Patty Wellborn

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


 

UBCO doctoral student Saeed Mohammadiun says many urban drainage and stormwater systems are not designed well enough to handle extreme weather conditions.

UBCO doctoral student Saeed Mohammadiun says many urban drainage and stormwater systems are not designed well enough to handle extreme weather conditions.

New design approach needed to handle impact of climate change

During a typical Canadian winter, snow accumulation and melt—combined with sudden rainfalls—can lead to bottlenecks in storm drains that can cause flooding.

With that in mind, researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus have been examining urban stormwater drainage systems, and they too have concerns about the resilience of many urban drainage systems.

A recently published paper from the School of Engineering says existing design methods for urban drainage systems aren’t going far enough to withstand possible catastrophic storms or even unpredictable failures during a moderate storm.

“As engineers, we run simulations of possible catastrophic events, and current systems often do not fare well,” says doctoral student Saeed Mohammadiun. “We are seeing sources of overloading such as structural failures, severe rainfalls or abrupt snowmelt stressing these systems.”

Add any extreme situation including quick snowmelt or a heavy and sudden rainfall, and Mohammadiun says many systems aren’t built to handle these worst-case scenarios. Mohammadiun has conducted several case studies of drainage systems in major urban areas around the world. He has determined many current urban standards designed for a 10-to-50 or even 100-year storm scenario are not meeting the increasing demands of climate change as well as intrinsic failure risk of networks’ elements.

“Conventional, reliability-based design methods only provide acceptable performance under expected conditions of loading,” he says. “Depending on the system, if something breaks down or there is a blockage, it can result in a failure and possible flooding.”

According to Mohammadiun, the resiliency of a system is not just dependent on the load it can handle, but also on its design and build. Many do not take into account the effects of climate change or unexpected weather conditions.

To establish an efficient resilient system, Mohammadiun says it is important to consider various sources of uncertainty such as rainfall characteristics, heavy snowfalls followed by a quick melt and different possible malfunction scenarios along with budget constraints, he says.

“Building or improving the resilience of urban stormwater drainage systems is crucial to ensuring these systems are protected against failure as much as possible, or they can quickly recover from a potential failure,” he adds. “This resilient capacity will provide urban drainage systems with the desired adaptability to a wide range of unexpected failures during their service life.”

The research points to several measures municipalities can proactively address the issue. Municipalities could build bypass lines and apply an appropriate combination of relief tunnels, storage units, and other distributed hydraulic structures in order to augment drainage system capacities in a resilient manner.

With the recent heavy snowfalls across Canada, Mohammadiun says the silver lining when it comes to drainage is that it takes snow time to melt whereas heavy rainfall puts an immediate stress on these systems. But from the engineering point of view, it is necessary to consider both acute and chronic conditions.

Not surprising, the research shows that urban drainage and stormwater systems that are built or modified to be more resilient, will handle extreme weather events more effectively and efficiently than conventional designs.

This research was recently published in Hydrological Sciences.

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 engineering instructor Ray Taheri watches as student prepares a bin before installing a retrofit that will make donation bins safer.

UBC Okanagan engineering students have solved the problem that took several lives and cost Canadian charities thousands of dollars of lost income.

This time last year, charities across Canada pulled their clothing donation bins off the street after a number of people had climbed inside the bins and died.

“When this last death happened in Vancouver, we decided to move all our bins off the street,” says Slav Gudelj with Big Brothers’ Vancouver office. “It did have a huge impact on our bottom line and is going to cost us about half a million dollars.”

The donation bin industry is a multi-million dollar enterprise across North America, raising funds for charitable organizations including the Salvation Army, Diabetes Canada, Big Brothers and Sisters, Goodwill and many others.

Gudelj, who is general manager of clothing donation operations for Big Brothers, says the organization now has about 180 boxes sitting in storage.

UBCO engineer instructor Ray Taheri has a few of those bins parked outside the engineering building. As part of his first-year design course, he tasked his students to come up with a way to modify the bins and make them safer.

Taheri also established a task force to look the bins and this spring received a $75,000 donation from Firstline Foundation to design and retrofit the existing bins. The students worked with bin manufacturing company Rangeview Fabrication to find reasonable, viable and economically realistic proposals.

At the same, other students—including a graduate student who is studying the social side of this issue and an mechanical engineering graduate student—looked at specifics of the individual deaths. Taheri says most deaths happened within few hundreds yards from a homeless shelter, and took place between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.

