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News from the University of British Columbia
Updated: 1 day 33 min ago

Community and business leader Lindsay Gordon to be next UBC Chancellor

Lindsay Gordon will be UBC’s next Chancellor. Photo: Martin Dee

The University of British Columbia Board of Governors today appointed business and community leader, and double alumnus Lindsay Gordon to become the university’s 18th Chancellor on July 1, 2014.

“In Lindsay Gordon, UBC has found a passionate advocate,” said Board chair John Montalbano. “His vast and diverse expertise will bring a global lens to the university.”

The recently retired President and CEO of HSBC Bank Canada enjoyed a 25-year career with the bank, following 10 years in senior roles with Export Development Canada. He has served on the boards of numerous Canadian business and volunteer organizations.

“As an alumnus, I am particularly honoured to be the next Chancellor of UBC, one of the world’s leading universities, and to work with incoming president Arvind Gupta and his team,” said Gordon. “Together we will continue to build on the university’s tradition of excellence in learning, citizenship and research, serving the people of British Columbia, Canada and the world.”

NOTE TO EDITORS: To view and download photos of Lindsay Gordon, click here

Following a 1973 B.A. (Economics) and an MBA from the UBC Sauder School of Business in 1976, Gordon has remained closely associated with UBC. He is co-chair of the start an evolution campaign, Canada’s largest fundraising and alumni engagement effort.

Judy Rogers, chair of the UBC Alumni Association Board and of the search committee, made the final recommendation to the Board of Governors. “Heart, wisdom, experience, and commitment – Lindsay has so much to offer UBC,” she said.

Mr. Gordon will replace Sarah Morgan-Silvester who steps down on June 30, 2014 after exemplary service to the university since 2008.

“I have deeply valued Sarah’s wise counsel and principled guidance during our Board deliberations,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope. “I am sure my successor Arvind Gupta will forge with Lindsay Gordon and John Montalbano the kind of bond that will sustain and strengthen UBC.”

Lindsay Gordon is a recipient of the 2010 B’nai Brith Canada Award of Merit and the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, awarded to outstanding Canadians. He is married to Elizabeth Gordon and has four children.


The Chancellor is the ceremonial head of the university, conferring all degrees and serving on both the Senate, responsible for the university’s academic governance, and the Board of Governors, responsible for managing the property, revenue, and business affairs of the university.

The 2008 BC University Amendment Act changed the way university chancellors are selected. Following a comprehensive nomination, search and review process, the position is now appointed by the Board of Governors upon nomination by the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and after consultation with the Council of Senates. The position of university chancellor remains a three-year term, with the possibility of one consecutive reappointment.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Categories: News

Canada Foundation for Innovation awards UBC $2.2M to boost research

Max Cynader is one of several UBC researchers to to receive funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

More than $2.2 million has been pledged by the federal government to help fund projects ranging from stroke therapy to tissue regeneration at the University of British Columbia.

Eighteen projects at UBC will split the $2,269,140 in funding from the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund, designed to help post-secondary institutions attract top research talent.

“CFI’s continued support helps UBC break new ground in research and discovery,” said John Hepburn, UBC vice president, research and international. “This will allow our researchers to push the limits of inquiry so their projects can have maximum impact on Canada and the world.”

UBC was among 32 Canadian universities to receive CFI funding totalling $30 million, announced today by Ed Holder, Minister of State for Science and Technology, at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“To spark new ideas at Canada’s universities, researchers need the state-of-the-art tools that allow them to take these ideas from the lab to the marketplace,” said Holder. “Our government believes significant investment in these tools is essential to create the kind of innovative environment that leads to economic prosperity and the improves the lives of Canadians.”


The UBC recipients are:

Amee Manges, Associate Professor, School of Population and Public Health
Applied genomics and metagenomics for population and public health ($125,000)

Alexander Beristain, Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Comprehensive Placenta Processing Suite (CPPS) ($125,000)

Frances Chen, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Laboratory Infrastructure: Social Health Lab ($124,971)

Edward Conway, Professor, Director, Centre for Blood Research
Investigating the role of blood-based proteolytic cascades in health and disease ($144,273) 

Max Cynader, Director, Brain Research Centre and Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health
New therapeutic strategies for stroke ($240,000)

Kevin Hanna, Associate Professor, Irving K. Barber School of Arts & Sciences, UBC Okanagan
Centre for Environmental Assessment Research ($44,174)

Xiaoyan Jiang, Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Genetics
Elucidation of driver molecular pathways in human leukemia ($75,000)

Hugh Kim, Principal Investigator, Centre for Blood Research
The molecular basis of oral and cardiovascular disease: regulation by platelet signaling ($125,000)

Patrick Kirchen, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Optical Characterization of Advanced Engine Combustion Strategies ($122,003)

Carlo Marra, Professor, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Outcomes research in community pharmacy practice: Innovation using eHealth ($38,463)

Edwin Moore, Professor, Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences
Cardiomyocyte Imaging ($71,327)

Haakon Nygaard, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology

Novel translational approaches for targeting misfolded proteins in Alzheimer’s disease ($118,439)

Alexander Rauscher, Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology
Investigation of cerebrovascular function ($27,360)

Colin Ross, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Personalized genomic medicine for improved pediatric drug safety and effectiveness ($110,698)

Ya Shen, Assistant Professor, Division of Endodontics
Understanding the formation and resistance of endodontic biofilm ($123,365)

Kiran Soma, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Infrastructure Support for the UBC Steroid Profiling Laboratory ($254,806)

Michael Underhill, Professor, Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences
Infrastructure to study and improve stem cell function in tissue regeneration ($275,000)

Jennifer Williams, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
Laboratory for Population Dynamics in Changing Environments ($124,261)

Categories: News

Eye of the beholder – improving the human-robot connection

UBC’s AJung Moon with Charlie. Photo: Martin Dee

Researchers are programming robots to communicate with people using human-like body language and cues, an important step toward bringing robots into homes.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia enlisted the help of a human-friendly robot named Charlie to study the simple task of handing an object to a person. Past research has shown that people have difficulty figuring out when to reach out and take an object from a robot because robots fail to provide appropriate nonverbal cues.

