admission
As part of Science Literacy Week the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC) and the Royal BC Museum join forces for a dynamic evening discovering the myriad ways to effectively communicate the relevance of science.
From the powerful written language in a book or text panel in a museum to multimedia exhibitions, how the concepts of science are crafted makes all the difference in making an authentic and meaningful impact on an audience.
The evening will begin with a Science in Society book award presentation by Jude Isabella Editor in Chief at Hakai Magazine and former Vice President of SWCC to Mark Leiren-Young for his book The Killer Whale Who Changed the World.
The event will also feature local innovators in science communication, with talks by spider scientist Catherine Scott and science photographer Sean McCann representing Science Borealis, and art-science experiences from Vancouver's Curiosity Collider.
Follow the event on Twitter: #ScicommNightBC
Date: September 22nd, 2017
Time: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria
About Mark Leiren-Young
Mark Leiren-Young was swallowed by a whale named Moby Doll. Mark is directing a feature documentary about Moby and his short documentary The Hundred-Year-Old Whale, debuts at festivals this fall. He hosts the popular podcast, Skaana, about orcas, oceans and the environment (www.skaana.org). Mark is also a playwright whose work has been produced around the world. He has two plays running in Vancouver this season — Shylock is at Bard on the Beach in September and Bar Mitzvah Boy debuts at Pacific Theatre in March, 2018. www.leiren-young.com @leirenyoung
Representing the Canadian science blog aggregator Science Borealis, Catherine Scott and Sean McCann will be at #SciCommNightBC to talk spiders! Here's a little more about these scientists:
About Catherine Scott
Catherine Scott is a behavioural ecologist and arachnologist who studies sexual communication in spiders. A former arachnophobe, she is passionate about trying to shift perceptions about these fascinating creatures by engaging in science communication. Catherine blogs about spiders at spiderbytes.org and you can also find her on twitter (@Cataranea), where she is always happy to answer questions about spiders and other arachnids.
About Sean McCann
Dr. Sean McCann is a behavioural ecologist, entomologist and wildlife photographer who specializes in capturing the natural history of arthropods through imagery. He studies diverse animals, from mosquitoes, wasps, ants and spiders to barn owls and other raptors. Sean blogs about natural history and shares his photography at Ibycter.com and tweets as @Ibycter.
At the event, keep an eye out for work by these two amazing science artists: Erick James and Larissa Blokhuis!
About Erick James
As a biologist and artist, Erick uses art as a form of science outreach. His pieces convey the wonders of the natural world to the audience. Erick has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of British Columbia and an Honors Metal Certificate from the Kootenay School of the Arts at Selkirk College. Erick has worked and studied in labs for more than 20 years and still finds wonder there. It is this curiosity and excitement for the natural world that Erick brings to his art. In larger than life metal microbes, scanning electron micrographs in gilded frames and framed fixed specimen slides, the often invisible are made visible. At #SciCommNightBC, Erick will be displaying his work “Fixed”.
About Larissa Blokhuis
Larissa’s art is inspired by the evolutionary history of plants, and the repetition of life cycles. Her current focus on using glass and mixed media by incorporating ceramic, steel, wool, polymer, and wood as needed has allowed her to develop a distinctive style.
The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age investigates the major shifts and disruptors in news and journalism – the broken business model, under-development of digital-only news providers and consolidation of digital distribution revenues by Google and Facebook. Join Chris Dornan, Associate Professor, Carleton University for a presentation that explores the report findings and a discussion of the recommendations that aim to ensure the news media and journalists continue in their role as the watchdogs over our elected representatives and public institutions and the connective tissue within our communities. The full report is available online at shatteredmirror.ca.
Christopher Dornan is an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.
He holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University, an M.A. in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge, and a Ph.D. in Communication from McGill University. He taught for two years at Cornell University before joining the faculty at Carleton in 1987.
He has worked as a reporter for the Edmonton Journal, an editor and editorial writer for the Ottawa Citizen, and a columnist for The Globe and Mail and CBC National Radio. In 2006 he was Erasmus Mundus visiting scholar at the Danish School of Journalism and the University of Århus.
Among other venues, his academic work has appeared in Critical Studies in Communication, the Media Studies Journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Topia, Journalism Studies, and the research reports of The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing.
