Study finds vessels well-known for illegal fishing able to get insurance

A new research from UBC reveals, rogue fishing vessels including those with an international record of illegal activities are able to attain insurance. Unlawful fishing, responsible for disappearance of tonnes of fish from the oceans, siphons an estimated $10 to 20 billion annually from the global economy. This is a huge problem that destroys habitats and makes fishing challenging for law-abiding fishers.

“Restricting access to insurance could play a major role in ending illegal fishing, and right now, it’s a largely overlooked method,” said lead author Dana Miller, who studied illegal fishing and insurance while she was a postdoctoral fellow at UBC.

Insurance is financially beneficial for fishers in the case of an accident since it eliminates the risk of large financial loss.

In order to prevent illegal fishers from obtaining insurance, researchers suggest insurance companies check lists of illegal vessels before issuing insurances.


Some ships flagged for illegal fishing are still able to get insurance. (Photo courtesy of:

The lists are as follows: regional fisheries management organizations’ Illegal, Ureported, and Unregulated (IUU) vessel lists, and the list of vessels that INTERPOL has issued Purple Notices for.

This approach is a much less expensive way to prevent illegal fishing than traditional methods,” said co-author Rashid Sumaila, the project director of OceanCanada and a professor in the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. Traditionally, fighting illegal fishing often  involves monitoring and surveillance, through the use of satellite tracking and inspections. The power of including the insurance companies in the discussion has been underestimated. By refusing insurance to unlawful vessels, insurance companies can have a major impact on the numbers of illegal vessels. Miller and her colleagues at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries investigated insurance information for 94 IUU fishing vessels and 837 legal vessels that were required, by international law, to have insurance because of their size. They identified the insurers of 48 per cent of the illegal vessels and 58 per cent of the legal vessels and often the same companies provided insurance to both illegal and legal fishing vessels.

Some of the most infamous fishing vessels were found to have insurance coverage. One example is the Bandit 6, a fleet of six fishing vessels, wanted for illegally transporting Patagonian tooth fish from southern waters.

Although the vessels were on internationally recognized lists like the European Union’s IUU vessel list for years they were recently caught in different parts of the world.

“It was shocking when we found that out,” said Miller. “Insurers should take the simple step of consulting IUU fishing vessel lists to make sure that these notorious and well-known ships are refused insurance.”

The authors recommend insurers mandate all vessels over a certain size to be assigned an international Maritime Organization ship identification number, and operate automatic identification vessel tracking technology . They added these these measures would increase transparency and tighten regulations.

Centennial Leaders award recipients announced

UBC has named ten gifted students from around the world as the Centennial Leaders award recipients.

These students have risen from challenging circumstances and have given back to the community through volunteering.

They will receive full scholarship covering everything from tuition to housing to food. The scholarship covers up to a value of $80,000 over the course of their studies at UBC.

“What is unique about our Centennial Leaders is that despite their own struggles, they all give their time volunteering for community causes – from helping feed the homeless to assisting physically challenged people with fitness training,” said Kate Ross, associate vice-president, enrolment services and registrar. Ross also said they are thrilled to help these remarkable young people in realizing their goals at UBC.

One of these award winners is Syrian-born, Surrey raised Christian Michel Francis. He graduated from high school this year with an exceptional  average of 97.2 percent. Francis said receiving the award has changed everything for him.

“It was unbelievable. I couldn’t speak. I was so in shock. You could tell how relieved my father was and so sure he was I could be successful at UBC.”

He works at a part-time fast food job and volunteers at Fraser Health Authority where he assists disabled adults work out in a Surrey gym. His mother died in 2015 due to breast cancer and his father is unable to work  owing to a rapidly advancing disease, Macular Degeneration. As a result Francis spent his education savings to support the family.

centennial Leaders Award recipients will receive "full-ride" scholarships. (Photo courtesy of :

centennial Leaders Award recipients will receive “full-ride” scholarships.
(Photo courtesy of :

Another Centennial Leader is, Kara Froese from Cranbrook. Froese is committed to protecting the environment and wilderness.

