SFU Continuing Studies in Science and Environment
Science projects and series

Projects and Series

Deep Time, Global Change and YOU: The past as a guide to the future (January - March 2014)

Deep Time, Global Change and You is a series of free public lectures and discussions by leading thinkers on how paleoecology can shed light on the consequences of ecosystem disruptions. It is not news that our global environment is currently in a period of rapid and dramatic change, with uncertain long-term consequences. Scientists working in the area of “paleoecology”, the study of past environments and communities of plants and animals, can contribute insights into the long prehistory of natural changes on earth, and shed light on likely future consequences of ecosystem disruptions. Over the long history of our planet, many changes, ranging from continental drift and sudden climate shifts, to wildfires and the recent rise of civilizations have altered our ecosystems, and will continue to do so. How such disturbances have shaped our present environment, and how they might change it in the future is the focus of this series.

  • Maintaining Humanity's Life Support Systems in the 21st Century, Presented by Dr. Anthony Barnosky, University of California, Berkeley | March 13, 2014
    Given that human impacts already define the Anthropocene as a unique time in Earth’s history, & that those impacts are almost certain to increase as the human population grows from 7 billion to over 9 billion by the year 2050, it is inevitable that people’s place on the planet will continue to evolve. While the impacts of people have altered the planet in beneficial ways, studies have documented some human impacts that if they continue, pose serious risks for maintaining the current quality of life. Those impacts form five negative trends: increasing climate disruption, increase of extinctions, loss of non-human dominated ecosystems, growing pollution (air, land,& sea), & rapidly growing human population. The pace and nature of planetary change caused by each of these impacts exceeds what is “normal” for Earth’s past, making plausible unexpected, planetary-scale shifts that take place within human lifetimes. Despite the ‘gloom-and-doom’ scenarios these global problems often engender, solutions are not only possible, as indicated by past human achievements, but are beginning to gain momentum.
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  • What if Extinction is NOT Forever? A Molecular Paleontologist's View of De-Extinction, Presented by Dr. Beth Shapiro, University of California, Santa Cruz | March 6, 2014
    Herds of mammoths roaming the Siberian tundra. A sabre-toothed cat skulking behind a van in the grocery store parking lot. Are these the dramatic scenes of our future? Fortunately, the answer is still no -- not in our near future, anyway. Science is, however, inching closer and closer to being able to bring extinct animals back to life, including some that have been extinct for more than 10,000 years. But, do we really want extinct animals to be brought back? Dr. Shapiro will outline the science that needs to be developed in order to make de-extinction possible, and consider the environmental and ethical consequence of de-extinction.
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  • Magnitude 9 - How We Learned that the Largest Earthquakes on Earth Happen on Our Coast, Presented by Dr. John Clague, Simon Fraser University | February 27, 2014
    Evidence discovered by Canadian and U.S. scientists over the past 30 years has shown that the largest earthquakes on Earth occur at our doorstep, off the British Columbia coast. . In this presentation, I describe how scientists found and interpreted the geological and biological evidence of these earthquakes. I also review the likely effects and impact of the next “Big One” on Vancouver, Victoria, and cities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
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  • The Human Footprint in the Pacific Northwest: From the Deep Past to the Present, Presented by Dr. Rolf Mathewes, Simon Fraser University | February 20, 2014
    Environmental changes in the past and present have always played an important role in human affairs and cultural development. Dr. Mathewes will explore links between past environments and the “peopling” of the new world along the coast of western North America near the end of the last ice age, and then look into the evidence of how environmental changes during postglacial time have affected first nations cultural development, and also been affected by early human activities.
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  • A Long View of Fire, Climate, and People: Perspectives From the Paleoecological Record, Presented by Dr. Cathy Whitlock, Montana State University | February 13, 2014
    In the last 20 years, parts of western North America have experienced more wildland fires than seen in recent history, and biomass burning around the world is increasing at an alarming rate with consequences for climate change, biodiversity, and human health. The size and severity of recent fires have raised important questions: Are current levels of biomass burning truly unprecedented? What is the role of climate change in altering natural fire systems? Do our forest ecosystems have the capacity to survive increased fire activity? Our understanding of wildland fires benefits greatly from deep-time perspectives. Dr. Whitlock will describe how.
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  • Global Biodiversity and Climate: What Fossil Insects Tell Us, Presented by Dr. Bruce Archibald, Simon Fraser University | February 6, 2014
    Why are there more species in the tropics? Why do species compositions of communities tend to change more across mountains in the tropics than the Temperate Zone? Understanding why we see patterns of change in biodiversity from the equator to the poles has been difficult using modern-world systems. Dr. Archibald discusses a novel approach comparing the diversity of insect communities with fossil insect communities. This approach helps resolve longstanding questions in ecology.
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  • Global Warming 56 Million Years Ago & What it Means for Us, Presented by Dr. Scott Wing, Smithsonian Institute | January 30, 2014
    Human emissions of greenhouse gases will alter conditions on earth for many thousands of years into the future. The past event that best mirrors present-day warming occurred 56 million years ago and is called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM. Dr. Wing will talk about the PETM, explaining what we know about its causes, and what we have learned about its effects on ecosystems in North America and elsewhere. The lessons of deep time have ever more relevance as we rapidly mold our planet in the ongoing geological epoch some call the Anthropocene, or Age of Humans.
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7 Billion and You Lecture and Discussion Series (January - March 2013)

