Friday, May 30, 2008

  • UW could lead the world in water
  • Campus link to climate change Nobel
  • Notes as the month of May wraps up
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

UW could lead the world in water

Waterloo “may be the best positioned” university in North America, perhaps in the world, to be “the leading centre in water research”, says a report that’s being made public this week by UW’s provost.

“To capitalize on this extraordinary opportunity, the research personnel, infrastructure and administrative strength of UW need to be coordinated,” says the 12-page document, submitted in late April by a Water Research Task Force that was set up last fall. It was headed by associate provost Bruce Mitchell, himself a geography professor who is a Fellow of the International Water Resources Association.

It calls for an Institute for Integrated Water Research that would make Waterloo “the leading institution for integrated water research in North America”, with work in such fields as urban water use and conservation, water and energy, climate change and water, and water and public health. It would “develop one or more new unique and interdisciplinary graduate programs focused on water” and would work with local agencies to make the Grand River watershed in this part of Ontario “an example of ‘best practice’ related to water”.

[Ovals and their connections]UW’s existing strengths in water research involve more than 90 faculty members and “cut across every Faculty”, says the report. They can be put roughly into four groups: aquatic ecology and ecotoxicology, atmospheric and hydrological sciences, water and wastewater technology, and water policy, management and governance. “Considerable interaction already occurs,” it notes, citing the recently approved Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change based in environmental studies. (Left: a diagram from the report indicates some possible links and connections.)

UW’s top management favours the idea, says a memo from UW provost Amit Chakma. He sent word to departments across campus this week, providing deans and chairs with the task force’s 12-page report and calling it “excellent”.

Says the provost: “At its meeting of 21 May, members of Deans’ Council reviewed the report, and were unanimous that UW has significant breadth and depth related to faculty expertise regarding water, that an interdisciplinary water research institute should facilitate new opportunities for research and graduate education, and that such an initiative at this time is appropriate. Given that assessment, members of Deans Council are unanimous that such an institute should be created.”

He notes that in the Sixth Decade Plan, approved last year, UW commits itself to creating “at least six” high-level research centres or institutes in the next few years.

“The Water Research Task Force and Deans Council believe,” says Chakma, “that the report provides a foundation on which to design and build a water research institute. It also is recognized that there is still more work to be done, including determining to whom such an institute will report and be accountable, what mechanisms and processes are needed to support any new graduate program(s) drawing on multiple Faculties, agreeing what the focus of new graduate programs will be, making the institute open and accessible to new faculty, ensuring that it is financially sustainable, and developing a business plan.

“At this time, I am pleased to make the Water Research Task Force’s report available to the UW community, so that individuals can know what has been proposed and can participate in the future work to address the issues noted above. I will be consulting with George Dixon, Vice-President Research, and Bruce Mitchell, Chair of the Task Force, to determine ‘next steps’, and how to move forward with this initiative.”

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Campus link to climate change Nobel

by Patricia Bow, from the spring issue of the UW Magazine

“Congratulations!” said the caller. “Did you know that you’ve just won the Nobel Peace Prize?” Once Linda Mortsch (BES ’79, MES ’01) had recovered from the shock and incredulity, she realized that the glory — though reflected — was real and bright.

The Nobel went to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its 2007 climate change reports. (IPCC was a co-winner with Al Gore.) Mortsch, senior scientist in Environment Canada’s Adaptation and Impacts Research Division (AIRD), was one of two co-ordinating lead authors of the North American chapter of IPCC’s Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

AIRD is based in UW’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, bringing Mortsch full circle to her starting point in UW’s first co-op geography cohort. Others at UW with a connection to the IPCC report are professors Jean Andrey, Daniel Scott, and Geoff Wall (all of geography and environmental management), and Donald Burn (civil engineering).

For more than 20 years, Mortsch has explored the effects of climate change and the ways humans can adapt. Among other projects, in the 1990s she co-led the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin Project, a high-profile bi-national study on climate change. Later she co-chaired the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Climate Change Indicators Task Group.

