media release

Chemistry and ecology intersect at ChemEcol Quest

July 14, 2011

Sophie Lavieri, chemistry, 778.782.3537,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,

The Simon Fraser University Faculty of Science’s ever-popular free public quest- for-science shows are about to take a chemical ecological and climate change twist.

To celebrate 2011’s designation as the International Year of Chemistry, Science in Action and the International Society of Chemical Ecology have teamed up to present ChemEcol Quest on Sunday, July 24. It all happens in labs and theatres at the SFU Burnaby campus’ North Academic Quadrangle.

Everyone is invited to free interactive demonstrations, presentations and games from 1 to 4:30 p.m. but must register at

A lecture by Jeremy McNeil, a University of Western Ontario biology professor, at 5 p.m. will top off the daylong (1 to 6 p.m.) extravaganza of activities.

McNeil’s research seeks to understand the reproductive strategies of insects that migrate in response to either predictable or unpredictable habitat change.

On his website he says: “I am also interested in different aspects of plant-insect and host-parasitoid interactions that involve chemical cues (infochemicals). I have generally chosen to work on pest species, or their natural enemies, as model research systems. This allows us to not only address basic questions in reproductive biology but also to generate data that may be used in the development of more environmentally rational approaches to insect control.”

The day’s busy bee schedule of events before the lecture includes:

  • How bees communicate with pheromones (scents and tastes) inside and out of their hive.
  • Demos with live bees and the queen retinue pheromone.
  • Forest pests (such as mountain pine beetle) and the pheromones these insects use.
  • Why the mountain pine beetle infestation in B.C. is so extensive and spreading.
  • Expert chemical ecologists talking about research and benign ways to monitor and control various pest organisms.
  • A tour of SFU’s newly renovated chemistry department.
  • Using natural dyes, extracted from plants, to find out how acidic (or basic) common household items are.
  • Building models of pheromones and other interesting molecules.
  • Learning about the chemical senses (taste and smell).

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