Patty Wellborn

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


 

Speaker to discuss von Humboldt’s scientific project and relevance today

What: 250 years of Alexander von Humboldt: The explorer, his scientific project and his relevance today
Who: Sandra Rebok, science historian
When: Wednesday, October 16 starting at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Kelowna Innovation Centre, 460 Doyle Avenue, Kelowna

Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt began his celebrated expedition through the New World in 1799. During his travels, he explored the Americas widely, journeying to several countries including Venezuela, Cuba and the United States.

A polymath, geographer and naturalist, von Humboldt’s new-age thinking led him to the discovery of what we now know as human-induced climate change. He was also one of the first people to suggest that the lands surrounding the Atlantic Ocean, particularly Africa and South America, were once connected.

In commemoration of von Humboldt’s 250th birthday, the community is invited to join science historian Sandra Rebok as she evaluates his achievements, how he differed from fellow explorers, and whether or not his scientific methods are still valid today.

This is a free event, but registration is required at: 250yearsalexandervonhumboldt.eventbrite.com

The department of history and sociology thanks the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies and the Reichwald Endowment for their support of this public lecture.

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

The American avocet is one of many birds that can be spotted around UBCO’s campus.

The American avocet is one of many birds that can be spotted around UBCO’s campus.

Photographers offer a bird or an insect option for 2020

The birds and the bees can mean many things to many people.

For a group of UBC Okanagan biology professors, however, they mean a great fundraising opportunity.

Seven years ago, Professors Bob Lalonde, Ian Walker and Blythe Nilson—all photography buffs—created a calendar using photos of birds living around the campus pond. The goal was to raise money to help offset costs for fourth-year biology research projects.

The calendar proved to be successful, raising more than $8,000 over the years. This year’s 2020 edition—two different calendars in fact—has just rolled off the presses.

“We have been producing a bird calendar for seven years now and will continue to do so as the diversity of birds that visit our campus is amazing,” says Lalonde. “One of our goals is to make people aware of that. Along the same vein, the campus hosts a wide variety of cool insects as the valley has one of the greatest diversity of insect species in Canada. With the increasing interest in conserving diversity of insects such as native pollinators, we thought that we should expand our mission to include these animals as well.”

Lalonde explains the calendars help students cover costs such as lab supplies, and printing expenses for research papers and posters. It also gives faculty members of the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences a chance to get out with their camera equipment, explore the campus and keep track of the particular species known to live nearby.

“The campus is a destination for birders,” says Lalonde. “There is a diversity of sandpipers and their kin visiting Robert’s Lake, bald eagles nest to the north of the campus, great horned owls raise their fledgling babies in the pines on campus every spring. Pygmy nuthatches breed in dying pines pretty much everywhere, and two species of bluebird—the western and the mountain—are common sights here.”

The 2020 insect calendar includes images of mason bees, a sphinx moth, painted lady butterflies and dragonflies. Featured in the upcoming bird calendar are ring-necked pheasants, the American white pelican, western bluebirds, a bald eagle and the ubiquitous Canada goose. For their images, the team of photographers walk the trails of campus, park out at redwing pond and spend lunch hours at Robert Lake.

“These are very common birds on this campus, and the temptation is to take them for granted, but you have to keep in mind that elsewhere in Canada they are not to be found,” he adds. “We also see less common birds on our outings such as red crossbills, common and hoary redpolls, pileated woodpeckers and peregrine falcons who will descend on campus at unpredictable times.”

Their photography work, mostly a hobby, has also unveiled breeding populations of two blue-listed (at-risk of becoming extinct) species: Western painted turtles in the pond and great basin spade-foot toads elsewhere on campus. And it gives the biology professors a good excuse to get out walking when they are not teaching.

“I should also admit that Ian, Blythe and I love exploring the campus and taking photographs,” says Lalonde. “These calendars are a useful result of this activity.”

The calendars retail for $20 each (taxes included) and are available at the university bookstore, located inside the administration building, and at the biology office, room SCI 155, 1177 Research Road, Kelowna.

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

100 Debates on the Environment brings policies to the forefront

When: Thursday, October 3, from 7 to 9 p.m.
What: 100 Debates on the Environment, Kelowna-Lake Country candidates
Who: Federal candidates in Kelowna-Lake Country riding
Where: Arts and Sciences building, room ASC 140, 3187 University Way, UBC Okanagan

Organized by UBC Okanagan’s Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystem Services, election hopefuls will be on campus for a question and answer session on Thursday, October 3.

