David Trifunov

Email: dtrifuno@mail.ubc.ca


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

The post UBC Okanagan experts ready to talk about floods, wildfires appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

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/

The post Call for Canada to braid Indigenous rights with endangered species law appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

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.

The post UBCO research says resistance exercise may help regulate appetite in breast cancer survivors appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

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.

The post UBCO researcher shines a light on “nightmare” ooze killing cannabis plants appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of two Indo-Canadians eating

New research from UBC Okanagan suggests that understanding gut microbiomes of immigrants is important to understanding how westernization is driving immune responses like IBD.

Indian immigrants and Indo-Canadians who adopt westernized dietary practices experience a greater risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—while supplements and probiotics often recommended may not provide the same benefits to certain demographics, new research from UBC Okanagan reveals.

Leah D’Aloisio, a Master of Science student in UBCO’s Department of Biology, and her thesis adviser, Dr. Deanna L. Gibson, worked in collaboration with colleagues from the UK and India to better understand the daily challenges experienced by Indians adapting to new cultures.

They’re currently investigating how westernization affects the gut microbiome and makes them more susceptible to IBD.

D’Aloisio’s research involves collecting stool samples from Indians living in India, Indian immigrants and Indo-Canadians. She analyzes their gut microbiome composition using DNA sequencing. She also collected additional data including dietary habits, lifestyle changes, health status and socioeconomic information.

When comparing the microbiomes of those living in India compared to Euro-Canadians, she’s found that the gut microbiomes in Indians are extremely different from Euro-Canadians.

“I really want people to understand the differences that exist in the human gut microbiome,” D’Aloisio says. “It looks drastically different depending on where you’re born and your overall lifestyle, so if you’re an immigrant here in Canada, think about that… And know that the research that led to creating these ‘gut health’ products you see marketed to you today is likely not representing you. Take time to rethink this before you spend your money. You don’t want to introduce a species into an ecosystem that is not meant to be there.”

According to D’Aloisio, her research has important implications for public health and clinical practice. She hopes that her findings will raise awareness about the influence of westernization on the gut microbiome and health outcomes of immigrant populations.

She also suggests that interventions such as dietary counselling, tailored probiotic supplementation and stress management may help prevent or treat IBD among Indian immigrants.

Dr. Gibson started this project thanks to funding from a UBC Killam research award that supported a sabbatical where she was able to collaborate with several high-profile research institutes in Kolkata and Manipal, India. Understanding the gut microbiomes of various populations outside of westernized countries is important to understanding how westernization is driving dysregulated immune responses like those in IBD.

The post Canadian gut health products may not provide the same benefits to immigrants, UBCO researchers say appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of a NASA weather balloon from below

Atmospheric balloons are important tools for gathering information high above the earth in zones where people wouldn’t survive unless they wear pressurized suits.

When Lake Country’s Nolan Koblischke heard the American government was shooting down balloons suspected of spying, he was more than a little curious. The George Elliot Secondary graduate has sent one of those balloons into the atmosphere himself as a student at UBC Okanagan.

Atmospheric balloons are important tools for gathering information high above the earth in zones where people wouldn’t survive unless they wear pressurized suits. Most balloons collect climate data through radios, cameras and satellite navigation equipment—and are incapable of spying.

Koblischke, a fourth-year physics student, and Leonardo Caffarello are part of a UBCO physics and engineering team that launched a balloon to the stratosphere from a space centre in the Swedish Arctic last fall. The team, sponsored by School of Engineering Professor Jonathan Holzman, launched the balloon for a physics experiment to observe cosmic rays.

Koblischke said many people might be surprised at just how much you can learn from a balloon.

What are scientists learning from these atmospheric balloons?

These atmospheric balloons are a powerful and versatile tool for scientific research and exploration. Our balloon was launched in collaboration with Canadian and European agencies, so we were joined by other university and government agency teams from different countries.

Each team flying on the balloon had a different research objective and experiment. For instance, an Italian team was testing solar panels in the upper atmosphere to be used on satellites, a German space agency team was studying stratospheric chemistry and a Hungarian team was testing radiation sensors. We even saw an experiment to carry a telescope for atmosphere-free observations of space. Besides these applications, most balloons are used for weather purposes.

Is this the first time your project has left the ground?

