Patty Wellborn



A photo of a public pool

Goal is to reduce costs, environmental impacts and health risks of aquatic centres

UBC Okanagan researchers are taking a deep dive into the analytical data of public aquatic facilities in an effort to minimize environmental impacts and make them more energy efficient.

With nearly 3,000 publicly owned aquatic facilities across Canada, municipalities are continually looking for ways to further reduce their environmental impacts while keeping operational costs manageable, explains Dr. Michael De Coste, a Postdoctoral Researcher with the School of Engineering’s Life Cycle Management Laboratory.

Through the four-year community-based project, the researchers will develop best management practices for new and existing aquatic centres to optimize the operations of the facilities. The project will focus on three key pillars: water, health and energy.

“Over the course of this research, we’ll be monitoring water and air quality, building energy use and overall user experience,” says Dr. De Coste. “Comparing this data will paint a clearer image of the benchmarks required for aquatic facilities to meet their goals today and into the future.”

Three of British Columbia’s largest cities—Burnaby, Richmond and Kelowna—have partnered with the life cycle lab to identify new opportunities to address these areas through a new water-health-energy nexus approach. As part of the unique partnership, the researchers have access to the participating facilities and will be provided with the essential data to analyze the operational costs, energy consumption and user experience of each aquatic centre.

Along with the three cities, industry and regulatory partners, including the local health authorities, have joined in to determine methods to optimize aquatic facilities and, at the same time, keep staff and users safe. Industrial and commercial partners in this research include HCMA Architecture + Design, DB Perks and Associates Ltd, AME Group and Myrtha Pools.

The research team includes Drs. De Coste and Haroon R. Mian along with supervisors Drs. Rehan Sadiq and Kasun Hewage from UBCO’s Life Cycle Management Laboratory. The team is also collaborating with Dr. Andrea MacNeill from Planetary Healthcare Laboratory.

In particular, they will investigate and analyze the impacts of total energy use in each facility along with chemical use, total life cycle cost and thermal comfort. Their findings will help develop a dashboard platform to provide evidence-based tools for municipalities to leverage in their ongoing efforts to optimize energy consumption and minimize the health risks of users and staff while enabling a more cost-effective method of operation, explains Dr. Sadiq.

“All of the partners are leaders in sustainability and innovation, and have leapt right in sharing information that—once analyzed—will add to measures already in place that make new and existing aquatic facilities in these communities more sustainable and operationally less expensive,” he says. “We are excited at this opportunity to play a role in reducing the environmental footprint of aquatic facilities across the country.”

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A photo of people on a wharf viewing the McDougall Creek wildfire from across Okanagan Lake.

UBCO’s Dr. Mary Ann Murphy discusses the emotional recovery after the trauma of experiencing a wildfire.

A year after the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire, a team of UBC Okanagan researchers reached out to people who had lost their homes in the fire. Some 25 Okanagan families were interviewed, sharing their emotional journey of recovery after the wildlife.

Mary Ann Murphy, an Associate Professor of Sociology at UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and with the School of Social Work, has become an expert on the emotional aspect of recovering from trauma—especially the devastation of wildfires.

Dr. Murphy, along with fellow UBCO researchers David Scott, Fern Helfand and Penny Cash, took the information gleaned from those interviews and created a Kelowna Museum exhibition titled The Meaning of Home. The exhibition included fire science and artifacts, along with images depicting the primary themes of impact and loss identified by both the families and first responders.

What the researchers learned 20 years ago resonates today as the communities of the Central Okanagan continue to deal with the reality of the Grouse Complex Wildfire which caused damage in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country and continues to burn today.

What did you learn when you interviewed those who had lost their homes in 2003?

There was a profound sense of guilt felt by those who left behind simple but irreplaceable mementos that represented deeply embedded memories—children’s trophies and stuffed animals, family heirlooms and old, inexpensive keepsakes that most represented what they cherished about their home and history.

They grieved, had sleepless nights, health problems and worked to help their children adjust to new neighbourhoods and friends. And, they mourned about living with the incredible loss of what was more than a structure—as every comfort, every family routine and ritual, everything familiar was turned upside down. They struggled with the loss of something that many people work, sacrifice, tend to and care about. Many said it was not a house, but a home—a place that is a welcoming safe harbour, a site of shared history, comfort, celebrations and traditions.

Why did you feel it was important to tell the stories of those who had lost their homes?