Each candidate will have to answer four questions—the same being asked of candidates across Canada that day and provided by 100 Debates on the Environment. The 100 Debates project is a non-partisan initiative with the goal to bring climate change and environmental policy issues to the forefront of the election.

After the questions are answered, candidates can address some locally focused topics. There will be time for audience questions near the end. Moderated by former Global Okanagan news anchor Rick Webber, the event is politically neutral.

The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required: 100debates-kelownalc.eventbrite.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

Homelessness, high housing costs and sustainability all topics of discussion at Politics of Housing in the Okanagan and Beyond on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Homelessness, high housing costs and sustainability all topics of discussion at Politics of Housing in the Okanagan and Beyond on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Events to feature academic and community experts

According to census data from Statistics Canada, in Kelowna alone there are some 3,000 people considered at high risk of homelessness—with another 1,900 identifying as transitionally, episodically or chronically homeless.

Adding to community housing woes, Kelowna was recently ranked the eighth-most expensive rental market in Canada, with the median price of a one-bedroom unit sitting at $1,280 and two-bedroom at $1,730, according to the latest Canadian National Rent Report.

“Everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to call home,” says Alison Conway, professor in UBC Okanagan’s department of community, culture and global studies. “As Okanagan residents, we’ve heard a lot about the issues associated with housing in our community lately, and I think it’s time we get together and identify why this is happening and find potential solutions.”

Conway has organized three public events featuring wide-ranging conversations about housing in the Okanagan and beyond. These events include input from housing experts from Toronto, Vancouver and Kelowna, who will discuss everything from homelessness and high housing costs to sustainability.

When: Monday, September 30, from 7 to 9 pm
What:
Canada’s National Housing Strategy: What it means for homeownership, renting and homelessness
Who:
University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski
Where:
Mary Irwin Theatre, 421 Cawston Ave., Kelowna

Keynote speaker David Hulchanski, professor of housing and community development at the University of Toronto, will discuss Canada’s National Housing Strategy. He will cover the strategy in detail, including how it affects homeownership, renting and homelessness.

When: Tuesday, October 1, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. (afternoon session)
What:
Panel discussion: Social housing and homelessness
Who: 
UBCO and Okanagan College faculty, City of Kelowna councillor
Where:
UNC 200, University Centre, 3272 University Way, UBC Okanagan

David Saltman of the Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council will moderate a panel discussion on social housing and homelessness.

Panelists are:

  • Luke Stack, City Councillor, Kelowna
  • Gordon Lovegrove, UBC Okanagan, School of Engineering
  • Ken Chau, UBC Okanagan, School of Engineering
  • Kyleen Myrah, Okanagan College, School of Business
  • John Graham, UBC Okanagan, School of Social Work

When: Tuesday, October 1, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Who:
Opening remarks by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran
What:
Panel discussion on sustainability focusing on Indigenous and green housing
Where:
Okanagan Regional Library, Kelowna branch, 1380 Ellis Street, Kelowna

After opening remarks by Mayor Colin Basran, UBCO Associate Professor Kevin Hanna, will moderate a panel discussion on sustainability focusing on Indigenous and green housing.

Panelists are:

  • John Bass, UBC Vancouver, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
  • Jaimie Harris, Heiltsuk Nation
  • Brian Rippy, Okanagan College, Sustainable Construction Technology
  • Trevor Butler, Archineers

All events are free and open to the public, but registration is required at: politicsofhousing.eventbrite.com

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

Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC Okanagan, with the official proclamation by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, establishing Saturday, September 28, as UBCO Homecoming Day in Kelowna.

Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC Okanagan, with the official proclamation by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, establishing Saturday, September 28, as UBCO Homecoming Day in Kelowna.

Officially proclaimed as Homecoming Day in Kelowna by Mayor Colin Basran, Saturday, September 28, caps several days of activities welcoming UBC alumni home to UBC Okanagan and inviting the community to get to know more about the university.

