Bud Mortenson

Email: bud.mortenson@ubc.ca


 

Shuswap Elder and UBCO Community Research Liaison Jessie Nyberg signs as a witness to the declaration of Truth and Reconciliation commitments at a special ceremony Tuesday.

Shuswap Elder and UBCO Community Research Liaison Jessie Nyberg signs as a witness to the declaration of Truth and Reconciliation commitments at a special ceremony Tuesday.

UBC Okanagan signs declaration in response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action

Elders, chiefs and community members from throughout the Syilx Okanagan Nation joined with students, faculty and staff at UBC Okanagan Tuesday to witness the historic signing of UBCO’s commitments to action toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

As part of the University of British Columbia’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, the UBC Okanagan declaration specifies action on five recommendations developed by its Aboriginal Advisory Committee.

The actions include:

  • Development of an Indigenous culture orientation program for all faculty and staff
  • Establishing a senior advisor on Indigenous affairs for the Okanagan campus
  • Developing activities that support the revitalization of Indigenous language fluency
  • Advancing Indigenous teaching and research
  • Expanding health and wellness services to better support Aboriginal students

“In making this commitment to the Calls to Action, UBC is taking an important step,” notes Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. “Indian residential schools were purposely designed to ‘take the Indian out of the child’ by destroying Indigenous languages, cultures, and connections to our lands.

“The time to act is now. The steps that UBC is taking will strengthen the collaborative relationship between the university and the Syilx Okanagan Nation,” says Phillip.  “They will make meaningful contributions to supporting Syilx students and scholars, increase intercultural understanding, and over time, they will enrich the future for us all.”

UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono says UBC is deeply committed to collaborating with Indigenous peoples and communities to address the legacy of colonialism, and to co-develop knowledge and relationships.

“The Okanagan campus is at the leading edge of this effort through its foundational partnership with the Syilx Okanagan Nation and its commitments to access and success for all Indigenous students,” said Ono.

In 2005, UBC established the Okanagan campus in Syilx Okanagan territory in partnership with Syilx Okanagan Chiefs, embarking on a new relationship with the Indigenous peoples of the region and furthering the university’s commitment to Indigenous partnerships.

“Since the beginning of this campus, UBC has enjoyed the support, friendship and warmth of Syilx people and communities, it is a blessing and an invaluable privilege. Going forward we recommit to working towards reconciliation and better serving the Syilx community. I am personally deeply grateful to be a part of this unique partnership and place,” says Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC Okanagan.

“We will be forever grateful to be welcomed in Syilx Okanagan territory and to partner with the Okanagan Nation on education,” Buszard said. “UBC Okanagan will uphold its commitment to support Indigenous students and scholarship long after we achieve the Truth and Reconciliation actions to which we commit today.”

Information about the declaration and commitments is online at: ok.ubc.ca/trc

UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard and Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Philosophy, read UBCO’s Truth and Reconciliation commitments.

UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard and Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Philosophy, read UBCO’s Truth and Reconciliation commitments.

Signing the declaration of commitments were, from left, Ian Foulds, Aboriginal Advisory Committee co-chair, Ian Cull, Aboriginal Advisory Committee chair, Eric Mitchell, Cultural Safety Educator and adjunct professor in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal, and Santa Ono, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor.

Signing the declaration of commitments were, from left, Ian Foulds, Aboriginal Advisory Committee co-chair, Ian Cull, Aboriginal Advisory Committee chair, Eric Mitchell, Cultural Safety Educator and adjunct professor in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal, and Santa Ono, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor.

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

Weather balloon will carry cloud chamber to 120,000 feet

A group of UBC Okanagan students have won the opportunity to launch a science experiment into the stratosphere with help from the Canadian Space Agency.

Shortly after beginning their studies at UBCO last year, the students formed a team -- the Atmospheric Cloud Chamber of the Okanagan -- and over the winter competed against other university teams in the Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment Design Challenge.

“We are working on a cosmic ray detection system where we hope to detect different cosmic particles across the lower atmosphere,” says team manager Leonardo Caffarello.