We wanted to share the depth and significance of their loss. We captured the very personal impact of the fire and related their stories. The exhibition included fire science and artifacts, along with images depicting the primary themes of impact and loss identified by both the families and a number of the FortisBC power line technicians who were among the first to enter the fire areas.

Museum visitors left familiar reflections on the depth and significance of what was lost: “…seeing the fire was … [eerily] awesome. The most heart-breaking sight was watching the people drive by with all of their belongings in their vehicles. The most wonderful thing was hearing how your community came together.”

How do the people who live in the Central Okanagan brace for the future?

It has been an astonishing 20 years since the historic 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire—an event that destroyed more than 25,000 hectares of parkland, forced more than 33,000 people to evacuate and levelled 238 homes. At the time, it was one of the largest wildland-urban interface fires in Canadian history. It forever changed our landscape and our psyche.

We could never have anticipated that 20 years later, almost to the date, we would be living under a provincial state of emergency, evacuations, homes destroyed, smoke-filled skies and hundreds of fires would become what we are told may be our “new normal.”

To prepare for the future, find information about making your home as fire smart as possible. And keep in mind, at any time, you may have short notice to evacuate. Know where those important documents are and keep a list handy of things you would need to take with you.

What message would you give to all those who have been affected by this wildfire?

Remember, things will get better.

However, don’t suffer alone. Advice from previously impacted families is to reach out for help, continue to share how you’re feeling and doing with friends and neighbours as well as look next door to see if anyone from your street might still need help. Talk with your children in case they feel guilty about what was left behind and let them know that this turmoil is normal.

As we heal and move forward, you will learn that this was one of our region’s “finest and darkest hours” and that the simple outpouring of concern from everyone far and wide is entirely sincere. Get back to the people you haven’t heard from in ages who expressed concern. Let them know how you are truly feeling. Families previously impacted have said this can be a great opportunity to reset your priorities.

And finally, try to be patient. The fires aren’t fully under control and some sites simply aren’t safe yet. But we will get through this. We are a resilient and caring community. In all, take great comfort from all of those—including first responders—who have cared for us and avoided the loss of life.

A photo of people on a beach viewing the McDougall Creek wildfire from across Okanagan Lake.

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Earlier this summer a giant panda named Ai Bao delivered twin cubs in a South Korean zoo. Although pandas often give birth to twins, typically only one cub survives, especially in the wild.

And to survive, this tiny helpless cub needs to communicate with its mother—better and more urgently than the twin.

Dr. Christina Buesching, an Adjunct Professor with UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, is a researcher who studies how animals communicate with each other. In collaboration with a group of Chinese co-authors, she recently published a study examining the way newborn panda cubs acoustically connect with their mother.

Blind at birth and just one-900th of the size of their mother, the two babies compete for nourishment and care by making sounds. Those squawks, squalls and croaks likely determine whether they’ll survive or not.

What is the survival rate for pandas born in the wild? And in captivity?

Approximately 56 per cent of giant panda births are twins. However, even though the new mother will spend two weeks fasting and doing nothing but caring for the babies, if raised in the wild, typically one of those cubs will die shortly after birth.

And in captivity, the mortality of pandas younger than one month—especially during their first 15 days—is 22 per cent higher than in any other age class.

To avoid this high neonatal mortality and ensure the continued survival of this charismatic species, twins born in captivity are switched regularly every 24 hours, so the mother only ever has to care for one baby while its twin is being nurtured by the zoo keepers.

Interestingly, we currently don’t really understand how the mother decides which cub she will favour. Because the cubs are so tiny and helpless, the only way they can elicit maternal attention is by making sounds—and it’s those sounds that likely determine which twin survives.

In essence, they need to communicate to their mother “Feed me, not the other one.” Therefore, we propose in a recent publication in Integrative Zoology, that poor understanding of early-age vocal mother–infant communication may be a reason for the high mortality rate of newborn pandas.

So what kind of vocalizations do newborn panda cubs make?

Panda cubs use three distinct calls: harsh-sounding squawks, high-pitched squalls and throaty croaks. These are so-called broadband calls and comprise a very wide frequency range, as well as contain both audible and ultrasound components higher than 20 kilohertz.

Of course, these sounds should have evolved to elicit maximum maternal care and attention, but in the wild the cubs are potential prey to other animals including golden cats, yellow-throated martens and even the Asian black bear. Ideally, their calls should therefore be something just the mother can hear.

Can you explain why baby pandas use both ultrasound and lower frequencies?

