Classifying the critters of UBC

Andrew investigates a slimy specimen

An invitation for Fab File readers in the Vancouver area

Who: Andrew MacDonald, Department of Zoology, green college resident
What: A lesson in love and appreciation of biodiversity
When: November 1st 8:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Where: Green College coach house, UBC

We live each day surrounded by birds, insects, plants and invertebrates: but how well do we really know them? In this talk Andrew MacDonald will share what he knows about the identification and natural history of the (non-human!) organisms in and around Green College, UBC.

The talk will involve photos, recordings and specimens of organisms in and around our campus.

(Insider knowledge: Andrew is one of the college’s most enthusiastic story-tellers. He has inspired a sense of wonder in many of our residents, and we’re excited to spread–for instance–some of his beetle-mania!)

Please join us. And stay for dinner if you can!


Spinning Climate Change

How does evidence of climate change come to matter for different social groups?

I’ve posted this video as a follow-up to an earlier post.
It’s the end result of filming and editing a lecture delivered by my thesis supervisor.

Video synopsis

UBC  journalism professor Candis Callison delivers her lecture “Spinning climate change, vernaculars and emergent forms of life.”
The original event took place on Oct. 7th, 2010 at the Green College coach house on UBC campus.

In her talk, Prof. Callison complicates the notion that scientific information will straightforwardly inspire action to counter environmental problems. Her research provides insight into how Americans within five distinct social and professional groups are translating, transforming, and re-articulating climate change for a diverse citizenry and wider publics.

“More information is not the point. You’ve got to find ways to link [climate change] to what people already care about.”

Speaker: Prof. Candis Callison, UBC School of Journalism
Venue: Green College, UBC
Date: Oct. 7th, 2010
Filming and Editing: Fabiola Carletti, Journalism grad student and Green College Resident

Eco expert Candis Callison from MIT to lecture at Green College

Candis Callison. Picture from the UBC School of Journalism.

My thesis supervisor is really smart. No, like, really smart.
Not to mention down-to-earth, incisive and articulate.

Her name is Candis Callison and on Oct. 7th she’s going to make Green College a little more green-minded with her  lecture: “Spinning climate change, vernaculars and emergent forms of life.”

About the lecture

When: Thursday, October 7, 2010 5-6:30 pm
Where: Green College Coach House

Abstract: It has often been asserted as a democratic and scientific ideal that the discovery of objective facts and the dissemination of such information will drive action. But the line between what Bruno Latour calls matters of fact and matters of concern is anything but straightforward, and more often than not includes traversing not only the vagaries of media channels for mass communication, but also a diversity of meaning-making, ethics, and morality.

This talk will present research on such processes, providing insight into how Americans in various social and professional groups are translating, transforming, and re-articulating climate change for diverse constituents and wider publics.

About the speaker

Candis is graduate of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the MIT, where she earned her Master of Science. She’s currently working on her Ph.D. in MIT’s Science, Technology, and Society program.

As a journalist, she has worked for a variety of media outlets, including the CBC, CTV, and the APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network).

In addition to her Ph.D. work, Candis lectures at the UBC School of Journalism and is raising two young daughters with her partner in Vancouver.

An invitation!

If you’re in the Vancouver area, and you’re curious about Green College–an interdisciplinary  graduate residence and frequent lecture venue–there’s no better time to visit than for Candis’ upcoming talk. Come for the love of learning and stay for the deliciousness of dinner. UBC students ($15) and members of the general public ($18) can purchase a three-course dinner ticket in advance or pay an extra toonie to simply walk in and join us on the day of the event.

We hope to see you soon!

The Green College dining hall in Graham House

UBC J-school students win prestigious US award

Lewis Kelly, 1st year UBC j-school student, shoots footage for a story about UBC farm

It’s that other j-school in the west—at least, that’s how I used to refer to the UBC School of Journalism.

Call me a self-centered Torontonian, but when considering graduates programs in journalism last year, I had my sights set on reputable Ryerson.

