Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

Occupants in a vehicle, especially pregnant women, are subjected to relatively large forces suddenly and over a short period when a vehicle accelerates over a speedbump

Occupants in a vehicle, especially pregnant women, are subjected to relatively large forces suddenly and over a short period when a vehicle accelerates over a speedbump

The slower the better while driving over them, says researcher

Slow down. Baby on board.

So says UBC Okanagan researcher and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Hadi Mohammadi. His new research, conducted in collaboration with Sharif University of Technology, determines that accelerating over speed bumps poses a danger for pregnant women and their fetuses.

“There is lots of research about the importance of movement for women during pregnancy,” explains Mohammadi, who teaches in the School of Engineering. “Our latest research looked specifically at the impacts of sudden acceleration on a pregnant woman.”

Using new modelling based on data from crash tests and fundamental dynamic behaviours of a pregnant woman, Mohammadi and his co-authors found that accelerating over speedbumps raises concern. If driven over quickly, they caution this can lead to minor injuries to the fetal brain, cause an abnormal fetal heart rate, abdominal pain, uterine contraction, increasing uterine activity and further complications.

Occupants in a vehicle, especially pregnant women, are subjected to relatively large forces suddenly and over a short period when a vehicle accelerates over a speedbump, he explains.

Mohammadi is particularly interested in vibrations, and in this case their impact on human organs. This recent study looked at the effect of these vibrations on a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy.

Their investigation included many factors such as the speed of the car as it goes over the speedbump, the size of the speedbump as it can cause a drag on the uterus as it goes up and then down, and the fact that all this movement puts pressure on the amniotic fluid that is protecting the fetus.

“We took all these factors into account to ensure a comprehensive differential model that mirrors real-world responses and interactions of the woman and fetus.”

As a result, the researchers were very specific in their recommendations. Slow down.

In fact, they advise slowing a vehicle to less than 45 km/h when hitting a speedbump, and preferably as low as 25km/h to reduce risk to the fetus.

“Obviously, there are other variables at play when a driver approaches a speedbump, but we hope our findings provide some evidence-based guidance to keep drivers and their occupants literally and figuratively safe,” says Mohammadi.

Furthermore, he hopes the findings can help researchers better understand how a pregnant woman and her fetus are subjected to risk caused by a vehicle passing bumpy terrain such as speed bumps. His end goal is for his research to make vehicular safety improvements for pregnant women.

The research is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Biomechanics.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Pulp mill waste hits the road instead of the landfill

Waste materials from the pulp and paper industry have long been seen as possible fillers for building products like cement, but for years these materials have ended up in the landfill. Now, researchers at UBC Okanagan are developing guidelines to use this waste for road construction in an environmentally friendly manner.

The researchers were particularly interested in wood-based pulp mill fly ash (PFA), which is a non-hazardous commercial waste product. The North American pulp and paper industry generates more than one million tons of ash annually by burning wood in power boiler units for energy production. When sent to a landfill, the producer shoulders the cost of about $25 to $50 per ton, so mills are looking for alternative usages of these by-products.

“Anytime we can redirect waste to a sustainable alternative, we are heading in the right direction,” says Dr. Sumi Siddiqua, associate professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Dr. Siddiqua leads the Advanced Geomaterials Testing Lab, where researchers uncover different reuse options for industry byproducts.

This new research co-published with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Chinchu Cherian investigated using untreated PFA as an economically sustainable low-carbon binder for road construction.

“The porous nature of PFA acts like a gateway for the adhesiveness of the other materials in the cement that enables the overall structure to be stronger and more resilient than materials not made with PFA,” says Dr. Cherian. “Through our material characterization and toxicology analysis, we found further environmental and societal benefits that producing this new material was more energy efficient and produced low-carbon emissions.”

But Dr. Siddiqua notes the construction industry is concerned that toxins used in pulp and paper mills may leach out of the reused material.

“Our findings indicate because the cementation bonds developed through the use of the untreated PFA are so strong, little to no release of chemicals is apparent. Therefore, it can be considered as a safe raw material for environmental applications.”

While Dr. Cherian explains that further research is required to establish guidelines for PFA modifications to ensure its consistency, she is confident their research is on the right track.

