Management of high sea fisheries could compensate losses due to climate change

New UBC study finds, a 10 percent increase in fish catches in coastal waters when high seas are closed off to fishing. This increase could help the most vulnerable cope with the expected losses of fish caused by climate change.

“Many important fish stocks live in both the high seas and coastal waters. Effective management of high seas fisheries could benefit coastal waters in terms of productivity and help reduce climate change impacts,” said lead author William Cheung, associate professor and director of science of the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.

The high seas cover close to two-thirds of the ocean’s surfaces and are outside the jurisdiction of any country.

By using computer models, researchers used three different management scenarios to predict catches of 30 important fish stocks in 2050, living in both the high seas and coastal waters.

The three different scenarios were as followed: international cooperation to manage fishing, closing the high seas to fishing, and maintaining the status quo.


By using computer models, researchers used three different management scenarios to predict catches of 30 important fish stocks in 2050, living in both the high seas and coastal waters.(Photo courtesy of:

Strengthening governance and closing the high seas to fishing were found to increase resilience of coastal countries to climate change. This effect was especially noticed in tropical countries which are highly dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood.

“The scenarios of closing the high seas may greatly reduce the issue of inequity of benefits and impacts among different countries under climate change,” said co-author Vicky Lam, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.

Countries in the South Pacific, Indo-Pacific, West African coast and west coast of central America are expected to be disproportionately impacted by climate change.

According to previous UBC studies, these countries could face a 30 percent decrease, if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise in a similar manner. This decrease would be due to the fish migrating to cooler waters.

“The high seas can serve as a fish bank of the world by providing the insurance needed to make the whole global ocean more resilient,” said paper co-author Rashid Sumaila, professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and director of OceanCanada, one of the research funders. “By closing the high seas to fishing or seriously improving its management, the high seas can help us mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.”

African bird shows preferential treatment toward male subordinates

A new research published in “Biology Letters”, suggests African desert-dwelling birds prefer their biological sons and alienate their stepsons.

“Nepotism has likely played a vital role in the evolution of family life in this species,” said Martha Nelson-Flower, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of forestry.

The group’s dominant male bird decides which of the subordinate males to tolerate. Nelson-Flower’s research reveals subordinate male birds spend less time in a group if they are unrelated to the dominant male bird. The subordinate males are actually sent out of the group by their stepdads and in some instances by their brothers-in-law. They are then forced to live alone or to join other groups as subordinates.

The species is the southern pied blabber, a black and white bird found in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The chicks are raised by both parents as well as other adult birds and live in groups. The size of the groups range from three to 14 birds.

However, this kind of preferential treatment was not seen among the females.

“The research is some of the first to show that the sex of both dominant and subordinate birds, and the genetic relationship between them, has a significant impact on their family groups and cooperative breeding behaviour,” said Nelson-Flower.

The researchers used data from 11 years of observation.

Evolution effects the speed of plant migration in the face of climate change

A new study proposes evolution as the driving force behind plant migration. The study also suggests scientists could be underestimating how fast species could move.

The study published in the journal ‘Science’ reveals some animals and plants are moving farther north to cooler temperatures due to climate change.

“We know from previous research that evolution might play a role in how fast a species can move across a region or continent,” said Jennifer Williams, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in UBC’s department of geography. “But what our study suggests is that evolution is not only a factor in movement, but that it can, in fact, accelerate the spread, and can do so predictably.”

Evolving plant populations dispersed seeds and migrated 11 per cent farther in landscapes with favourable conditions. (Photo courtesy of:

Evolving plant populations dispersed seeds and migrated 11 per cent farther in landscapes with favourable conditions. (Photo courtesy of:

For the study the scientists used a small flowering plant (Arabidopsis thailana) to test the role of evolution in plant migration. Two sets of population were cultivated, evolution was active in one set and hindered in the other.

The study showed, after six generations, evolving plant populations migrated 11 percent farther than the other non-evolving populations in favourable conditions. However, in the more challenging environment seeds dispersed 200 percent farther in the set with the evolving plants.

Williams suggested, the findings show evolution accelerates the speed of migration.

Nonetheless, more research is required to find the reason for the increased speed of migration in challenging conditions.

“We know, for example, that there are some species of butterflies and plants that are expanding their ranges with climate change and moving north or up in elevation,” she said. “What our results suggest is that, with evolution, the species can move faster and faster because the traits that make them better at moving are becoming more common at the front of the invasion. In the case of our plants, in the evolving populations, their seeds can disperse a bit further.”

In addition, she said the findings emphasize the importance for scientists to acknowledge evolutionary change when predicting how quickly native species will move as the Earth’s temperature rises.

