David Trifunov

Email: dtrifuno@mail.ubc.ca


An aerial view of the Bonaparte River (Kluhtows to the Shuswap people) floodplain

An aerial view of the Bonaparte River (Kluhtows to the Shuswap people) floodplain surrounded by burnt slopes. Photo credit: Dr. Alessandro Ielpi.

After wildfire, the devastation to the landscape and communities is obvious and unforgettable.

And now, a UBC Okanagan researcher is taking a different look at fire-impacted areas. Dr. Alessandro Ielpi, an Assistant Professor in Geomorphology with UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, recently published research examining how the record-setting 2017 Elephant Hill Fire affected the Bonaparte River near Cache Creek, BC.

The research was recently published in CATENA, and was developed in collaboration with his colleague and long-time friend Mathieu Lapôtre, an Assistant Professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences at Stanford University.

The wildfire started in July 2017 southwest of Ashcroft, rapidly growing northward. It eventually burned 192,000 hectares and destroyed more than 100 homes in two months.

“It takes a few years to gain a full picture of how a wildfire has impacted a river. It’s sort of like a fog of war slowly lifting,” says Dr. Ielpi. “The Bonaparte River’s watershed was significantly impacted by the Elephant Hill Fire—about half of the entire watershed was burned to some degree.”

Dr. Ielpi says it’s important to keep in mind the Bonaparte—with a watershed shy of 4,000 square kilometres in surface area—is not a huge river system compared to, say, the Fraser, Mackenzie or Yukon rivers.

“When you think of a wildfire that impacts 1,900 square kilometres, it is indeed enormous. But watersheds are typically much larger,” he explains. “If you look at the watershed of very large rivers, they are hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of square kilometres. To put that in perspective, even the largest wildfire we have burning in Canada is like a drop in the bucket when you look at the dynamics of really large river systems we have here on the continent.”

“Watersheds such as the Bonaparte River’s represent a sweet spot between sizes large enough to host mature floodplains with farmlands and communities, and small enough to be significantly impacted by large wildfires. And even though wetlands and riverbanks may not have directly burned, barren soils from hillslopes started releasing higher amounts of sediment to the river once the stabilizing vegetation was gone.”

To track changes to riverbanks, the research team surveyed the Bonaparte River in 2019 and again in 2021, and collected a number of satellite and aerial images that depicted the channel at different times before and after the fire.

“It generally isn’t until two or three years later that you really start to see what’s happening,” he says. “And what we saw is that the channel expanded and widened in response to the addition of sediment from burnt slopes. And it also accelerated its pace of erosion—the speed at which it erodes banks and moves across the floodplain has accelerated substantially.”

The Bonaparte River has widened up to 130 per cent and the researchers estimate the erosion pace has increased by 230 per cent. People who live nearby, or depend on the river, especially farmers and Indigenous communities such as the Bonaparte First Nation, also noticed a change in spawning beds, an increase of river silt immediately after the fire and that the water was supercharged with sediment.

“We can’t say with certainty how long-lasting this change will be; rather, we expect—and hope—that it will recalibrate with time. But it’s still important for communities and planners to understand that in a five-year timeframe after a wildfire, rivers and floodplains continue to be affected.”

Dr. Ielpi says they cannot predict if this is going to take place at every river touched by a wildfire—as every river and fire are different—but the data they collected allowed them to develop a model to estimate the increase in sediment supply. They were able to document post-fire channel widening and accelerated migration, and provide first-hand evidence of major alterations in landscape dynamics at the watershed scale.

These findings, in turn, have implications for hydraulic engineering and hazard forecasting related to changes in river dynamics downstream of wildfire areas.

The data can also be used for other regions like the Amazon Basin and the Great Basin of the Western United States to help predict potential post-wildfire river movement, floodplain damage, flood threat and even how spawning channels are changing.

“By comparing pre- and post-fire estimates of sedimentation in the Bonaparte River’s watershed, our model ultimately provides evidence of a megafire inducing watershed-wide alterations in stream mobility and geometry,” he adds. “This is an exploratory paper, but I hope it’s one that makes people think about the complex and multifaceted repercussions of wildfires, even years down the road.”