“We hand things to other people multiple times a day and we do it seamlessly,” says AJung Moon, a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Getting this to work between a robot and a person is really important if we want robots to be helpful in fetching us things in our homes or at work.”

Moon and her colleagues studied what people do with their heads, necks and eyes when they hand water bottles to one another. They then tested three variations of this interaction with Charlie and the 102 study participants.

Programming the robot to use eye gaze as a nonverbal cue made the handover more fluid. Researchers found that people reached out to take the water bottle sooner in scenarios where the robot moved its head to look at the area where it would hand over the water bottle or looked to the handover location and then up at the person to make eye contact.

“We want the robot to communicate using the cues that people already recognize,” says Moon. “This is key to interacting with a robot in a safe and friendly manner.”

This study won best paper at the IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.

Video: Human-robot interaction

Categories: News

Yeast provides genetic clues on drug response

A UBC study may help researchers better understand how and why some drugs work and others don’t. Photo: podphoto, iStock.

Why do people respond differently to the same drug? For the first time, researchers have untangled genetic and environmental factors related to drug reactions, bringing us a step closer to predicting how a drug will affect us.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia exposed 6,000 strains of yeast to 3,000 drugs. Yeast strains were modified so their response could be measured. Researchers found that the yeast cells have about 50 main ways in which they react to any drug.

These 50 major response types, known as gene signatures, are like fingerprints that identify all genes and their relevance to a specific drug treatment.

This relatively small number of gene signatures means that it might be possible to eventually use a person’s genome to predict their drug response. It could also make it easier to identify more effective therapies.

“This is a starting reference map for understanding variation in drug response,” says Guri Giaever, an associate professor in UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and a senior author on the study, published today in Science. “It won’t be easy but our results suggest it is a solvable problem.”

Corey Nislow, also associate professor in the faculty and senior author, says this research will help us better understand how and why some drugs work and others don’t.

The findings may also be relevant to cancer treatment. Researchers identified all genes that are essential for growth when cells are chemically stressed. Because cancer is principally a cell that grows out of control, the research points to different strategies to develop new drugs that target these genes.

Categories: News

Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce pulp

UBC researchers have developed a way to modify a polymer in wood to that makes it easier to break down. Photo: Notneb82, Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.

“One of the largest impediments for the pulp and paper industry as well as the emerging biofuel industry is a polymer found in wood known as lignin,” says Shawn Mansfield, a professor of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia.

Lignin makes up a substantial portion of the cell wall of most plants and is a processing impediment for pulp, paper and biofuel. Currently the lignin must be removed, a process that requires significant chemicals and energy and causes undesirable waste.

Shawn Mansfield. Photo: Martin Dee

Researchers used genetic engineering to modify the lignin to make it easier to break down without adversely affecting the tree’s strength.

“We’re designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible,” says Mansfield.

Researchers had previously tried to tackle this problem by reducing the quantity of lignin in trees by suppressing genes, which often resulted in trees that are stunted in growth or were susceptible to wind, snow, pests and pathogens.

“It is truly a unique achievement to design trees for deconstruction while maintaining their growth potential and strength.”

The study, a collaboration between researchers at the University of British Columbia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University, is a collaboration funded by Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, was published today in Science.



The structure of lignin naturally contains ether bonds that are difficult to degrade. Researchers used genetic engineering to introduce ester bonds into the lignin backbone that are easier to break down chemically.

The new technique means that the lignin may be recovered more effectively and used in other applications, such as adhesives, insolation, carbon fibres and paint additives.

Genetic modification

The genetic modification strategy employed in this study could also be used on other plants like grasses to be used as a new kind of fuel to replace petroleum.

Genetic modification can be a contentious issue, but there are ways to ensure that the genes do not spread to the forest. These techniques include growing crops away from native stands so cross-pollination isn’t possible; introducing genes to make both the male and female trees or plants sterile; and harvesting trees before they reach reproductive maturity.

In the future, genetically modified trees could be planted like an agricultural crop, not in our native forests. Poplar is a potential energy crop for the biofuel industry because the tree grows quickly and on marginal farmland. Lignin makes up 20 to 25 per cent of the tree.

“We’re a petroleum reliant society,” says Mansfield. “We rely on the same resource for everything from smartphones to gasoline. We need to diversify and take the pressure off of fossil fuels. Trees and plants have enormous potential to contribute carbon to our society.”

Categories: News

Scientists eager to participate in public discourse on environment

Scientists are interested in engaging with the public on environmental issues, according to a new survey. Photo: Plusphoto, iStock

A survey of more than 500 researchers indicates that scientists have the desire to get more involved in public discussion and policy decisions regarding environmental issues, but have concerns about how their efforts might be perceived.

“Scientists debate whether they have a role in advocacy,” says Gerald Singh, a PhD student in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC, who conducted the survey with his colleagues. “Some feel they need to remain objective and can’t engage. Others feel they have a duty to get involved so that decisions are made with the environment in mind.”

The results show that scientists overwhelmingly support outreach efforts. Ninety-eight per cent of participants said they would be willing to advocate for a policy if they felt there was sufficient scientific evidence to support their position. However, many participants also indicated they were concerned that their peers would disapprove of this type of activity.

“We wanted to push our colleagues beyond this polarized debate. Our research demonstrates that if scientists choose to engage with the public, their choice is well supported by the larger scientific community,” says Singh.

The results also found that confidence played a big role in whether researchers were willing to get involved. Those who felt they were good at reaching out did so more often while negative experiences turned people off.

“We identified some of the barriers that prevent scientists from engaging,” says Singh. “It turns out that one of the biggest barriers is whether they perceive themselves as competent.”

Singh suggests that researchers take part in communication training early in their career to boost confidence and to avoid the likelihood of a negative experience.

The results of the survey were published today in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Categories: News

Women leaders may reduce Wall Street risky business

Would Lehman Brothers have gone bankrupt if the investment firm had more women in positions of influence? UBC’s Hazel Hollingdale hopes to find an answer. Photo: David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons.