Nevertheless, I applied to the Vancouver program as a kind of flight of fancy, mostly wanting to contemplate the thought of skipping back three time zones and settling into that rainy city on the Pacific coast. (Okay, and maybe I thought it’d be pretty cool to report during the Olympics. Slight influence.)

Long story short: I ended up nixing my acceptance (and paid deposit) to Ryerson and making the last-minute switch.

After a wonderful first year at the school, I should really give the program some much-deserved kudos—especially given their students’ most recent accomplishment.

Ten students from the school’s International Reporting class, which is taught by former 60 Minutes producer and UBC Associate Professor Peter Klein, have won the Society for Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award, a top U.S. award in journalism.

The international reporting team put together an impressive news documentary called “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground” on the global crumb trail of electronic waste. It aired on the PBS documentary series FRONTLINE/World last year.

The documentary is also nominated for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in the International Category.

Our director and Associate Professor Mary Lynn Young has called the recognition “a tremendous honour for a new, innovative Canadian journalism program.”

And Peter Klein is proud of his students as well:

“People work their entire careers to get either of these awards,” he said, “so it’s pretty special that our students achieved this recognition for the great work they’ve done.”

But before this all seems way too self-congratulating, I really have to encourage you all to see for yourselves:

Not only did the international reporting team make me rethink all the e-waste I’ve created in my time, they’ve also challenged me to see the word “student” as a mere modifier–and not a blight–on the word “journalist.”

‘Healing garden’ nourishes Aboriginal Vancouverites

Original story, including multimedia, available here
By Fabiola Carletti and Lewis Kelly

Skulsh remembers growing his first cauliflower in 2005.

Growing a cauliflower can bring childlike joy to a grown man’s face. At least, it did for John Skulsh, who still talks about the first vegetable he’d ever grown.

“I lifted it up,” said Skulsh, who hails from the Gitxsan Nation. “What a feeling that was! You know, the only time I’d picked up cauliflower was from Safeway, wrapped in cellophane.”

Skulsh is among the many residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who steward the Urban Aboriginal Community Kitchen Garden, a half-acre of fertile land at the UBC farm. The project aims to shrink the distance between the garden and the grocery store, while celebrating Aboriginal traditions around food in the context of the city.

For many involved, this means cultivating a more direct relationship with what they eat—a process that can begin at any age.

“Even some of the seniors didn’t know how things like radish grew,” said Cathy Goupil, a seasoned gardener from the L’il’wat Nation, “They’d never seen one without a rubber band.”

Goupil is one of the garden’s founding matriarchs, affectionately called the grannies, who have worked with the project from its beginning in 2005.

Since then, roughly 500 people have spent time at the garden. Some actively work on small projects while others visit for large celebratory feasts, like the Blessing of the Land.

Waking up indigenous knowledge

On a Monday afternoon, many local goods were scattered around the farm’s indoor kitchen table, where a small group of community members talked, laughed and worked together to prepare a meal.

Granny Goupil explained the healing benefits of XwU’sum (pronounced “hoshum”). It is a traditional berry-based drink that strengthens the immune system and cleanses the body.

Louis Joseph, a Native Elder from the Tlowitsis Nation, had handpicked the blackberries in the salad dressing. Rob Morgan, a Gitxsan Downtown Eastside resident, had carried in a bucket of freshly harvested herbs from the nearby garden.

“We wake up old traditions and indigenous knowledge systems,” said Project Coordinator Mary Holmes, “and we find a place for them both at the university and within the larger community.”

Aboriginal culture in the city

The garden plot belongs to the Musqueam Nation, who shares the space with other Aboriginal people in Vancouver.

“Access to land is a huge issue for First Nations folk living in the city,” said Holmes.

Nearly half of all Aboriginal Canadians now live in urban centers, according to new study by the Environics Institute. Its research shows that many indigenous city dwellers see the city as “a venue for creative development of Aboriginal culture” and roughly 60 per cent feel they can maintain cultural ties in an urban setting.

Volunteer chefs prepare all the food in the kitchen.

The study highlights Vancouver as a city in which “residents are both more aware of Aboriginal cultural activities in their city and participate in them more frequently.”

Community members at the garden learn about each other’s traditions. They sit down and talk about what to plant, what to eat, and how to cook the meal itself.