Our analyses show that the calls get deeper the older and bigger the cubs get.

This is quite interesting in the context of “survival of the fittest” because the lower call frequencies require longer vocal cords. Therefore, deeper calls could be an unmistakable way for a baby panda to signal to its mother that it is big and strong and growing rapidly—in fact much bigger and growing faster than its twin—and therefore worthier of the mother’s attention and care.

Ultrasound, however, is much harder to pinpoint and therefore cubs vocalizing in higher frequencies may be harder to detect by predators. So, cubs may be safer when calling in ultrasound, but they may get more attention from their mother than their sibling when calling with a deeper voice.

This truly is a biological example of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Broadband calls have been reported in several other species, which would typically use ultrasound calls when babies are distressed or desperate to get their mother’s attention. But before our study, they had not been reported in mother–infant communication of any large solitary terrestrial carnivore.

How did you conduct this research?

We analyzed 5,300 calls including 3,475 squawks, 1,300 squalls and 490 croaks of 11 panda cubs under 15 days old—seven males and four females.

When a cub was removed from its mother for scheduled health checks, we played back a recording to gauge her interest in the sounds. But to investigate the biological significance of the different frequency ranges, we modified these recordings using computer software so we could delete either all ultrasound components and playback only the deeper frequencies, or do the opposite and remove all deeper frequencies playing back only the ultrasound components. We also played the natural broadband calls, which included the complete frequency range.

Our observations showed clearly that females could hear frequencies of up to 65kHz, and eight of the nine mothers reacted strongly to ultrasound playback by searching for the source of the calls—in this case the speakers. But all nine females responded much stronger to broadband calls and calls comprising only the deeper frequencies by being alert and investigating the speakers.

This leads us to conclude that cubs uttering deeper calls do have an advantage in competing for maternal care and attention.

Why is it important that we know how pandas communicate?

The giant panda is a true flagship species for conservation and often serves as China’s national symbol. It was endangered for many years, but due to considerable and far-reaching conservation measures in the wild, and a stringently regulated captive breeding program coordinated between zoos worldwide, panda numbers are recovering.

In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List downgraded their conservation from endangered to vulnerable and in July 2021, China followed suit. However, the mortality rate of panda cubs is still high.

This research suggests that better understanding of early-age vocal mother–infant communication may help increase cub survival.

Understanding the detailed ins-and-outs of a species’ behavioural and physiological needs, however, is crucial in designing effective habitat conservation and management strategies. In a paper, published in The Innovation, we examined the pros and cons of creating single large protected areas as national parks or conservation areas to investigate the benefits of protecting several smaller areas to encompass a higher number of panda subpopulations.

A photo of a mother panda and a newborn cub.

A mother panda holds on to her newborn cub. Photo courtesy of Guiquan Zhang.

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A photo of a teenage boy packing his school bag while his mother is preparing to go to work

Back to school can be exciting but with each new year comes change, especially for students entering middle school. UBCO experts provide some tips for parents to navigate those middle years.

Long before children are ready for middle school, their parents have heard the horror stories.

Online bullying, gender identity, social media, vaping, drugs, sex and dating…the list of potential pitfalls and obstacles can feel overwhelmingly endless.

It’s enough to disrupt even the most stable of households when a child shifts from the safety and security of the known into the uncertainty of a new school—especially if it’s around a milestone like the first day of middle or high school.

UBC Okanagan’s scholars and researchers want to help. Experts from across disciplines provide a few tips to help parents successfully navigate this new phase of their journeys.

“Make a plan,” says Dr. Stephen Berg, Associate Professor, Okanagan School of Education 

The start of another school year is an exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking time for everyone in a family. New activities and routines begin, so taking the time to plan and communicate with everyone in the family can help ease anxiety and nervousness going into the year.

Along with this, it is so important for children and youth to have proper nutrition. Having them take a water bottle to school—if allowed—helps maintain hydration and planning for healthy snacks and lunches helps with alertness and self-regulation in the classroom.

Of course, being physically active throughout the day is just as important. Even if there are no activities planned, something like going for a walk or other cost-effective activity gets children outside and can also be a great way to communicate and connect with each other.

“Encourage kindness,” says Dr. John Tyler Binfet, Associate Professor, Okanagan School of Education

A previous study involving 191 Grade 9 students from Central Okanagan Public Schools demonstrated that when the teens were encouraged to be kind, they surpassed expectations.