No, the group was originally formed a few years ago by Caffarello and competed against other university teams in the Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment Design Challenge. The UBCO student-led project was one of two experiments selected to fly onboard a high-altitude research balloon launched by the Canadian Space Agency in August 2019. The balloon was airborne at about 120,000 feet for 10 hours.

The project was working on a cosmic ray detection system and they were looking for different cosmic particles across the lower atmosphere. Caffarello has since graduated but led our team on the latest iteration of this experiment that took place in Sweden last fall.

Can you explain what you learned from the experiment last fall?

Our experiment was an innovative endeavour to detect cosmic rays in the stratosphere that Caffarello and I launched from the Esrange Space Center above the arctic circle in Sweden. We learned how to devise and construct an experiment that can withstand the severe conditions of near vacuum and extreme temperatures. We also gathered valuable data during the flight such as temperatures, pressure and images that proved that certain components of our experiment could work. Lastly, we realized that research requires perseverance and collaboration.

One of the most challenging moments was when we found an issue while preparing for the launch, a sudden failure during a pressure test. We worked until 4 am for three nights in a row, culminating in an all-nighter, to brainstorm solutions and design parts on the spot. Although we did not fully fix the problem, we remained resilient and worked diligently to resolve what we could and we were successfully approved for launch.

Cosmic rays sound dangerous

Cosmic rays can cause cancer by damaging DNA, but the chances are very small so you don’t need to lose sleep over it. Thankfully, our atmosphere blocks most of the highest energy cosmic rays, hence why we needed a balloon to get our experiment above much of the atmosphere, to try to detect more cosmic rays. You might have heard that you receive radiation when flying equivalent to a chest x-ray—cosmic rays are the reasons why.

What’s next for students at UBCO? Any more high-flying projects?

Yes, we have a student team called the UBCO StratoNeers who are currently participating in the Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment Design Challenge. It’s the same competition Caffarello participated in back in 2019

The StratoNeers are testing hardware protective techniques to mitigate the occurrence of bit flips due to cosmic radiation in computer binary code. This experiment would provide new insights into protective techniques to safely store data onboard satellites, rovers and space telescopes.

Do you worry someone will shoot down your balloons?

We weren’t worried about our balloon being shot down. It did drift into Norway but thankfully the Norwegians didn’t mind.

A photo of two students in front of a weather balloon launch

Leonardo Caffarello, left, and Nolan Koblischke pose in front of their atmospheric balloon as it’s prepared for launch.

The post UBCO students look up—way up—to gather research data appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of a individual holding a ketone drink

Doctoral student Kaja Falkenhain holds a ketone drink at the UBC Okanagan Exercise, Metabolism and Inflammation Lab in Kelowna.

A doctoral student at UBC Okanagan is helping lead a new study investigating a potential new tool to assist people with Type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugars—ketone drinks.

Kaja Falkenhain says that for millions of Canadians, managing Type 2 diabetes can be a lifelong commitment to self-care—including nutrition, physical activity, weight management and medication. Ketone drinks may be one more asset for them, she says.

“Through controlled studies in the lab, we’ve seen that a ketone drink supplement can lower blood glucose levels,” says Falkenhain. “We’re now ready to expand our research to a longer term, real-world trial. We’ll be looking not only at the supplement’s effect on blood glucose, but other health measures as well.”

Falkenhain, who conducts research in Dr. Jonathan Little’s Exercise, Metabolism and Inflammation Lab, says there are opportunities for people in the community with Type 2 diabetes to get involved.

Most people have heard of keto diets, but what exactly are ketones?

Ketones are molecules that are both an energy source and can act similar to a hormone in our bodies. Our livers are continually making small amounts of ketones that our cells can use for energy. When eating a low-carb diet, fasting or while sleeping, the level of ketones in our blood rises to keep up with our bodies’ energy demands. To use an analogy, we’re like a hybrid vehicle, automatically switching to this backup energy source when our main energy source—glucose—runs low.

In addition to providing this alternative fuel source, ketones also signal tissues throughout the body by binding to receptors on the surface of cells. These signalling properties are still poorly understood but they likely help regulate our overall metabolism. Recently, ketone supplements have been developed that can be consumed as a drink. These supplements can raise blood ketones without having to fast or eat a keto diet.

How might a ketone supplement help people with Type 2 diabetes?