She is a full-time second-year student at the College of the Rockies. Froese plays volleyball on the school’s team, volunteers for Cranbrook Search and Rescue and has a part-time lifeguarding job.

During her spare time she is in the mountains chasing her passion for the outdoors.

“A lot of the time I’m looking to unwind, shake off the stresses of the city. I’m not looking to “find myself”, but I do find a bit of an anchor point in wild places. It also allows me to notice the flowers, trees, birds etc. and I like the challenge of trying to identify species I’ve never encountered before,” she said.

Froese was inspired by the writings of Farley Mowat and David Suzuki leading her to seek her studies and career following a path in the wilderness.

“The first question my parents asked was: ‘How are you going to pay for it?’” she recalls.

The Centennial Leader Award will allow her to start her bachelor’s degree in forest sciences, in September.

“I would like to get an education that will further my understanding of the environment and help to protect the wild spaces around us,” she says. “This is the one world we have and it’s really important we take care of it.”

The Centennial Leaders are part of UBC’s Centennial Scholars Entrance Award Program. The program Supports academically qualified  Canadian students who are financially unable to attend UBC.

UBC has doubled the  number of awards from previous years.

This year it presented 100 one-time and renewable Centennial Scholar Awards.

The school provided $70.2 million in financial assistance and awards for over 13,500 students, in 2015/16.

2016 Centennial Leaders:

▪Giuseppe Cagliuso – Burnaby, B.C.

▪Christian Michel Francis – Surrey, B.C.

▪Kara Froese – Cranbrook, B.C.

▪Natasha Donika Jollymour – Savona, B.C.

▪Louisa Xiluva Hill – Maputo, Mozambique

▪Elina Kreuzberg – Ottawa, ON.Kenji Lai – Vancouver, B.C.

▪Regan Sander Oey – Vancouver, B.C.

▪Jared Eugene Sexsmith – Lumby, B.C.

▪Zachary Andrew Whynot – Camperdown, N.S.

UBC receives $27 million in research funding

Honourable Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services announced the provincial government has granted the University of British Columbia more than $27 million for a variety of research infrastructure projects.

The grant from the BC Knowledge and Development Fund (BCKDF) will provide the necessary funds needed for new laboratories, facilities and equipment for 40 research projects.

The projects range from investigations into childhood diabetes to genome sequencing and cancer treatment.

The funding will help investigate a variety of projects from childhood diabetes to genome sequencing and cancer treatment. (Photo courtesy of :

The funding will help investigate a variety of projects from childhood diabetes to genome sequencing and cancer treatment.
(Photo courtesy of :


One of the projects is the Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories. This project is led by UBC diabetes researcher Bruce Verchere at BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority.

“The research enabled by this infrastructure will lead to new ways to predict, prevent, and treat diabetes for the many children in this province affected by this devastating disease,” said Verchere.

The BCKDF also invests in Strengthening scientific research and fosters talents at post-secondary institutions, research hospitals and affiliated non-profit agencies province wide.

“Our government invests tens of millions of dollars in innovation at public post-secondary institutions to build on the growth and diversification of our economy and advance technology. Research at UBC offers students hands-on study opportunities and leads to the jobs and investment that makes our technology sector an important contributor to the provincial economy”,  said Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education.

Helen Burt, UBC associate vice-president, research and international said, UBC is appreciative of the support from the provincial government. The funding will enable talented scientists to make discoveries in the fields of health, life sciences, and science and technology. She further added, this investment could bring significant social and economic benefits to British Columbians.

Mom’s voice stimulates a variety of regions in children’s brains

According to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine, a greater area of children’s brains is activated by their mother’s voice than by the voice of women they don’t know.

Brain regions in children that are strongly activated by the voice of their mothers extend beyond auditory ares to include regions involved in emotion, reward processing, social functions, detection of what is personally relevant and face recognition.

The study found that the strength of connections between the brain regions stimulated by the voice of the child’s mother would predict the child’s social communication abilities.

