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  • 25 Jul 2019 5:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Secrets of malaria exposed. Science peels back the layers which obscure our understanding of one of the deadliest diseases known to man. 

    Findings published recently by a research team from the US and UK reveal, parasites that carry malaria, can mature inside their mosquito hosts way faster, at lower temperatures, than earlier thought. 

    Lab tests showed (at between 17 and 20 degrees C), it can take as little as 26 days from the time mosquitoes have had an infectious blood meal, to the time the parasites grow and becomes capable of transmitting the disease. For decades, it’s been assumed it would take about twice that long…some 56 days.

    SWCC blog on malaria via mosquitos

    A malaria mosquito, the Anopheles stephensi. Source: CDC.

    For more than 50 years, medical experts have been relying on a guide known as the Detinova model to try to map the future course of the disease.  But that model did not fully take into account just what implications those cooler temperatures could have. Neither did it fully explore the impacts of routine fluctuations in daytime temperatures, which can also play a role.

    SWCC blog on ring stage of malaria infection

    "Ring" stage (in blue &amp; pink) of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum in human red blood cells. Image by Eric Hempelmann.


    Unlike previous studies, now described as “poorly-controlled,” two major malaria mosquito species were tested this time (including Anopheles stephensi, above). 

    “These novel results challenge one of the longest-standing models in malaria biology," states the study, "and have potentially important implications for understanding the impacts of future climate change."


    SWCC blog on Jessica Waite

    Study co-author Jessica Waite, Ph.D. Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. The Pennsylvania State University.

    "What we hope is that our work will help make better predictions about where, when and possibly how much malaria to expect. We believe our work provides a much-improved estimate for models of malaria." She also believes it'll help governments better direct their financial resources to aid areas that need it most.

    Her team consisted of experts from the Universities of Pennsylvania State in the US and Exeter in England. They acknowledge, there's still a need for more tests, both in the lab and the field.

    By: Larry Powell

    Larry lives in Shoal Lake, Manitoba, where he publishes www.PlanetInPeril.ca (PinP) “where science gets respect.”


    The findings appeared recently in the journal, Biology. Letters by The Royal Society.

    Coming up:Is Malaria the real Grim Reaper - Part 2"

    The possibility of malaria finding a toe-hold in Canada are explored. The results might surprise you!

  • 23 Jul 2019 9:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PART I: AN OVERVIEW OF NEPAL AND THE KATHMANDU VALLEY


    Nagarkot, a village in the hill region of Nepal, located on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley. 2019 © Astara van der Jagt

    Nepal is highly exposed to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, and droughts, which is mainly due to its geography and climatic conditions. 

    In 2005, the World Bank released a Global Risk Analysis report that stated that the county is a ‘hotspot for geophysical and climatic hazards.’ 

    The country is divided into three regions: the mountains (Himalayas) in the north, the hills in the middle, and the plainlands (Terai)  in the south. 

    Each region is prone to environmental disasters for different reasons. 

    In the hills, landslides are common due to extremely steep slopes, high intensity of rainfall and unplanned human settlements. Landslides are even more likely when roads or irrigation systems are constructed without sound measures, which disrupt an already fragile ecosystem. 

    The mountains cause a different problem. The Himalayas’ snow-capped mountain tops and glaciers flow down to the hill and Terai regions, causing flooding that damage villages and crops. 

    However, sometimes, the opposite happens. The Terai regions suffer from droughts caused by irregular Monsoon rainfalls, which are supposed to last for three months between June and August, and supplies 75 per cent of the annual rainfall.

    This year, Monsoon season came one month late. Two-thirds of Nepal’s farmland is rain-fed, making it the most important part of the year for farmers to plant their crops. Among the products cultivated during the rainy season is rice, Nepal’s most consumed staple food, supplying 40 per cent of the population’s food calorie intake, and contributing 20 per cent to the total agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

    Newari women planting rice in Bungmati, a village 10 km south of the heart of Kathmandu. 2019 © Astara van der Jagt

    Recent decades have been characterized by population increases and industrial growth. As a result, the Kathmandu Valley (KV) has suffered from environmental degradation and increased pollution.