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A photo of UBC professors Nancy Holmes and Sharon Thesen

Creative Writing Assoc. Prof. Nancy Holmes (left) will host UBCO’s Sharon Thesen Lecture virtually on September 27.

What: Annual Sharon Thesen Lecture: When We Both Were Clothed Alike: Conversation Poetics
Who: UBCO Creative Writing Program, Associate Professor Nancy Holmes
When: Wednesday, September 27 at 7 pm.
Where: Online via Zoom

UBC Okanagan’s Creative Writing Program is hosting its fourth annual Sharon Thesen Lecture with Creative Writing professor and author Nancy Holmes.

Holmes will give a virtual lecture titled “When We Both Were Clothed Alike: Conversation Poetics.” The audience will watch the live broadcast of Holmes’ address from the Corbishley Family Reading Room at UBC Okanagan Special Collections and Archives, located in the Commons building.

Holmes will explore the quality of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poetry and remind us that poems do complex work around division, balance and incorporating difference—a kind of thinking and communication that is key to contemporary problems.

“The Sharon Thesen lecture is a unique opportunity to explore important ideas through poetics, in the spirit of Thesen herself,” says Holmes. “She has been a champion of the cultural value of poetry and the necessity of the artistic imagination.”

An Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Holmes has published six collections of poetry, most recently Arborophobia. Her last publication, The Flicker Tree: Okanagan Poems, is a collection of poems about the place, people, plants and animals of the Okanagan Valley.

Thesen, a renowned Canadian poet and editor, was the first full Professor in UBCO’s Department of Creative Studies and is now a UBC professor emerita. Both Holmes and Thesen can be considered artists and scholars who are essential to the story of UBC’s Okanagan campus. Many of their works can be found within the Okanagan Special Collections (OSC), including their joint editorial venture in Lake: A journal of arts and environment, published by the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies from 2007 to 2012.

Some 60 items relating to Thesen, Holmes and past lecture hosts have been selected from OSC’s holdings for display as a backdrop to this year’s lecture in the Corbishley Family Reading Room. The public is invited to view the exhibition starting October 3. The OSC is open for walk-ins Monday to Thursday, from 11 am to 3 pm, or by appointment. Please contact osc-contact@lists.ubc.ca for more information about access to the exhibition.

For more information about the Sharon Thesen Lecture series or to register for the event, visit fccs.ok.ubc.ca/authors.

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A photo of a woman offering support to another

Mothers with depression who reported higher levels of support felt less stressed and more competent in their parenting, says Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner at UBCO’s School of Social Work.

The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” takes on new significance when a mother of a child is experiencing depression.

“Being a mother with depression carries increased risks for a child’s physical and psychological health,” says Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and Director of the Centre for the Study of Services to Children and Families at UBC Okanagan. “But it’s not fated to be, especially if mothers have external supports.”

Dr. Dow-Fleisner’s findings, recently published in the Journal of Family Issues, have important implications for how social workers and clinical practitioners—as well as families and communities—can help.

While a lot of research focuses on the postpartum period during which the rate of depression among mothers is highest, Dr. Dow-Fleisner wanted to focus on depression occurring later in childhood. Her team used data from a large longitudinal US study to compare depressed and non-depressed mothers of nine-year-old children.

Her analyses revealed that mothers with depression were more likely to report parenting stress and less likely to view themselves as competent parents as compared to non-depressed mothers. They also reported engaging in more disciplinary tactics, including nonviolent tactics like taking away privileges as well as aggressive tactics like cursing or threatening the child. In terms of involvement, they were less likely to be involved at the child’s school, such as attending an open house. However, they were equally likely to be involved in home activities, such as helping with homework.

“Furthermore, mothers with depression reported fewer interpersonal supports and community resources than mothers without depression,” says Dr. Dow-Fleisner. “This is consistent with previous research.”

Interpersonal supports refer to both emotional and material help from others, such as a relative providing advice or emergency childcare. Community resources refer to safety and neighbourhood cohesion. Neighbourhood cohesion measures the willingness of neighbours to help and the shared values of the neighbourhood, among other social and trust factors.