Could the global financial market meltdown of 2008 have been avoided if Wall Street had more women executives?

That’s the starting point of new University of British Columbia research that will investigate the relationship between gender and risk in the male-dominated global financial industry.

Hazel Hollingdale

Hazel Hollingdale, a PhD student in UBC’s Dept. of Sociology, hopes her research can help prevent future market crashes, while providing a greater incentive for financial firms to hire more women in senior roles.

Hollingdale will track regulatory transgressions to determine whether firms that employ more women have fewer criminal financial violations. She will also interview top executives in financial firms to improve our understanding of how gender dynamics and organizational culture impact financial decisions.

“If employing more women lowers the rate of irresponsible risky investments, it can help prevent future financial collapses,” says Hollingdale, who was announced today as one of 25 finalists for Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers student challenge. “The result could mean more stable economic markets and greater gender equity as well.”

The study explores the “Lehman Sisters” hypothesis – the theory that Lehman Brothers’ devastating bankruptcy resulted in part from a macho “culture of risk.”

While previous studies have found that women are more risk-averse and fiscally responsible than men, Hollingdale wants to determine if these findings carry over to women who work in the financial industry.

She also aims to confirm whether macho behaviours that are often rewarded in male-dominated sectors –such as taking unnecessary risks and being overly independent  – can be found in the financial industry as well.

Video: SSHRC Storytellers – Lehman Sisters Hypothesis


The study will build on a growing body of research that suggests companies with women in senior roles make smarter financial decisions.

Hollingdale is one of four UBC graduate students among SSHRC Storytellers Top 25 finalists announced today, each with a short video. UBC’s other winners are Michael Muthukrishna (Dept. of Psychology), Klara Abdi (Faculty of Education), Daniel Manson (Dept. of Anthropology).

Learn more about the SSHRC Storytellers project here

Watch all the SSHRC Storytellers videos here.

Categories: News

UBC gets $8.5M boost for eight Canada Research Chairs

Martin Ordonez, one of UBC’s two new Canada Research Chair recipients, with Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay. Photo: Rich Lam

Research ranging from Latin poetry to neuroethics at the University of British Columbia has received an $8.5 million boost in federal funding for eight professors appointed or renewed as Canada Research Chairs.

The UBC contingent is among the 102 new and renewed chairs announced Friday by Ed Holder, Minister of State for Science and Technology, at the University of Alberta.

The Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay announced UBC’s two new recipients and six renewals at an event on the Vancouver campus to recognize B.C. appointees. The event featured the work of Martin Ordonez, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was named a new Chair in Power Converters and Renewable Systems. His work aims to maximize the use of renewable energy from wind, solar, and the ocean by developing the next generation of power conversion and storage solutions to produce low emissions power.

From left: UBC Applied Science Dean Marc Parlange, UBC Vice-President, Research and International John Hepburn, Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay, UBC Professor Susanna Braund, UBC Assistant Professor Martin Ordonez, and Professor and Head of Electrical and Computer Engineering Andre Ivanov. Photo: Rich Lam

UBC is home to 187 Canada Research Chairs and one active Canada Excellence Research Chair.

“The CRC program strengthens UBC’s leading role in world-class research, attracting the best and the brightest minds to work here,” said John Hepburn, UBC vice-president, research and international. “The work of these professors creates lasting change within Canada and beyond.”

For more information about the Canada Research Chair program, click here.


Newly appointed CRCs at UBC are:

Vanessa Andreotti, Chair in Race, Inequalities and Global Change
Andreotti studies education for and about international development, and its impact on marginalized populations. She started her career in Brazil and worked in Finland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom before coming to Canada in 2013.

Martin Ordonez, Chair in Power Converters for Renewable Energy Systems
Ordonez studies ways to enhance renewable energy sources (solar, wind, ocean current) using technology. He is from Argentina and did his graduate work at Memorial University in Canada.

Renewed CRCs at UBC are:

Susanna Braund, Chair in Latin poetry and its Reception
Braund studies the poems of Virgil, investigating the appeal classical Latin poetry has in western intellectual history.

Jiahua Chen, Chair in Statistical Inference
Chen uses statistic models to tease out information for the study of genetic diversity and for pinpointing the genetic origins of disease.

Denise Daley, Chair in Genetic Epidemiology of Common Complex Diseases
Daley studies genetic susceptibility to asthma and other common diseases.

Erica Frank, Chair in Preventive Medicine and Population Health
Frank studies medical education and how a doctor’s health can impact their patients’ health.

Joseph Henrich, Chair in Culture, Cognition and Evolution
Henrich studies how people learn from one another and its relation to human evolution.

Judy Illes, Chair in Neuroethics
Illes studies the ethics of neuroscience, a field that allows us to understand, monitor and potentially manipulate human thought using technology.

Categories: News

Sugary drinks weigh heavily on teenage obesity

Students in B.C. schools where sugary drinks were available consumed them more often and were more likely to be obese on the BMI scale, according to new research. Photo: DdEeBb, iStock.

New research shows sugary drinks are the worst offenders in the fight against youth obesity and recommends that B.C. schools fully implement healthy eating guidelines to reduce their consumption.

Data from the 2008 Adolescent Health survey among 11,000 grade seven to 12 students in British Columbia schools indicates sugary drinks like soda increased the odds of obesity more than other foods such as pizza, french fries, chips and candies.

The study, published today in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that students in schools where sugary drinks were available consumed them more often and were more likely to be obese on the BMI scale.

“This study adds to the mounting literature that shows the high concentration of sugar in soft drinks contributes to obesity in adolescents,” says lead author Louise Mâsse, an associate professor in the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, and a scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children’s Hospital.

In 2005, the B.C. government released guidelines for healthy eating that suggested sugary drinks not be sold in schools, but Mâsse says full implementation is necessary to help address obesity trends.

“Schools have an important role in promoting healthy dietary habits,” says Mâsse. “For example, students who are moderate consumers of these types of beverages were 60 per cent less likely to consume them in the schools that followed healthy nutrition guidelines.