    The KV consists of three districts: the Kathmandu District, Lalitpur District and Bhaktapur District. Between 2001 and 2011, the total population of the three districts increased from 1.6 to 2.5 million. 

    However, investments in infrastructure, water disposal, wastewater management, and the reduction of air and water pollution have been lacking. Simply put, the rate of industrialization has not been able to keep up with the masses of people entering the KV due to environmental disasters, the civil war that lasted ten years and ended in 2006, and economic opportunities. 

    Alongside the influx of people, the KV has lost much of its agrariable land mass to planned but, more often unplanned, built-up areas. This has reduced the government’s ability to be prepared when environmental disasters do strike. 

    2015 was a prime example. Nepal suffered from two massive earthquakes, measuring 7.8 and 7.3 on Richter’s Scale respectively. Locals still regularly refer back to this ‘terrifying time,’ when the walls of their homes came tumbling down and thousands lost their lives. 8,790 died, to be exact, and 22,300 people were injured. Half a million homes were destroyed and even more were damaged. Today, many homes are still held up by wooden poles, or need rebuilding. 

    The building pictured above is home to Kathmandu’s Living
    Goddess, a young girl who is believed to be the reincarnation 
    of Goddess Taleju, and is worshipped by both Bhuddists and 
    Hindus. Her home, too, is held up by wooden poles. 
    2019 © Astara van der Jagt

    The widespread destruction of the earthquakes combined with the tethering

    The KV is in dire need of trees and it seems that there is no shortage of initiatives pushing for greater environmental sustainability. The Nepali government, for one, has proposed to plant 50 million trees during the next fiscal year, starting on July 17th, 2019. The national campaign has been named the “Year of Plantation,” yet no accompanying scientific plan has been proposed to date.

    Alongside the continued development of urban infrastructure responding to the needs of modernized societies, a scientific plan would help to minimize the negative impacts industries can have on the environment. Since space is very limited in the KV due to population density, unplanned settlements and large influxes of people, it is hard to imagine where millions of trees will be planted. The government has yet to release their geographical strategy. 

    Thamel, the main tourist district of Kathmandu. 2019 © Astara van der Jagt

    By: Astara van der Jagt


    Astara van der Jagt’s career spans half a decade on four continents. Equipped with a degree in journalism and political science, she has done research on the power of social media in Kenya, worked as an au pair in Italy, and learned about the ethical reporting of marginalized communities in  Northern Canada. Earlier this year, she moved to Nepal to produce a communications strategy focused on empowering the rural poor for Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Ltd., an agricultural development bank based out of Kathmandu. 

    From a young age, Astara was exposed to gender-based violence, extreme poverty and water scarcity. Although she has found ways to turn her own pain into power, she still has so much to offer those who do not have the passports, opportunities and support systems she does. This is why she has committed her life to finding methods to overcome these global problems through grassroots action, helping one individual at a time, all while spreading awareness through her photography, videography, and storytelling. 


  • 18 Jul 2019 10:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Encouraging students to feel alive may change how people ask questions and make discoveries

    The schism between humans and the so-called "external" environment melds when people partner with nature. Science pertains to our personal living experiments that exceed reading textbooks. Young students who "major in a field" such as geology, biology, chemistry, or medicine, for example, perceive these to be separate disciplines.

    Stepping out of our offices, lab benches, and classrooms can foster compassion and curiosity for others who sense they have a destination in mind, but along the way, are permitted to be full of uncertainty. Their vital signs and physiology – pulses, tissue branching morphogenesis, and emotions – are not to be dismissed. Their interior realities have somehow developed from embryonic cells to process stimuli and sense of their sentience. Rather than asking people to enter a major or expertise in a field, what if scientists first learn to sense their human aliveness in the process of revealing data will make nature thrive?

    Nature is full of uncertainty and unpredictability. In the face of mystery, people can be quick to apply their false certainty to resolve what seems to need helping and fixing. Imagine if scientists cultivated a culture of curiosity and compassion as a practice for younger trainees. It may yield biological clues to how we can care for our own emotional and social well-being in doing the work of science, reconciliation and collective human fulfillment.