“Overall, our research affirms the use of recycled wood ash from pulp mills for construction activities such as making sustainable roads and cost-neutral buildings can derive enormous environmental and economic benefits,” she says. “And not just benefits for the industry, but to society as a whole by reducing waste going to landfills and reducing our ecological footprints.”

In the meantime, while cement producers can start incorporating PFA into their products, Dr. Cherian says they should be continually testing and evaluating the PFA properties to ensure overall quality.

The research was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production with support from the Bio-Alliance Initiative — an organization representing BC pulp and paper mills — and Mitacs.

UBCO postdoctoral research fellow Chinchu Cherian, along with Associate Professor Sumi Siddiqua, examines a road building material created partly with recycled wood ash.

UBCO postdoctoral research fellow Chinchu Cherian, along with Associate Professor Sumi Siddiqua, examines a road-building material created partly with recycled wood ash.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Collective evidence suggests exercise can reduce fall rates in older adults by 21 per cent.

Collective evidence suggests exercise can reduce fall rates in older adults by 21 per cent.

Fall prevention key to keeping older adults healthy and saving health care dollars

Dr. Jennifer Davis, along with many UBCO researchers, spends much of her time looking for ways to keep our older adult population healthy. An assistant professor in the Faculty of Management, her goal is to improve the quality of life of older Canadians through health-economic evaluations and health-outcomes research.

Much of her work looks at fall prevention and keeping older adults functioning independently. As co-director of operations of the Falls Prevention Clinic at Vancouver General Hospital, she discusses the importance of healthy aging as well as the health and cost-implications of falls to older adults.

You recently published a paper in Maturitas examining the risk factors for recurrent falls in older adults. Can you explain why falls are so dangerous for older adults?

Falls, and injuries resulting from falls, represent a significant health burden for older adults as well as their families and caregivers. About one-third of adults aged 65 years and older experience at least one fall annually with half of these people falling more than once a year.

In fact, falls in older adults are the third leading cause of chronic disability. About 95 per cent of hip fractures are associated with a fall, and 10 to 15 per cent of emergency department visits for those aged 65 years and older—most often hip, wrist or spine—are related to a fall.

Non-fatal fall injuries are associated with decreased functional independence, such as the ability to carry out daily activities, lower quality of life, decreased mobility and increased risk of a future fall-related injury.

Your research points out it’s not just a matter of balance and mobility. What are the other factors that lead to falls?

The risk of falling increases with age. Women also experience fall-related fractures, such as the hip, wrist or spine, at almost twice the rate of men. Factors that lead to falls include issues such as impaired mobility and balance, taking multiple medications—sometimes four or more—and neuromuscular and sensory impairments. Other areas of concern include medical co-morbidities, environmental factors such as indoor and outdoor tripping hazards, psychological factors and sociodemographic factors.

One of your recent studies examines adherence to a strength and balance retraining exercise program for older adults. Can you explain why such a program is beneficial when it comes to preventing falls?

Collective evidence suggests exercise can reduce fall rates in older adults by 21 per cent. When exercise interventions include balance exercises for at least three hours per week, there is an even greater reduction in the rate of falls.

A home-based exercise program, the Otago Exercise Program, has demonstrated a 36 per cent reduction in the rate of falls among those who have already experienced a fall and a similar 40 per cent reduction in the rate of falls for first-time fallers.

Yet, adherence to exercise is often 50 per cent or lower. We recently found that cognitive processes—including executive function of set-shifting, attention and short-term memory, along with functional mobility—predict exercise adherence. Further research needs to explore how modifying these factors may promote adherence to exercise and thus, contribute to fall prevention.

While healthy aging and independence are vital, can you explain the economic side to keeping our older adults safe?

Ultimately, a goal of identifying the economic burden of falls is to inform future policy decisions regarding investment or disinvestment. To adequately address falls and the burden of fall-related injury, it is essential to first quantify the burden of falls and then establish evidence of the value for money of effective fall prevention strategies. I’ve previously demonstrated the best value for money comes from targeting prevention towards high-risk groups.

Specifically, three proven cost-saving strategies for falls include: 1) a multi-level program targeted those with higher risk factors for falling was cost saving; 2) the Otago Exercise Program was cost-saving when delivered to people aged over 80 years; and 3) a home safety program was cost-saving for those recently discharged from hospital, if delivered to older adults who sustained a previous fall.