“Many of our social, language and emotional processes are learned by listening to our mom’s voice,” said lead author Daniel Abrams, PhD, instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “But surprisingly little is known about how the brain organizes itself around this very important sound source. We didn’t realize that a mother’s voice would have such quick access to so many different brain systems.”

Many years of research has revealed children prefer their mother’s voice. In one classic study, one year old babies sucked harder on their pacifiers once they heard their mother’s voice as opposed to the voice of other woman.


Mother’s voice not only affects the auditory region in the brain of their children but also has an effect on other areas. (Photo courtesy of :

However, the mechanism behind this inclination was not known.

“We want to know: Is it just auditory and voice -selective areas that respond differently, or is it more broad in terms of engagement, emotional reactivity and detection of salient stimuli?”, said senior author Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

This study tested 24 children aged between 7 to 12 with an IQ of at least 80. Children were all raised by their biological mothers and did not have any developmental disorders.  Before the brain scans the voice of each mother was recorded saying three nonsense word.

Menon said these nonsense words were used to prevent the activation of a whole different set of circuitry in the brain.

The voice of two mothers whose children were not included in the experiment were recorded to use as controls.

The brain scans, revealed that even from very short clips, less than a second long, the children could distinguish their own mother’s voices with more than 97 percent accuracy.

“The extent of the regions that were engaged was really quite surprising”,  said Menon.

“We know that hearing mother’s voice can be an important source of emotional comfort to children,” said Abrams. “Here, we’re showing the biological circuitry underlying that.”

Children whose brains showed a stronger degree of connection between all the different regions while hearing their mother’s voices had the strongest social communication ability.

This finding shows increased brain connectivity between the regions, is a neural fingerprint for increased social communication abilities in children.

Menon said this finding is an important template to examine social communication defects in children with disorders such as autism.

“Voice is one of the most important social communication cues, It’s exciting to see that the echo of one’s mother’s voice lives on in so many brain systems.”

Study: social clubs could empower individuals with early-onset dementia

According to a new UBC study, community-based social groups could play a major role in helping people with early-onset dementia.

UBC nursing professor, Alison Phinney, led the study which focuses on an independently run program known as Paul’s Club. The club offers social and recreational activities three days per week, members are from their mid-40s to late 60s.

“Of the estimated 1.4 million Canadians living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by 2031, a few thousand in every major city will be diagnosed before age 65,” said Phinney.

According to her research she believes day program’s like Paul’s Club could help patients continue to live at home for as long as possible. This club was founded by retired nurse, Rita levy and her husband, Michael, in 2012.

The club members meet at a hotel with a friendly ambience without medical or hospital associations.

The club runs from 10 am to 4pm to give members’ families a break from caring for their loved ones.

The day starts with coffee, mostly followed by chair yoga, dance or other light workout before the group goes for lunch and a walk in the neighbourhood. And finally the day ends with an ice cream at a local gelato shop.

“Young-onset dementia is incredibly challenging because they’re still fairly active and healthy and suddenly they’re no longer able to work,” said Phinney.

The research is funded by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.  The next stage of the study will examine a more conventional adult day program for the elderly, including some with dementia.

Stanford archaeologist says the origins of authority trace back to the Andes of Peru

Ever wondered how authoritarianism rose, or why a single person or a small group of people make decisions on behalf of other people.

An associate professor of anthropology at Stanford, John Rick, has studied Chavin de Huantar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Peru, for the last 20 years. Rick has studied the large amount of evidence from more than two decades of work at Chavin, where that culture developed approximately from 900 BC to 200 BC.

“More than 5,000 and certainly 10,000 years ago, no where in the world was anyone living under a concerted authority. Today we expect that. It is the essence of our organization”, he said. Chavin was a religious centre run by a detailed priesthood.

The priesthood would subject its visitors to an incredible variety of routines from manipulating light to water and to sound.

Rick stated the priesthood purposely worked with underground spaces, architectural stone work, a system of water canals, psychoactive drugs and animal iconography to increase their demonstrations of power.

Rick and his team estimate the presence of two kilometres of underground labyrinth , gallery-like spaces, which were definitely created to constrain and deceive those who entered.