He is the co-editor (with Jon Pammett) of The Canadian Federal Election of 2015 (Dundurn Press) along with five previous volumes in this series.
He was a principal writer and editor for both volumes of the 2012 government-mandated Aerospace Review (the Emerson Report), the Canadian Space Agency’s 2014 Space Policy Framework, and the Public Policy Forum’s 2016 report on the state of the Canadian news media, Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age.
At Carleton, he served for nine years as director of the School of Journalism and Communication, and for six years as associate dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs and director of the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs.
Registration is now open for the 46th annual SWCC conference and annual meeting. Check out the Preliminary Program to learn about this and other sessions and make plans to join us in Ottawa! Early Bird Registration closes Aug 15
Early Bird Registration
Registration is now open for the 46th annual SWCC conference and annual meeting. Check out the Preliminary Program and make plans to join us in Ottawa!
The People behind the Story
Sept 13 -16, Ottawa
The Science Writers and Communicators of Canada annual conference takes place in Ottawa from September 13 to 16, 2017. The theme of this year’s conference is The People behind the Story. The SWCC 2017 conference will explore the important and changing roles of journalists, communicators, scientists, artists, and knowledge mobilizers and translators, and how we can work effectively together to promote scientific literacy and demonstrate the value of science. The Science Writers and Communicators of Canada - formerly the Canadian Science Writers Association - has a renewed mandate to embrace all professionals with a passion for communicating science. Come join us in Ottawa to learn more!
The tabulation of votes on a new constitution is now complete and the result was definitive: of 72 participants, 68 were in favour. These numbers would have impressed the founders of our organization, who never had more than a couple of dozen people available at a membership-wide meeting to vote on such an important matter. With our now routine ability to circulate such a document electronically to the entire membership, we have been able to ensure that one and all could see it for themselves, a mainstay of any democratic practice. I should also add that along the way I received messages of encouragement and gratitude from members who welcome our moves to create a more broadly based, inclusive organization of science communicators, as well as thoughtful critiques from others who want to ensure that this process did not sacrifice any of our longstanding values, such as a commitment to supporting excellence in science journalism.
This vote also confirms the success of our hard-working committee led by Sylviane Duval, which never flagged in its desire to ensure all the I’s were dotted and all the T’s were crossed. I reflected on this dogged determination one chilly morning last fall, as I attended a teleconference in our lawyer’s office in Kingston with the entire committee on the line from all parts of the country. In addition to Sylviane, who lives in rural eastern Ontario, those members are Shelley McIvor in Nanaimo, Jennifer Gagné in Canmore, Pippa Wysong and Ivan Seminiuk in Toronto, and of course, the indefatigable Janice Benthin — den mother to us all — in Montreal. At the risk of sounding like some kind of manic bureaucrat, I shall always cherish this occasion, because it spoke loudly not just to the dedication of the people who make up our organization, but the reach we have been able to achieve within Canada’s widely scattered population.
And now, with the approval of this new constitution, we can move forward in some exciting ways. The most immediate change will be to the next round of elections for seats on our Board of Directors, which will now be open to nominees from the entire membership. Eventually, that will include the president’s chair, but you will have to wait until next year (when I step down once and for all, promise!).
At the same time, we will be launching a new permanent committee that will break new ground as a national watchdog on the calibre of science journalism and science communication generally. This body represents nothing less than a frontier for us, an unprecedented public forum for hashing out a wide range of important topics that are often much talked-about informally, but until now have had few formal venues. If you are interested in taking part, we will be circulating information about this committee in the weeks to come.
And finally, there is the most difficult job of all: getting used to a new name. I first became involved with the Canadian Science Writers’ Association in 1984, thanks to my mentor Mack Laing, who was among its founders in 1971. I am hesitant to reflect on what respective proportions of our membership were born after these dates, but suffice it to say that over the decades the acronym “CSWA” has become second nature for me. It will take some time to get used to SWCC, but that will only come with practice, and there is no time like the present to begin. So let me be the first to say to all of you: welcome to the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada.
by Meredith Hanel
Learning and play are two sides of the same coin for kids who get a classroom visit from Let’s Talk Science (LTS), a free of charge, national science outreach program. Besides fun, undergraduate and graduate students, who volunteer with LTS, want kids to take away new knowledge and a love for science. LTS volunteers take away their own benefits from the experience too. For example, being routinely bombarded by kid questions teaches them to think about and explain science more clearly, something that helps them in their own science careers.