Can you highlight some basic tips that will help keep our elderly population healthy?

Here are a few important healthy aging tips to keep in mind.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise helps maintain strength and balance. A little bit of exercise every day can provide many benefits, especially exercises that focus on leg and core strengthening, like balancing on one foot. A physician or physical therapist can provide guidance and information about local exercise classes
  • Medication review: Some medications can increase the risk of falls due to side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness, or drug interactions. Review medications with your family doctor regularly.
  • Vision assessment: A regular visit to an eye doctor will ensure eye prescriptions are up to date. Bifocals may increase your risk of falling.
  • Home safety assessment: Older adults are advised to avoiding walking in socks or stockings and to keep rooms well lit and free of clutter. Safety equipment—such as railings on both sides of stairways, grab bars by the shower, tub and toilet in the bathroom—should be installed.
  • Safe footwear: A good way to prevent slipping is to wear rubber-soled shoes or shoes with good traction and use handrails when available.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

A UBC professor says the WHO exercise guidelines for people with disabilities miss the mark because they are not based on people who exercise mainly with their arms.

A UBC professor says the WHO exercise guidelines for people with disabilities miss the mark because they are not based on people who exercise mainly with their arms.

Physical activity guidelines for people living with disabilities miss the mark

A UBC researcher is calling out the World Health Organization’s newly introduced activity and sedentary guidelines for people living with disabilities.

Kathleen Martin Ginis is director of the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management and a professor with UBC’s Department of Medicine and UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. She holds the Reichwald Family Chair in Preventive Medicine, is a researcher with the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries and works to help people living with spinal cord injury maintain a physically active lifestyle.

Martin Ginis discusses the WHO’s recently-announced global guidelines and how they missed the mark.

Much of your research focuses on physical activity guidelines for people living with disabilities. Can you explain why getting exercise is so important for this population?

People with disabilities are at just as much risk for inactivity-related chronic diseases (heart disease, Type 2 diabetes) as the general population, if not more so. We also know that physical activity is important for mental health. However, people with disabilities do far less activity than the general population because of the countless barriers to activity that they face in their daily lives.

You have recently written an article for the Journal of Physical Activity and Health questioning the World Health Organization’s new physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines for people living with disabilities. What did they get wrong?

I’ve got several concerns with these guidelines. My biggest is that the guidelines are based on scientific evidence derived from studies of people without disabilities. Admittedly, there are still relatively few good studies that have measured the role of physical activity in preventing chronic diseases and improving the health of people with diseases. But in the absence of those types of studies, the WHO decided to simply extrapolate the research evidence for the general population and apply it to people with disabilities.

The upshot is that the guidelines for people with disabilities are now exactly the same as for the general population—150 to 300 minutes each week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity and strength-training twice per week. One problem with this is that people with certain types of physical impairments do not have the same physiological response to exercise as the general population. We don’t know if they will get the same benefits from the recommended guidelines as the general population.

Also, none of the guideline evidence is based on people who do their exercise with their arms (e.g., to push a wheelchair or use an arm-cycle). No studies have looked at the long-term effects of 150 to 300 minutes a week of arm exercise so we don’t know the benefits or the risks. Even for people with disabilities who would be expected to have the same physiological response to exercise as the general population (e.g., people with visual or cognitive impairments), we cannot simply assume that that amount of physical activity will mitigate the many other risks to well-being that people with disabilities constantly face, such as poverty, lack of access to health care and social isolation.

Your paper talks about the tremendous societal barriers to participation. Can you explain what some of these barriers might be?

There are so many! People with disabilities are often turned away from fitness centres and recreation facilities not just because those spaces are physically inaccessible, but because the people who work there have misconceptions or a complete lack of knowledge about how to support a person with a disability in a physical activity setting.

A lack of transportation is also a huge barrier—one of the most common. People with disabilities are mostly excluded from public health campaigns and advertisements promoting physical activity. There’s the old adage ‘’if you can see it, you can be it.” Unfortunately, people with disabilities don’t see themselves represented in physical activity settings as often as they should.