“Most engineers know that modifying an existing design is often more difficult than starting from scratch. It was a perfect challenge for my students,” says Taheri.

The students came up with a number of solutions, including where they these bins should be located, and self-locking features that automatically come on at specific times. He also notes, if the bins are full, people take items outside the bins and then perhaps climb in to search for more items. If the bins had a sensor, altering the organization that they were almost full, this would prevent piles of donations left outside.

“We ended up with a number of different models and eventually settled on four prototypes—each a little bit different,” says Taheri. “Some will come with more bells and whistles, some will be a very basic model. But definitely they are a much safer than what we had in the past.”

Gudelj is back on the campus this week meeting with Taheri and the engineering students with the goal of finalizing plans to get the 180 bins back on the street as soon as possible. He credits UBCO’s engineers for ‘stepping up’ and not ignoring a chronic and dangerous issue.

Taheri says it has been a great learning curve for all his students, and staff and faculty who have put in hundreds of hours of volunteer time on this project.

“I can’t stress enough how proud I am of my students and my colleagues in the School of Engineering,” he says. “These are the type of people we have at UBC Okanagan. Our students

Jennifer Davis, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Management, explores the value of patient reported measures in the fields of healthy aging.

Getting a good night’s sleep is sound advice for most people, but a new UBC study says sleep is vital for those who are recovering from a stroke.

Jennifer Davis is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Management at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Her goal is to improve the health of Canadians and her research area includes exploring the value of patient reported measures in the fields of healthy aging—including cognition, mobility and various surgical outcomes.

Davis, along with a team of UBC researchers, recently published a study in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases examining the relationship between depression and sleep among stroke survivors.

“Sleep disturbances are common in older adults who have had a stroke and there is mounting evidence that stroke and sleep are interconnected,” she says. “Because a stroke can damage the central nervous system, it often leads to changes in brain activity, brain function and sleep.”

Davis says one in six older adults, worldwide, will suffer a stroke and data suggests that 20 to 40 per cent of those stroke survivors have a sleep disorder, while a further 50 to 70 per cent will have a sleep-related breathing disorder.

Poor sleep, she says, may significantly interfere with post-stroke recovery and may also lead to depression if a stroke survivor suffers from daytime confusion and inability to cope due to being overtired.

“There is an emerging area of research examining the benefit of sleep in regulating emotional brain reactivity,” she says. “In this study, we found that depression was significantly associated with sleep quality, how long it takes a person to fall asleep, how well they sleep and their daytime dysfunction due to a lack of sleep.”

Davis notes it is common for stroke survivors to experience depression—while they recover, they are also dealing with lower levels of health-related quality of life, physical function and general cognition. Add on a poor night’s sleep and it’s easy to assume that stroke-associated effects on sleep quality can also impact a person’s general, physical and mental wellbeing.

“The specific associations that depression, health related quality of life, physical function, and cognition have with sleep quality among stroke survivors remains unknown,” Davis says. “Fortunately, sleep quality is modifiable—it’s something we can recognize and work to improve. Thus, sleep should be considered in the management of those who have suffered a stroke to optimize post-stroke rehabilitation outcomes.”

 

A participant performs a computerized task designed to probe cognitive function in Paul van Donkelaar’s concussion lab.

A participant performs a computerized task designed to probe cognitive function in Paul van Donkelaar’s concussion lab.

Groundbreaking research seeks to create better supports and outcomes for women

While the diagnoses and treatment of sport-related concussion have well-established guidelines and protocols, a new study from UBC’s Okanagan campus is looking at what has previously been an understudied group—women survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV).

Their hope is to develop a simple screening tool to help front-line services, like women’s shelters, identify traumatic brain injury (TBI) earlier, says Paul van Donkelaar, lead researcher and professor with the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

“It is widely known survivors of intimate partner violence face many short- and long-term consequences from abuse which can have profound impacts on both their mental and physical health,” says van Donkelaar. “But there is currently very little direct evidence for the potential link between this violence and traumatic brain injury-induced brain dysfunction.”

Despite the abundance of research and public awareness around brain injury in athletes, van Donkelaar says traumatic brain injuries suffered by survivors of IPV are largely ignored. In fact, his most recent research, which is hoping to establish the incidence and effects of TBI on these women, is only the fourth study he knows of that deals specifically with this issue.