“Notably, those mothers with depression who reported higher levels of support and cohesion felt less stressed and more competent in their parenting,” says Dr. Dow-Fleisner. “These positive perceptions translated to less psychological aggression-based discipline and more home and school involvement with their children.”

These findings fit with a resilience perspective, whereby mothers facing adversity like depression can still thrive as parents—especially when these protective factors are present.

“We want to help moms both address their depression and improve the child’s health and wellbeing—this is known as a two-generation approach,” says Dr. Dow-Fleisner. “As mothers may not seek out help for their depression alone, a child health check-up in a primary care setting is a good opportunity to screen for maternal depression and provide support in identifying interpersonal supports and community resources.”

Dr. Dow-Fleisner adds that supportive programs should go beyond addressing immediate parenting problems and instead build capacity. For example, a community-based parenting support group could help a mother to build a network of people who could provide material and emotional support as needed. Dr. Dow-Fleisner cites Mamas for Mamas as one such community-based group. Mamas for Mamas, with branches in Kelowna and Vancouver, builds community and provides material as well as other supports for mothers and other caregivers.

“Further funding of programs that empower mothers—including those experiencing mental health concerns—would go a long way in improving the health and wellbeing of children, mothers and families,” says Dr. Dow-Fleisner.

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A magnified representation of the coronavirus as it floats through the air.

Researchers from Michigan State University and the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus are developing technology to collect, purify and detect viruses in air using magnetic levitation.. Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and Michigan State University (MSU) have invented a system that can quickly and inexpensively detect airborne viruses using the same technology that enables high-speed trains.

The team showed that a technique known as magnetic levitation can be used to easily collect and concentrate viruses from air to help prevent future outbreaks of respiratory disease. The researchers published their work in the journal ACS Nano.

“This could help identify that an environment is contaminated before a pandemic happens,” says Sepideh Pakpour, an Assistant Professor of Engineering who led the research team at UBC’s Okanagan Campus.

In addition to serving as an early-warning system, the team’s new technique also could help health officials and epidemiologists better track and trace exposure to viruses in public settings.

“It’s very important to have real-time management and real-time predictions in place for viruses,” says Morteza Mahmoudi, an Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology and the Precision Health Program at MSU. “What we’ve developed is a system that could help us and other stakeholders get more information about the different types of viruses in the air we breathe.”

Pakpour and Mahmoudi started this project by applying magnetic levitation, or maglev, to respiratory viruses in 2018 with support from the Walsh Foundation and the New Frontiers in Research Fund.

As they learned the pandemic was caused by an airborne virus, they knew they had to redouble their efforts. The team used a deactivated version of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 in their proof-of-concept report, along with H1N1 influenza and a virus that infects bacteria known as bacteriophage MS2.

The system first collects air samples, then injects the sample into a fluid where maglev separates viruses from other particles. The isolated and purified viral contents are then passed along to other standard analytical techniques for identification in a matter of minutes. The approach is so straightforward that it could be used by nonexperts in a variety of settings such as clinics and airports, the researchers say.

The team is now taking the first steps toward commercializing its technology while working to improve it at the same time.

Although downstream techniques can identify which viruses are in a sample, one of the team’s future goals is refining the maglev step to distinguish between different viruses on its own. The researchers also are working to heighten their technique’s sensitivity and detect viruses in air at lower concentrations.

Still, the team is excited by what it was able to accomplish in its initial work and by what it may enable other researchers to do.

“Using maglev for disease detection and purifying viruses is brand new, and it could open up applications in many different fields,” Mahmoudi says. “This opens up a fundamentally new direction in analytical biochemistry.”

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A ‘No Smoking or Vaping’ sign outside a building

A UBC Okanagan researcher says Canada is falling behind in developing intervention programs to stop young people from beginning to vape.

Dr. Laura Struik, an Assistant Professor with UBCO’s School of Nursing and a Canadian Cancer Society Emerging Scholar, researches nicotine dependence, cancer prevention and behaviour change using digital technologies.