When someone has Type 2 diabetes, their bodies can’t effectively regulate blood glucose levels for two main reasons. First, their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin—a hormone that acts like a key, unlocking our cells to let in glucose. Second, cells become insulin resistant—the key doesn’t work as well anymore. The result is prolonged high blood glucose that can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves.

Previous studies have shown that ketone supplement drinks can lower blood glucose without other changes to a diet. This is not to say that ketone supplements would replace diet, exercise or medication. Rather, if shown to be useful, they could be another tool in the toolbox for people who need to manage their Type 2 diabetes.

Do we understand how ketones lower blood glucose?

Not entirely. As mentioned, ketones are both an energy source and a signalling molecule. We speculate they may signal the liver to stop releasing glucose into the bloodstream, or maybe signal other tissues to take up more glucose.

Ketones may also be involved in other signalling pathways, with potential effects on cognition, heart function and inflammation. Our study will explore these questions as we look at specific markers in participants’ blood samples.

Your research team has done previous ketone supplement studies. How is this one different?

We’re going outside the lab for the first time to study the real-world effects of consuming a ketone supplement for an extended period. We plan to divide 40 people with Type 2 diabetes into two groups for a 90-day trial. One group will be asked to drink ketone supplements, and the other will be asked to drink a placebo. This will allow us to isolate the effects of the ketone supplement we are studying.

Participants will be provided with a blood pressure device and a continuous blood glucose monitor, and will visit a local lab for blood draws at the start and end of the study. In addition to measuring these health markers, we want to know if regularly drinking ketone supplements for 90 days is feasible for people living with Type 2 diabetes. For example, a participant may stick with the program, but not like the drink’s taste. That would be something we would want to know.

How do people find out more about your research and get involved in this study?

If people are interested in learning more about this study or would like to participate, they can visit: emil.ok.ubc.ca/studies/exogenous-ketones-in-type-2-diabetes-90-day-trial

The post Researcher wants to know if ketone drinks can help manage diabetes appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Yellowknife, pictured here, is one of only four communities in the Northwest Territories that provides maternity care. More than 40 per cent of women in the NWT must travel at least 100 kilometres—often further—to give birth, new research from UBC’s Southern Medical Program shows.

A UBC researcher is looking at how the lack of health-care resources for pregnant women living in the Northwest Territories influences their delivery and overall wellbeing.

Lauren Eggenberger, a third-year Southern Medical Program student based at UBC Okanagan, has recently published research examining the ramifications of maternal evacuation—those who need to travel away from their families to give birth. Only four of the 33 communities in the NWT provide maternity care, meaning more than 40 per cent of women must travel at least 100 kilometres—often further—before the baby arrives.

“For many years, perinatal travel has been an oppressive and isolating process for Dene, Métis and Inuvialuit women in the Northwest Territories,” she says. “Due to a lack of lack of maternity care services, these women move away from their homes and often miss the joy of celebrating traditional birthing practices with family and friends.”

Until 2017 pregnant women travelled alone. That year, the Canadian government created an escort policy, with funding for travel, lodging and food so pregnant women can bring a companion. However, their partner often stayed home with other children, who are not funded to travel, leaving moms to rely on friends or family members.

“This oppressive and essentialist policy continues to be applied to all women outside of the four NTW communities that offer birthing services,” Eggenberger says. “Indigenous women, making the most of a bad situation, are formulating their decisions for choices of escorts on their unique situations, socio-economic circumstances and social supports.”

Eggenberger says lack of insight and research into the escort policy means it is unclear whether it has achieved the desired effect of reducing the emotional and physical hardships women experience while travelling for birth. To examine this issue, her research involved a systematic review of narrative literature from women who experience maternal evacuation.

There are numerous challenges faced by women who are evacuated for birth including loneliness and fear, separation from family and children, and no connection to the community where their child will be delivered.

Eggenberger says there are additional challenges including the financial burden of birthing away from home and the loss of self-determination and choice. She says this is concerning and may reflect ongoing systemic racism towards Indigenous people in the health-care system

Preliminary data show having an escort can alleviate loneliness and isolation, but Eggenberger notes it does not address the core issue of having to leave home to give birth.

“The birthing process for women who must travel is fraught with separation from their loved ones. And without understanding the consequences of the escort policy on the people regulated by it, we are worried about the wellbeing of these women,” she adds. “There is a gap in stakeholder voices within the policy.”