Within one week, more than 940 acts of kindness—sharing school supplies, giving compliments, helping with chores or encouraging others—were accomplished. As the bulk of the kind acts took place at the school, the findings show positive effects on school climate, student-to-student relationships and student behaviour.

I think adolescents can be misperceived, especially in schools. And if educators and parents can model kindness or provide examples of kindness, it will make being kind easier for adolescents.

“Keep the big picture in mind,” says Dr. Jessica Lougheed, Assistant Professor, Psychology, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

For kids and teens in middle school and high school grades, back to school can be an especially challenging time. Often, tweens and teens are experiencing developmental changes in many domains at the same time—these include puberty, with more intense and less predictable emotions, as well as new activities, peer groups and schools.

Relationships with primary caregivers, understandably, can become more strained. The back-to-school season is yet another change. When routines change in such a big way, we typically see a period of less predictable daily dynamics in the household before everything settles into a new routine. Often, what’s going on in one area, such as your child’s school or social life, will influence other areas including their emotions or how they relate to family members.

If you notice a lack of balance in your household dynamic at the start of the school year, it might be helpful to keep the bigger picture in mind. Change is hard, and your tweens and teens are navigating an acute change to their daily schedules and activities at the same time as all of their other developmental changes. Irritability might be directed at you, but it might not be about you.

Check-in with your child when things are quieter and calmer, and it might be easier to make a connection then.

“Communicate well, and communicate often,” says Dr. Shirley Hutchinson, Lecturer, Psychology, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Transitioning back to school, especially a new school, can be hard for both students and parents. Much of the anxiety stems from uncertainty and one of the best ways to deal with uncertainty is to try and collect as much information as possible.

Communication is key.

Parents should talk to their children and explore the new or returning school environment together. Talk about what the children are excited about and what they may be nervous about. And most importantly, talk about what worries are within their control and which ones are not. Knowledge goes a long way to reducing uncertainty and easing anxieties.

“Get those steps in and keep active,” says Dr. Ali McManus, Professor, School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Physical activity is just another word for movement and it can look like anything including riding your bike to school, cleaning your room, mowing the grass, walking the dog or playing sports.

The easier way to keep active is to get your steps in. In Canada, the recommended daily steps are 13,000 for adolescent boys and 11,000 for girls. But in middle school steps tend to decline and across Canada less than 10 per cent of our teens meet these guidelines. Here are four easy tips on ways to get more active: start small, make it social, do things you enjoy and make time in your day, every day, for activity.

“Provide a non-judgmental space to chat about the risks of vaping and smoking,” says Dr. Laura Struik, School of Nursing

Vaping has become common in school environments, with youth stating that the commute to school, school washrooms, recess and lunch are contexts where they are frequently exposed to vaping. Having open discussions about vaping with your child can help if they are feeling pressured, or even curious, about vaping.

Parents might also get some empty vape devices, free of charge at a vape store, to start the conversation and address the curiosity that frequently contributes to trying vaping. Role play can also help prepare a child to proactively think about how they might manage peer pressure situations that could make vaping tempting. And parental or family disapproval can play a strong role in preventing uptake of vaping among children and youth.

The post Navigating the middle years and beyond appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of wildfire suppression planes working on a fire in the Okanagan valley

Wildfire suppression planes work on a fire in the Okanagan earlier this spring.

This week, the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations downgraded many evacuation orders to alerts—but every resident in the region knows the wildfire situation continues to evolve and will leave a lasting impression both on the landscape and in the Okanagan’s collective psyche.

While fire crews continue to work the frontlines, a team of UBC Okanagan experts can provide information on fire growth, habitat loss, post-fire spreading and even the emotional turmoil of being evacuated due to wildfire.

Mathieu Bourbonnais, Assistant Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

Areas of expertise:

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

Tel: 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 

Tel: 250 863 2822

Karen Hodges, Professor of Conservation Biology, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

Areas of expertise:

  • Conservation biology
  • Habitat loss
  • Extinction risks
  • Wildfires and wildlife
  • Climate change and wildfire
  • Endangered species
  • Boreal forests
  • Mammals
  • Birds

Tel: 250 807 8763

Alessandro Ielpi, Assistant Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

Areas of expertise:

  • Watershed processes
  • Rivers and floodplains
  • Post-fire flooding
  • Stream widening and bank erosion

Tel: 250 807 8364

Mary-Ann Murphy, Associate Professor, School of Social Work and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise:

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

Tel: 250 807 8705

David Scott, Associate Professor, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

Areas of expertise:

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


John R.J. Thompson, Assistant Professor, Data Science, Mathematics, Statistics, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

Areas of expertise:

  • Statistical fire growth modelling and simulation
  • Fire image analysis

Tel: 289 776 9678

Babak Tosarkani, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering

Areas of expertise:

  • Supply Chain Management
  • Operations Management
  • Sustainability and Circular Economy
  • Risk Management
  • Strategic Sustainable Development

Tel: 647 551 7732

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A large field of plastic waste.