Dr. Struik is disheartened by the results from the recent Health Canada’s Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, which states that 29 per cent of Canadian students from Grades 7 to 12 have tried an e-cigarette, and 17 per cent have vaped in the past month, revealing that the number of Canadian teens using e-cigarettes are among highest in the world.

Dr. Struik says, “Youth and young adults are disproportionately at risk for the harmful effects of vaping because exposure at this age alters natural brain development and impacts lung health early on. As a result, there has been a long-standing urgency to intervene over the last few years, and we wanted to know what has been done across our nation.”

She led a recent study published last month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that examined campaigns directed at young people to prevent vaping uptake. For this study, a team of young trainees in Dr. Struik’s lab examined government-funded vaping prevention campaigns in Canada and the United States.

A key aspect of public health measures is to develop prevention campaigns to motivate people to make lifestyle choices that benefit themselves or society. The researchers analyzed 46 different campaigns to determine what kind of messaging was being used to influence the behavioural decisions of young people.

They found that many spoke about the potentially harmful effects of vaping on the lungs. Struik says there is room to incorporate more meaningful and comprehensive approaches in prevention efforts.

“We know from previous research that vaping uptake is influenced by various intersecting factors, including, but not limited to, mental health, self-efficacy, social norms, environmental factors, knowledge and so forth,” she says. “So, relying almost solely on telling teens about the potential physical health harms of vaping as a reason to not vape is likely going to fall flat, and recent youth-driven evidence confirms this.”

In her latest study, published this month in Addictive Behaviors Reports, Dr. Struik found that Canadian youth who vaped reported a variety of factors that supported their decision to take up vaping, including the belief that vaping was cool, and helped them cope with stress, the normalization of vaping among their peers, the lack of school policies to address vaping, and the fact that there is vague information on the harms of vaping (e.g., “could be harmful”).

She also notes that Canada lacks intervention campaigns compared to the United States. Of the 46 unique vaping prevention campaigns in her study, only two were identified in Canada—one at the federal level and one at the provincial level.

“In the end, the evidence reveals that Canada needs to step it up when it comes to vaping prevention programs aimed at our youth,” Dr. Struik adds. “And these prevention programs must be informed and driven by Canadian youth themselves to truly tackle this issue.”

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A photo of a water treatment plant

UBC Okanagan researchers have developed a cost-effective method to extract phosphorous—a non-renewable but essential element for life—from municipal wastewater sludge.

At first glance when one looks at sewage sludge it can be challenging to find any redeemable value. However, researchers at UBC’s Bioreactor Technology Group see it in a whole other way.

Using a combination of heat, water and phase separation, these researchers have developed a cost-effective method to concentrate phosphorous—which can be efficiently recovered by extraction—from wastewater sludge.

“Phosphorous is a non-renewable, but essential, element for life and has many industrial uses,” explains Huan Liu, a doctoral student with UBCO’s School of Engineering and lead author of a new study investigating this method.

Phosphorus is a natural mineral and crucial for a person’s good health, but it is also essential to food security as it is used worldwide as a commercial fertilizer, explains Liu. However, it is listed as a critical raw material because many countries rely on imports for their supply.

“The uneven distribution of phosphate rock has created political and economic risks,” he says. “On the other hand, phosphorus discharge from waste sources, such as wastewater, is a major contributor to aquatic eutrophication, causing severe environmental challenges including algae blooms and dead zones in lakes.”

Liu along with supervisor and Principal Investigator Dr. Cigdem Eskicioglu are investigating a promising process that integrates hydrothermal liquefaction.

The process converts organic components of the municipal wastewater sludge into a petroleum-like biocrude and concentrates the phosphorous into a solid residue called hydrochar. This hydrochar can have a total phosphorus about 100 times higher than that of raw sludge, making it comparable to the phosphate rock used in commercial fertilizers.

Liu describes the extraction process as mirroring what happens when you mix minerals and acids.

“We were able to identify, for the first time, the kinetic reactions of phosphorus leaching from hydrochar to optimize the recovery of useful materials, such as what is needed for fertilizer,” says Liu.