While this study was taking place a maternal child unit at the regional hospital in Yellowknife was closed and 86 women, who normally would have stayed home to deliver, were evacuated from their communities. This exacerbated this situation and Eggenberger says these women, who experienced maternal evacuation for the first time, were outraged. The situation worsened when they were labelled as privileged by the many women who have experienced maternal evacuations for decades.

Study participants are from both cohorts—those who have been mandated for decades to travel for birth and those who travelled during the recent four-month disruption of perinatal service. Eggenberger says while Indigenous and non-Indigenous women faced the same hardships while away for delivery, the decision of escort did differ.

The non-Indigenous women chose their partners as escorts, while Indigenous participants chose friends, fathers, mothers and sometimes a partner.

There continues, she adds, to be little effort to return to community birthing by creating safety for Indigenous families through traditional practices, Indigenous midwifery and community ceremonies. The final goal should be changing the disproportionate burden of poor outcomes experienced by Indigenous women because they need to travel to give birth.

“While women are given an opportunity in decision-making about who will travel with them as an escort, this does little to address the disparity of delivering their babies away from their families and communities, the burden of figuring out who cares for the children at home and the affect their absences have on the health of their families.”

Eggneberger’s research was published recently in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health.

The post UBC researcher looks at the effect of leaving home to give birth appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of farmers using a smartphone to sell product

Farmers in Shaanxi, China, are more adept at using social media and technology to mitigate the effects of climate change, whereas farmers in the Okanagan and Cariboo are quicker to try new crops, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.

Technology exists that the BC government could leverage to help small farmers connect directly with consumers and also mitigate climate change impacts, say new findings from UBC Okanagan.

Dr. John Janmaat and Dr. Joanne Taylor co-authored new research that examines how farmers in the Okanagan and Cariboo regions of BC are adapting compared to farmers in China’s Shaanxi province. One of the key differences was how Chinese farmers used technology and social media, an option that’s not as widely used in Canada, Dr. Janmaat says.

“Small agricultural producers in China are able to take advantage of online marketing to connect with consumers and to move their products,” says Janmaat, a Professor of Economics in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “When the pandemic happened here, Canadians were pivoting very quickly to try and figure out, ‘Okay, what can we do now that we’re shutting down farmers’ markets, and going to visit a farm is probably not something we want to do?’ The idea of moving online was pursued, but now that these pandemic protections have come off, it’s kind of disappearing again. Whereas in China, it’s central.

“We don’t have in BC a centrally supported system of online, local produce marketing. And that’s something that perhaps the provincial government could support.”

Multiple barriers to adaptation existed in both areas, the researchers say. Limited technical knowledge and doubts about adaptation effectiveness were more serious in BC, while limited support from local government and normative expectations were notable in China. Education, targeted research and public investments in irrigation and marketing may contribute to addressing some of these differences, improving the resilience of agricultural climate adaptation in both countries.

The research was a collaboration with Lan Mu, a visiting scholar from Shaanxi Normal University, and UBCO doctoral student Lauren Arnold. It was Janmaat and Lan who struck upon the idea of comparing how Canadian and Chinese farmers are confronting climate change. They realized they were doing similar research, and wanted to bring their worlds together.

The researchers weren’t trying to declare a winner, though, they just wanted to learn from each other. It’s a simple idea, one that farmers have been using for time immemorial, says Taylor, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science at UBCO. When farmers encounter a problem, they walk down the road to ask their neighbours how they’re coping.

“We’re just in the middle of climate change and trying to survive,” Taylor says, “and there are farmers from all different levels of productivity that are trying to survive. For example, technology is certainly going to play a much bigger role in the way that we supply water, and in the way that we use water.

“That’s just one example, but technology is certainly a very, very important tool that we’re going to have to use and implement in the future, and there is a lot of research which has been going on, which will continue to go on into the future.”

Tactics such as crop selection and marketing are not mutually exclusive between the two countries. Given Canada’s more frequent, more extreme weather events caused by climate change, there are real impacts on food production now, Taylor says. From drought to floods to fires, farmers across the world are being forced to change how they grow food.

It’s especially plain in Canada, where a smaller population makes direct marketing a challenge. The private sector may not see much return; however, the provincial government could play a role in making the venture worthwhile through funding.