If people living with disabilities decide these guidelines are unrealistic and unachievable, do you think they will simply stop trying to be active?

Yes. That’s my concern. The studies that we do have on physical activity for people with disabilities suggest that they can achieve significant health and fitness benefits by doing much less than 150 minutes a week. For instance, people living with spinal cord injury can improve their cardiometabolic health by doing 90 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise each week.

Given the plethora of barriers to physical activity experienced by people with disabilities, and evidence of significant benefits from lower doses of physical activity, it does not make sense for the WHO to promote the general population’s guideline as being an appropriate guideline for people with disabilities. I understand the WHO had good intentions to be inclusive with this guideline, but my concern is that the guideline will actually put people off, and further exclude people with disabilities from physical activity.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Acting as natural reservoirs, forests in watersheds release and purify water by slowing erosion and delaying its release into streams.

Acting as natural reservoirs, forests in watersheds release and purify water by slowing erosion and delaying its release into streams.

Human and natural changes to forests impacting natural filtration system

As World Water Day is observed around the globe, new research from UBC Okanagan suggests a systematic approach to forest and water supply research may yield an improved assessment and understanding of connections between the two.

Healthy forests play a vital role in providing a clean, stable water supply, says eco-hydrologist Dr. Adam Wei.

Acting as natural reservoirs, forests in watersheds release and purify water by slowing erosion and delaying its release into streams. But forests are changing—in part because of human activity—and that’s having an impact on forests’ interaction with hydrological processes.

Dr. Wei, Forest Renewal BC’s chair of watershed research and management, is a professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, and study co-author.

He says activities like logging, deforestation, creating new forests on previously bare land, agriculture and urbanization are changing the landscape of forests worldwide.

Dr. Adam Wei, professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences, visits the Williston Reservoir near Fort St. John, BC.

Dr. Adam Wei, professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences, visits the Williston Reservoir near Fort St. John, BC.

“The notion that humans have left enormous, often negative, footprints on the natural world isn’t new,” he says. “It’s why the term Anthropocene was created, to describe these phenomena. But now we need to acknowledge where we’re at and figure out a way to fix what’s broken.”

While humans bear much of the blame, they aren’t the only culprits.

Natural disturbances like insect infestations and wildfires are also contributing to the swift transformation of forests, leading Dr. Wei to examine current forest-water research and management practices. His goal is to identify the gaps and propose a new approach that reflects numerous variables and their interactions that may be at play at any given watershed.

He points to an example in the study to illustrate the need for a new perspective.

“We were looking at the impacts of deforestation on annual streamflow—and though we were able to draw the conclusion that deforestation increased it, the variations between studies were large, with increases between less than one per cent to nearly 600 per cent,” he explains.

Dr. Wei saw similar variations when he researched the ‘why.’

“We concluded this was due to when water in the soil and on plants evaporates due to a loss of forest cover,” explains Wei. “But the amount lost ranged from less than two per cent to 100 per cent—that’s a huge difference that can be attributed to scale, type and severity of forest disturbance, as well as climate and location of watershed properties. There are so many variables that need to be taken into account, and not doing so can result in contradictory research conclusions.”

To limit disparities, Dr. Wei says future research and watershed management approaches need to be systematic, include key contributing factors and a broad spectrum of response variables related to hydrological services.

He also suggests new tools like machine learning and climatic eco-hydrological modelling should be utilized.

“Implementing a systematic approach to all forest-water research will reduce the likelihood of procuring misleading assessment, which in turn will give us a better chance to solve some of the problems we’ve created,” says Dr. Wei.

This study, published in Science, was conducted by Dr. Wei, and his then-graduate student Dr. Mingfang Zhang, with support from the China National Science Foundation.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

A team of researchers has determined the declining caribou population is part of a natural chain reaction from forest harvesting which can attract predators and competition for food. Photo by: Caribou Monitoring Unit

A team of researchers has determined the declining caribou population is part of a natural chain reaction from forest harvesting which can attract predators and competition for food. Photo by: Caribou Monitoring Unit

Researchers examine landscape, food supply, predator-prey relationships

A new study comparing decades of environmental monitoring records has confirmed that Canada’s caribou are not faring as well as other animals like moose and wolves in the same areas—and also teased out why.