According to Dr. Eskicioglu, their latest findings are important for wastewater utilities aiming to develop a process to recover usable nutrients from the system.

“At a time when we are seeking to be more sustainable and looking for alternative fuels, extruding useable materials from waste is essential,” she says. “Recovery and recycling is the solution that also provides the double benefit of providing a secondary source of phosphorus that can be globally distributed and also help with environmental conservation.”

This latest study appears in the journal Water Research, and was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Metro Vancouver Industrial Research Chair Program in Advanced Resource Recovery from Wastewater. Liu also conducted six months of studies in France in collaboration with Dr. Ange Nzihou’s team at the Research Centre for Particulate Solids, Energy and Environment at the IMT Mines Albi-Carmaux engineering school.

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A helicopter dumping water on a forest wildfire

A helicopter with water bucket attacks a forest fire.

Spring rain may have dampened wildfires burning in BC and Alberta, but the dangers of dry forests and swollen rivers remain.

Wildfires are abundant in Alberta, while many areas in BC are on flood watch. It seems the changing climate is becoming less predictable and more volatile as each year passes. UBC Okanagan has several professors available to comment on heat, wildfires and associated issues.

Phil Ainsley, Professor of Environmental Physiology, Co-Director of Centre For Heart, Lung and Vascular Health, School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Heat and pollution and their isolated and combined influence on physiology and human health
  • Effect of temperature and oxygen availability on physiology, pathology and performance
  • Acclimatization, adaptation and maladaptation to environmental stress

Email: philip.ainslie@ubc.ca

Call: 250-878-6171


Mathieu Bourbonnais, Assistant Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Wildfire risk, suppression and mitigation
  • Firefighting and use of satellites for wildfire detection and monitoring

Email: Mathieu.Bourbonnais@ubc.ca

Call: 778-583-0272


Greg Garrard, Professor of Environmental Humanities, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

Areas of expertise:

  • Environmental literature
  • Culture and climate change (including skepticism)
  • The cultural ecology of wildfire
  • Political polarization

Email: greg.garrard@ubc.ca

Call: 250-863-2822


Kevin Hanna, Associate Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Vulnerable infrastructure
  • Risk and disaster assessment wildfire management and policy
  • Climate change and risk events

Email: kevin.hanna@ubc.ca

Call: 250-807-9265


Mary-Ann Murphy, Associate Professor, Social Work Sociology

Areas of expertise:

  • Dealing with the emotional trauma of wildfires
  • Lessons from evacuees
  • What to pack when evacuating
  • Caring for seniors in extreme heat

Email: mary-ann.murphy@ubc.ca

Call: 250-807-8705


David Scott, Associate Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences

Areas of expertise:

  • Effects of wildfire on hydrology and erosion
  • Evaluation of fire site rehabilitation methods in terms of controlling erosion and sedimentation

Email: david.scott@ubc.ca

Note: Dr. Scott is only available for interviews via email.


Dwayne Tannnat, Professor, School of Engineering

Areas of expertise:

  • Landslides, rockfalls
  • Below debris field flood mitigation
  • Post-wildfire debris flow mitigation

Email: dwayne.tannant@ubc.ca

Call: 604-801-4301

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Caribou from the Klinse-Za herd in northeastern BC graze in this handout photo. Line Giguere, Wildlife Infometrics.

Climbing caribou numbers in northeastern British Columbia prove that collaborations between Indigenous and colonial governments can reverse decades-long declines, but focus needs to shift to culturally meaningful recovery targets, a consortium of researchers and community members say in a new paper published this week in Science.

UBC Okanagan’s Dr. Clayton Lamb and West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson co-lead the paper, Braiding Indigenous Rights and Endangered Species Law, alongside nine others for the influential journal.

“Abundance matters. There are many cases where endangered species laws have prevented extinction, but the warning signs of decline can appear long before the laws take effect. People who live and work on the land see these changes – we need to listen and act with them to prevent declines,” says Lamb, a biologist and MITACS postdoc in UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science. “There is a large gap between what the laws see as species recovery and what communities need for health, food security, and cultural well-being.”