“Creating an environment within the school that is more conducive to healthy eating will likely provide the greatest benefit in supporting healthy weights among adolescents.”


About the study

Unlike the U.S., Canada does not have a national breakfast or school lunch program that is subsidized by the federal government. In B.C., provincial government guidelines to regulate the school food environment were first written in 2005, but full implementation was only expected in the 2008/2009 school year, after the data were collected for this paper. The B.C. government revised these guidelines in 2010 and 2013.

The study is based on survey results from over 11,000 students collected by the McCreary Centre Society, as well as a nutritional and physical activity school environment survey sent to public school principals. The data were linked, which resulted in an analytic sample of 174 schools (67 middle schools, 105 high schools, and two kindergarten to grade 12 schools from 36 districts).

Funding for this study was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Study partners

UBC’s School of Population and Public Health provides a vibrant, interdisciplinary academic environment at a critical time in the development of public health in Canada and around the world. One of the most research-intensive units at UBC, with a long history of public health engagement, the School offers six graduate-level academic programs, as well as a residency program. For more information, visit www.spph.ubc.ca

The Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) conducts discovery, translational and clinical research to benefit the health of children and their families. CFRI is supported by BC Children’s Hospital Foundation and works in close partnership with the University of British Columbia, BC Children’s Hospital, and BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre (agencies of the Provincial Health Services Authority). For more information, visit www.cfri.ca.

Categories: News

Canadians spend more on private health insurance for smaller payouts

A new study found that Canadians paid $6.8 billion more in premiums than they received in benefits in 2011. Photo: David Barcroft, iStock.

Spending by Canadians on private health insurance has more than doubled over the past 20 years, but insurers paid out a rapidly decreasing proportion as benefits, according to a study published today in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The study, by University of British Columbia and University of Toronto researchers, shows that overall Canadians paid $6.8 billion more in premiums than they received in benefits in 2011.

Approximately 60 per cent of Canadians have private health insurance. Typically obtained as a benefit of employment or purchased by individuals, private health insurance usually covers prescription drugs, dental services and eye care costs not paid by public health care.

Over the past two decades, the gap between what insurers take in and what they pay out has increased threefold. While private insurers paid out 92 per cent of group plan insurance premiums as benefits in 1991, they paid only 74 per cent in 2011. Canadians who purchased individual plans fared even worse, with just 38 per cent of their premiums returned as benefits in 2011.

“Small businesses and individual entrepreneurs are the hardest hit – they end up paying far more for private health coverage,” says study lead author Michael Law, an assistant professor in UBC’s Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, “It’s essentially an extra health tax on one of our main economic drivers.

“Our findings suggest that private insurers are likely making greater profits, paying higher wages to their executives and employees, or spending more on marketing,” Law adds.

The authors call for greater transparency from private insurers and for the federal government to introduce new regulations. “Obamacare requires insurers to pay out 80 to 85 per cent of their premium income as benefits, which resulted in $1.1 billion being returned to policyholders in 2012,” says Law. “Our numbers suggest that Canadians are getting a worse deal than Americans.”

Categories: News

Out-of-this-world satellite images help monitor the environment

LiDAR lasers map terrain with high accuracy, providing data for forest management across Canada. Photo: BlackBridge. All rights reserved.

The new Centre for Applied Earth Observation will use images from satellites, aircraft, and the International Space Station to monitor globally important environmental issues such as changes in forestry activity and the amount of carbon sequestered in vegetation.

Based at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry, the centre is a unique collaboration between data satellite-imaging companies, researchers, and other data users and providers. The centre will be announced today at the Faculty of Forestry’s International Day of Forests celebrations.

In forestry, satellite imaging could help detect wildfires, deforestation, and insect infestations, as well as support mapping of forest resources and the planning of future logging. The centre will also explore possibilities for other mapping applications, carbon credit verification, and urban planning.

RapidEye satellite imagery helps map forest attributes after a low-severity fire in the southern Okanagan. Photo: BlackBridge. All rights reserved.

“We’re streaming space observation right to our computers,” says John Innes, the Dean of the Faculty of Forestry. “For industries like forestry, this is about embracing a new high-tech frontier that will provide rapid access to the information we need to manage our resources sustainably.”

The centre brings together researchers, potential users and western Canada’s earth observation industry. A think tank will be created to make greater use of the remote sensing data and develop new projects. UBC graduate students will also get to work with the top satellite imaging providers in the world.

Centre staff are planning a first multi-sector conference entitled “Virtual Constellations” which will be sponsored by industry partners and held in late 2014.

Additional quotes:

Robert Falls, executive director of the Centre for Applied Earth Observation and adjunct professor in the Faculty of Forestry:
“The centre represents a unique opportunity to bring western Canada’s remote sensing community and natural resources sectors together in a synergistic environment. There are numerous applications, and we have already begun to reap the benefits from our initial collaborations.”

Nicholas Coops, Canada Research Chair in remote sensing, and professor in the Faculty of Forestry:
“Talk about the bigger picture. Satellite cameras capture incredible amounts of data about our planet every day. The centre will bring together academic and industry groups to collaborate, research, promote and educate users about the potential applications of this information.”

Categories: News

$1.2M UBC photo collection offers priceless glimpse into B.C. history

An 1867 photo of Barnard’s Express, a stage coach company based out of Yale, B.C., one of thousands of historic photos donated to UBC by Uno and Dianne Langmann. Photo: Frederick Dally.

A treasure trove of rare historical photos from the early days of British Columbia will be preserved, digitized and made public, thanks to a $1.2 million gift from a Vancouver art collector to the University of British Columbia.

The Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. Photographs, donated by Uno and Dianne Langmann, consists of more than 18,000 rare and unique early photographs from the 1850s to the 1970s. It is considered the premiere private collection of early provincial photos, and an important illustrated history of early photographic methods.

[Editors: View photo gallery, Flickr set or download selected collection images with captions.]