The study used 16 years of data to examine changes in vegetation, moose, wolves and caribou.

“Caribou are declining across Canada and have been recently lost in the Lower 48 States,” says Melanie Dickie, a doctoral student with UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

“Understanding why caribou are declining is the first step to effectively managing the species—it tells us which parts of the issue we can target with management actions and how that might help caribou.”

Dickie, along with fellow UBCO researchers Dr. Clayton Lamb and Dr. Adam Ford, describe the decline in caribou populations as an ecological puzzle. Typically, there are multiple factors, all changing at once, making it hard to identify how the pieces fit together. Factors such as predation from wolves and other large carnivores, increasing moose and deer populations, and habitat alteration through resource extraction and wildfires all play a part. The study aimed to sort out the roles each of these play in caribou population declines.

Once land is cleared by either wildfire or harvesting, the mature forest transforms into more productive early seral forage. With the tree canopy removed, there is a significant increase in sunlight, allowing understory plants to thrive. These plants provide food that benefits moose, deer and their predators. These predators then have a spillover effect on the rarer caribou, creating apparent competition between moose and caribou.

“Changes in primary productivity have the potential to substantially alter food webs, with positive outcomes for some species and negative outcomes for others,” Dickie explains. “Understanding the environmental context and species interactions that give rise to these different outcomes is a major challenge to both theoretical and applied ecology.”

To establish the link between habitat alteration and primary productivity, the researchers first examined satellite imagery to show a link between logging and new vegetation growth. They then used data on moose, caribou and wolf numbers to compare the leading hypotheses on how changes in vegetation influence these populations. The analysis was conducted across a 598,000-square kilometre area located in the boreal shield and boreal plains of western Canada.

Ultimately, the researchers determined that lower caribou populations were a victim of an ecological chain reaction. Caribou have a lower population growth rate relative to moose, making them more susceptible to landscape changes.

“We found that increased deciduous vegetation on the landscape, which moose like to eat, increased moose populations, which increased wolves, and in turn, means declining caribou,” Dickie says. “We also found that human land use, like forestry, significantly increased vegetation productivity, suggesting that these kinds of land uses are leading to caribou declines via changes to predators and prey.”

Caribou conservation will be a defining point for Canada in the 21st century, adds Dr. Lamb, a Liber Ero Fellow at UBCO. Caribou highlight an unresolved tension between land stewardship, wildlife conservation and resource extraction. Further, as caribou populations continue to decline, Indigenous Peoples are forced to grapple with mounting threats to food security, cultural traditions, and infringed treaty rights.

“We can't attribute caribou declines to just one factor or another,” he says. “But understanding the relative importance of these factors, and how they interact, can help us understand how we can manage caribou populations in the face of continued climate change and land use.”

The study, published recently in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, was partially funded by the Government of the Northwest Territories, Government of Alberta, the Resource Industry Caribou Collaboration, British Columbia Oil and the Gas Research and Innovation Society, and the Liber Ero Fellowship.

Caribou have a lower population growth rates relative to moose, and are not as resilient, making them more susceptible to landscape changes. Photo by: Caribou Monitoring Unit

Caribou have a lower population growth rate relative to moose, and are not as resilient, making them more susceptible to landscape changes. Photo by: Caribou Monitoring Unit

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Dr. Jian Liu conducts research in materials and interface design for next-generation battery technologies.

Dr. Jian Liu conducts research in materials and interface design for next-generation battery technologies.

UBCO professor works to create safe, energy-dense, renewable batteries

With increasing global efforts to adopt clean energy, developing sustainable storage systems has become a major challenge in getting electric vehicles on the road and integrating intermittent renewable energy resources into the grid.

Dr. Jian Liu is an assistant professor with UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. He runs the Advanced Materials for Energy Storage Lab where he researches materials and interface design for next-generation battery technologies. His team of researchers is looking for ways to develop renewable technologies, contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increase public awareness and education of renewable energy.

Liu recently published a paper in the Journal of Power Sources about creating zinc-ion batteries. These zinc-ion batteries have shown the merits of intrinsic safety and high energy densities at low costs. He shares the science behind the basic battery, how batteries are evolving and the importance they have in today’s technology.