Science Odyssey is a 10 day Canada wide celebration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) established by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to foster a strong science culture. For Science Odyssey 2017, Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC) connected me with the McMaster University LTS team and I joined them in bringing some of their hands-on/minds-on workshops to young students. Here I’ll give you the highlights of what we did and some of the things LTS volunteers told me they like about working with children and youth.
For grade ones and twos at Beverley Central School in Troy Ontario, we made science relevant to their world at the playground by discussing how familiar playground equipment like slides, teeter-totters and roundabouts are simple machines that can move them and their friends up and down and around. Then they got to build their own miniature playground equipment.
Kids love animals and we had no trouble getting them to explore and discuss animal adaptations in the arctic. They got to try on a lard-filled mitt and dip their hand in cold water to feel how blubber keeps animals warm.
For the grade 2/3 lesson on friction we had fun imagining being in a room with no friction whatsoever which the students concluded would be fun but dangerous! Students got to measure the ability of an object to slide along various types of surfaces. Kids LOVE being asked what they think will happen and the freedom in doing experiments to see for themselves what will happen rather then just being told.
I especially enjoyed the Dynamic Dinosaurs presentation for Homeschoolers on Campus, because I got to bring my five-year-old son along. Everyone got the idea that digging for dinosaur bones would require patience as they simulated the experience by carefully digging out chocolate chips out of cookies with only a pair of toothpicks. They touched real fossils, made their own take-home fossils and then acted like dinosaurs in a huge dinosaur scene that ended with a dramatic asteroid hit that caused them to die and finally they turned into fossils themselves.
LTS Volunteer Shawn Hercules who is a Ph.D. student in the Biology Department at McMaster told me he loves talking to kids about dinosaurs. “I hope the children leave inspired to love science as much as I do. I want them to have fun while learning science as well”, says Hercules.
Both LTS presenters Shawn Hercules and Sawayra Owais, an M.Sc. student in neuroscience told me they get satisfaction from imparting science knowledge to young students. Sawayra says it feels great to be able to guide students through new topics. “It's really that idea and hope that kids will be excited about learning something new, and then want to share that knowledge with others, is what gets my gears going”, says Owais. One of the things that really makes her smile is when “students, often those of a younger age, ask you such extraordinary questions that you often wonder if you should be running your thesis experiment, or them”.
Shawn thinks that having children ask him questions he hasn’t thought about before makes him a more critical thinker. He adds that “Volunteering with LTS increases my ability to communicate really huge concepts into really small, digestible bits and pieces for various age levels.”
I see science culture in Canada growing both from the kids who experience LTS workshops, viewing science as approachable and fun, and from the University science students who volunteer with LTS. They will form a generation of STEM professionals, more willing and able to communicate with society.
There is a curious kid inside every scientist or science student and a scientist inside every kid who explores his or her world through play. When organizations like LTS and events like Science Odyssey bring these two groups together, it benefits us all.
Meredith is a science writer who once enjoyed life in the lab as a biomedical researcher. She blogs at BiologyBizarre and tweets @MeredithHanel
The Science Writers and Communicators of Canada is pleased to announce the winners of this year's awards for books published in 2016.
In the youth category the winner is:
Faster Higher Smarter by Simon Shapiro
It takes a lot of talent, skill, and hard work to become a world-class athlete. But it takes even more to make a sport better: it takes smarts! And whether innovators are aware of it or not, it takes an understanding of physics, mechanics, and aerodynamics to come up with better techniques and equipment. From swimming, soccer, and basketball to skateboarding and wheelchair sports, Faster Higher Smarter looks at the hard science behind many inventions and improvements in sports.
In the general audience category the winner is:
The Killer Whale Who Changed The World by Mark Leiren-Young
Killer whales had always been seen as bloodthirsty sea monsters. That all changed when a young killer whale was captured off the west coast of North America and displayed to the public in 1964. Moby Doll — as the whale became known — was an instant celebrity, drawing 20,000 visitors on the one and only day he was exhibited. He died within a few months, but his famous gentleness sparked a worldwide crusade that transformed how people understood and appreciated orcas. Because of Moby Doll, we stopped fearing “killers” and grew to love and respect “orcas.”