Uno Langmann

“I don’t think we worship the past enough,” says Uno Langmann, 78, an avid collector and art lover, who wanted to keep the collection in his adopted province of B.C. and tap into educational opportunities at UBC. “There’s enough in this collection for a thousand students to dig into,” he adds. “I want them to learn where B.C. comes from, and where they come from.”

Images from the collection include: “Hurdy gurdy girls” outside a Barkerville saloon selling dances to miners for $1 (1867), a group of First Nations people in Lytton (1867), a couple skating on Trout Lake (1900), troops departing New Westminster for the war (1940) and a Fraser River steamboat bringing supplies to gold prospectors (1867).

Images from the collection are being digitized and will be available on the Library’s website beginning Summer 2014. Library users will be able to request items from the collection through UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections.


About Uno Langmann:

Originally from Denmark, Langmann started collecting coins when he was eight. In 1955, aided by proceeds from the sale of some of those coins, plus some antiques, he came to Vancouver on a one-way ticket. He opened his first local gallery in 1967 and his internationally respected gallery, Uno Langmann Limited Fine Art, moved to its current Granville Street location in 1977. Langmann is known for his knowledge, preservation and promotion of arts and culture.

Additional quote:

“This outstanding collection brings the vibrant history of the Pacific Northwest to life,” says Ingrid Parent, UBC’s University Librarian. “We are grateful to Uno and his family for this donation and excited to have it digitized for posterity and for the historical relevance and curiosity of current and future Canadians who call B.C. their home.

This gift forms a part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, the most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history with the twin goal of raising $1.5 billion and involving 50,000 alumni annually in the life of the university by 2015.

Categories: News

Scientists catch brain damage in the act

Scientists have uncovered how inflammation and lack of oxygen conspire to cause brain damage in conditions such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Microglia are part of a newly discovered mechanism that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

The discovery, published today in Neuron, brings researchers a step closer to finding potential targets to treat neurodegenerative disorders.

Chronic inflammation and hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency, are hallmarks of several brain diseases, but little was known about how they contribute to symptoms such as memory loss.

The study used state-of-the-art techniques that reveal the movements of microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells. Brain researcher Brian MacVicar had previously captured how they moved to areas of injury to repair brain damage.

NB: A video of describing the findings, including microscopy footage of how microglia repair brain damage, is available at http://youtu.be/iVtyAF_24hE.

The new study shows that the combination of inflammation and hypoxia activates microglia in a way that persistently weakens the connection between neurons. The phenomenon, known as long-term depression, has been shown to contribute to cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is a never-before-seen mechanism among three key players in the brain that interact together in neurodegenerative disorders,” says MacVicar with the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

“Now we can use this knowledge to start identifying new potential targets for therapy.”

Categories: News

‘Fashioning cancer’ project reclaims beauty from disease

A collection of ball gowns from the ‘Fashioning Cancer’ collection. Photo: Tim Matheson

A UBC costume design professor has created a collection of ball gowns inspired by microscopic photos of cancer cells and cellular systems to get people talking about the disease, beauty and body image.

The project aims to create alternative imagery for discussions of cancer, to complement existing examples such as the pink ribbon, which is an important symbol of cancer awareness, but may not accurately represent women’s experience with the disease.

[Editors: View Flickr gallery of the collection and download images and photo captions.]

“Many women who have battled cancer express a disconnect with the fashion imagery that commonly represents the disease,” says Jacqueline Firkins, an assistant professor in UBC’s Dept. of Theatre and Film, who designed the collection of 10 dresses and dubbed the work ‘Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty.’

Inspired by cellular images captured by researchers in the lab of UBC scientist Christian Naus, a Peter Wall Distinguished Scholar in Residence, the project seeks to create artistic imagery based on the disease itself.

“My hope is that somehow through fashion, I more closely tap into what a woman might be feeling about her body as she undergoes the disease, but simultaneously reflect a strength, beauty, and resilience,” says Firkins, who will use the collection to raise money for cancer research, patients and survivors.

A free public presentation and discussion of the ‘Fashioning Cancer’ collection will take place March 25 at noon.

“This will be an opportunity for people to share their thoughts about the gowns,” says Firkins. “Are they too pretty to reflect something as destructive as cancer? Do they encourage you to tell your own story? Do they evoke any emotions related to your own experience?”


  • Event: Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty
  • Date: Tue. March 25, 2014 | Time: 12-1pm
  • Location: UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre, 6354 Crescent Rd.
  • MAP: http://bit.ly/1fZ4bC8
  • Contact: Deb Pickman | deb.pickman@ubc.ca | 604.319.7656

Organizations that want to host a presentation of this project should contact Deb Pickman. This project was funded by the Peter Wall Institute’s research mentorship program.

Categories: News

UBC Board appoints Dr. Arvind Gupta president and vice chancellor

Dr. Arvind Gupta has been named the 13th president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia. Photo: Martin Dee

A renowned expert in research and innovation policy who has forged close collaborations between universities, civil society and business has been appointed the 13th president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Arvind Gupta is currently chief executive officer and scientific director of Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization recognized internationally for nurturing the next generation of research and business-savvy innovators. Gupta succeeds Professor Stephen Toope, who completes his eight years’ service on June 30, 2014.  Gupta will become president on July 1 for a five-year term, while retaining his position at UBC as professor of computer science.

The UBC Board of Governors made the appointment following an international search by a 22-member committee comprising faculty, staff, students, alumni, senate and board members from UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, and chaired by UBC Chancellor Sarah Morgan-Silvester.

“The opportunity to lead one of the world’s great universities attracted outstanding candidates, but Dr. Arvind Gupta clearly stood out as the best choice to lead this great university,” said Board Chair John Montalbano. “The Board will provide its full support to Dr. Gupta as he guides UBC in its pursuit of excellence, so that we may better serve the people of British Columbia, Canada and the world.”

“I was delighted to hear Dr. Gupta will be succeeding me,” said Stephen Toope. “In him, UBC has found a leader with rare attributes: critical thinking, inspiring vision and the courage to chart a bold course.”