Despite that experience, even she was jolted by some of the IPCC’s findings. “I learned that the ocean is becoming more acid because of the carbon dioxide it’s absorbing. That was really quite shocking to me.” Other impacts, such as retreating glaciers and changing ranges of birds and animals, were “things we hypothesized about 20 years ago. Now we’re seeing and measuring some of those changes.”

The implications are enormous for us, and for our children and grandchildren, she says. Even city-dwellers won’t be able to hide from the health impacts of hotter, smoggier summers and opportunistic diseases. But Mortsch, who bikes or walks to work when she can and car-pools when she can’t, remains optimistic. “There are so many things we can do, especially at the community level.” We can, for example, design our cities to adapt to climate change instead of exacerbating it, as she demonstrates in a course she co-teaches with planning professor Karen Hammond.

“I love what I do,” Mortsch says. “Climate change is one of the most important issues that we will have to deal with. It can be daunting, because you want to help effect change, and that doesn’t happen quickly. But to be able to contribute to the solutions is extremely rewarding.”

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Notes as the month of May wraps up

Today is payday for faculty and most staff members — the first payday since the annual salary increases went into effect on May 1, so people will be scrutinizing the online details to see how much their take-home pay has changed. In addition to the regular monthly pay slip that can be viewed through myHRinfo, there’s a separate online Salary Increase Advice memo for staff members, the human resources department said in an e-mail on Wednesday. (“Where possible, we have adjusted new monthly salaries to more accurately reflect 8, 10 and 11-month ongoing appointments.”)

Here’s a reminder that nominations for the 2008 Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision are due by June 13 (typically three faculty members are honoured each year). • The UW Recreation Committee, offering its services to staff, faculty and retirees, says it can offer discounts on admission to the Ontario Science Centre, the CN Tower, Marineland, the Princess Cinema, Ontario Place and the Chinese Lantern Festival. • The latest newsletter from the Centre for Teaching Excellence includes a profile of Diana Chisholm, this year’s winner of the award for “highest accomplishment” among graduate students completing the Certificate in University Teaching.

The Arts Endowment Fund, which distributed more than $75,000 last term to 14 student-driven projects for improving education in the arts faculty, will be doing its thing again this term. Spring proposals are due by June 6, and fall proposals in October, says Allan Babor, fourth-year sociology student and the chair of the fund’s board. The AEF “is continuously working to make innovative and exciting initiatives into realities,” he says, noting that it was voted into existence by arts students in 2006 “to raise funds to be used for an ongoing commitment to improving undergraduate education”. Among last term’s grants: a subsidy to send English students to see a preview of the Stratford Festival’s “Hamlet”, starring the much-publicized Ben Carlson.

One of the pioneers of the UW Sustainability Project was Sandy Kiang, who graduated in 2004 from the environment and resource studies program. Television watchers can get a glimpse of what she’s up to now when she appears June 7 on the Slice network’s show “Rich Bride, Poor Bride”. Says the show website: “Sandy works for a power authority researching alternative energy sources. She’s vegetarian, an environmental studies graduate and determined that her wedding will be an eco-friendly affair. But just how ready is the wedding industry for a bride like Sandy? Her fiancé, Jason, who eats meat and loves his car, has agreed to go along with Sandy’s vision in principle but still wants a wedding that isn’t more costly than it would normally be. Enter Wedding Planner Heidi Allen, whose recent research into green weddings has made her an enthusiast — perhaps even more so than Sandy! Will this wedding be as environmentally friendly as Sandy wants it to be? And will she blow her budget making sure she gets it exactly the way she wants it?”

Flipping through unread publications on my desk, I’ve just encountered the March 14 issue of MathNews, which includes a little piece signed just by an “anon (female) student”. She writes: “A particular instructor of mine dresses casually for lectures. This in itself is perfectly acceptable to me. However, on occasion her outfits show some skin at the waistline and it got me to thinking: if this crosses the line I feel has to exist for dress code for the people at the front of the classroom, where is the line? Also, where is the line for everyone else in the classroom?” She suggests “no spaghetti straps, halter tops, or strapless tops” for instructors, and “no shirts whose necklines are designed specifically for maximum cleavage”, but otherwise seems to find more questions than answers.