Scientists find how hummingbirds avoid high-speed collisions

Researchers have discovered hummingbirds process visual information differently from other animals. This difference helps them in their extreme aerial acrobatics.

They can travel faster than 50 kilometres per hour and stop on a dime while flying through dense vegetation.

“Birds fly faster than insects and it’s more dangerous if they collide with things,” said Roslyn Dakin, a postdoctoral fellow in the UBC’s department of zoology who led the study.

In order to figure out how hummingbirds avoid collision, scientists at UBC placed the birds in a specially designed tunnel while projecting patterns on the walls. Observations were then made to see how the birds navigate to avoid collisions.

“We took advantage of hummingbirds’ attraction to sugar water to set up a perch on one side of the tunnel and a feeder on the other, and they flew back and forth all day,” said Douglas Altshuler, associate professor in the department of zoology. “This allowed us to test many different visual stimuli.”

When scientists simulated this information on the tunnel walls, the hummingbirds showed no reaction. On the other hand, Dakin and her colleagues found the hummingbirds depended on the size of an object to determine their distance. As something grew bigger, it was a signal that the object is getting closer and vice-versa. This is in contrary to the humans and the bees where speed of an object indicates its distance as the object goes passed their field of vision.

“When objects grow in size, it can indicate how much time there is until they collide even without knowing the actual size of the object,” said Dakin. “Perhaps this strategy allows birds to more precisely avoid collisions over the very wide range of flight speeds they use.”

During extreme heat, neighbourhoods with poorer and hotter conditions at higher risk of death

A new UBC study finds extreme heat in hotter and poorer areas increases the risk of mortality.

In Vancouver, social vulnerability and heat exposure can be a fatal combination.

“Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of extreme hot weather events,” said Sarah Henderson, senior author on the study and an assistant professor in UBC’s school of population and public health. “Being able to map and target the most vulnerable areas will be highly beneficial for public health intervention.”

To examine the relationship between temperature and mortality on very hot days between 1998 to 2014, the researchers used the Vancouver Area Neighbourhood Deprivation Index (VANDIX) and maps of urban heat islands where the humidex exceeded 34.4 degrees Celsius. The VANDIX is a public health research tool which measures material and social deprivation factors such as education and unemployment rate.

This study revealed areas at risk  are throughout the region including Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside but also in less deprived neighbourhood such as Abbotsford, Surrey, New Westminster and throughout the Lower Mainland.


New UBC study finds extreme heat in hotter and poorer areas increases the risk of mortality. (Photo courtesy of:

In addition, the death risk is higher in neighbourhoods without trees and with lots of concrete or where people are not working due to unemployment or retirement.

Henderson stated in 2009, in one week 110 people died due to the outside heat. He also said that most of them were young seniors aged 60 to 70 and not the very elderly.

Henderson believes that a factor leading up to the deaths could be that people stay in hot homes during the day instead of going to offices or other places that might be cooler or air conditioned.

According to her more people die at home during hot waves.

“Keeping cool is the key to staying safe in hot weather,” said Henderson. “Go to places with air conditioning, wet down your shirt with cool water, and you must drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty”, said Henderson.

Professor at UBC boosts sustainable energy research

To improve renewable energy generation and power conversion, Martin Ordonez, Fred Kaiser Professor in Power Conversion and Sustainability at UBC is expanding a research and education program. This research is funded by a $ 1-million investment by the Fred Kaiser Foundation and will help store and use renewable energy.

Ordonez said as Canadians are trying to reduce greenhouse emissions, the efficiency in generating energy is critical not only to them but also to the future on a global scale.

The goal of this project is to derive maximum amounts of energy from sustainable resources in order to compete with hydrocarbon alternatives. To support this objective, at least five top-tier researchers are added, doubling the program’s current size.

According to Professor Martin Ordonez advances in renewable energy generation and power conversion are key not only for Canadians but also to the future on a global scale. (Photo courtesy of:

According to Professor Martin Ordonez advances in renewable energy generation and power conversion are key not only for Canadians but also to the future on a global scale. (Photo courtesy of:

He said the main challenge is to change existing electrical infrastructure to support the expansion of low carbon energy sources like wind and solar.

However, according to Ordonez developing countries have a different challenge to face. With a clean slate they can envision a better system by developing an electrical system with sustainable energy sources in mind

The development of sustainable resources would be economically feasible for developing countries after research and testing.

Ordonez said as part of the program, they will train graduate students and research professionals who will be skillful engineers  capable of tackling challenges associated with sustainable electrical energy. An outreach program will be planned to draw undergraduates from across the globe in different engineering disciplines. They will join a team of researchers investigating sustainable power solutions for developing countries.

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.

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.