Gupta will be UBC’s 13th president and vice chancellor since 1913, when Frank Wesbrook first held the position. UBC has grown to more than 58,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, with an annual budget of $2.2 billion and an estimated $12.7 billion annual contribution to the B.C. economy.

“As a member of the UBC community, I know how great a responsibility and honour this is,” said Gupta. “I have the privilege of taking the baton from Professor Toope who has guided UBC to a strong position. We have exciting days ahead and I relish the opportunity.”

(NOTE TO EDITORS: To view and download photos of Dr. Arvind Gupta, click here. To view and download video of Dr. Arvind Gupta, click here.)

Backgrounder: Biography of Dr. Arvind Gupta

Dr. Arvind Gupta was named the 13th president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia on March 12, 2014. His five-year term will begin July 1, 2014.

Gupta is the CEO and scientific director of Mitacs, a national organization with headquarters at UBC, which he has led since 2000. He has been a UBC professor of computer science since 2009.

He is a respected expert in science and innovation policy who has forged meaningful research collaborations between civil society and universities. His research expertise is in combinatorial algorithms with applications to fields such as bioinformatics, which utilizes computer science to better understand genetics.

Since 2012, he has been a member of the Government of Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council, an advisory body that provides external policy advice on science and technology issues and produces national reports measuring Canada’s science and technology performance against international standards of excellence.

In 2010, Gupta was appointed to a six-member expert panel to review federal government support to industrial research and development. The report and recommendations of that panel, entitled Innovation Canada: A Call to Action, have had a significant and ongoing impact on government innovation policy.

Gupta speaks frequently on research and innovation policy across Canada with public, private and academic audiences. He is a regular contributor to the national dialogue through opinion editorials on international collaboration and recruitment, international competitiveness, innovation and productivity.

Gupta earned a PhD from the University of Toronto in 1991. He sits on a number of boards, including the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, the Banff International Research Station, the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute, the Canadian Mining Innovation Council, Mprime Network and Mitacs, as well as serving on the International Scientific Advisory Board of GRAND-NCE, a federally funded body exploring the applications of digital media.

Arvind Gupta resides in Vancouver with his wife Dr. Michelle Pereira. He has three daughters, two of whom are students at UBC.

Categories: News

Climate change sends lizards scrambling

As the world warms, most cold-blooded animals in tropical climates will rely on burrowing or finding shade to shield themselves from the sun, says new UBC research. Photo: Jennifer Sunday, UBC.

Climate change may test lizards’ famous ability to tolerate the heat, making habitat protection vital, according to a new study by UBC and international biodiversity experts.

The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that as the world warms, most cold-blooded animals in tropical climates will rely on burrowing or finding shade to shield themselves from the sun. That makes protecting shady habitats essential.

“We know that a lot of organisms could survive if they spent many hours in a burrow, but we also know that they can’t spend all their time hiding from the sun,” says UBC climate-change ecologist Jennifer Sunday, lead author on the paper. “We will have to determine their limitations.”

The study looks at the heat and cold tolerance of 296 species of reptiles, insects and amphibians, known as ectotherms. Researchers discovered that regardless of latitude or elevation, cold-blooded animals across the world have similar limits.

“By comparing temperature tolerance limits to estimated body temperatures of animals exposed to the sun, we’ve found that species at low latitudes rely on shade and habitat,” says Sunday.. “Very few species have any extra heat tolerance.”

Sunday says more work is needed to understand species use of shade habitat.

More information: Article #13-16145: “Thermal safety margins and the necessity of thermoregulatory behavior across latitude and elevation,” by Jennifer M. Sunday et al.

Categories: News

UBC announces results of sport review, confirms varsity teams

UBC has announced the results of the sport review. Image: UBC Athletics & Recreation.

The University of British Columbia announced today the result of the sport review of the 29 Vancouver campus varsity teams.

Editors: UBC will hold a press conference at 11:30 at the University Services Building, 
2329 West Mall

Following a two-stage assessment, 24 teams have retained varsity status and fall into three groups:

  • those most ready to excel
  • ongoing varsity
  • teams that need more time to develop new models of community support.

The remaining five teams will become UBC competitive clubs.

“This review has re-energized support for UBC’s teams,” said President Stephen Toope. “Our community has told us they want as many varsity teams as possible, and they want the opportunity to help us achieve our vision. We’ve heard them, and we look forward to seeing this translated into solid action in the months ahead.”

During the course of the review, fans and community supporters pledged a total of $4.8 million to help strengthen teams.

“We now have a strong new model that sharpens our focus on excellence,” said Louise Cowin, VP Students. “While keeping 24 teams, our approach will concentrate resources where teams are demonstrating success in achieving our vision.”

The review confirmed five groups of criteria by which to evaluate varsity teams. The University is moving forward with a new sport model that will focus enhanced resources – specifically sport science and medicine, management and marketing — on those varsity teams most ready to achieve excellence across all the criteria. (See background)

Four teams emerged from the review with unique funding needs involving a hybrid of community or innovative commercial partnerships. These teams retain their status and have been given more time to confirm their future.

The five teams that will become UBC competitive clubs will receive support that includes honorariums for coaches, access to training facilities and support for skill development. The University has also begun assessing AMS club teams for the competitive club grouping, allowing more students to participate in competitive sport.

UBC will implement the new sport model in September 2015, following a year of transition.


Confirmed Vancouver campus varsity teams

Among confirmed varsity teams, UBC will focus enhanced resources (specifically sport science and medicine, management and marketing) on teams that have been assessed most ready to achieve excellence across the criteria.

Teams to receive enhanced support (seven)
Basketball: men and women
Football: men
Swimming: men and women
Volleyball: men and women

Teams to receive current support with some limited enhancements (thirteen)
Cross country: men and women
Field hockey: women
Golf: men and women
Ice hockey: women
Rowing: men and women
Rugby: men
Soccer: men and women
Track and field: men and women

Teams, each in unique situations, given more time to pursue hybrid funding (four)
Baseball: men
Field hockey: men
Ice hockey: men
Rugby: women

Teams realigned to competitive club* (five)
Alpine skiing: men and women
Nordic skiing: men and women
Softball: women
*Varsity teams realigned to competitive clubs will have permission to continue to compete with the Thunderbird name. The branding for other clubs joining the competitive club strand will be determined for 2015-16.