The policy paper builds on collaborations between UBCO’s Lamb and Dr. Adam Ford, who have previously published research highlighting recovery efforts of the Klinse-Za caribou herd near the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. They also looked at evolving bison and salmon recovery efforts in North America.

Researchers heard stories from West Moberly Elders about a “sea of caribou” once looking like “bugs on the landscape,” but only 38 animals remained in 2013. Those numbers climbed to 115 a decade later thanks to interventions led by Indigenous groups. While these early signs of recovery are cause for immense celebration, the herd remains much smaller than historic levels.

“We need to move past a life support mentality for biodiversity,” says Ford, head of UBCO’s Wildlife Restoration Ecology Lab. “We must restore nature and the time-honoured ways people interact with the land.”

Canada and the United States have endangered species laws that are designed to recover species abundance to levels that will minimize the chance of extinction, but these recovery targets do not take into account culturally meaningful abundance or distributions of plants and animals, the authors say.

The paper highlights the current caribou count would only provide about three animals, or one meal per person, per year for Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations. The culturally significant count would require a herd of over 3,000 animals, an abundance more reflective of the historic “sea of caribou” level.

Naomi Owens-Beek, manager of Treaty Rights and Environmental Protection for Saulteau First Nation, contributed to the research and the policy paper.

She says the collaboration between Canadian and Indigenous leaders is essential to preserving traditional ways of life. Some Elders in the region have never tasted caribou, yet it was a staple of their ancestors and provided vital nutrition, material, spirituality, and a sense of place.

“We looked out at the land and thought, ‘What do these caribou need to be once again the great herds our Elders spoke about?’ We first reduced predation to make sure the caribou weren’t lost. Now we’re focusing on protecting and restoring habitat,” she says.

“Caribou habitat has long been mistreated, and now there’s so few caribou. These herds need space to thrive, and that’s why we’re working with the nations, the province of British Columbia and Canada, to heal these lands and increase the population so we can one day go back into the mountains and hunt caribou.”

The paper also examined efforts to restore salmon and bison habitat in North America. Chief Willson says each species shows modest signs of recovery, but that isn’t nearly the progress needed.

“Braiding Indigenous rights with laws protecting endangered species can enable nations to respect and safeguard the rights of Indigenous communities, curb the threat of species loss, and ultimately confer broad societal advantages,” he says.

Lamb, Willson, Ford and Owens-Beek were joined by Allyson Menzies (School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph), Michael Price (Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University), Scott McNay (Wildlife Infometrics), Sarah Otto (Department of Zoology & Biodiversity Research Centre at UBC), Mateen Hessami (Wildlife Science Center—Biodiversity Pathways at UBCO), Jesse Popp (School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph) and Mark Hebblewhite (Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana).

Permalink: https://news.ok.ubc.ca/2023/05/18/call-for-canada-to-braid-indigenous-rights-with-endangered-species-law/

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A photo of a woman doing resistance training exercises.

New research from UBC Okanagan’s shows that resistance exercise temporarily reduced hunger-inducing hormones among breast-cancer survivors.

A new study by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Colorado has found that weight-lifting may benefit appetite regulation and energy balance in breast cancer survivors.

The study, published in Appetite, involved 16 women who had completed treatment for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer within the past five years. On separate days, the women performed a single bout of resistance exercise, such as lifting weights, or sat quietly. The researchers measured their appetite sensations, appetite-related hormones and energy intake before and after each session.

The results showed that resistance exercise temporarily reduced hunger-inducing hormones and increased appetite-suppressing hormones compared to the sedentary condition.

Dr. Sarah Purcell, the study’s lead author and an investigator with the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management based at UBCO, said the findings suggest resistance exercise may help breast cancer survivors maintain healthy body weight and prevent obesity-related complications.

“Breast cancer survivors are often at increased risk of obesity,” she says. “We know that exercise can suppress appetite in people without previous cancer, at least in the short term, so we tested that in women with previous breast cancer who have low estrogen as part of their treatment. After a single bout of resistance exercise, we found some modest suggestions that exercise changes hormones to promote fullness and decrease hunger.”