“We need to draw attention to the ways in which we use water and the ways in which we use land for food production while supporting our agriculturalists and food suppliers,” Taylor says. “But as far as the relationship between here and China, work needs to continue in both countries. We really need to nurture those relationships for the betterment of the global food supply.”

The research was published recently in the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.

The post Tech could help BC farmers reach customers, mitigate climate change impacts appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

 A photo of the Porcupine River

A scenic view of the Eagle River in Yukon. The river is a tributary of the Porcupine River.

A team of international researchers monitoring the impact of climate change on large rivers in Arctic Canada and Alaska determined that, as the region is sharply warming up, its rivers are not moving as scientists have expected.

Dr. Alessandro Ielpi, an Assistant Professor with UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, is a landscape scientist and lead author of a paper published this week in Nature Climate Change. The research, conducted with Dr. Mathieu Lapôtre at Stanford University, along with Dr. Alvise Finotello at the University of Padua in Italy, and Université Laval’s Dr. Pascale Roy-Léveillée, examines how atmospheric warming is affecting Arctic rivers flowing through permafrost terrain.

Their findings, says Dr. Ielpi, were a bit surprising.

“The western Arctic is one of the areas in the world experiencing the sharpest atmospheric warming due to climate change,” he says. “Many northern scientists predicted the rivers would be destabilized by atmospheric warming. The understanding was that as permafrost thaws, riverbanks are weakened, and therefore northern rivers are less stable and expected to shift their channel positions at a faster pace.”

This assumption of faster channel migration owing to climate change has dominated the scientific community for decades.

“But the assumption had never been verified against field observations,” he adds.

To test this assumption, Dr. Ielpi and his team analyzed a collection of time-lapsed satellite images—stretching back more than 50 years. They compared more than a thousand kilometres of riverbanks from 10 Arctic rivers in Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, including major watercourses like the Mackenzie, Porcupine, Slave, Stewart and Yukon.

“We tested the hypothesis that large sinuous rivers in permafrost terrain are moving faster under a warming climate and we found exactly the opposite,” he says. “Yes, permafrost is degrading, but the influence of other environmental changes, such as greening of the Arctic, counteracts its effects. Higher temperatures and more moisture in the Arctic mean the region is greening up. Shrubs are expanding, growing thicker and taller on areas that were previously only sparsely vegetated.”

This growing and robust vegetation along the riverbanks means the banks have become more stable.

“The dynamics of these rivers reflect the extent and impact of global climate change on sediment erosion and deposition in Arctic watersheds,” Dr. Ielpi and his colleagues write in the paper. “Understanding the behaviour of these rivers in response to environmental changes is paramount to understanding and working with the impact of climate warming on Arctic regions.”

Dr. Ielpi points out that monitoring riverbank erosion and channel migration around the globe is an important tool that should be widely used to understand climate change. As part of this research, a dataset of rivers found in non-permafrost regions and representative of warmer climates in the Americas, Africa and Oceania was also analyzed. Those rivers migrated at rates consistent with what was reported in previous studies, unlike those in the Arctic.

“We found that large sinuous rivers with various degrees of permafrost distribution in their floodplains and catchments, display instead a peculiar range in migration rates,” says Dr. Ielpi. “Surprisingly, these rivers migrate at slower rates under warming temperatures.”

The time-lapse analysis shows that the sideways migration of large Arctic sinuous rivers has decreased by about 20 per cent over the last half-century.

“The migration deceleration of about 20 per cent of the documented Arctic watercourses in the last half century is an important continent-scale signal. And our methodology tells us that 20 per cent may very well be a conservative measure,” he says. “We’re confident it can be linked to processes such as shrubification and permafrost thaw, which are in turn related to atmospheric warming.

“Scientific thinking often evolves through incremental discoveries, although great value lies in disruptive ideas that force us to look at an old problem with new eyes,” states Dr. Ielpi. “We sincerely hope our study will encourage landscape and climate scientists elsewhere to re-evaluate other core assumptions that, upon testing, may reveal fascinating and exciting facets of our ever-changing planet.”

A photo of Dr. Alessandro Ielpi

Dr. Alessandro Ielpi, an Assistant Professor with UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, paddles the Stewart River in Yukon.

The post Arctic river channels changing due to climate change, scientists discover appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.