Additional competitive clubs:
In order to achieve its goal for more student participation in competitive sports, UBC Athletics will assess and decide on new competitive club teams in March 2014, pilot these clubs in September 2014, and launch the program in summer 2015.

Next steps
UBC launches its new sport model in September 2015. By then, all varsity teams will have completed a five-year sport plan, and will subsequently undergo annual performance reviews.

Evaluation criteria for team assessments included five categories:

  • Competitive success, competition and progression
  • Supports for competitive success
  • Community support and tradition
  • Partnerships
  • Fit with UBC mission

UBC advisory assessment team members:

  1. Chair: Ashley Howard (UBC Managing Director, Athletics and Assessment Team Chair)
  2. UBC Varsity Team representative: Theresa Hanson (UBC Associate Director, Intercollegiate and High Performance Sport)
  3. Faculty: Prof. Richard Price (UBC Senior Advisor to the President and former varsity athlete)
  4. Student: Alex Brown (Former UBC varsity athlete and current B.Sc. student)
  5. Student: Caroline Wong (AMS President)
  6. Recent Varsity Graduate: Chris Mark (Former UBC varsity athlete, member of the young thunderbird alumni council, Political Science graduate, consultant in mining exploration)
  7. Alumni:  Ian Robertson (Chair of the UBC Thunderbird Council- Alumni and Odlum Brown Vice President)
  8. Alumni: Doug Clement  (Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Medicine, Division of Sports Medicine, UBC; Former Olympic and UBC Coach)
  9. Alumni: Nick Hopewell (Member of the Thunderbird Council, former varsity athlete, lawyer with Simpson Thomas and Associates)
  10. High performance expert: Marion Lay (President of Think Sport Ltd and Adjunct Professor, School of Kinesiology, UBC)

Supporting positions:

  1. Alnoor Aziz (UBC Associate Director supporting with figures and data)
  2. Ben Pollard (UBC Director of VP, Students, Portfolio Initiatives, supporting with statistics and analysis)
  3. Nicole Freeman (Event and Sport Tourism Manager, supporting with Sport Review administration)

Summary of team assessments, by grouping, click here

History of sport review process, click here.

Categories: News

New Centre for Brain Health to unite research and patient care

The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health will house clinics, research and education facilities. Photo: Don Erhardt

Canada’s largest integrated brain centre officially opens today, uniting research and patient care to change the way brain disorders are treated and studied.

The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH), a partnership between the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health, unites under one roof research and clinical expertise in neuroscience, psychiatry and neurology in order to accelerate discovery and translate new knowledge into better treatment and prevention strategies.

Djavad Mowafaghian at the opening. Photo: Martin Dee.

The building is named after Vancouver philanthropist Djavad Mowafaghian in honour of his $15-million donation to UBC. Construction of the $70-million building is supported by the B.C. government ($25-million), Industry Canada ($10-million), Canada Foundation for Innovation and matching funds from the BC Knowledge Development Fund ($6.48-million), as well as by $13.5-million in donations to UBC from Charles Fipke, the Townsend family, the Borgland family, and Rudy North.

The DMCBH is home to clinics for Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression and other brain disorders. Innovative programs that integrate research and patient care, led by Canada’s top researchers – including Canada Research Chairs, BC Leading Edge Endowment Fund Leadership Chairs and a Canada Excellence Research Chair – will offer British Columbians improved access to treatments and clinical trials.

The DMCBH will also house research labs in concussion, stroke, addiction and healthy aging, and serve as a venue for the education and training of hundreds of medical students and graduate students.

Affecting one in three Canadians from early childhood to old age, brain dysfunction costs more than $30 billion annually and is expected to overtake heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death and disability in Canada by 2020.

Visit UBC News (news.ubc.ca/category/cbh) for a special series on research at DMCBH. Photographs of the DMCBH are available at news.ubc.ca/2014/02/27/cbh/.

To learn more about DMCBH, visit www.centreforbrainhealth.ca

BACKGROUND | Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health


James Moore, Federal Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for British Columbia
“Our Government is proud to support partnerships like the ones that came together to make this Centre a reality. The treatment that this facility will provide, will have a positive impact on the lives of those Canadians suffering from brain diseases and disorders, and put British Columbia at the forefront of cutting-edge research technologies for many years to come.”

Terry Lake, B.C. Minister of Health
“On behalf of Premier Christy Clark and the provincial government, I wish to acknowledge and thank those who contributed to this centre, including the generous donation from Dr. Djavad Mowafaghian. The innovative health research and clinical care that will take place at the facility will help us ensure better patient outcomes now and in the future.”

Stephen J. Toope, President and Vice Chancellor, UBC
“The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health was the culmination of extraordinary partnerships and philanthropy that will help advance our understanding of the human brain and contribute to the treatment and eradication of life-changing brain diseases and injuries. UBC is extremely proud of this major milestone for the wellbeing of British Columbians and the broader community.” 

Dr. David Ostrow, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health
“VCH understands that when researchers and clinicians have the opportunity to work alongside each other, patient problems become tangible and urgent – and this is where solutions come from. As a result, the innovation that will take place at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health will lead to better patient outcomes and promote better care for every British Columbian affected by brain disease.”

Djavad Mowafaghian, philanthropist
“I am thrilled that this life-changing initiative has come to fruition for the benefit of British Columbians and beyond. I am particularly pleased that we will be able to help more children lead happy and healthy lives. It is a dream come true for me.”

Max Cynader, director, Brain Research Centre and DMCBH
“The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health builds on the success of researchers, clinicians, and students at the Brain Research Centre who have made many remarkable advances over the years. By enhancing these existing strengths in basic, clinical, and translational research and education, the Centre for Brain Health and will establish itself as a world leading institution for brain health research and treatment, right here in British Columbia.”