About 80 per cent of people with breast cancer have estrogen receptor-positive cancer (ER-positive), and the standard of care after radiation or chemotherapy is five to 10 years of estrogen suppression.

Popular culture may portray cancer survivors as emaciated and lethargic, but weight gain—especially for women fighting breast cancer—can be as much of a worry.

“We think from experimental studies that estrogen is essential for appetite regulation and energy metabolism,” Purcell says.

Other studies have suggested that people with long-term estrogen suppression may increase their fat mass over the long term and decrease their muscle mass.

“We’re not sure what causes that. We also know that exercise can positively impact appetite in people without previous cancer, decreasing hunger or increasing satiety in certain conditions.”

Purcell said more research is needed to confirm the long-term effects of resistance exercise on breast cancer survivors’ appetite and energy intake and identify the optimal frequency, intensity and duration of activity for this group.

“It’s preliminary. People may not realize that exercise can promote appetite hormones in a way that would, at least theoretically, decrease later energy intake. We saw that a single bout of resistance exercise led to lower amounts of a hormone that promotes hunger—ghrelin—and higher amounts of a hormone that promotes satiety or fullness—peptide-yy.

“Again, the changes were modest, so we need to compare it to people without cancer, which we’re doing now.”

The National Institutes of Health supported the research, which appears in the latest issue of Appetite.

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A photo of healthy and rotting cannabis roots

UBCO researchers isolated the genome for black root rot, a fungus killing cannabis plants in a licensed growing facility in the BC Kootenays. Here, healthy roots, left, are compared to those affected by black root rot.

A slippery black ooze, millions worth of cannabis plants and a ticking clock all contributed to one UBC Okanagan research team cracking the code of a potentially deadly fungus threatening the industry.

New research from UBCO doctoral student Chris Dumigan indicates his team has identified and analyzed Berkeleyomyces rouxiae—more commonly known as black root rot—in a crop affecting a Canadian licensed producer in the Kootenays.

A former classmate at the University of Guelph, Delaney Bray-Stone, emailed Dumigan for help. Bray-Stone, who would become a co-author of the research paper, needed help identifying a root-rot pathogen rapidly spreading through an aeroponic facility.

“He contacted me and sent me some pictures of root rot. They tested it for every available cannabis pathogen, and everything was fine. But if you look at the pictures of the initial infection, they were not fine,” Dumigan said.

“They had to wipe out a crop because it was killing all the plants, but they also had to shut down a wing of their facility and throw out a whole bunch of equipment. All the filters would form this thick, black sludge. Delaney still has nightmares about this thing because of how much stress it caused him.”

Dumigan’s first challenge was reproducing black root rot in a lab to study, but conventional growing media didn’t work. He was able to find an alternative, carrot agar.

“I think this is why it’s been missed in the industry because it’s difficult to culture; it’s pretty specific,” Dumigan said. “It almost needs fresh plant tissue that you convert into a media. But after I made this carrot agar, I returned the next day, and this black cell mass was growing on it that matched what I saw under a microscope.”

The carrot agar allowed him to begin researching treatments. Commercial cannabis is unique because Canadian authorities tightly control conventional fungicides, so growers don’t have exhaustive options.

“They’re using things like sulphur to control fungi or canola oil for insects. Some biological products were approved, but many were developed for other crops,” Dumigan said.

Within his thesis, however, he identifies several species of bacteria that inhabit roots and secrete compounds that can kill certain fungi.

“I’ve found several of them that kill this fungus, but none of this is published. It’s only a potential biocontrol, but they could be registered in Canada because it’s a certified organic option, not a conventional fungicide,” Dumigan said.

That’s the next phase. Deyholos and Dumigan released the genome for other researchers to download and study. He’s also working on a sequence-based diagnostic test so labs can help other producers worldwide avoid the same issues.

“This is science. To do something new, to discover something new, I don’t have an economic incentive in the cannabis industry. But I have a personal interest in pushing the boundaries of science.”

The research appears in the journal Plant Disease.

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