In layperson terms, how does a battery work?

A battery works by moving electrons and ions back and forward between negative and positive electrodes via different paths. Electrons diffuse through external circuits to power up devices, while ions mitigate the energy inside the battery. During the charging process, electrons and ions move from the positive electrode to the negative electrode with energy stored and visa-versa during the discharge process with energy released.

We are all familiar with the batteries we use in our electronics and electric vehicles. How are batteries changing?

Over the past decades, we have witnessed the rapid adoption of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in various applications, ranging from portable electronics to electric vehicles and grid storage. The dramatically increasing demand requires rechargeable batteries to be smaller, more energy-dense, safer and cheaper. And at the same time, this demand drives the current evolution in new battery chemistry, such as solid-state batteries, aqueous zinc-ion batteries, etc.

Are there other applications where batteries will soon become commonplace? For example, aviation?

Rechargeable batteries have been increasingly used in electric flights and marine applications to reduce carbon footprints. They are also used in wireless and intelligent devices, such as health monitoring sensors, Internet of Things and life-saving devices. Moreover, rechargeable batteries are popularly used in electric bicycles.

How is battery technology becoming more sustainable?

The development of efficient and cost-effective battery recycling processes is a key to close the loop for battery technology and make it sustainable. Current batteries use many elements with limited reserves, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. Determining how to properly recycle the valued components from retired vehicle batteries is an urgent task to avoid potential adverse environmental impacts from battery disposal.

Currently, if you want batteries to hold a charge for longer, I recommend charging them at room temperature when the remaining battery level is about 20 per cent. This will also improve the lifetime of batteries, meaning they don’t need to be recycled as often

What’s the next big thing on the horizon?

The solid-state battery is one of the impending battery innovations on the horizon to bring breakthroughs in energy storage sectors. It will fundamentally address the safety issue associated with lithium-ion batteries, such as overheating or exploding, due to the use of solid electrolytes. This can potentially increase the driving range of electric vehicles beyond 500 Km per charge. Aqueous zinc-ion batteries are also promising safe and low-cost energy storage solutions for large-scale grid storage to meet the increasing need from intermittent renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

The newly-created MOTIVATE-T2D team will connect people living with Type 2 diabetes with health specialists through wearable technology and online exercise coaching.

The newly-created MOTIVATE-T2D team will connect people living with Type 2 diabetes with health specialists through wearable technology and online exercise coaching.

Funding connects UBCO and British researchers to develop novel technology

A UBC Okanagan professor is the Canadian lead for a 13-person team that recently won an internationally-competitive one million dollar award to accelerate diabetes research.

Dr. Ali McManus, professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, says both British and Canadian researchers possess impressive records in diabetes research. In 2019, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, in partnership with the UK Medical Research Council, launched a novel funding opportunity to unite each countries’ efforts to improve the lives of people with Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition in which sugar, or glucose, levels build up in a person’s bloodstream, says Dr. McManus. By 2022, 2.16 million new cases of diabetes are expected in Canada, resulting in a predicted $15.36 billion in health-care costs related to managing the disease.

“Being physically active and exercising is critical for the management of Type 2 diabetes,” she adds. “Exercise helps people with diabetes control their blood sugar and reduce other serious health risks associated with the condition.”

Yet, she admits, it’s been proven that sticking with exercise is difficult for a lot of people. Research is needed to help create new ways that will help people exercise regularly. The unique fund, which will bring the team together, was developed to support world-leading collaborative research aimed at making exercise easier for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Building on their existing partnership, the cross-disciplinary team will conduct the MOTIVATE-T2D clinical trial based out of Kelowna, and Liverpool, United Kingdom. In MOTIVATE-T2D, participants will exercise at home while mobile technology is used to provide feedback to an exercise specialist. That person will counsel and personalize the exercise prescription to maximize health benefits.

Participants with Type 2 diabetes will be given cloud-connected heart rate monitors and receive individually-tailored feedback from an exercise specialist to help them start, and stick with, exercise over a one-year period. Given that the exercise is performed at home and the counselling delivered virtually, the team in Kelowna is recruiting participants from across Canada for this research study.