UBCO engineers are testing research that uses discarded plastic bottles to help stabilize clay banks in landfills.

For years, unrecycled plastic bottles have been dumped in landfills. Now, thanks to new research from UBC Okanagan, those bottles may have a second life in that landfill—stabilizing its earth walls.

Used plastic bottles and textiles pose an increasing problem for landfills worldwide. Researchers say nearly a hundred million metric tons of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also known as microplastics, are produced globally each year—with a fraction of that number being recycled—making it one of the largest sources of plastic waste.

“One way we can manage plastic waste is through integrating it into geotechnical construction,” explains doctoral student Alok Chandra. “By finding new ways to use these discarded plastics, we can divert them from landfills and use them to stabilize cover materials within landfills.”

Chandra and his supervisor, UBCO Engineering Professor Dr. Sumi Siddiqua, have developed a new method of incorporating PET waste into clay soil stabilization.

“Due to its nontoxicity, low biodegradability and accessibility, it shows considerable potential for use in landfill designs. However, a considerable amount of research is still required,” says Dr. Siddiqua. “This not only solves the solid waste problem but also increases the economic value of waste and encourages its re-circulation back from already polluted lands and oceans.”

The study suggests the reused material strengthens the soil and serves as a water-resistant layer that will keep pollutants such as lead from escaping the landfill.

“Our results show great potential, but there is still some work to be done before we will integrate the PET waste into landfill soil stabilization management,” says Chandra.

The research is published in the journal Waste Management and funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grants Program.

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A photo of wine being poured.

UBC Okanagan research has determined there is a lot more to a tasting at a local winery than what is being poured into the glass.

New research from UBC Okanagan has determined that enjoying a tasting at a winery goes well beyond the sip.

Professor Annamma Joy, with UBCO’s Faculty of Management, conducts research in the area of consumer behaviour and branding with a special focus on luxury brands, fashion brand experiences, wineries and wine tourism.

Dr. Joy, along with her collaborators and students, studied several Okanagan wineries over a three-year period to comprehensively document the experiences of visitors. Each year, BC’s wineries welcome more than one million people, and Dr. Joy’s latest research—published this month in the Journal of Retailing—confirms people are judging more than what is in the glass.

For the study, the researchers detailed a number of items including the material features of the winery and the sensorial theme, such as music and lighting. They took note of everything including the landscape, architecture, views from the windows, layout of the store and the physical space of the tastings. Even the social interaction between staff and customers was considered.

Each of these elements are subjectively perceived and work together in the cocreation of “affective atmospheres” that are central to the success of a winery, she explains.

“We confirmed that a winery consumer’s experience is individual and shaped, in part, by their knowledge of wine and understanding of preference,” says Dr. Joy. “Not only is the experience influenced by the aesthetics of the winery, the service received and the wine itself, but also by differences between novices, experts and enthusiasts.”

Dr. Joy explains that the research findings have implications for winery operators when they consider the desired consumer experience. For instance, visitors with a high level of expertise may view sensory stimulation and social interactions with other experts as more important to the visit.

“Wineries that consider the dynamic interaction between customer’s orientation and their level of expertise may create more positive experiences,” says Dr. Joy. “Overall, it is clear that staff being themselves and being sensitive to specific visitor needs and making them feel welcome, is crucial for visitor appreciation of the winery.”

She suggests the findings highlight the importance of a holistic approach to achieving consistency across material features, sensorial modalities and social interactions of a winery.

“By recognizing the interplay of these elements, retailers can strategically design their spaces and interactions to cultivate specific emotional experiences for their customers.”

The findings have implications for retailers outside of the wine industry, she adds.

“Experience-driven and knowledge-based industries where there are discernable differences between novices, experts and enthusiasts may consider how to—through their retail atmospherics—respond according to these needs and expectations.”

So, what does it take for a first-time customer to experience a sense of belonging at a winery?