It’s one of two experiments selected to fly onboard a high-altitude research balloon launched by the Canadian Space Agency between August 21 and 31 in Timmins, Ontario. The balloon will rise to about 120,000 feet and be airborne for at least 10 hours.

Carried skyward by the balloon, a vapour-filled enclosure or cloud chamber will detect subatomic particles called pions and muons, formed when cosmic rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. As they pass through the chamber the decaying particles will leave visible trails and at regular intervals, a camera will take pictures of what’s happening.

Analyzing the images using intelligent software -- machine-learning algorithms -- to identify the kind of particle that made each trail, the students will gain a better understanding of particle behaviour at various altitudes.

It may be a new way to examine how climate change is affecting the planet.

“With these results, we will be able to estimate at what height pions are created and whether the height at which they decay has changed due to pollution,” he explains. “The particles we are detecting have a direct relationship with the atmospheric environment we identify them at. This is why we are so interested in identifying the different particles as we go high up in the stratosphere.”

During the experiment, the students will monitor the exact altitude when pions decay into muons. Detecting decay at a different altitude than previously observed may indicate a significant change in the atmospheric environment.

"If we are able to correlate our data to climate change information we could hopefully use it as another way to measure climate change," says Caffarello.

"The students' passion for aerospace science and technology is truly incredible,” says Engineering Prof. Jonathan Holzman, the team's faculty supervisor. “They approached me in the fall with an idea for detecting particle decay and were looking for help to realize this idea. I was more than happy to help. I watched them assemble their design, through many trials and tribulations, and we are waiting to see it take flight later this summer. That is very exciting."

An international team

Caffarello says the experiment is the result of a chance meeting of like-minded students at UBCO’s student orientation program Jumpstart.

“We were all part of UBCO’s aero club and we realized we were all passionate about space,” he says. “When I learned about this competition and I started studying the specific techniques needed, I realized we needed people with very different skill sets so we could all complement each other’s work.”

Caffarello, from Brazil, is going into his third year of physics, while Javier Perez Tobia, from Spain, is entering his second year of math. Mexico’s Hector Carrillo Estrada is a second-year computer science student, Giulia Rossi, from Italy, is a third-year mechanical engineering student, and Philip Noah Eibl, from Austria, is going into his third year of a combined degree of computer and data science.

“While we do have specific, scientific goals,” says Caffarello, “one of our biggest goals is to learn something new and have fun while we’re doing it.”

The student team has received a grant from the UBC Tuum Est Student Initiative Fund and is currently raising funds to meet additional expenses for the trip to Ontario. Information about the project can be found on the Atmospheric Cloud Chamber of the Okanagan team website at: ac2oubco.wixsite.com/ac2o

A team of students from UBC Okanagan with a prototype 'cloud chamber' that will be launched by high-altitude balloon and used to study cosmic particles in the Earth’s upper atmosphere in August.

A team of students from UBC Okanagan with a prototype 'cloud chamber' that will be launched by high-altitude balloon and used to study cosmic particles in the Earth’s upper atmosphere in August.

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.

Doctoral student Sajjad Mohammadnejad with a mixed gas burner used by engineering researchers in the Combustion for Propulsion and Power Laboratory at UBC Okanagan.

Doctoral student Sajjad Mohammadnejad with a mixed gas burner used by engineering researchers in the Combustion for Propulsion and Power Laboratory at UBC Okanagan.

UBCO engineers explore improved energy generation

In the search for cleaner and more efficient energy, researchers from UBC and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada are investigating the benefits of injecting hydrogen into natural gas distribution networks.

The goal is to better understand how hydrogen can improve natural gas combustion, making it cleaner and at the same time a more efficient fuel, explains Sina Kheirkhah, an assistant professor and researcher with the Combustion for Propulsion and Power Laboratory in UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering.

The work, he says, it isn’t without challenges.

“Turbulent combustion is a complex field of science and engineering,” says Kheirkhah. “Many basic principles related to turbulent premixed combustion are not firmly established. After several decades of combustion research, we are still trying to understand how fast premixed flames burn.”