The development of the novel mobile technology counselling was created by a team of interdisciplinary experts, including behaviour change scientist Dr. Mary Jung, exercise physiologist and diabetes researcher Dr. Jonathan Little, endocrinologist and clinician-scientist Dr. Charlotte Jones and public health and clinical trialist Dr. Joel Singer.

The UK team is led by Dr. Matthew Cocks who will conduct the same study for people who live in Liverpool, and allow for comparisons between delivery and outcomes across each country.

“Now more than ever, we need to meet the needs of individuals living with Type 2 diabetes by helping them manage their condition from home. We are very excited that this evidence-based technology enables us to provide quality care from the comfort of people’s homes.”

McManus says the interdisciplinary team will work across disciplines and oceans with the shared pursuit of one strategic aim, to accelerate diabetes research and improve the lives of those living with diabetes in Canada and the UK.

To learn more about the trial, or to become a participant contact the MOTIVATE-T2D team at motivate.t2d@ubc.ca or visit the study website at: motivatet2d.com

Dr. Ali McManus, a professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, is leading an international team of Type 2 diabetes researchers.

Dr. Ali McManus, a professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, is leading an international team of Type 2 diabetes researchers.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC Okanagan’s Problematic Substance Use Clinic offer low-barrier options for treatment. It offers virtual treatment options and structures fees on a sliding scale based on patients’ income.

UBC Okanagan’s Problematic Substance Use Clinic offer low-barrier options for treatment. It offers virtual treatment options and structures fees on a sliding scale based on patients’ income.

Psychological service available to those experiencing problematic substance use

As we pass the one-year mark of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s little doubt the virus has taken its toll on the mental health of many Canadians.

For one UBC Okanagan researcher, a difficult consequence has been witnessing some turn to problematic substance use as a way of coping with pandemic-related stressors.

Ian Wellspring is a doctoral student in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ clinical psychology program, and a graduate student clinician working under the supervision of Dr. Zach Walsh in UBC Okanagan’s Problematic Substance Use Clinic.

As the pandemic lingers on, Wellspring offers his observations about increased problematic substance use during COVID-19 and the low-barrier services available through UBCO to assist British Columbians.

Are you surprised by the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction’s study results?

Unfortunately, I don’t find the results surprising—the sad reality is that COVID-19 has increased our stress levels, caused us grief, isolation, anxiety and many of us are also experiencing economic insecurities because of it. So, when we consider all of these factors that might be acting as potential stressors, regrettably, I think the results are somewhat expected.

Since the pandemic hit, we’ve seen an uptick in substance use across the board whether it’s alcohol, stimulants or opioids. In fact, some data also suggests there’s been a 30 to 40 per cent increase in deaths related to opioid use since COVID-19, which is concerning.

Substance use risk increases in the face of this reality—and in combination with stressors like isolation, grief, anxiety or finances—has a detrimental impact on our mental health. This, in turn, drives the progression to addiction. So this is something we should all be concerned about.

What are some of the reasons people with problematic substance use don’t seek help?

There’s a whole host of reasons why people don’t get help, or feel like they can’t. Some include thinking their use isn’t bad enough to seek treatment, some may worry that they don’t know how to live a good life without that substance, and others may be afraid to fail. There’s still a lot of stigma, which is one of the main barriers to seeking help surrounding substance use and mental health in general. A lot of that comes from attitudes in society, media portrayal of these issues, and the self-judgement, guilt and shame that may come with having lived experience with substance use problems.

The clinic’s mandate is to help the public reduce the negative effects of drug and alcohol use—can you talk more about treatments and what new patients can expect?

We operate on a person-first model and we meet clients wherever they are with regard to substance use. New patients can expect to sit down with their clinician and talk about what’s been going on in their lives, what their concerns are and their future goals. Then the clinician, under the supervision of Dr. Walsh, will work to figure out a treatment plan that will best fit the lifestyle of the individual. Sometimes patients are looking to quit a substance, while others may be interested in decreasing their use. Whatever their goals—our priority is to get them there using empirically-supported approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy and motivational interviewing.

Your clinic is classified as ‘low-barrier.’ What does that mean?

