The old adage that the solution to pollution is dilution still holds true today. Thousands of chemicals are released into the environment, deliberately or accidentally, by humans, and many are found in measurable levels in water, air, land, wildlife and people. Because of unprecedented human population growth, environmental pollution is expected to increase, and the contributions of chemical pollution to wildlife declines is a grave concern. Taking Pacific salmonids as our starting point, we’ll discuss the major classes of chemical contaminants attracting attention around the world, and look at progressive solutions that may help combat pollution.
Spring lecture series
In what practical ways can ancient, microscopic fossils help us? What can we do as bacteria become resistant to the very antibiotics that revolutionized the medical world? What exactly are liquid crystals and how many uses do they have? What can salmon tell us about chemical pollution and how to decrease it? Join us to consider some fascinating questions about science at work in our world.
Rise of the Superbugs
The evolution of drug-resistant germs, bacteria in particular, has pushed us to the brink of a relapse into the pre-antibiotic era. Before the widespread use of penicillin in the 1940s, easily curable infections were often deadly. However, in recent decades, many disease-causing microbes have developed resistance to penicillin and other antibiotics. The most frightening are bacteria that are now resistant to most or all of the drugs in our medical arsenal. You’ll learn about causes of antibiotic resistance (using the examples of MRSA, C. difficile and M. tuberculosis), explore the impacts of drug resistance and consider key actions you can take to combat the rise of superbugs.
Strange Matter: The Story of Liquid Crystals
The term “liquid crystal” seems like an oxymoron. We are told from an early age that the world can be divided into solids, liquids and gases. In our everyday experience, we encounter crystalline materials such as salt, sugar and gemstones, all of which are very obviously solids. So how can crystals also be liquids? As we’ll see, liquid crystals not only exist, but they are common and extremely useful. We will examine the weird world of liquid crystals, and discuss how they appear in places that range from soap bubbles to mood rings, from video displays to water purification systems.
Micro-Paleontology: From Academic Science to Industrial Application
What do human evolution, the petroleum industry, ancient civilizations and the climate crisis have in common? Just as Sherlock Holmes used forensic data to solve crimes, so micro-paleontologists use minute fossil evidence to unravel mysteries in areas of academic and economic endeavour. We’ll learn how microscopic life forms evolved. We’ll see how they were preserved amid tectonic processes. And we’ll examine how micro-paleontology is applied in areas such as paleo diets, the discovery of new fossil fuel deposits and food crop production. If you like playing detective, you’re invited to probe the microscopic evidence for or against the claims made in some current controversies.
How will I learn?
- Discussion (may vary from class to class)
- Audio and/or video clips
Textbooks and learning materials
Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class.