    Our lives revolve around social relationships, and if people allow themselves and others to connect in our shared uncertainty, humans may recognize the courage we inherently have in the face of uncertainty and in crisis.

    A misunderstanding is how science is thought to be a discipline of certainty. On the one hand, science presents time-tested, reliable methods and may yield reproducible data, yet it evokes unforeseen emotions and subsequent questions. Science is about adaptation, curiosity, and most certainly, an experience exploring the territory of uncertainty. Humans who form hypotheses and conduct experiments are uncertain, holding paradox and contradictions.

    Uncertainty moves us to ask questions about our place in the universe. Our interrelated lives search for innovations and belonging. Some scientists and physicians are trained to embody self-sacrifice and exhaustion to seem earnest and diligent. Young researchers are hard-pressed to act knowingly to be "leaders" before realizing their own vibrant lives already contribute value in a constellation of unknowns.

    In nature, people can sense wonder for their own evolving bodies, guiding questions, and search for meaning. Nature encourages people to look at themselves, an interconnected stranger, and human emotions as integral to finding answers rather than trivial and separate to the process. Encouraging scientists to play and to distill a set of nature-inspired leadership practices fosters curiosity about how life works.

    Science shapes how we understand and interpret our connected experiences and the way we treat people. Inviting people from a young age to listen to the veracity of intuition can inform children to be playful, self-aware, adaptive, and capable of asking for help in every life stage.

    A false comport of certainty leads people to feel unsafe, isolated, and disengaged in the biosphere. A student who faces poverty and homelessness faces one truth, while medical students also endure unsustainable stresses of exhaustion and a starvation to know their focus will expand our human awareness. A magnetic field, human nervous system, and gravitational force change human relationships at the molecular level. Living matter roils hot and cold at the interior core of humans and Earth, both spin and form intentional relationships with beings across forms and scales to sense we are alive and helping.

    By: Corinne Gardner

    I am Corinne Gardner, a facilitator and an author who choreographs collaborative, nature-immersive play workshops for humans. I am passionate about the evolution and emergence of humans and organisms across scales. I cover seemingly disparate science and nature topics, including human potential, adaptive strategies, women’s gynecology, and forest ecology. Why? Our life experiences are interconnected! Being aware that our needs, humour and emotions are not superfluous or trivial, but rather intrinsically human, makes us more capable of experiencing pain and pleasure – we must befriend ourselves. You can see my work at https://corinnegardner.home.blog.


  • 16 Jul 2019 10:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Oil Spill Research - Science Writers and Communicators of CanadaA female brown pelican being rinsed at a rehabilitation centre in Alabama after getting caught in an oil spill. Credit: Tom MacKenzie, USFWS

    Amid climate change and a seemingly endless stream of news about the deterioration of ecosystems throughout the world, there is some hope for marine life and oceans in Canada. The federal government recently invested $ 2.4 million in oil spill research at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in New Brunswick.

    This investment will go towards researching effective responses to oil spills with a focus on the impact of oil spill cleaning measures on aquatic animals.

    “Having the best available science is the key to respond effectively to marine incidents, including oil spills. Gaining a better understanding of the effects on our aquatic species will help us make the right decisions when it comes to clean-up measures and keep our oceans and our coasts clean, healthy and safe,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, in a press release.

    This investment is part of the Multi-Partner Research Initiative launched by the government in 2016. The goal of this initiative is to support research projects that focus on alternative responses to oil spills, improving our knowledge on how to best contain spills and reduce their environmental impact. Under this initiative, the government will invest $45.5 million over five years for research.

    Understanding how to safely clean-up after an oil spill is important because large quantities of oil are lost to the environment each year. In 2018 alone there were approximately 116,000 tonnes of oil spilled around the world, according to a report released by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation.

    This is problematic because oil spills have detrimental effects on the environment. For example, oil floating on the water can suffocate aquatic plants and influence the buoyancy of marine animals. Chemicals in oil spills can also break down, killing fish and other marine creatures or causing chronic health problems, according to a report about the effects of oil spills on the environment released by the Royal Society of Canada in 2015.