This series of free public lectures and discussions explores the patterns, processes and prognosis for a planet housing 7 billion humans and counting.

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  • YOU and the Seven Billion | March 14, 2013
    What next?

    Informed decisions come from informed discussions; thinking globally begins at the local level. In a moderated final session, audience members will discuss whether the the things they've heard about human population in the last five sessions add up to a need for action. Does the increasing number of humans really represent a problem? If it does, what can be done about it?

    Moderated by Don White, Interdisciplinary Studies, SFU

    Lite refreshment will be served.
  • Resources and the Seven Billion - Presented by Dr. William Rees, Professor Emeritus, Population Ecology, University of British Columbia | March 7, 2013
    Can the world really support the future population?

    Human demand seems to be outstripping supply, a phenomenon driven by both numbers and lifestyle. Can the world community attend to the three billion people who live in poverty, meet the needs of an additional 2.5 billion expected by 2050, and also reduce total energy and material consumption below current levels?
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  • The Economics of the Seven Billion - Presented by Dr. Nicolas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC | February 28, 2013
    How can health and wealth be expanding as populations grow?

    Population levels have nearly quadrupled over the 20th century, but most of us are actually living longer, healthier and wealthier lives. Food production is still outstripping global need. Is it possible we are misreading the situation? Regardless, can voluntary family planning programs have any real impact? What is the effective role of parental choice?
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  • Ethics and the Seven Billion - Presented by Dr. Christine Overall, Professor of Philosophy, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario | February 21, 2013
    What major ethical issues must we confront?

    Living among seven billion human beings generates significant ethical questions for all of us. We need to think about our procreative responsibilities and rights, and our duties to the other living beings on the planet. Do we have individual responsibilities to limit our reproduction? Does society have the right to place legal or social barriers to procreation by its citizens? What is the ethical significance of increases in human longevity?
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  • Drivers of the Seven Billion - Presented by Dr. Shripad Tuljapurkar, Professor of Biology and Population Studies, Stanford University, Stanford, California | January 31, 2013
    What are the genetic and cultural influences on our population trajectory?

    Human wellbeing and population change turn on the relationship between humans and resources. How did that relationship evolve as human hunter-gatherers made the transition to farming, and then to industry? How did demography and resources shape – and respond to – culture? How is this interaction reflected in today’s human genetic diversity? What important lessons does history provide that inform our future choices and decisions on a crowded planet?
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  • Demography of the Seven Billion - Presented by Dr. Warren C. Sanderson, Professor of Economics, Stony Brook University, New York, US | January 24, 2013
    Where is the world population heading - what happens when we get there?

    The world’s population is expected to peak at 9 to 10 billion and then slowly decline. There are multiple questions associated with this march toward population stability: how do we know it will happen, what is its timing and regional variation, how much older will the world’s population get, and what are the implications of this stability for world environmental change?
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A Planet Under Pressure: Citizens and Scientists Taking Action on Global Warming and Other Threats - A Film and Lecture Series (2011 - present)

  • April 12, 2012 - Saving Nemo: The Science of Marine Extinctions - Presented by Dr. N. Dulvy, Biological Sciences, SFU | April 12, 2012
    Fisheries catches are stagnating and the seas are warming, raising questions as to whether we face the end of the oceans as we know them. We have drawn heavily from our oceans to feed millions but have we done irreversible harm to the biodiversity of our seas? Nicholas Dulvy shares the travelogue of his wanders from library archives to remote islands & coasts to share a story of the state of the oceans & the possible future of marine biodiversity.
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  • March 28, 2012 - The Canadian Oil Sands: Economic saviour or environmental disaster? Presented by Dr. David Schindler, University of Alberta | March 28, 2012
    The Alberta oil sands are being promoted by industry and government officials as the solution to North American energy needs for the foreseeable future. The impacts of oil sands development have been downplayed in propaganda promoting the oil sands. In this lecture, Dr. Schindler discuses some of the impacts that have been ignored or misrepresented, such as water quality, fisheries, wetland reclamation, carbon sequestration, and treaties with aboriginal communities.
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  • March 21, 2012 - It's Wrong to Wreck the World: Climate Change and the Moral Obligation to the Future - Presented by Kathleen Dean Moore, Department of Philosophy, Oregon State University | March 21, 2012
    Although climate change is a scientific and technological issue, it is fundamentally a moral issue, and it calls for a moral response. Why has climate-change science elicited such stunning indifference? What calls us to act? How can we respond to the crisis in ways that honor duties of compassion, justice, and respect for human rights? How can we discuss these values across differences? How do we live, when we truly understand that we live in complete dependence on an Earth that is interconnected, interdependent, finite, resilient, and heart-breakingly beautiful?
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  • February 23, 2012 Climate Change and Disease: The Known Knowns, the Known Unknowns & Predictions of the Unknown Unknowns of Vector-Borne Diseases in a Changing World Presented by Dr. Carl Lowenberger, Biological Sciences, SFU | February 23, 2012
    Insects transmit parasites and pathogens to humans and other vertebrates. Malaria, sleeping sickness and Lyme disease are examples of diseases that are transmitted by insect vectors. Dr. Lowenberger will explore how climate change will affect habitat range extension of vectors of disease and other implications. These unknown unknowns are driving the predictions of what will become the reality of disease transmission in the new era.
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  • November 17, 2011 - Can Ecological Restoration Help a Planet Under Pressure? Presented by Dr. Ken Ashley, BCIT | November 17, 2011
    By most metrics the planet is under increasing ecological pressure & is currently experiencing a "6th Great Extinction" of species. What's different this time, is that the species extinctions are not caused by natural causes, but by the cumulative ecological footprint of 7 billion humans and their associated technologies. This lecture examines the emerging field of ecological restoration as a way of addressing pressured ecosystems.
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  • September 22 - THE COVE and the Connection to Canada - A free screening and discussion | September 22, 2011
    A special screening of the 2009 Academy Award winning documentary, THE COVE, with an introduction and discussion by Leah Lemieux, author of "Rekindling The Waters: The Truth About Swimming with Dolphins". THE COVE uncovers horrifying ecological crimes happening worldwide. Leah will reveal the connection to Canada.
    To reserve a seat visit www.sfu.ca/reserve
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  • May 12 - Free Public Lecture - Green and Virtual Water Management: An Option for Global Food Security presented by Hans Schreier | May 12, 2011
    According to the UN projections, we need to increase food production by more than 50% over the next 40 years. Since agriculture is already using 70% of available freshwater, it is unlikely that more water will be available for food production. What are the options and how do we address the global water issues for food? One of the most neglected topics in water management is how to shift attention from blue-water cycle to the green-water cycle. This presentation will provide information on virtual water trade and show how green water management can make a significant contribution to global food security.
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  • May 5 - Free Public Lecture - Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming presented by Andrew Weaver | May 5, 2011
    This talk will focus on Andrew Weaver's new book which explains, in clear and accessible language, the phenomenon of global warming, outlines the threat it presents to future generations and offers a path toward solutions to the problem.
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  • Mar 10 How to Boil a Frog - A special film screening | March 10, 2011 (See details)
    This film is a comedic documentary about the consequences of overshoot: too many people using up too little planet. An everyman dad (Jon Cooksey) gives a satirical overview of our global situation, and five surprising ways we can save civilization while making our own lives better.
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Centre for Coastal Science and Management Annual Open House

Each spring the CCSM hosts an open house which showcases some of the current research being done by faculty, students and community partners. The format is brief presentations followed by a poster viewing and reception.

Cadmium in Shellfish from the Pacific Northwest: Status and Health Concerns (2010) *

See project details page.

In an attempt to address possible sources of cadmium to oysters so that oysters could be farmed without concern of high cadmium levels, several research initiatives were undertaken. This invitational workshop established what are the cadmium concentrations and trends of these concentrations in BC shellfish and determined the health risks posed to First Nations from such cadmium concentrations.

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Canada’s Coastal Communities: Building the Future (1995 - 2003) *

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An important part of Canadian society, Coastal communities are often the chief stewards of our oceans and coastlines. Working with coastal residents and others, this project seeks ways to build a better future in the face of uncertainty.

Canada Ocean Lectures (2006 - present) *

See project details page.

The aim of the series is to create awareness of Canada’s vast marine environment and its importance to Canadians.

Changing Currents (2005 - 2007) *

The goal of the Changing Currents Series is to define a course of action for the future sustainability of oceans.

Projects in this series include the inaugural international dialogue, Changing Currents: Charting a Course of Action for the Future of Oceans which took place in Vancouver in 2005 and the Oceans and the Future of Endangered Coastal Communities workshop which took place in Change Islands, Newfoundland in 2006.

Climate Change (2004 to 2007) *

See project details page.

The recent media attention on climate change has left the public grappling with how to understand and address the potentially devastating impacts. In response to this, and to help build understanding of the complexities, Continuing Studies in Science will host a series lectures that will feature multidisciplinary and internationally renowned speakers who will approach the topic from a variety of perspectives.

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Darwin and You Lecture Series (2009)

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In commemoration the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, SFU and UBC hosted a public lecture series with a novel twist on the great man's contributions. Pod casts and abstracts are available.

  • Darwin and your beliefs | March 5, 2009
    Dr. Ara Norenzayan
    Evolution and religion have been at loggerheads for 150 years. But can Darwin's theory offer a scientific explanation for the nature and origins of religious belief itself? UBC psychologist Dr. Ara Norenzayan suggests that this is possible, and will present recent and fascinating evidence from the cognitive and social sciences that offers the spectre of a new natural science of religion.
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  • Darwin and your sex life | February 26, 2009
    Dr. Elizabeth Elle
    Not many of us spend time thinking about how and where Charles Darwin fits into our sex lives. But in fact the good gentleman's ideas have a lot more to do with sex than most of us realize. How much can we learn about our own sexual nature from the study of the evolution of sex in other organisms? Join Dr. Elizabeth Elle, Associate Professor in SFU's Department of Biological Sciences, for a fresh look at the mating game.
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  • Darwin and your brain | February 19, 2009
    Dr. Bernie Crespi
    How has your brain been shaped by recent evolution? Can an evolutionary perspective shed light on consciousness, madness, and genius? Dr. Crespi is University Professor of Evolutionary Biology at SFU, and he will present his recently-published, provocative theories, supported by the latest human genome data, on how evolution has made our brains and how our brains have made us who we are.
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  • Darwin and your past | February 12, 2009
    Dr. Mark Collard
    Perhaps one of the most intriguing topics in Biology is the evolution of our own species. So what evolutionary changes have brought us to where we are today? Join Dr. Mark Collard, SFU Professor and Canada Research Chair in Human Evolutionary Studies, for an interdisciplinary look back at our own pre-history.
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  • Darwin and your health | February 5, 2009
    Dr. Leticia Avilés
    Why do we age, suffer from allergies, or develop cancer? Why are we burdened with genetic diseases? Dr. Leticia Avilés, Associate Professor of Zoology at UBC, believes we can use Darwin's theory of evolution to make us healthier. Her talk will consider how basic evolutionary principles can provide insights into human disease and treatment.
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  • Darwin and his times | January 29, 2009
    Dr. John Beatty and Dr. Greg Bole
    There is no doubt that Charles Darwin was one of the most brilliant thinkers in modern history, but few of us know much about him. Who was the man behind the greatest contribution to the field of biology? In the first of this six part seminar series, UBC Philosophy Professor John Beatty, and Dr. Greg Bole of UBC's Zoology Department will present us with a realistic look at Darwin's life and times.
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Food of the Future (2001 - 2007)

See project details page.

Linking Science and Local Knowledge (2000-2006)

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Offshore Oil and Gas (May 17 – 18, 2000)

See project details page.

Downturns in the Province's fishing and forestry industries have left BC coastal communities searching for economic alternatives that will ensure their survival. One such alternative is the development of offshore oil and gas reserves. While some are urging government to lift the moratorium on exploration drilling, others maintain that the risks to an already threatened fishery and marine ecosystem remain too great and the socio-economic benefits too uncertain. This forum has been designed for participation by key stakeholders including communities, industry, research institutions, industry, labour, environmental and other non-government organizations, along with all levels of government.

Policy Directions for Coastal Tourism (December 5 – 7, 2002)

See project details page.

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Renewable Energy Dialogues (2009 - present) *

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Rural Communities Adapting to Uncertain Futures (2006 - 2008) *

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Sea Lice & Wild Salmon

Selective Fisheries (1999-2002)

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Speaking for the Salmon (1998 - present) *

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This series examines issues that impact the survival of wild salmon in British Columbia.

Speaking of Science Public Lectures (1998 - present)

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This series of free public lectures highlights exciting research in a variety of fields.

Water (2002 - 2006)

See project details page.

* In collaboration with the Centre for Coastal Studies;
** Solely managed by the Centre for Coastal Studies

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January 30, 2014
Global Warming 56 Million Years Ago & What it Means for Us, Presented by Dr. Scott Wing, Smithsonian Institute

February 6, 2014
Global Biodiversity and Climate: What Fossil Insects Tell Us, Presented by Dr. Bruce Archibald, Simon Fraser University

February 13, 2014
A Long View of Fire, Climate, and People: Perspectives From the Paleoecological Record, Presented by Dr. Cathy Whitlock, Montana State University

February 20, 2014
The Human Footprint in the Pacific Northwest: From the Deep Past to the Present, Presented by Dr. Rolf Mathewes, Simon Fraser University

February 27, 2014
Magnitude 9 - How We Learned that the Largest Earthquakes on Earth Happen on Our Coast, Presented by Dr. John Clague, Simon Fraser University

March 6, 2014
What if Extinction is NOT Forever? A Molecular Paleontologist's View of De-Extinction, Presented by Dr. Beth Shapiro, University of California, Santa Cruz

March 13, 2014
Maintaining Humanity's Life Support Systems in the 21st Century, Presented by Dr. Anthony Barnosky, University of California, Berkeley

Speaking for the Salmon
Centre for Coastal Studies