Marilyn Lenzen, North Vancouver resident, MS patient and participant in UBC-VCH research
“For individuals like me with brain-related conditions, this building exudes hope. The atmosphere here is one of restlessness, of not being content with accepted, conventional treatments. I am proud to be part of that process of discovery, and gratified to see that even more patients will now be able to do the same.”

About the DMCBH
As a leading research centre at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and UBC, the DMCBH is committed to bridging the gap between research and clinical operations. In addition to clinics and research laboratories, the DMCBH will also serve as a venue for teaching and learning, where hundreds of UBC medical students and graduate students can take advantage of the interdisciplinary activity and the proximity of research to patient care. Clinical spaces will have larger exam rooms and work spaces to accommodate instructional activities.

Located directly in front of UBC Hospital, the 13,709 square-metre centre was designed by Stantec with patients in mind, including short walking distances, simplified way-finding and numerous places where patients can rest or pause.

A major clinical feature at the DMCBH is an expanded infusion room. Under the supervision of doctors and nurses, MS and Alzheimer’s disease patients routinely receive intravenous medication infusions that may last five to eight hours. The new infusion room, with natural light, WiFi and space for family and visitors, represents a significant improvement for patient care. The facility also hosts the largest cohort of a national MS drug treatment trial, led by Dr. Anthony Traboulsee, who is also leading a national study on CCSVI.

The centre will include a brain tissue and DNA bank, a state-of-the-art repository that preserves donated patient material which could be used to identify genetic risk factors for diseases.

The building is designed to meet the LEED Gold standard by employing a suite of sustainable strategies focused on reduced energy consumption, conservation of water, and use of materials that are low in volatile organic compounds.

Initial B.C. government investment was announced in March 2008, construction began in October 2011. In March 2013, HRH The Duke of York toured and dedicated the cornerstone of DMCBH. Thirty years earlier, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Imaging Research Centre which preceded the Brain Research Centre, a partner in the creation of the DMCBH. 

Biography: Djavad Mowafaghian

Djavad Mowafaghian (Photo: Martin Dee)

Djavad Mowafaghian, CM, OBC, was born in Tehran in 1927. He lost his father at the age of one and was raised in a modest household by his mother, to whom he attributes his passion for giving

In 1987, Mowafaghian decided to make Vancouver his home after visiting and falling in love with the city. In 1990, he established a company that developed and managed several office buildings. In 2003, he created and funded the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation with a mandate of bettering the lives of children through health and education.

Since 2003, the Foundation has helped many organizations. In 2004, it funded a redevelopment project at BC Children’s Hospital that included the creation of a new oncology wing. It has also contributed to UBC, Simon Fraser University, and over twenty other charities in the Vancouver area.

In 2010, Mowafaghian decided to contribute to the construction of the new Centre for Brain Health. He choose this project as it would play a role in studying and finding cures for brain disorders affecting both adults and children.

Today, Mowafaghian continues to oversee the Foundations operations as chairman but has recently extended his interest in children’s well being to his personal life: his young granddaughter and grandson. He loves being a grandfather and looks forward to passing on his mother’s teaching of kindness and generosity to the newest generation.

UBC News series on DMCBH and its researchers

Feature: Unlocking the mysteries of brain disease

Expert Q&A: How exercise can boost brain power

Expert Q&A: Recharging your brain, one neuron at a time

Expert Q&A: Head games: How the mind works when gambling


Categories: News

Cows are smarter when raised in pairs

UBC Postdoctoral Fellow Rebecca Meagher has discovered that cows get smarter when housed together.

Cows learn better when housed together, which may help them adjust faster to complex new feeding and milking technologies on the modern farm, a new University of British Columbia study finds.

The research, published today in PLOS ONE, shows dairy calves become better at learning when a “buddy system” is in place. The study also provides the first evidence that the standard practice of individually housing calves is associated with certain learning difficulties.

“Pairing calves seems to change the way these animals are able to process information,” said Dan Weary, corresponding author and a professor in UBC’s Animal Welfare Program. “We recommend that farmers use some form of social housing for their calves during the milk feeding period.”

As farms become increasingly complex, with cattle interacting with robotic milkers, automated feeding systems and other technologies, slow adaptation can be frustrating for cows and farmers alike.

“Trouble adjusting to changes in routine and environment can cause problems for farmers and animals,” Weary says, adding that the switch from an individual pen to a paired one is often as simple as removing a partition.

Farmers often keep calves in individual pens, believing this helps to reduce the spread of disease. But Weary says that the concern is unwarranted if cows are housed in small groups. “The risk of one animal getting sick and affecting the others is real when you’re talking about large groups, but not with smaller groups like two or three,” he says.


The study, conducted at UBC’s Dairy Education and Research Centre in Agassiz, B.C., involved two cognitive tests for two groups of Holstein calves housed in individual pens or in pairs.

In the first test, researchers introduced a novel object (a red plastic bin) into the calf’s pen. When first exposed to the novel object all calves showed interest, as expected. But after multiple encounters with the bin, the individually housed calves continued to respond as if this was their first exposure, while the paired calves began to habituate and ignored the bin.

“The test suggests that individual rearing can make calves more sensitive to novelty, and thus less able to habituate to changes in their environment,” says Prof. Dan Weary. “This could make it more difficult for a farm animal to be trained or to do something as simple as walk down a path and not be overwhelmed by a bright light or a new noise.”

In the second test, the calves were taught to complete a simple task, approaching a black bottle full of milk and avoiding an empty white bottle. After the calves learned to preferentially visit the black bottle, the researchers switched the rules to determine how well the calves were able to adjust to a change in rules.

Rebecca Meagher, co-author, and a postdoctoral research fellow in UBC’s Animal Welfare Program, explains: “At first, both the individually housed and pair-housed calves initially struggled with the task, but after a few training sessions the pair-housed calves began approaching the correct bottle while the individually housed calves persisted with the old strategy, visiting the incorrect bottle more often. This type of learning deficit has also been found in laboratory animals that are housed individually.”

Categories: News