The priesthood also manipulated its visitors with psychoactive drugs. According to Rick the evidence represented in stone engravings show with clear illustrations the effects of paraphernalia and drugs on human beings.

Through a sophisticated hydraulic system and under water canals, water was used as another deceptive tool.

“They were playing with this stuff. They were using water pressure 3,000 years ago to elevate water, to bring it up where it shouldn’t be. They’re using it as an agent to wash away offerings,” he said.

Excavation still continues and these are only a few examples Rick and his team have uncovered.

Excavations still continue at the site. (Photo courtesy of:

Excavation still continues at the site.
(Photo courtesy of:

They think instead of common people, visitors were elite pilgrims, local leaders from far away parts of the Central Andes. The visitors were looking to justify the elevation of their own authoritarian power.

“They’re basically in a process of developing a hierarchy, a real social structure that has strong political power at the top,” Rick said.

He believes Chavin was where human psychology was analyzed and experiments were held to see how people reacted to certain stimuli.

Hence the rituals were effective and dramatic in altering ideas about the nature of human authoritative relationships.

Study: Mushrooms could be used as sustainable building material

According to a new UBC study, mushrooms could take up a new role as sustainable building material. Who could imagine mushrooms in their furniture? In a cutting-edge design project, six new stylish benches have been placed outside the UBC bookstore, assembled from light-coloured honeycomb-shaped bricks. These bricks are then placed under a top of clear acrylic. The bricks are very much alive, grown from a mix of Oyster mushroom spores and alder sawdust packed into moulds. Assistant professor at UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Joe Dahmen, and his partner in work and life, Amber frid-Jimenez, Canada research Chair in Design and Technology at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, came up with this design when expecting their second child. While working on an architectural installment made of fabricated polystyrene blocks — which are not the most benign material —  they decided to look into more eco-friendly options. “Amber couldn’t get near the thing because it was so toxic,” Dahmen said. “It got me thinking that there must be a more natural material that would still enable a similar range of expression.”

In their search, Dahmen and Frid-Jimenez discovered the world of mycelium biocomposites. The product is a resistant material with qualities similar to polystyrene foams. Mycelium bicomposites are at risk of contamination by mould and bacteria if they are over half-metre in thickness. To overcome this obstacle, Dahmen created a new process inspired from the wasps’ nest. “I was really amazed at the honeycomb structure, because it’s a highly efficient way of occupying space,” he said. “It’s scalable, it can go in any direction, and it’s extremely spatially efficient.” “Their biggest application in the long run is in architecture and construction,” said Dahmen. “The average age of commercial buildings in North America is under 40 years. If we could imagine construction materials that add positive value to ecosystems as they break down, we have a whole new paradigm for the way we approach buildings, at a time when we’re demolishing most buildings long before they wear out.” According to Dahmen mycelium bicomposites could be used instead of polystyrene, from packaging to building insulation. “Styrofoam is a material that functions for a short amount of time as packaging, and then spends hundreds, if not thousands, of years in a landfill,” he added. Mycelium bicomposites not only require less energy to grow but also completely decompose when composted. They also help break down other materials in the waste stream and make them accessible to other organisms. An American company recently signed a contract to supply Ikea with mycelium-based packaging.  The method had yet to be done in Canada.

Study: adding natural elements to playgrounds reduces depression in children

According to a new UBC study, adding natural elements to playgrounds like grass, bamboo and sand can change it into an imaginative playground for children leading to reduced depression signs.

The study included 46 children between the ages of two and five and was conducted over six months in 2014 in two Vancouver daycare centers. New features such as grass, sand and water were added to the outdoor facilities of the daycares. Scientists then observed the children’s behaviour before and after the change and again two weeks following the transformation.

“Both play spaces were quite plain and were really just open spaces, dotted with a play set or two,” said lead author and UBC landscape architecture professor Susan Herrington in a statemtn. “We transformed the play spaces using the seven C’s principles, which highlight the importance of concepts like character, context and change in designing great play areas.”