“IPV happens behind closed doors and usually there are no witnesses—if there are witnesses they are generally the children and they are traumatized,” says van Donkelaar, adding that if a survivor does seek medical help after an attack it is often for other traumatic injuries. “In many cases, survivors of IPV don’t necessarily know they have had a traumatic brain injury and yet they are suffering from chronic symptoms including headaches, dizziness, and difficulty remembering,” he says.

“If a brain injury is diagnosed, it might be several months or even years after the initial damaging blow took place. And was it caused by one blow, multiple attacks over several months, or from being shaken or even strangled?”

While diagnosis is a challenge, there also remains a social stigma with IPV. Van Donkelaar says many women who do seek medical help, may not tell the truth when asked how the injury occurred. For these reasons alone, van Donkelaar and his research team, including former UBCO postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Smirl, want to make concussion assessments and care for survivors of IPV accessible and straightforward.

“Although the health care system is a good place for TBI diagnoses in the context of IPV, many survivors do not feel comfortable accessing care in this manner so this leaves staff at women shelters as the first line of defense,” says Smirl. “Yet these staff members aren’t necessarily aware TBI can be part of their client’s experience and currently do not have appropriate screening tools available to them.”

For this latest research, the team used two brain injury questionnaires—the Brain Injury Severity Assessment tool (BISA) and the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT5)—to get a better sense of the symptoms experienced by survivors of IPV. Eighteen women who had experienced IPV took the part in the study.

The research, published in Brain Injury, determined that by using the BISA test, which asks questions about symptoms resulting from episodes of IPV, more brain injuries were reported by the survivors. The study determined that each of the participants have suffered at least one previous TBI, and most had suffered many.

“It’s estimated that several hundred thousand Canadian women a year experience a TBI, an even greater number than hockey or football players,” says Smirl. “And yet, due to the perceived stigma around IPV, many of these women don’t seek medical support. Unfortunately, living in this situation is their normal, waking up in a daze because she was punched again is her normal. Not only is it going undiagnosed, it’s going untreated.”

The findings from the current investigation can help develop TBI-informed screening tools to help front-line staff at women’s shelters identify a brain injury as a possible factor in the symptoms experienced by IPV survivors.

“What we’re hoping to do is implement a simple informed screening tool, just a few questions that front-line staff can ask which can help reveal whether a woman has potentially experienced an IPV-related TBI,” he says. “We will then be able to use it as a means to refer them to appropriate supports in the community.”

Van Donkelaar says providing these practical support resources to IPV survivors will improve their chances of breaking the cycle and enable them to move forward into an abuse-free future for themselves and their children.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Panel discusses the need for forest restoration to mitigate the risks of flood and wildfire

What: Community Water Forum
Who: A panel of experts including UBC researchers, Okanagan Nation Alliance representatives, and a wildland fire ecologist
When: Tuesday, November 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm
Where: Okanagan Regional Library, Kelowna Branch, 1380 Ellis Street

UBC Okanagan’s third annual Community Water Forum will host a panel of experts who will explore how forests and water interact and the role restoration can play in creating more resilient ecosystems.

Wildfires, floods, droughts, landslides, and damage done by the Mountain Pine Beetle have all had significant environmental and socio-economic impacts on communities throughout B.C. These cumulative effects threaten not only the quality and quantity of our drinking water, but other cultural, social, environmental and economic values as well.

Panel members:

  • Assistant Professor Mathieu Bourbonnais, UBC Okanagan, LiDAR and remote sensing technologies; environmental and socio-economic impacts of wildfire
  • Robert Gray, Wildland Fire Ecologist, fire science, management and operations; landscape level restoration
  • Natasha Lukey, Okanagan Nation Alliance, Okanagan waterway restoration initiatives
  • Professor Adam Wei, UBC Okanagan, forest hydrology; watershed ecosystems, cumulative effects of forest disturbance

The Community Water Forum is an annual event hosted by UBC Okanagan in partnership with the Okanagan Basin Water Board and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

This public event is free, but registration is required: research.ok.ubc.ca/cwf

Psychology graduate student Cassidy Wallis won UBCO's 3MT when she presented her research on how and when child abuse is reported.

Research to be shared at gala dinner for the Child Advocacy Centre

A special working relationship between a UBC grad student, the RCMP and the Kelowna Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) may lead to enhanced support and faster treatment for victims of child abuse.