“The answer is quite simply connection,” she adds. “People desire connection to enhance their experience, and wineries need staff members who are prepared to respond and improvise as needed to strengthen that connection between the customers.”

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A doctor supporting, consoling and comforting a female patient during a medical appointment.

A new resource is available for medical practitioners to help treat brain injury in survivors of intimate partner violence.

A first-of-its-kind resource is now available to help medical providers recognize and respond to brain injury from intimate partner violence.

The Intimate Partner Violence Traumatic Brain Injury Medical Provider Resource is designed to educate doctors and nurse practitioners in treating brain injury for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). Created by an interdisciplinary team of 11 clinicians, researchers, advocates and persons with lived experience in Canada and the United States, the guide is a first step to providing better medical care for a currently underserved patient population, says Dr. Paul van Donkelaar, a Faculty of Health and Social Development Professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Globally, one in three women will experience violence at the hands of a partner—Statistics Canada puts that number at 44 per cent in this country. Research indicates as many as 92 per cent of survivors may also experience one or more brain injuries from blows to the face, head and neck, and through strangulation.

Dr. van Donkelaar is an expert on concussions. He is co-founder and scientific advisor for Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research (SOAR) and one of the authors of the guide.

SOAR is a multi-disciplinary, community-engaged, non-profit initiative that applies scientific evidence to increase awareness, improve supports and services for survivors of intimate partner violence and brain injury.

Concussion, he explains, can cause a wide spectrum of physical, cognitive, neuro-behavioural and emotional symptoms. More severe forms of brain injury can cause seizures or sensorimotor, visual or language functioning deficits. Those who sustain IPV-caused brain injury are at risk of developing mental health and substance use conditions, and often face challenges related to housing and safety for them as well as their children.

Optimizing care for this unique population requires timely access to medical assessment and coordinated, interdisciplinary care that is currently unavailable to many survivors in Canada.

“We know failure to receive appropriate medical care following acute brain injury from IPV can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment of injuries,” he says. “It can also lead to the development of persistent symptoms and challenges and a return to environments where the survivor is at risk of recurrent and preventable injuries, and even death.”

Despite this, knowledge and awareness of this issue remains low among frontline service providers in a variety of sectors, and there are no clinical practice guidelines outlining a comprehensive approach to the in-office, medical assessment and management of those presenting with IPV-caused brain injury.

“In response to this urgent and unmet need, our team used existing research and expertise to develop the guidelines,” Dr. van Donkelaar adds.

The resource includes extensive information on the complex intersection of IPV and brain injury. It details how to conduct medical assessment, management and follow-up that includes multi-disciplinary referral considerations while honouring the unique needs of the patient population.

“Beyond providing clinical care for these patients, physicians and nurse practitioners can play an important role in advocacy,” says Lin Haag, a social work doctoral student at Wilfrid Laurier University and an investigator in the Acquired Brain Injury Research Lab at the University of Toronto. “They can advocate for necessary intersectional, trauma-informed, anti-racist and equitable health and social care systems as well share knowledge among other key stakeholders.”

The resource is free, and is the first of its kind addressing specific and targeted care for survivors of IPV-caused brain injury.

The goal is that it will act as a starting point to be refined by additional clinical experience and research, and help encourage and inform the development of international consensus clinical practice guidelines in the future, explains leading concussion expert Shelina Babul, who developed the Concussion Awareness Training Tool as part of her work with the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit at BC Children’s Hospital.

“We hope this resource will empower more physicians and nurse practitioners throughout Canada, and worldwide, to step forward and help care for this frequently under-recognized and underserviced patient population,” she adds. “Ensuring women get the diagnosis and care they need to achieve healthy outcomes after abuse is way past due.”

The Intimate Partner Violence Traumatic Brain Injury Medical Provider Resource and the full list of expert contributors are available to download at:

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telling stories advisory

UBCO Professor Jodey Castricano, left, along with graduate students Zach DeWitt, Madeline Donald and Annie Furman, is planning a multispecies storytelling workshop at Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre on July 21.

What: Storytelling symposium and workshop
When: Wednesday, July 19 and Friday, July 21.
Where: Graduate Collegium, ASC 460, Arts and Sciences building, UBC Okanagan and Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, 4711 Raymer Rd., Kelowna

A global collaboration is bringing together humanities researchers who will use storytelling practices to aim the light on planetary agendas regarding climate change.