Homecoming 2019 includes several public events during the week including:

Sept. 24 to 28: Art exhibition with Mirjana Borovickic

The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies hosts an exhibition of new works by recent Bachelor of Fine Arts alumna Mirjana Borovickic. The exhibition runs September 24 to 28, in the FINA Gallery (Creative and Critical Studies Building) at UBC Okanagan. A wine and cheese reception with the artist will be held September 27, 3:30 to 5 p.m. Register online for the reception at: events.eply.com/FCCSHomecoming2019

Sept 27: Olympian Beckie Scott on Excellence, Adversity and Integrity

Three-time Olympian Beckie Scott retired in 2006 after nearly two decades of competitive cross-country ski racing. She is Canada’s most successful cross-country skier and one of the world’s best all-around cross-country racers. Everyone is welcome to attend her inspiring talk on excellence, adversity and integrity, hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Development, from 2 to 3 p.m. in The Commons classroom COM 201 at UBC Okanagan. Register online at: events.eply.com/HealthandSocialHomecoming2019

Sept. 27: School of Engineering Industry Night

The UBC Okanagan School of Engineering (SOE) invites the community to Industry Night -- an opportunity for networking with local industry professionals and listen to a panel discussion with the (SOE) leadership team highlighting the school’s future trajectory. Industry Night is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the UBC Innovation Hub at the Okanagan Innovation Centre (#203-460 Doyle Ave. in Kelowna). Admission is free, but registration is required at: events.eply.com/EngineeringHomecoming2019

Sept. 28: Alumni Golf Tournament

UBC Okanagan Heat and Heat alumni are hosting the third annual Alumni Golf Tournament on September 28 at Okanagan Golf Club, the Heat golf program’s home course. Register online at: events.eply.com/HeatAlumniGolfTournament

Sept. 28: Discover U

Discover U is an afternoon full of action at UBC Okanagan – activities are free and open to the public. They include the UBC Okanagan Heat Women's and Men's Soccer Teams playing at Nonis Sports Field (women’s game at 1 p.m. and men's game at 3 p.m.), and Discovery Expo faculty showcases in various campus locations from 2 to 5 p.m.

Sept. 28: Supper with Steve Patterson

UBCO’s new Commons building sets the scene for a pre-reception, long-table style dinner and comedy special by Steve Patterson, best known as host of the CBC Radio One hit show The Debaters. Tickets can be purchased online at: events.eply.com/UBCOHomecoming2019

Information about all the Homecoming 2019 events is available at: ok.ubc.ca/homecoming

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

An abandoned boat in a swamp near Mumbai symbolizes how environmental histories, including colonialism resource extraction, may become irrelevant as climate change takes centre stage in global concerns.

An abandoned boat in a swamp near Mumbai symbolizes how environmental histories, including colonialism resource extraction, may become irrelevant as climate change takes centre stage in global concerns.

History and Sociology Speaker Series returns for Futures Without a Past

What: UBCO History and Sociology Speaker Series
Who: Rohan D’Souza, Associate Professor, Kyoto University, Japan
When: Tuesday, September 17 starting at 6:45 p.m.
Where: Okanagan Regional Library, 1380 Ellis Street, Kelowna

If we want to save the planet from climate change, how do we protect the environmental histories of South Asian cultures?

Concepts such as the great acceleration—population growth, rapid consumption of energy and increasing greenhouse gases—only add to recent anxieties about climate change and threats on a planetary scale. But these anxieties, in particular the idea of the Anthropocene—or the age of humans—have begun to unsettle accepted interpretations of South Asian environmental histories.

These environmental histories, which include colonial resource extraction, have traditionally been preoccupied by efforts to explain the complicated and troubled relationships between ecological change and colonial rule.

Will saving the planet require society to ignore local and regional histories about South Asia’s experiences with European colonialism? Will a growing obsession with the problem of futurism make the past irrelevant and turn the present into a mere hostage of the future?

UBCO’s History and Sociology Speaker Series brings Kyoto University’s Rohan D’Souza to Kelowna for a special presentation on September 17. During his talk, Futures Without a Past, D’Souza will try to address some of these questions.

This is a free event, but pre-registration is required at: futureswithoutapast.eventbrite.com

UBC Okanagan’s History and Sociology Speaker Series, in partnership with the Okanagan Regional Library, brings leading thinkers from around the world to the Okanagan to discuss some of the big issues of today, tomorrow and the past.

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.