PhD candidate Cassidy Wallis, supervised by psychology Professor Michael Woodworth, did her master’s thesis on how and when child abuse is reported. For her research, she collaborated with Kelowna RCMP and the CAC—coding more than 300 files on child abuse. Her work focused on identifying and understanding factors that contribute to the timing of when a disclosure of childhood abuse formally takes place.

“Providing support to parents of victims would facilitate children’s greater ability to report instances of abuse more quickly. If children report abuse when it happens, and parents are supportive, they will have greater access to psychological treatment and potentially more positive outcomes.”

Woodworth notes the relationship that Wallis formed with the CAC and the RCMP is a good example of the on-going community collaboration between UBCO and local resources.

“Sometimes people in the community aren’t necessarily aware how research coming out of the university can make a meaningful difference in their community or their lives,” he says. “This project demonstrates how research can have incredible value outside of academia and highlights the power of collaboration between agencies. This project simply couldn’t have occurred without the collaboration and support of the CAC and RCMP.”

According to CAC statistics, one in three children in Canada suffer trauma-related forms of abuse—and people who have been abused are less likely than others to graduate high school, more likely to experience unemployment and homelessness and more likely to perpetrate abuse throughout their lives.

“Reporting child abuse is a challenging subject,” says Woodworth. “While it’s a difficult issue, it’s important that children can ideally report abuse right away or have resources to facilitate disclosing abuse sooner. Wallis’s research proved to be important and has all sorts of potential benefits to both our community in general as well as to invaluable services like the CAC.”

Wallis’ research determined that if frontline workers had additional knowledge on how to understand and support children, it could lead to earlier disclosures of abuse. She also concludes that perpetrators are more likely to be caught with earlier disclosure because evidence would be more readily available.

Wallis will speak about her research project at an upcoming gala dinner in Kelowna on November 21. Organized by the Kelowna Foundation for Hope and Social Innovation, the event is a fundraiser to finish building and begin operating the new CAC, which will be the first of its kind in the community.

CACs are community-based programs that aim to treat and support abused children, youth and their families. Kelowna’s CAC is a collaborative effort by the RCMP, Interior Health, and the Ministry for Child and Family Development and will feature a multidisciplinary team on site. When the new centre opens next year, it will also allow for continued and further research for faculty and students.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Collaboration brings cancer research to the community

What: Future of Health Forum on cancer care
Who:  More than 150 delegates and 30 renowned speakers
When: Friday, October 18, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: The Innovation Centre, 460 Doyle Ave., Kelowna, BC
Cost: $50 registration fee

With cancer remaining the leading cause of death in BC, the first-ever Future of Health Forum will focus on research, innovation and strides to improve outcomes for all cancer patients.

UBC Okanagan, Accelerate Okanagan, BC Cancer and Interior Health have joined forces to host an annual forum called Future of Health—an event designed to foster connection and provide an opportunity to exchange ideas around health research and innovation.

For this inaugural year, the Future of Health focuses on cancer and follows the patient journey from preventing and detecting the disease through to diagnosis and treatment and finding ways to support survivors and a patient’s quality of life.

“Our hope is that we have created an environment where clinical and academic colleagues can share their perspectives on the complex problems facing the health-care system today,” says Dr. Ross Halperin, regional medical director for BC Cancer—Kelowna. “Our strategy is to attract and engage the regional innovation community to assist in developing innovative solutions.”

Taking place at the Innovation Centre in downtown Kelowna, leaders in cancer care and research will discuss the current state of cancer care in BC and the innovative research that is shaping the future of health in this province.

“We have attracted top talent from across the country to take the stage at this event,” explains Anne-Marie Visockas, vice-president research and planning with Interior Health. “I think this speaks volumes about the collaborative nature of Canadian health care and our community's reputation for innovation.”

Dr. Connie Eaves, an international leader in stem cell research will deliver the keynote address. Eaves is the winner of the prestigious 2019 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for her pioneering discoveries and advocacy for early-career researchers and women in science.

Dr. Eaves is an extraordinarily creative and accomplished biomedical scientist at the forefront of cancer research. Her work establishing the role of cancer stem cells in breast cancer and leukemia have led to paradigm-shifting insights,” says Phil Barker, vice-principal and associate vice-president, research and innovation at UBC. “She is dedicated to training the next generation of researchers to help find cures for cancer and her research is a superb demonstration of the value of collaborating across disciplines.”