Participants in the ongoing research exchange between UBC Okanagan and visiting faculty from England’s University of Exeter are planning a two-day event that will bring artists and scholars together to discuss planetary injustices.

The event, Telling Stories: The Humanities in an Age of Planetary Agenda-Setting, includes both a symposium at UBC Okanagan on July 19 and a Multispecies Storytelling Workshop on July 21 at Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre.

The initiative involves a collaboration between Professor Jodey Castricano, with UBCO’s Faculty of Creative Studies (FCCS) and Drs. Ina Linge and Paul Young with the University of Exeter. This collaboration originated when Dr. Castricano was invited to the University of Exeter for a Visiting International Academic Fellowship.

This is the second of a series of events housed at both University of Exeter and UBC Okanagan. It will help advance an arts and humanities scholarly response to climate change, mass extinction and environmental degradation, in order to drive healthy, sustainable and just social and environmental change, explains Dr. Castricano, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in FCCS.

“At a time when demands for environmental sustainability and food system justice are increasingly urgent, and planetary agendas are being set by scientific and financially interested parties, this project explores how arts and humanities scholars and artists can contribute to agenda setting and climate justice through storytelling methods,” Dr. Castricano says. “This approach is important because stories serve to naturalize certain ways of thinking about and acting in the world because they invite and inspire meaningful social and cultural engagement and action.”

By engaging scholars, thinkers, makers and creative people, the two-day event aims to reframe and rewrite climate justice narratives and stories that are currently exclusive to science, technology and economics.

To find out more and register for the events, visit:

This event is supported by UBCO’s FCCS and the UBC Okanagan-Exeter Excellence Catalyst Grant and is organized by the Post-Anthropocentrism and Critical Animal Studies Research Group.

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A photo of an oil refinery.

A UBCO researcher is investigating clean and efficient energy technologies as part of the movement to reduce the use of carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

As many nations work to go green, a significant question remains unanswered: how can the world decarbonize energy supplies in a sustainable, efficient and economically viable manner?

Dr. Robert Godin, an Assistant Professor of Green Chemistry in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, is working to find the answer.

In a recent study co-authored by Dr. Godin and published in the Royal Society of Chemistry, he explains the urgent need to decarbonize energy supplies, and how precise processing of a material called carbon nitride may be the key.

Fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas have energized economies for more than 150 years—can you explain the urgency in moving away from these types of energy? Why the rush?

There are a number of reasons why we need to shift to sustainable sources of power—one being to slow down the progression of climate change. It’s abundantly clear that we need to decarbonize our energy supplies to reach our net zero emission targets. One powerful analysis is the Net Zero by 2050 report from the International Energy Agency. It states that massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies is required to meet these goals.

What other types of fuel can supply this energy?

The generation of synthetic fuels is gaining traction as an alternative to carbon-intensive fossil fuels. When synthetic fuels are generated by sunlight, we refer to them as solar fuels, which have the potential to be sustainable.

What are some challenges associated with these other types of fuel?

One of the biggest issues in trying to identify alternatives is their cost. If we can’t find a way to bring the cost down to the same as fossil fuels or lower, there will unfortunately be barriers for many to adopt them. 

Can you explain the research presented in this paper?

We were looking at a new way to control the shape of inexpensive photocatalysts that can generate solar fuels, with the aim of improving their efficiency and cost-competitiveness when compared to fossil fuels.

To do this, we worked with a material called carbon nitride—it is an organic semiconductor made from inexpensive and abundant commodity materials that shows promising photocatalytic activity. However, there are open questions as to what is the best way to prepare carbon nitride when considering complexity, cost and efficiency. To tackle this, we need better information on how modifications made to carbon nitride can impact efficiency.

Ultimately, we were able to devise a new way to control the shape of carbon nitride particles. While we didn’t yet obtain better performance with our method, we did see a completely new shape, like fibrous webs, that wasn’t obtainable with the traditional method.

We’re confident that by refining our method, we can produce more solar fuels than with typical carbon nitride.

Could the results of this research have other applications? And where do you go from here?

Beyond decarbonizing energy, our results are significant to the overall field of photocatalysis, which is becoming increasingly popular as a synthetic method in industrial processes that make drugs, cosmetics, polymers and more.

For next steps, now that we have a general method established we can look at refinements to ensure our starting material gets converted to a type of carbon nitride that is a good photocatalyst.

If we can solve that problem, then we can expand the types of shapes we make to be able to find which ones perform best, and why.

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