Working collaboratively with the NRC’s gas turbine laboratory and using laser-based diagnostics, Kheirkhah and his team are performing measurements to delve into the heart of gas turbine engine combustors.

The eventual goal is to have better and more accurate tools for estimating the burning rate in combustion equipment. Through a number of experiments, they have shown that some of the conventionally accepted approaches for estimating premixed flame burning rates may need to be rethought.

“This is important since future development of gas turbine engine combustors requires a clear and accurate understanding of how quickly things burn,” says Kheirkhah.

This research, targeted towards combustion scientists and engineers, aims to improve their understanding of how hydrogen-enriched natural gas burns. The researchers are also examining how, or if, hydrogen-enrichment of natural gas will improve energy generation from these engines.

“We are developing knowledge regarding combustion of cleaner fuels, such as hydrogen-enriched natural gas. Combustion of the cleaner fuels will reduce emission of carbon-based material, helping with the deceleration of global warming and climate change,” he explains.

Kheirkhah’s research was published in the latest edition of Combustion and Flame. The research was funded in part by Fortis BC and Mitacs along with in-kind and intellectual contributions from the National Research Council of Canada’s Gas Turbine Laboratory.

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.

From left: Colin Basran, mayor of Kelowna; Gaelene Askeland, Journey Home Society; Paul Van Donkelaar, UBC Okanagan; Kerry Rempel, Okanagan College; John Graham, UBC Okanagan; Trevor Corneil, Interior Health Authority; Gordon Lovegrove, UBC Okanagan; Stephanie Lang, UBC Okanagan; Kyleen Myrah, Okanagan College.

From left: Colin Basran, mayor of Kelowna; Gaelene Askeland, Journey Home Society; Paul Van Donkelaar, UBC Okanagan; Kerry Rempel, Okanagan College; John Graham, UBC Okanagan; Trevor Corneil, Interior Health Authority; Gordon Lovegrove, UBC Okanagan; Stephanie Lang, UBC Okanagan; Kyleen Myrah, Okanagan College.

UBC and Okanagan College team with community groups to tackle issue

Researchers at UBC Okanagan, Interior Health, Okanagan College, the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society and various human and health service sectors across the BC Interior, have received federal funding to explore ways to improve services for homeless people.

Funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) combined with funds from UBC and the Vancouver Foundation, brings the support total to $218,000, says John Graham, director of UBC Okanagan’s School of Social Work.

It’s a multidisciplinary approach, he says, with scholars and grad students in engineering, medicine, neuroscience, management, nursing, the social sciences and social work. The group is evaluating three priorities.

“The first: improvements in technology—including database management improvements, and phone apps,” says Graham. “These are important in helping to make homelessness strategies more responsive, efficient, and at the same time, increasing the number of people who are able to be off the street.”

Second, says Graham, the group is examining how the homeless experience stigma and how business owners, neighbours, and service users and providers might better understand each others’ viewpoints.

“And finally, we are developing and evaluating a number of health and human service improvements. We need better delivery of the specific service needs of those who have experienced traumatic brain injury, versus a major mental disorder, a substance misuse, generalized trauma, each of which often frequently co-occurs.”

In 2018, the City of Kelowna adopted the Journey Home Strategy—a five-year plan to address homelessness with a focus on ensuring everyone has a place to call home. Journey Home’s goal is to ensure a coordinated and easy-to-access system of care for those in the region who have lost, or are at risk of losing, their home.

“We now have a team in place that will significantly contribute to service improvements and reductions in homelessness,” says Graham.

The research team expects more funding opportunities to come from this initiative.

“We should be able to leverage current funds to quickly get over the $1-million mark within a year,” states Graham. “I really want to see the university’s skills leveraged to help improve the homelessness response roll out across the region.

“Throughout, we are engaging with service providers, service users, and broader community members in direct ways that bring all parties to the table to co-develop regionally-specific solutions,” Graham adds. “Together with myriad partners across the city and region, we will make a difference that will be informed by rigorous empirical evidence.”