'The Killer Whale Who Changed the World' is a riveting and uniquely Canadian science story about how the first observations of a captive orca transformed the understanding of this species and inspired an international conservation effort. It unfolds through lively narrative filled with suspense, clarity and humour to reveal the pivotal role played by a group of Canadian scientists, businessmen and the founding director of the Vancouver Aquarium. The author, science journalist Mark Leiren-Young, chased the story for almost 20 years. We unanimously wish to honour his effort and persistence in chasing and investigating this story, as well as underlying the originality and ongoing relevance of the story. 'The Killer Whale Who Changed the World’ is a must read by all who care about nature, species conservation, and animal welfare, and an eloquent example of excellent science journalism.
Science Writers and Communicators of Canada offer two annual book awards to honour outstanding contributions to science writing 1) intended for and available to children/middle grades ages 8-12 years, and 2) intended for and available to the general public. Books are judged on literary excellence and scientific content and accuracy. In addition the two book juries look for initiative, originality, clarity of interpretation, relevance and value in promoting greater understanding of science by the general reader. The independent juries are composed of writers, scientists and members of the intended audience. Winners receive a certificate and cash prize of $1,000. The prizes will be presented at the SWCC annual conference in Ottawa, Sept 13-16.
CSWA, University of Calgary & Loose Moose Theatre
by Jennifer Bon Bernard
I recently had the privilege of participating in an improvisation course called: Act Your Science. The aim of the course was to provide the foundational skills for improvisation, which in turn would improve our public speaking and science communication skills. However, it turned out to be so much more!
Dennis Cahill, the Artictic Director at Loose Moose Theatre, directed each 2 hr. session, which ran for five weeks. Dennis’s directorship was always filled with compassion, clarity and patience. He shared his extensive improvisation knowledge and experience in such a fun manner we were excited to engage in a learning process that always resulted in full-fledged laugher!
The following core principles of improv were taught and repeated in each session. As you will see, the fundamental principles of improv can be applied to any relational interaction that one engages in, not just when performing on stage.
The importance of being present in the moment was a central theme throughout this course. It is critical that improv participants enter into interactions with pristine active listening, as nothing is rehearsed before the interaction occurs. The interactions that had the greatest impact and resulted in the most laughter occurred during the most authentic moments of exchange.
“Don’t think. Get Out of Your Head. Stop Planning and Just Go”
Dennis encouraged participants to say ‘YES’ when called to participate on ‘stage’. By the end of the five sessions, it seemed that everyone was jumping up to participate! I have to admit that I had to restrain myself to saying YES to allow others the opportunity to say YES! Dennis made sure to repeat that when we take chances, our learning is expanded.
“Just say Yes and You’ll Figure it Out Afterwards.”
Dennis was commonly heard saying “mistakes are good” and “don’t be afraid to make them!” We were always encouraged to be okay with making a mistake and to respond in a light-hearted manner when they occur with laughter and ease. Dennis wanted us to always remember that the audience is on our side and want nothing more than for us to succeed!
“If You Stumble Make It Part of the Dance”
The goal of this course was more then achieved! I feel confident in suggesting that all of the participants will be more present, take chances more often and be okay with making mistakes in future speaking opportunities. For myself, this introduction to improv has transformed into ensuring that I make it a life long hobby that I will regularly participate in. It the meantime, until we connect again, I will end by saying:
“It is Always Sad When a Good Show Comes to an End!”
Jennifer Bon Bernard:
Jennifer Bon Bernard is a graduate student at University of Calgary in the department of Community Health Sciences. She always enjoys having fun and exploring her artistic soul whenever the opportunity arises. Improv has brought so much laughter and happiness to her life that she will continue to make this apart of her creative journey forever! Jennifer highly recommends that if you ever the opportunity to enroll in an improv class that you say “YES!”
Act Your Science is the result of a collaboration between the University of Calgary, the Canadian Science Writers Association and Loose Moose Theatre. Act Your Science is scheduled to take place again at the University of Calgary in early summer 2017. Fifteen spaces are available for the five two hour sessions. CSWA members as well as University of Calgary science graduate students are invited to participate at no cost. Yes there will be additional field trips to Loose Moose Theater and a few pub nights because the fun just doesn't want to stop once you learn to listen, take chances and laugh together without the fear of making a mistake.