The closing reception will include a screening of The Nature of Things documentary, Cracking Cancer. This short film recounts the journey of seven cancer patients at BC Cancer as they take part in the Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) program—a cutting-edge clinical research initiative that is changing the way oncologists view cancer treatment.

“The strength of our region lies in our ability to collaborate and innovate. This event is another example of these skills at work,” says Brea Lake, acting CEO at Accelerate Okanagan. “Our hope is that this documentary will give hope to those living with cancer and inspire our innovative and entrepreneurial community to join in building the future of health and cancer care right here in BC.”

The Future of Health Forum takes place October 18 and is open to all, including researchers, clinicians, students, innovators, entrepreneurs and the public.

For event information and registration details, visit: futureofhealth.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

A growing industrial demand for multifunctional bio-friendly raw materials is pushing researchers to develop value-added and energy-saving biocomposites and processes.

A growing industrial demand for multifunctional bio-friendly raw materials is pushing researchers to develop value-added and energy-saving biocomposites and processes.

Discarded materials mixed into a slurry for a second life

Using polymers and natural stone slurry waste, researchers at UBC Okanagan are manufacturing environmentally friendly stone composites.

These new composites are made of previously discarded materials left behind during the cutting of natural structural or ornamental stone blocks for buildings, construction supplies or monuments. While reusing the waste material of natural stone production is common in cement, tile and concrete, adding the stone slurry to polymers is a new and innovative idea, explains School of Engineering Professor Abbas Milani.

A growing industrial demand for multifunctional bio-friendly raw materials is pushing researchers to develop value-added and energy-saving biocomposites and processes, he explains.

“Because the slurry is a waste material, it comes at a lower cost for recycled composite production,” says Milani, director of UBC’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI)

Milani and his colleagues recently received UBC eminence funding to establish a cluster of research excellence in biocomposites. The cluster will develop novel agricultural and forestry-based bio and recycled composites to minimize the impact of conventional plastics and waste on the environment.

The powdered stone waste used in the project provides flexibility to the new particulate polymer matrix composite. It can be mixed at different ratios into the finished product through appropriate heat or pressure to meet structural requirements or aesthetic choices, defined by industry and customers.

“This green stone composite can easily be integrated into a variety of applications,” says UBC Research Associate Davoud Karimi. “These composites can be used in decorations and sanitation products ranging from aerospace to automotive applications.”

The researchers varied the amount of stone added to the composites then tested several parameters to determine strength, durability and density along with thermal conductivity. The molding and mechanical tests were conducted in the Composites Research Network Okanagan Laboratory with collaboration from the MMRI.

By adding the stone waste to the composites, researchers determined that it not only increased the virgin polymer’s strength and durability, but the composites' conductivity increased proportionally based on the amount of stone added.

“The increased strength is important, but the increased conductivity (up to 500 per cent) opens a huge door to several new potential applications, including 3D printing with recycled composites,” explains Milani.

“Any time we can divert waste from landfills and generate a product with the potential of economic benefit is a win-win,” Milani adds. “We hope that these sorts of products, that are carefully designed with the aid of multi-disciplinary researchers focused on 3R measures (repairable, reusable, and recyclable), can significantly contribute to the economy of our region and Canada as a whole.”

The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the National Research Institute for Science Policy (NRISP). It was recently published in two prestigious journals Composite Structures and Composites Part B: Engineering.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC research goes from the athletic stadium to African wildlife sanctuaries

An international research group at UBC, Harvard University, and Cardiff Metropolitan University has discovered how the human heart has adapted to support endurance physical activities.

Chimpanzee echocardiogram being performed by Aimee Drane from the International Primate Heart Project. Photo courtesy of Robert Shave.

Chimpanzee echocardiogram being performed by Aimee Drane from the International Primate Heart Project. Photo courtesy of Robert Shave.

This research examines how the human heart has evolved and how it adapts in response to different physical challenges, and will bring new ammunition to the international effort to reduce hypertensive heart disease - one of the most common causes of illness and death in the developed world.

The landmark study analyzed 160 humans, 43 chimpanzees and five gorillas to gain an understanding of how the heart manages different types of physical activity. In collaboration with Harvard University’s Daniel Lieberman and Aaron Baggish, UBC Professor Robert Shave and colleagues compared left ventricle structure and function in chimpanzees and a variety of people, including some who were sedentary but disease-free, highly active Native American subsistence farmers, resistance-trained football linemen and endurance-trained long-distance runners.