Low-barrier means we’re easy to access and open to all. We’ve tried to decrease financial barriers by structuring fees on a sliding scale based on patients’ income that starts at $10 per hour. We also have flexible payment plans in case individuals can’t pay treatment costs up-front. With the clinic now being offered virtually, we’re hoping that reduces barriers for folks as well—but if people don’t have the appropriate technology to complete treatment, let’s talk about that. If someone is committed to seeking treatment, we’re committed to making it work for them.

Can you discuss some of the clinic’s past successes?

I’m happy to report that we’ve had numerous successes in addressing problematic substance use in the clinic and these really cut across a diverse presentation of substances. We’ve helped patients who have lived experience with alcohol, stimulants, nicotine, opioids and we’ve addressed these issues in a diverse client population. Substance use impacts people from all backgrounds, from the affluent and powerful to some of the most marginalized segments of our community. And our care extends across that spectrum.

I think our successes speak to the importance of getting to know the client and their lifestyle, and tailoring a plan to them. We want everyone to feel comfortable giving us a call and spreading the word about the clinic to friends and family who may need help. We’re not here to judge. No matter where someone is, we’re ready to meet them there.

How can someone get further information about clinic services?

We encourage anyone interested in learning more about our services to call the clinic at 250 807 8241, pressing 1 for reception, or email ipc.ok@ubc.ca.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO researchers are concerned about how the actions of some scientists, advocacy groups and the public are eroding efforts to conserve biodiversity, including grizzly bears, wild bees and salmon.

UBCO researchers are concerned about how the actions of some scientists, advocacy groups and the public are eroding efforts to conserve biodiversity, including grizzly bears, wild bees and salmon.

UBCO researchers part of global team working to curb misplaced conservation

A group of researchers, spanning six universities and three continents, are sounding the alarm on a topic not often discussed in the context of conservation—misinformation.

In a recent study published in FACETS, the team, including Dr. Adam Ford, Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology, and Dr. Clayton Lamb, Liber Ero Fellow, both based in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, explain how the actions of some scientists, advocacy groups and the public are eroding efforts to conserve biodiversity.

“Outcomes, not intentions, should be the basis for how we view success in conservation,” says Dr. Ford.

“Misinformation related to vaccines, climate change, and links between smoking and cancer has made it harder for science to create better policies for people,” he says. “Weaponizing information to attack other groups impedes our ability to solve problems that affect almost everyone. We wanted to know if these issues were also a problem for people working to conserve biodiversity.

“Conservation is not perfect and things can go wrong. Sometimes people mean well, and harm ensues by accident. Sometimes people’s actions are much more sinister.”

The study points to multiple examples of good intentions ending badly from across the globe, including the case of the Huemul deer in Patagonia National Park, Chile.

“We reviewed one case where the primary objective of a newly-established park was to protect the endangered Huemul deer. The goal was to make the landscape a little better for these deer in hopes of increasing the population,” explains Dr. Lamb. “In doing so, they removed the domestic livestock from the park, and as a result, the natural predators in the system lost their usual food source and ate many of the deer, causing the population to decline further. It’s a textbook case of misplaced conservation.”

Dr. Lamb points to other cases including mass petitions against shark finning in Florida, although the practice was previously banned there; planting a species of milkweed in an attempt to save monarch butterflies, only to ultimately harm them; and closer to home, the sharing of misinformation in regards to the British Columbia grizzly bear hunt.

“When we see province-wide policies like banning grizzly hunting, those go against the wishes of some local communities in some parts of the province—and choosing to steamroll their perspectives is damaging relationships and alienating the partners we need on board to protect biodiversity,” says Dr. Ford.

He suggests using a ‘big tent’ approach may help combat some of the problems.

“We need to work together on the 90 per cent of goals that we share in common, as opposed to focusing on the 10 per cent of issues where we disagree. There are many clear wins for people and wildlife waiting to be actioned right now, we need to work together to make those happen,” says Dr. Ford.

Dr. Lamb says doing so is likely to improve cooperation among parties and increase the use of evidence-based approaches in conservation; ultimately suppressing the spread of misinformation and occurrences of polarization.

“Although we’re seeing some misplaced efforts, we’re also seeing genuine care and good community energy in many of these cases—we just need to find a way to harness this energy in the right direction.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca