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Campus Life  

Alumnus returning to OC as Vice President

Okanagan College Media Release

Curtis Morcom left Okanagan University College with a Business Administration Degree in 2004. He will return this August as Okanagan College’s Vice President, Employee and Corporate Services.Curtis Morcom June 2018

Morcom, a Chartered Professional Accountant, graduated from OUC’s Bachelor of Business Administration with honours the year before OUC transformed to become Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan (2005). The Business Administration program has carried on as one of Okanagan College’s two degree programs. He says the learner-centred educational programming and practical work co-op experience gained while at OUC has left him with an abiding respect for the College, its programs, and deep community partnerships.

“I have watched over the past years and am very impressed by how the College has grown and integrated with the communities it serves. And, of course, I am always proud to tell people I received my BBA from OUC.”

“Curtis’ experience in the public and private sectors, as well as a demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit, convinced us he would be a great fit with the College,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Our search for the position drew applicants from across the country, but it was fortunate that we found the best candidate in Kelowna, and even more remarkable that we can count him as an alumnus.”

Since 2010, Morcom has been Director of Integrated Planning and Chief Budget Officer at UBC Okanagan and also recently served as a member of the UBC Board of Governors. Morcom has more than 20 years of senior management experience across a range of industries including, education, health, professional services, leasing and land development. At 21 years of age, Morcom was the youngest person to be awarded a franchise agreement of a leading national retailer. By the age of 25, Morcom oversaw operations of 26 retail locations throughout Manitoba. Morcom has also obtained a Chartered Director (C.Dir) designation through McMaster University and the Conference Board of Canada. Morcom and family have called the Okanagan home for the past 17 years.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the entire team at the College. They have accomplished many remarkable things and have established a great reputation within the region and nationally since I finished my degree. It is an honour to serve in this position and have the opportunity to contribute to the continued success and growth of the College.”

 



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UBC merges Faculties of Education, creates Okanagan School of Education

Merger to optimize resources and improve professional development opportunities

UBC Okanagan announced this week the creation of a new Okanagan School of Education following the merger of the Okanagan and Vancouver Faculties of Education.

The merger was approved by the UBC Board of Governors on June 14 and will come into effect on July 1. It combines the Faculties of Education on both campuses into a single unified faculty to allow for better alignment of infrastructure, all the while preserving autonomy in the Okanagan through the creation of the Okanagan School of Education.

“After extensive consultation with our many partners, faculty, staff and students, there was overwhelming support for this merger in the Okanagan and in Vancouver,” says Dean of the UBC Faculty of Education Blye Frank. “This new arrangement will help optimize resources and create stronger connections between faculty members on both campuses in what is an especially multidisciplinary academic discipline.”

Frank says that the new structure will offer educators a wider range of professional development opportunities to increase their knowledge and skill sets with no negative impacts on student experience. He adds that the unique degree programs and requirements for each campus will remain unchanged and the Okanagan School of Education will maintain its autonomy to manage its own budget, programs and curricula.

“The merger of the two Faculties of Education and the creation of the Okanagan School of Education is a profoundly positive development,” says Susan Crichton, associate dean of the UBC Okanagan Faculty of Education. “It will better enable us to build on proven excellence in teaching and create improved research and academic opportunities for educators in our region and beyond.

The changes will help strengthen the ability of both campuses to serve the educational and professional development needs of its students and alumni, according to Crichton, which she says includes the potential for greater access for teacher candidates to practicum locations province-wide.

“We’re very excited for the future of education in the Okanagan,” she adds.

UBC’s new combined Faculty of Education will boast more than 800 teacher education candidates and many graduate-level students in numerous programs across the Okanagan and Vancouver campuses. It is one of the leading and largest faculties of its kind in the world and is responsible for preparing 45 per cent of British Columbia’s elementary teachers, the majority of secondary teachers, and a significant proportion of the province’s special needs and First Nations teachers, counsellors, school administrators, school psychologists and vocational rehabilitation counsellors.

For more information visit educ.ubc.ca/vancouver-and-okanagan-faculties-of-education-merge.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.



UBC Okanagan researcher encourages kids to move more to boost brain health

ParticipACTION Report Card gives a D+ when it comes to overall physical activity

A UBC Okanagan professor, who is a member of the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth team, is highlighting how important the findings are.

Ali McManus, associate professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Ali McManus, associate professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Released today, the report card gives Canadian kids a score of D+ for overall physical activity.

Associate Professor Ali McManus says this grade is particularly alarming considering that this year’s report card also highlights important connections between physical activity and kids’ brain health. McManus, who teaches in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, answers some questions about why getting our kids active is vital for many different reasons.

Why is physical activity so important for children and youth?

Improved cognition, such as thinking and learning. For example, students who exercise before a test show stronger brain function than those who don’t, and sections of the brain dedicated to memory and learning are larger in active children. Furthermore, being active can boost memory in kids including those with some brain-based disabilities, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.

Improved mental health, such as better emotional, psychological and social well-being. For example, physical activity is an effective tool in alleviating social and academic stress in young people. Active kids have improved self-esteem, which in turn, may lead to better moods and an overall more positive sense of satisfaction with how they perceive themselves.

Why is the ParticipACTION report card important?

The 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth provides the most comprehensive and objective view of how Canadian children live—from physical activity to sleep. It has become a key national indicator of the state-of-the-health of our kids

What are the key findings of the report?

The report card grades tell us:

  • D+ for physical activity: Kids aren’t active enough. Only 35 per cent of 5- to 17-year-olds and 62 per cent of 3- to 4-year-olds achieve the recommended physical activity levels for their age group.
  • D for sedentary behaviours: Kids are sitting too much, especially in front of screens. Forty-five per cent of 5- to 17-year-olds are meeting the recreational screen time limit of two hours per day. Furthermore, 76 per cent of 3- to 4-year-olds are engaging in more screen time than the one hour per day that is recommended.
  • F for overall 24-hour movement behaviours: Kids need to sweat, step, sleep and sit the right amounts each day for optimal health benefits. Only 15 per cent of 5- to 17-year-olds and 13 per cent of 3- to 4-year-olds in Canada meet all these recommendations for their age group.

What can parents/teachers/community members learn from these key findings?

Engaging kids in daily physical activity may be the most accessible, but underutilized, way to support them to better brain health. Here are 10 tips to help kids get active:

  • Be active as a family as it encourages togetherness and connectedness, which are all important for good mental health.
  • Get kids playing outdoors more as being outdoors is a powerful antidote for adolescents facing stress.
  • Explain your child’s strengths and needs to local physical activity and recreation providers so the instructors are better able to include your child in activities.
  • Avoid removing opportunities for physical activity and outdoor play as a form of punishment. Movement is vital to their learning development—active kids are more focused and have longer attention spans than sedentary kids.
  • Communicate the benefits physical activity has on brain health so everyone is better equipped to support children and youth, including those with brain-based disabilities.
  • If you are a healthcare professional, prescribe physical activity to complement the medical course of treatment for anxiety, depression and ADHD among children and youth.
  • Educators should teach an active curriculum by breaking up long periods of sitting to help improve thinking and learning, and bolster kids’ resiliency when they are dealing with stress.
  • Governments should make physical activity accessible for low-income families and families with children with disabilities to increase their participation in sport and physical activity programs.
  • Support or help create policies that mandate physical activity during school or childcare hours and ensure educators receive the training required to implement these physical activity programs.
  • Seek funding opportunities to support programming for children and youth with disabilities and to create personalized, accepting and respectful play environments for all.

To download the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card Highlight Report, including the expert statement, or full report, please visit www.participACTION.com/reportcard.



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UBC researchers to weigh in on commercial weight loss option

Associate Professor of psychology Lesley Lutes has been awarded $1.7 million to study a commercial weight loss program.

Associate Professor of psychology Lesley Lutes has been awarded $1.7 million to study a commercial weight loss program.

Weight Watchers Freestyle food program going under the microscope

UBC Okanagan’s Lesley Lutes is leading an evaluation Weight Watchers Freestyle, a new commercial weight management protocol. Lutes, an associate professor of psychology in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, has researchers examining the program from UBC Okanagan and Vancouver.

“The rates of obesity in Canada are relentlessly rising,” says Lutes. “Despite efforts to slow this trend, currently two-thirds of Canadians are overweight or obese.”

With obesity comes many commercial options to help people lose weight. Last year, researchers at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) conducted a study examining the Weight Watchers Freestyle food program. This program operates with a combination of community meetings and online services.

An extension of this research has now been proposed for an international study. The team has been awarded $1.7 million to run a randomized controlled trial through both UBC campuses (Okanagan and the Vancouver campus—led by Associate Prof. Tricia Tang), the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and UNC.

The controlled trial will compare physiological and psychosocial health outcomes related to Weight Watchers Freestyle and a “do-it-yourself” approach, explains Lutes. Applicants will be randomly placed into either group and all participants will receive a free year of Weight Watchers programming along with a small honorarium for completing baseline, three-month and 12-month measures.

Lutes stresses that unhealthy weight can lead to many other health complications and can influence the incidence and severity of multiple co-morbid illnesses.

“In the last four years alone, Canadians have experienced higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, pain and discomfort that has prevented them from being active,” she adds. “Relatedly, they perceive their lives as more stressful, their mental health as worse than ever and the rates of mood disorders have climbed.”

Lutes says they are looking for study participants to begin early next month. People are welcome to visit www.weightlosstrial.org for details and information on how to take part in the initial screening procedure.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

 

 



UBC’s Hargreaves wins prestigious Gabrielle Roy writing award

Jury calls book ‘sensitively argued, memorable and deeply insightful’

UBC Okanagan Associate Professor Allison Hargreaves is the winner of the 2017 Gabrielle Roy Prize writing award.

Hargreaves teaches English in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS) and specializes in Indigenous literary and cultural education.

Her book, Violence Against Indigenous Women: Literature, Activism, Resistance, was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in August of 2017 and was named the winning entry two weeks ago.

UBC Associate Professor Allison Hargreaves, centre, receives her Gabrielle Roy Prize, pictured here with WLU Press senior editor Siobhan McMenemy (left) and director Lisa Quinn.

UBC Associate Professor Allison Hargreaves, centre, receives her Gabrielle Roy Prize, pictured here with WLU Press senior editor Siobhan McMenemy (left) and director Lisa Quinn.

“Although still on the early side of her career, Allison Hargreaves is already recognized as one of the leading voices in a Canadian literary and cultural studies practice that brings the voices of indigenous women into conversation with a decolonizing settler perspective,” says FCCS Dean Bryce Traister. “The Gabrielle Roy prize cements her already stellar reputation, and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC’s Okanagan campus couldn’t be more proud of her achievement.”

Violence Against Indigenous Women argues for the important role that literature and storytelling can play in response to gendered colonial violence. Indigenous communities have long been organizing against violence, but the cases of missing and murdered women have only recently garnered broad public attention. The book joins the conversation by analyzing the socially interventionist work of Indigenous women poets, playwrights, filmmakers and fiction-writers. Organized as a series of case studies that pair literary interventions with recent sites of activism and policy-critique, the book puts literature in dialogue with anti-violence debate to illuminate new pathways toward action.

“I am honoured by the recognition, and grateful for the attention this may bring to the issues discussed in the book,” says Hargreaves.

She also drew attention to local events, particularly the Annual Memorial Vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Two-Spirit, and Girls held annually in Kelowna every February 14. She is donating her prize money toward next year’s event, she adds.

“I want to acknowledge my fellow organizers, and especially Tina Miller, for their inspiring commitment to local commemoration and action.”

The Gabrielle Roy Prize is awarded annually for the best book-length study in Canadian and Quebec literary criticism.

“This is a compelling collection of timely essays and case studies on Indigenous women’s literature in Canada. Hargreaves’ introduction provides a detailed and insightful commentary on the issues surrounding the history and importance of resistance narratives,” stated the jury when announcing the award. “It is carefully researched, sensitively argued, memorable and deeply insightful.”

For more information on the award visit: wlu.ca/news/news-releases/2018/may/wlu-press-author-allison-hargreaves-wins-gabrielle-roy-prize

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.



OC apprentice builds his way onto the podium at Skills Canada Nationals

Okanagan College Media Release

For his display of skill and precision under pressure, an Okanagan College-trained carpenter was recognized among the best in the country at Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC).

Lukas Pfob June 2018Lukas Pfob, a Level 4 Carpenter apprentice, brought home the Silver medal in the Carpentry competition at SCNC, which took place in Edmonton on June 4-5.

SCNC is the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country. This year more than 500 competitors from across Canada made the trip to Edmonton to put their nerve and know-how to the test in more than 40 skilled trade and technology categories.

“The whole experience from start to finish is mind-blowing,” says Pfob, who is employed by Team Construction Management in Kelowna. “It’s very much like the Olympics but for trades. Until you’ve seen it, you really can’t appreciate how hard the competitors work. It challenges you in so many ways.”

It was Pfob’s second chance to seize the challenge at Nationals. Last year, he notched a strong showing but fell short of the podium in Winnipeg. He punched his ticket to Edmonton, and another shot at Nationals, with a gold medal-winning performance at the Provincial competition in Abbotsford back in April.

His nationals test this year? It was no child’s play.

After the fanfare of the opening ceremonies subsided, Pfob and his fellow competitors had just 12 hours over the course of two-days to construct an intricate play house from scratch. And while he says the time constraint was nerve-racking, Pfob also had to overcome the challenge of working almost elbow-to-elbow with the competition.

“Looking up and seeing the best apprentices from the other provinces and territories working a few feet away is tough,” he says, “but I knew from my experience last year – and from all the work I’ve put in with my instructors – that I had to ignore them and stay as focused as I could on the task at hand.”

That focus – and the years of preparation at the College and on the jobsite – paid off.

“When I found out I came in second, I was ecstatic,” says Pfob. “These truly are some of the best carpenters in Canada, so I take a lot of pride in this showing. I’m very grateful to all my instructors and everyone who has helped me along the way.”Pfob, Vanlerberg, Mclaren June 2018

The medal was Pfob’s first at nationals and fifth overall at Skills Canada competitions, including consecutive gold medals at Provincials the past two years.

“We’re immensely proud of Lukas for his achievements at Skills Canada competitions this year – and over the years – and equally so for the fine example he’s setting for his fellow students and apprentices at the College,” says Steve Moores, Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.

Pfob recently completed his Level 4 apprenticeship at the College. Prior to jetting off to Edmonton, he delivered the student address at the Trades Commencement ceremony at the Kelowna campus last month.

“Every instructor I have had, from high school to 4th year at the College, has pushed me to greater levels of success,” explains Pfob. “I hope one day to be able to do the same. I’d love eventually to have the opportunity to teach, to inspire others to push themselves to always keep learning, to take pride in their field and generally just strive to be the best they can be.”

Pfob was joined by two other Okanagan College students at Nationals. Vernon’s Bradley Vanlerberg competed in the Aerospace Technology category and Kelowna’s Conner McLaren competed in the Automotive Service category. All three students won gold at the provincial Skills Canada competition on April 18.

 




Newly minted PhD graduate keeps her ties to UBC Okanagan

Julianne Barry graduated this week with her PhD from UBC Okanagan.

Julianne Barry graduated this week with her PhD from UBC Okanagan.

She’s done it all—from undergrad to masters to PhD and research fellow

Julianne Barry is one of those rare breeds of university students. She has spent her entire post-secondary academic career—from those first, nervous fresh-faced days to becoming an accomplished researcher and post-doctoral fellow—at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Adding to that, each one of her UBC degrees is from a different program, giving her an extensive, yet connected, knowledge base.

“My grandfather had diabetes and many of my grandmother’s siblings died at an early age from heart disease,” says Barry. “Because of my indigenous background, I have always been interested in chronic health issues and how some can be prevented.”

Rewind 12 years and Barry is a brand-new biochemistry student, newly graduated from Keremeos’  Similkameen Secondary School. Four years later she graduates with an honours degree from the Irving K. Barber’s School of Arts and Sciences' biochemistry program. She then enters a master’s program in biology, studying heart disease with Associate Professor Sanjoy Ghosh’s laboratory. She recently wrapped up her PhD work with the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, while currently working as a post-doctoral research assistant in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing.

“I was chosen to be a research assistant and we are working with Indigenous communities and trying to find a way to blend traditional healthcare practices with western health care practices,” she says. “There are a lot of inequalities and gaps in health care when we’re working with the indigenous communities. We’d like to find a way to close those gaps.”

The four-year project, working with Associate Professor of Nursing Donna Kurtz, will look at issues such as diabetes and obesity in Indigenous populations with six communities in towns like Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, Lillooet and Williams Lake.

“The Canadian Institutes of Health Research has funded four areas for chronic disease with obesity and diabetes being one. Our focus has been on asking what are the needs and priorities of your community and can how we bring traditional practices and western programs and services together,” she says. “It’s a locally-driven project and we are hoping to implement their ideas.”

Barry has strong Aboriginal roots with Ontario’s Manitoulin Island and speaks fondly of her grandparents. Many of Barry’s family suffered from heart disease and died at an early age due to the illness. Unfortunately, as she worked on her PhD, both grandparents passed away within a short timespan.

“My grandmother was the core of my family and she passed away a week before my thesis defense. It was a pretty challenging time.”

Barry is well versed in diabetes research. Her PhD research was focused on the topic. “Julianne is a rare talent,” says Associate Professor Jonathan Little whose work focuses on health, exercise and diet in the context of Type 2 diabetes. “She continues to expand her repertoire as a postdoc and is truly an example of an accomplished interdisciplinary researcher.”

Little explains how her PhD research spanned from “molecule to human.” It included studies examining how immune cells function in people with Type 2 diabetes at one end of the spectrum to understanding how different types of exercise impact cardiovascular and metabolic function across a 12-month clinical trial at the other. “We looked at the impact of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and exercise on inflammation using the Small Steps for Big Changes program,” she says. “And we followed up with the people a year later and it was fantastic to see the changes these people made throughout the year. These people were overweight or obese and they made significant health changes through the program.”

There was also good with the bad, and Barry notes she was also able to take time away from academia when she and her husband welcomed a baby girl into their family. Now 18 months later and with a toddler who may one day be dependent on her research, she is more determined than ever to continue working to improve health opportunities for all Indigenous people in Canada.

“I feel like my diverse background will benefit my future research and push me to think outside the box.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.



Double degrees add up to top Pushor Mitchell recognition

Dana Klamut graduated this week with degrees in math and computer science (honours) from UBC Okanagan.

Dana Klamut graduated this week with degrees in math and computer science (honours) from UBC Okanagan.

Winner excels at both math and honours computer science

Things have been adding up for Dana Klamut since she began her academic career at UBC's Okanagan campus five years ago.

Graduating with degrees in math and computer science (honours), Klamut was recognized this week with the Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Prize—the highest award available for an Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences graduating student.

Now in its ninth year, the $10,000 prize recognizes a top graduating student who has excelled academically and has shown leadership while earning their degree.

“Pushor Mitchell is proud to be a supporter of UBC Okanagan and the Gold Medal Leadership Prize, and continues to promote the outstanding efforts of students,” says Managing Partner James Paterson. “We think that the selection of Dana Klamut is an excellent choice as winner. Her achievements epitomize academic excellence and support gender diversity. Her accomplishments are many and we are proud to be able to add her to our distinguished list of Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Prize winners.”

With a grade point average of 96 per cent, a number of academic accomplishments and a long list of volunteer hours, Computer Science Professor Yves Lucet says Klamut was a shoe-in for the award.

“She is clearly a top academic performer who takes her passion about the promotion of women in science to heart,” says Lucet.

Originally from Penticton, Klamut changed her academic focus to include both mathematics and computer science in her second year. After attending a women in computer science conference, which she called an “enlightening experience” she then grew more passionate about a career in the computer science industry.

In 2015, she helped organize the first-ever Canadian Undergraduate Computer Science Conference, and Lucet says her participation in the event was more than impressive. Along with planning the event, she recruited sponsors, promoted female participation, organized a panel on women in science while also participating in the event.

“Organizing a conference is very challenging, creating a whole conference series is unheard of for undergraduate students,” adds Lucet. “I honestly did not think undergraduate students could pull this off. I attended the conference and I can attest that the speakers were world-class. It left me speechless and the impact on attendees was deep and long-lasting, leading to a highly active course union. This is Leadership with a capital L.”

Ramon Lawrence, associate professor of computer science, taught Klamut in three different courses and he says she is one of the highest performing female students in computer science in the last 10 years. In 2016, she received an undergraduate student research award to study embedded database systems with Lawrence’s research group.

“Despite being the most junior member in the research group, by the end of the summer she made significant contributions which led to a refereed publication,” Lawrence says. “She is both a great role model for women in computer science and a proponent of increased diversity and female participation in the field.”

Klamut has plans to stay in the Okanagan and begin a career in the computer science industry. But she hasn’t ruled out graduate studies, saying she has become passionate about research throughout her undergraduate career and the award will provide that opportunity when that time is right.

"I am truly honoured to be this year's recipient of the Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Prize and to be recognized in association with one of Kelowna's most prestigious law firms,” says Klamut. “I am also grateful for the personal and academic growth that I have experienced during my time at UBC Okanagan due to the support and encouragement of my amazing professors and peers.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.



DNA analysis of near-extinct tortoises leads to gold medal win

Biology student wins Governor General award for academic achievement

A UBC student’s research examining the DNA of endangered Galapagos tortoises has led to the highest accomplishment a university student can win.

Evelyn Jensen, who was conferred her PhD degree in biology from the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences on Thursday, is the Governor General Gold Medal winner for UBC’s Okanagan campus. The Governor General gold medal award is presented annually to the graduate student with the highest academic achievement.

While Jensen’s academic record speaks for itself—she has achieved A+ in all her coursework at UBC Okanagan—she’s done remarkable research in genomics and was able to compare and analyze the genetic makeup of different generations of Galapagos giant tortoises on Pinzón Island, says her PhD supervisor Prof. Michael Russello.

Evelyn Jensen studied a new generation of giant tortoises while earning her PhD at UBC Okanagan. Photo credit: Michael Russello

Evelyn Jensen studied a new generation of giant tortoises while earning her PhD at UBC Okanagan. Photo credit: Michael Russello

While working on her PhD, Jensen and Russello travelled to the Galapagos Islands to study a new generation of giant tortoises—once a species considered extinct in the wild. Russello explains that whalers, pirates and explorers had used the Pinzón Island tortoises as a fresh meat supply, decimating the population. To make matters worse, the sailors inadvertently introduced a species of black rats to the island—the invasive rats lived on the tortoise eggs, and the survival rate of the tortoise plummeted.

“At one time there were thousands of tortoises and they were easy to hunt,” says Russello. “The species was heavily harvested and black rats thrived by attacking the nests and eating the eggs. It got to the point where there were about a hundred or so of these tortoises left on the island and they weren’t repopulating. They were indeed a population of the living dead.”

More than 50 years ago, scientists introduced a headstart management plan; eggs were transported to a nearby island to hatch and grow in captivity before being repatriated to their home island. In 2012 the rats were eradicated from the island and by 2014, wild-hatched young tortoises were surviving on the island. Pinzón now has a growing population, says Russello, noting it’s a conservation success story that demonstrates how easily humans can decimate a species and how hard we have to work to revive one.

“Written in the genome of every individual are not just instructions for building the organism, but also the history of its ancestors. When populations of individuals are analyzed together, their DNA can tell an even larger story of how the population has changed through time,” Jensen explains.

Jensen and Russello spent two weeks on the Galapagos Islands, collecting DNA samples from the current generation of tortoises so they could be compared with DNA from several tortoises removed from Pinzón Island in 1906.

“The theory regarding the genetic effects of rapid population decline is well-developed, but few studies of natural populations exist where sampling was conducted before and after a known bottleneck event,” says Jensen, explaining ‘bottleneck’ is a term used when a species has gone into a rapid decline. “Such knowledge is of particular importance for species restoration, given the link between genetic diversity and the probability of long-term persistence.”

By pairing historical DNA analysis, and the DNA of Pinzón Galapagos giant tortoises sampled pre- and post-decline, she was able to show that the historical sample provided a valuable benchmark for evaluating the head-start program. The research was recently published in the Journal of Heredity.

“My work revealed that Pinzón tortoises have retained a remarkable amount of genetic variation despite their near extinction, and further demonstrates the effectiveness of the conservation intervention in this system,” she says.

Jensen currently holds an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She is developing baseline population genomic information about polar bear populations in Canada and creating new biomarker toolkit that will be used to monitor polar bears from non-invasively collected scat samples.

Evelyn Jensen, who graduated this week with her PhD, is the Governor General Gold Medal winner for UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Evelyn Jensen, who graduated this week with her PhD, is the Governor General Gold Medal winner for UBC’s Okanagan campus.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.



Car Dealers Rev Up Support for OC Automotive and Business Students

Okanagan College Media Release

New Car Dealers_1 June 2018The New Car Dealers Foundation of British Columbia is helping power success with $10,000 annually in new awards for Trades and Business students at Okanagan College.

The annual awards ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 each will support students in the Automotive Service Technician apprenticeship and foundation programs, plus the Business Administration program.

“The demand for skilled automotive service technicians and business professionals is increasing throughout the automotive sector,” says Blair Qualey,
President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.

“We see partnerships with training institutions like Okanagan College as integral to service delivery and the prosperity of our member dealerships.”

There are 29 new car dealer members in the Okanagan including six dealerships operated by Sentes Automotive.

Adam Rich, Sentes Automotive Group General Manager, says he hopes the awards will encourage more young people to enter the automotive industry and stay local after graduation.

“We’re always looking for more technicians. We know the value of the Okanagan College program, we’ve hired grads in the past, and we’re thrilled to support it,” says Rich.

“We are very grateful to the New Car Dealers Foundation for this investment in our students’ futures,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director, Okanagan College Foundation. “The creation of these new awards will both help attract and retain students, ultimately connecting them to a vibrant and expanding industry, especially in the Okanagan.”

“These awards are unique in that they will open doors for trades students while also supporting the next generation of business professionals pursuing careers in the automotive sector.”

The New Car Dealers Foundation presented its first set of awards in Kelowna in April.

Among the recipients was Paul Whitlock, a student in the Automotive Service Technician program. Whitlock plans to complete his Red Seal Endorsement and then go on to business school.

“This award will make it easier for me to progress through my apprenticeship with less stress about being able to afford it all,” says Whitlock. “I can't thank the donors enough for this very generous gift. It will help me achieve my dream.”

The New Car Dealers Association of B.C. represents more than 390 New Car Dealers throughout the province, who generate more than $16 billion in economic activity, pump $2.9 billion net GDP directly into B.C.’s economy, and employ more than 30,000 high paying jobs in 54 communities they serve.
 

For more information on the new training hub visit okanagan.bc.ca/brighthorizons.
  

 




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