The modified environment resulted in an increase in the children’s activity on the playgrounds. Herrington said many kids would just wander around without any particular interest or do the same activity over and over again. “After the redesign, they were much more energetic and creative, exploring their environment, touching things, inventing games and interacting with their peers a lot more.”

The study also resulted in happier children with a decline in depressive behaviours.

“Depressive symptoms like looking sad or not smiling much went down after the modifications. The videos showed kids much more engaged in play and engaged in positive ways with each other,” said co-researcher Mariana Brussoni, an associate professor in UBC’s school of population and public health and pediatrics.

Brussoni further added, these changes made the kids less dependent on their teachers. When spending time in the new play spaces the interaction with the adults was decreased to 7% compared to 19% before the redesign.

“Our study shows that you don’t even need a huge budget to add nature into a space—you can be creative with just a few inexpensive twists,” said Herrington.

UBC study: low income groups need affordable dental care

According to a new UBC study, all Canadians especially the lowest-income groups should have dental care as part of their basic health care plan.

Researchers surveyed 567 clients from four major health care clinics in Ontario and British Columbia that served a large number of Aboriginal and low-income groups. Close to half (46 percent) of the participants considered their oral health being fair to poor and about the same number (44 Percent) said they often have pain in their mouth and teeth.

“Those numbers are three times higher than the general Canadian population as reported by the Canadian Health Measures Survey–clearly, the people we interviewed face tremendous oral health issues,” said UBC nursing professor Annette Browne, who led the study.

Browne said many of the participants may have underestimated their dental issues mainly because they were already tackling other social and health problems due to their financial burden.


According to a new UBC study dental care should be part of basic health care for all Canadians. ( Photo courtesy of :


The research also revealed that individuals with fair oral health had difficulty eating a variety of foods due to missing teeth.

Co-researcher and UBC PhD graduate, Bruce Wallace, says the findings indicate the necessity for affordable dental services for some of Canada’s low-income groups.

Wallace said, economically disadvantaged groups have no dental insurance and have only access to public dental health benefits. Therefore, they often skip dental work due to the cost and other problems.

“No one should have to depend on charitable dentistry or volunteer dental clinics. We need to integrate oral health benefits within universal health insurance and consider offering dental care in alternate health care settings, such as community health care centres,” said Wallace.

Stanford scientists bring back discarded drug to help human cells fight off viruses

Stanford University scientists think a newly improved drug might help fight off viruses causing Ebola, dengue and Zika among others.

Attempts to destroy viruses, including common cold viruses have failed up until now.

Scientists at Stanford decided to solve this problem from a different angle by boosting the human body’s ability to resist the virus rather than directly fighting the virus. This work was published in ‘Nature Chemical Biology’.

This approach has worked, in a lab dish at least, with a drug that fights two disease-causing viruses and potentially many more.

Stanford scientists have resurrected a discarded drug that helps human cells fight off two different viruses in a lab dish. (Photo courtesy of :

Stanford scientists have brought back a discarded drug that helps human cells fight off two different viruses in a lab dish.
(Photo courtesy of :

Chaitan Khosla, a professor of chemistry and of chemical engineering who was one of the senior authors on the paper said, the drug could be effective against viruses that use RNA instead of DNA as their genetic material.

“Most of the really nasty viruses use RNA,” Khosla said, including Ebola, dengue, Zika and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), a mosquito-borne virus which infects horses but can also kill people.

In addition, the team is conducting tests on animals to check the safety of the drug and to see which viral diseases it can fight off.

A drug with a similar concept was initially developed by GlaxoSmithKline . However, after its few initial publications it was found that over time it prevented the cells from dividing and therefore, it was shelved. Khosla and his team studied the drug and decided to resurrect it by improving its mechanism of action.

With the new approach Khosla and his team created a solution by feeding the cells a slightly different building block that is only used for DNA generation and not RNA. In this way, the cells successfully fought against dengue and VEEV and continued with their cell division. Hence, the drug could become less toxic to animals and ultimately to people.

Khosla said if the drug combination works in animals, they hope it might be among the first antiviral approaches for human disease.