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Link of the day

Hug Your Cat

When and where

Dance Dance Canada Friday-Saturday, Humanities Theatre.

Certificate in University Teaching student presentations 9:30 a.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library: Ashoo Anand, “Teaching Online Courses”; Rehan Waheed, “Assessing the Effectiveness of Contemporary Electronic Media”; David Hadaller, “Learning to Do Without Doing in Experiential Learning”; registration online.

‘Learn How to Vermicompost’ workshop sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, 1:00 to 3:00, Student Life Centre lower atrium.

Distance and Continuing Education office closes at 3 p.m. today for a staff function.

Campus Crusade for Cheese meets 4:30, Math and Computer room 1056, “$2 for the eating of tasty cheeses”.

Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery presents Wilhelm Nassau, formerly of Wilfrid Laurier University, “The History of Glass”, 4:30, 25 Caroline Street North, admission $5.

Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support presents Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy, guitarist, in concert 7:00 p.m., 137 Ontario Street, Kitchener, tickets $20 (students $15) in advance, $25 at door.

Doug Wright Engineering building electricity shut off Saturday 7:00 to 10:00 a.m.

UW Family Day at African Lion Safari, organized by alumni affairs, Saturday, details online.

Co-op employer interviews for fall term jobs begin Monday, continuing through June 20.

President’s Golf Tournament in support of Warrior athletics, Monday, Westmount Golf Club, details online.

Career workshop: special work search session for international students Monday 3:00, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Using the Web to Enhance Face-to-Face Learning” Tuesday 10:00 to 12:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

Procurement and contract services trade show of UW suppliers: Fisher Scientific on Tuesday, computers and audio-visual Wednesday, Corporate Express (office supplies) Thursday, each day 11:00 to 2:00, Davis Centre lounge.

UW Senate special meeting Tuesday 11:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004, to receive report from the Presidential Nominating Committee.

UW Board of Governors quarterly meeting Tuesday 2:30 p.m., Architecture building, Cambridge.

Conrad Grebel University College Lebold fund-raising banquet, speaker April Yamisaki, Tuesday 6:30 p.m., Grebel dining room, information e-mail

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Using UW-ACE to Help Students Prepare for Your Class” Wednesday 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

Anne Harris, faculty of arts, retirement celebration Wednesday 3:30 p.m., Festival Room, South Campus Hall, RSVP; donations invited for a bursary in her honour.

Penny Pudifin, graduate studies office, retirement celebration Wednesday 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., University Club, RSVP

Engineering V groundbreaking ceremony and launch of engineering Vision 2010 Campaign, Thursday 10:00 a.m., parking lot B, by invitation.

Keystone Campaign annual event, “Viva Las Vegas”, Thursday 11:30 to 1:30, Matthews Hall green; evening event 10:00 to 11:00 p.m., South Campus Hall, details online.

Canada’s Wonderland bus trip organized by Federation of Students, Friday, June 6, tickets $40 (non-students $48) at Fed office, Student Life Centre.

Class enrolment appointments for fall term undergraduate courses: continuing students, June 9-14; new students, July 14-27; open enrolment begins July 28.

Groundbreaking ceremony for the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, June 9, 2:30 p.m., site north of Biology buildings.

Spring Convocation: applied health sciences and environmental studies, Wednesday, June 11, 10:00; science, June 11, 2:30; arts (some programs), Thursday, June 12, 10:00; arts (some programs), June 12, 2:30; mathematics, Friday, June 13, 10:00; computer science, June 13, 2:30; engineering (some programs), Saturday, June 14, 10:00; engineering (some programs), June 14, 2:30, details online.

25-Year Club annual reception June 17, 6:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex, by invitation, information ext. 32078.

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New spreadsheets from Stats Canada with national education data
Student blogger revives 1979 article on Canadian copyright
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