Inside Your Insides by Claire Eamer
“Wherever you go, tiny hitchhikers tag along for the ride,” this intriguing illustrated nonfiction book begins. “The hitchhikers are actually microbes --- tiny living things so small that you need a microscope to see them. And every person carries around trillions and trillions of these critters.” Six of the most common “critters” that live in and on our bodies are introduced here: bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, protists and mites. Each one has its own preferred environment, and readers will be startled (and likely a little grossed out!) by the many places they live, including the hair follicles on our faces, the folds of our tongues and the lengths of our guts. Just as surprising, only some of them are “bad guys” that cause disease, and many of them are actually “good guys” that keep us healthy. There's even research currently being done on ways to improve or fix our collection of microbes as a way to make us healthier.
Monster Science by Helaine Becker
“What if the terrifying creatures of your nightmares were indeed prowling the big, wide world beyond your blankie?” begins the intriguing premise of this book. “Could they really exist? And if so, how?” In a completely original approach to exploring science, award-winning author Helaine Becker places six different kinds of monsters --- Frankenstein, vampires, bigfoot, zombies, werewolves and sea monsters --- under her microscope to expose the proven scientific principles behind the legends. For example, the chapter on Frankenstein delves into how electricity and organ transplants work in the human body, and whether they could really bring someone back to life --- all presented in short, readable sections.
To Burp or Not To Burp by Dr. Dave Williams and Loredana Cunti
Find out what happens to your body in space—from someone who’s been there. Of all the questions astronauts are asked by kids, the most frequent one is “How do you go to the toilet in space?” This book not only answers that question, but many others about the effect of zero gravity on the human body: How do you brush your hair in space? What happens when you sweat? What does food taste like? The best thing is that the answers are provided by someone who speaks from first-hand experience: Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut who has accomplished three space walks.
Dinosaurs of the Deep by Larry Vestraete
Driving across the North American Heartland, surrounded by prairie, it is almost impossible to imagine that this was once a huge inland sea. The Western Interior Seaway, which split the entire continent of North America in half, once teemed with predatory creatures—fanged fish and turtles the size of small cars; prowling sharks and giant squid; hungry plesiosaurs and immense crocodiles.Through a cooperative partnership with the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC), home to ‘Bruce’, the world’s largest mosasaur skeleton, author Larry Verstraete and paleoartist Julius Csotonyi combine fascinating facts, astonishing discoveries, and the latest paleontological information to bring the ancient marine creatures of the Seaway to vivid life.
A Field Guide To Lies: Critical Thinking In The Information Age
Daniel J. Levitin
It's becoming harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff. How do we distinguish misinformation, pseudo-facts, distortions and outright lies from reliable information? In A Field Guide to Lies, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin outlines the many pitfalls of the information age and provides the means to spot and avoid them.
The Killer Whale Who Changed The World
B. Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta
In the 150 years since we discovered that microbes cause infectious diseases, we’ve battled to keep them at bay. But a recent explosion of scientific knowledge has led to undeniable evidence that early exposure to these organisms is beneficial to our children’s well-being. It turns out that our current emphasis on hyper-cleanliness and poor diets are taking a toll on our children’s lifelong health.
Opium Eater: The New Confessions
Amid headlines of overdoses and galloping addiction rates, an outspoken and darkly comic dispatch from the new Age of Opium. North Americans are the world's most compulsive and prolific users of legal opioids. Carlyn Zwarenstein, diagnosed with an inflammatory spine disease as a young mother, eventually turned to them to manage her pain. In this lyrical update of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, she recounts her search for relief and release — with its euphoric ups, hallucinatory lows and desperate pharmacy visits. Along the way she traces the long tradition of opium’s influence on culture and imagination, from De Quincey to Frida Kahlo.
Sorting The Beef From The Bull: The Science of Food Fraud Forensics
Nicola Temple and Richard Evershed
Sorting the Beef from the Bull is a collection of food fraud tales from around the world. It explains the role of science in uncovering some of the century's biggest food scams, and explores the arms race between food forensics and fraudsters as new methods of detection spur more creative and sophisticated means of committing the crimes. This book equips us with the knowledge of what is possible in the world of food fraud and shines a light on the shady areas of our food supply system where these criminals lurk.
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