The wide variety of participants were specifically recruited to examine cardiac function in an evolutionary context. From the athletic stadium to wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, the team measured a diverse array of cardiac characteristics and responses to determine how habitual physical activity patterns, or a lack of activity, influence cardiac structure and function, explains Shave.

“While apes showed adaptations to support the pressure challenge associated with activities such as climbing and fighting, humans showed more endurance related adaptations,” says Shave, director of UBCO’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Guiding their inquiry is the well-known idea that the heart remodels itself in response to different physiological challenges, he notes.

“Moderate-intensity endurance activities such as walking and running stimulate the left ventricular chamber to become larger, longer and more elastic—making it able to handle high volumes of blood,” he says. “But pressure challenges like chronic weight-lifting or high blood pressure, stimulate thickening and stiffening of the left ventricular walls.”

Among humans, the research team showed there is a trade-off between these two types of adaptations. This trade-off means that people who have adapted to pressure cannot cope as well with volume and vice versa. Basically, the hearts of endurance runners aren’t great at dealing with a pressure challenge, and the weight lifter’s heart will not respond well to increases in volume.

This new research provides evidence that the human heart evolved for the purpose of moderate-intensity endurance activities, but adapts to different physical (in)activity patterns.

“As a result, today’s epidemic of physical inactivity in conjunction with highly processed, high-sodium diets contributes to thicker, stiffer hearts that compromise the heart’s ability to cope with endurance physical activity, and importantly this may start to occur prior to increases in resting blood pressure,” explains Shave.

This is often followed by the onset of high blood pressure and can eventually lead to hypertensive heart disease.

“We hope our research will inform those at highest risk of developing hypertensive heart disease,” says Shave. “And ensure that moderate-intensity endurance-type activities are widely encouraged in order to ultimately prevent premature deaths.”

This research was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC research has shown that fungal growth significantly affects the physical and mechanical properties of moisture-exposed drywall.

UBC research has shown that fungal growth significantly affects the physical and mechanical properties of moisture-exposed drywall.

Microbes are degrading infrastructure, compounding health implications

Microorganisms growing inside aging buildings and infrastructure are more than just a health issue, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.

The research, coming from the School of Engineering and biology department, examined the impact of fungal mould growth and associated microbes within structures on university campuses. The study focuses on the observed biodeteriorative capabilities of indoor fungi upon gypsum board material (drywall) and how it affects a building’s age and room functionality.

Assistant Professor Sepideh Pakpour says fungal growth significantly affected the physical (weight loss) and mechanical (tensile strength) properties of moisture-exposed gypsum board samples. In some cases, tensile strength and weight of some boards decreased by more than 80 per cent.

And she notes the issue of fungal growth, intensified by climate change, is two-fold.

“Increasing flooding and rainfall related to climate change is aiding fungi to grow more rapidly, causing degradation of the mechanical properties of buildings and infrastructure,” she says. “Not only are the fungi breaking down the integrity of our buildings, but their proliferation is increasing health hazards for the people who live and work in these buildings.”

The researchers also looked at other factors that can impact microbial growth including temperature, humidity, dustiness and occupancy levels—the more people, the quicker it can grow

According to the study, drywall experienced a significant effect on its mechanical properties when microbes were present. If the microbes were bolstered by moisture, the drywall’s ability to withstand breakage when under tension dropped 20 per cent. Older buildings, on average, exhibited higher concentrations and types of fungi in the air, leading to higher mould coverage and biodeterioration on the drywall.

“Our findings would suggest a critical need towards multi-criteria design and optimization of next-generation healthy buildings,” explains Pakpour. “Furthermore, we hope this study will enable engineers, architects and builders to develop optimal designs for highly microbial-resistant building materials that will decrease long-term economic losses and occupant health concerns.”

The inter-disciplinary research was overseen by UBCO Biology Professor John Klironomos, Professor Abbas Milani, director of the School of Engineering’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, and Pakpour, who supervised the microbial and material degradation analyses conducted by their doctoral student Negin Kazemian.

The researchers plan on turning their attention next to the exposure levels of airborne microorganisms and possible remedies.

The latest study, partially funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant, was published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.