“There are very different ways to prepare clam chowder,” said volunteer and UBC student Jocelyn Greer. “Trying to find a happy medium is very interesting to watch, but it always turns out delicious in the end.”

Seeds of change

Community members bring all kinds of skills and struggles to the table.

Residential school survivors, the mentally ill, and troubled youth, for instance, find out about the program through its parent organization, the Vancouver Native Health Society, and its community partners.

Skulsh came to program through the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. To him, the garden is a sanctuary.

“All you see is trees surrounding you,” he said, “You don’t see the hustle and bustle of the Downtown Eastside…No drugs, no alcohol.”

In this space, many people plant the seeds of change.

“It is a healing garden,” said Skulsh, “Being out there clears your mind, makes you energized, makes you happy.”

Get inside the kitchen

Recipe for organic bannock, courtesy of Mary Holmes

Watch the kitchen in action, narrated by John Skulsh

The Urban Aboriginal Community Kitchen Garden Project

A lot of people depend on the garden 52 weeks of the year–because even if we’re not growing anything, they come out to get a piece of nature, see the eagles, listen to the coyotes howl, have lunch, get connected with themselves and go back home–Mary Holmes, Program Coordinator.

I’m currently working on a multi-media package about this half-acre of fertile land at the UBC farm. The project aims to shrink the distance between the garden and the grocery store, placing special emphasis on celebrating aboriginal traditions around food within an urban community.

I thought I’d post up this short overview by Lemongrass media, as I think it does a great (and gorgeous!) job of representing the project.

By the end of the week, Lewis and I will be adding to the conversation with a text story, a slideshow, a video and a special secret menu.

The Deepest Wilderness: UBC student was a ‘missing person’

Originally posted at the blog: Secret Lives of UBC students

Robert Singley, PhD candidate in composition at the UBC School of Music

There’s something wrong with Glastenbury Mountain, at least according to local lore in Bennington, Vermont.

Many people, especially watchers of the paranormal, have ominous theories about that stretch of the Appalachian Trail. A number of people are said to have gone missing there.

But none of this fazed Robert Singley, a PhD candidate at UBC, who used to hike the trail when he lived in Bennington. That is, until the day he too got lost in the woods.

Two years ago, while hiking back to his car, Singley became disoriented.

“I still think I was sucked through some sort of time space continuum,” said the composer, who channels his long hikes into creative impetuses for his music.

“All I know is that it got dark. It got foggy,” he said, adding that head lamp he’d brought with him wasn’t working. “I followed the trail for as long as I could see it, but then I lost the trail and I was totally alone in the woods.”

As his girlfriend worried at home, Singley struggled to find his way out of an area with an eerie reputation.

Some call it Bennington’s triangle, a reference to the mysterious Bermuda triangle. Others tell tales of a Bennington monster. And still others refer to Native American stories of rocks that swallow people up in this place where the four winds meet.

Regardless of which stories Singley believed, if any, there was no doubt he was in for an unusual night.

Robert examines the type of wood that "saved his life." Photo by Frank Singley

Next came the rain. The young American’s attempts to make a fire became futile and he eventually lay down from exhaustion.

“Later I started to shiver and I knew I was starting to get hypothermia,” said Singley. He got back up and started to look for kindling. Instead he was alarmed to find animal bones.

But somehow, in this precarious situation, Singley found a way to calm himself.

Listen to Robert Singley explain what was going through his head that night, and why he turned it into music:
An excerpt of his wilderness-inspired string quartet [audio here]

In the end, Singley managed to survive the night–largely thanks to finding a birch tree with highly flammable bark and coming up with wilderness-inspired musical ideas. In the morning, he ran into police that had been searching for him, and the local newspaper featured his story as an escape from danger.

But Singley heard his experience differently: “It was a magical experience, quite life affirming,” he has written.

In fact, in his work as a composer, he has tapped into the “non-directionality” he felt that night, creating music that is not heading in any direction–as in Escher’s staircase–and that values the journey as a series of individual steps.

“Getting lost really solidified these ideas for me, of just being happy wherever you are.”