Partners in the initiative include:

  • BrainTrust Canada
  • Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Central Okanagan Journey Home Society
  • Central Okanagan School District
  • City of Kelowna
  • Kelowna Chamber of Commerce
  • Interior Health
  • John Howard Society
  • Kelowna Community Resources
  • Kelowna Friendship Society
  • Kelowna Gospel Mission
  • Ministry of Children and Family Development
  • Okanagan Boys and Girls Club
  • Okanagan College
  • Okanagan Nation Alliance
  • A Way Home Kelowna
  • Westbank First Nation
  • The Bridge Youth & Family Services

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 professor explains how temperature, fuel and climate change contribute to wildfire risk

Summer is upon us in the Okanagan Valley, and unlike summers in recent past, the majority of the Okanagan’s fire danger rating is sitting at low to moderate.

But, with long-range weather forecasts predicting little precipitation and a rise in temperatures, we asked UBC’s David Scott his opinion on the fire risk in our area.

Scott is an associate professor in earth, environmental and geographic sciences at UBC Okanagan and a Forest Renewal British Columbia Research Chair in Watershed Management.

The Okanagan is one of the most wildfire-prone areas in all of Canada – why is this the case?

Simply put, the Okanagan is a semi-desert area in a rain shadow. Because of this lack of precipitation, we are vulnerable to fire because we are dry, and also because we have built up fuel loads by decades of fire suppression.

What factors are local experts looking at when examining this year’s wildfire risk?

Wildfire risk comes from a combination of weather and fuel factors – so that’s what we’re focussing on right now. In our province, fuels are abundant in most areas, so the risk is driven by weather throughout the fire season – particularly temperature, as that drives evaporation, and rainfall.

We’ve had active fire seasons in the Okanagan the past few years, but when we look back to the disastrous fire season in 2003, that was, at the time, both the hottest and driest season on record at almost every southern interior weather station. Hot summers dry out fuels, which increases our wildfire risk. Which means that fires start more easily and are more likely to spread.

Has climate change altered the Okanagan’s forest fire season?

We know that the climate of Canada is warming. The federal government recently released Canada’s Changing Climate Report – where data analysis showed that human influence has caused Canada’s climate to warm, and it will warm further in the future. It also showed that warming and future warming in Canada is on average about double the magnitude of global warming.

So, what that means for us is that summer starts earlier, summer is longer and there’s more opportunity to dry out the environment, so the fire danger is going to be greater overall. That’s not to say we won’t have cooler or damp summers in between – climate is always variable – but for the big picture and the long-term situation, we’re going to be dealing with greater fire danger and nastier wildfire seasons.

In your opinion, what will the 2019 wildfire season look like in the Okanagan?

It’s really difficult to predict what the season will look like because it all depends on the weather. We’ve had a fair bit of rain in the past couple of weeks, so that’s positive because it’s moistening our fuels.

But that can and likely will change very quickly – just looking at forecasts for next week we can see that temperatures are rising – but the thing about long-range forecasts is, the further out we’re projecting, the weaker our predictions become. So we’re really waiting to see what mother nature will do.

What efforts have been undertaken by the province to mitigate wildfire risks this season?

The province has recently put money into an organization called the Forest Enhancement Society of BC. The society has multiple purposes, but one of those is to prevent and mitigate the impact of wildfires. Through this organization, communities are getting encouragement and assistance to manage their wildfire risk in the so-called urban-wildland interface, largely through the reduction in fuel loads.

What can the public do to improve their preparedness for this year’s wildfire season?

Two words: Fire Smart. It is is a program that’s full of straightforward and practical advice for homeowners on how to clean up their properties in preparation of wildfire season. I’ve heard firefighters say, “if you own the fuel, you own the fire,” and that’s them voicing their frustration for people who make choices without considering where they live. People need to take responsibility for their land and manage their fire risk. Think about what you’re planting right up against your home – junipers and cedars are like wicks. Think about where and how you stack your firewood. The public shouldn’t feel like they’re helpless – there’s a lot they can do to help themselves.

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.