    The report also found significant gaps in our knowledge about the influence of oil-spills on vulnerable environments such as the Arctic and recommended more research on the environmental effects of spill response measures.

    Currently, there are three main types of response measures to oil spills, including containing and removing the spills, using chemicals to break down or burn the oil, or using natural processes to disperse the oil. The report warned that some cleaning measures such as using chemicals to disperse oil might also have adverse effects on wildlife and the environment, demonstrating the importance of conducting more research in this area.

    In a country with a strong reliance on marine ecosystems, improving our prevention and response methods for oil spills is essential. Hopefully, this investment will help fill some critical gaps in our knowledge and enhance the safety and sustainability of aquatic wildlife for years to come.

    By: Nicole Babb

    Nicole Babb - Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Blogger

    Nicole Babb is an aspiring journalist from St. John’s, Newfoundland. She recently graduated from Carleton University with a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology. During her time at Carleton, Nicole wrote articles for the university’s student newspaper and completed a health reporting course which sparked her interest in science journalism and communication. She is passionate about writing and photography, and she also enjoys learning about new scientific research.

    Growing up near the ocean, she has always been curious about marine life and she is especially interested in research and reporting concerning the ocean, climate change, and endangered species. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys reading, canoeing, playing basketball and hiking. She also loves animals and spending time with her dog. Nicole is currently residing in Ottawa and she is looking forward to working as a volunteer for Science Writers and Communicators of Canada.

  • 11 Jul 2019 12:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Top Canadian Science Headlines in July for Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC)Petawawa Research Forest sign. Credit: Jason Spaceman/Flickr

    Periodically, SWCC student members create media monitoring posts to let members know some of the Canadian science news happening lately. Here are six recent stories to consider.

    Summary: Researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute were left awestruck at data provided by a female arctic fox that travelled from Norway to Canada in just 76 days. According to researchers, the fox travelled roughly 2000 miles to get to its destination on Ellesmere Island. This number represents the fastest journey of this length ever recorded in this species of fox.

    Summary: As one of the best countries in the world, Canada excels in several areas, especially in the field of science. The “Super Awesome Science Show” podcast features an interesting segment with special guest, the Honorable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport. This podcast explores her past achievements as a researcher, as well as the impact she is currently making in the political realm.

    Summary: As climate change issues continue to grow, new methods must be developed to ensure that Canada’s forests can survive in extreme weather conditions in the future. A long-term research study is expected to take place in the Petawawa Research Forest. This study will aid Canada’s foresters in developing new methods that will help the forest to adapt to changing climate conditions.

    Summary: Today, it is vital that we work towards breaking down the boundaries between genders. A STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp took place earlier this week, with the goal of inspiring young girls to pursue future careers in science and technology. The camp organizers further encouraged young girls with the help of Astronaut Barbie, by “launching” her from Fanshawe College and into space.

    Summary: The decisions we make today, will inevitably impact the youth of tomorrow. As a result, it is only natural that they should become more involved in today’s decision-making processes. Especially when it comes to scientific research and governance. It is for this reason why Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Mona Nemer, will be working alongside a youth advisory council composed of about 20 members with diverse backgrounds.

    Summary: The impact of climate change poses a big risk risk to coastal and northern communities, as well as to our infrastructures, ecosystems, and health. It is now more important than ever for Canadians to come up with solutions to get ahead of this problem. However, one of the biggest challenges is finding ways to get Canadians to pay for these new solutions.

    By: Mathew Guida


    Biography: As a native Montrealer, I graduated from Concordia University with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Film Studies. I am currently studying for my master’s degree in Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.

    My interest in journalism began while attending Concordia. I was a frequent contributor to the university’s independent newspaper, The Concordian. I further honed my skills and experience by working as a List Writer for the entertainment news website Screen Rant.

    Since I started attending Carleton University, I have strived to further improve my skills as a journalist in not only print, but also in the fields of data, investigative and broadcast journalism. In the past year, I have also developed a growing appreciation for radio journalism and podcasts.

    My current interests lie in studying the future of the journalism industry, writing and researching pop culture and social media trends, as well as furthering my career in the field of journalism.

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