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Meeting Summaries – 2008-2009

6 October 2008

Life after 60 – Is dementia or Alzheimer’s inevitable?

Kenneth Rockwood, Kathryn Allen Weldon Chair in Alzheimer Research, Department of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Staff Physician, QE II Health Sciences Centre

For many years, Alzheimer.s disease was seen as an inevitable part of ageing: indeed the term .senility., which simply means .old age., was the word by which it was most commonly known. For forty years, however, the medical community has recognized it as a separate illness. Even though it increases exponentially with age, it is still possible to find people as old as 100 years or older whose minds are still sharp. This is not to say that the minds of 100 year olds operate with the same efficiency of 20 year olds, or even 50 year olds. So what makes for the “normal” changes of ageing? Can we do anything about them? Can we do anything to prevent Alzheimer.s disease? To treat it once it is present? How much is this likely to change in the next 10 years? With so many older people expected in the next 30 years, will we be awash in dementia?


3 November 2008

Hot Spots of Life in the Deep Sea

Anna Metaxas, Dalhousie University

The discovery of hydrothermal vents in 1977 brought excitement to the scientific community and captured the imagination of the public. These environments harboured dense communities of organisms that no one had seen before, in the midst of the sparsely-populated, nutritionally-impoverished deep sea. Physiological adaptations allowed these organisms to handle some unique challenges in their environment. For example, vent organisms of all developmental stages must be able to tolerate high (and in some cases toxic), but also fluctuating, temperatures, H2S and metal concentrations. A diverse range of biological and chemical cues must be sampled and selected by successful colonists. Recruitment to the populations varies over space and time in response to the chemical environment and biological interactions. The lifetime of individual hydrothermal vents is in the order of decades, and catastrophic underwater volcanic eruptions can completely destroy the communities that live there. Because of the ephemeral nature and patchy distribution of these habitats, the colonization of newly opened vents, as well as the maintenance of established populations must occur simultaneously. In this talk, I will be discussing some of the challenges that organisms at hydrothermal vents face and the ways in which they cope with them. I will be drawing examples from studies done throughout the Pacific Ocean.


1 December 2008

Life history and social ecology of Nova Scotian bats

Speaker: Hugh Broders, Saint Mary’s University

As the only mammals capable of true flight, bats are a fascinating group. In Nova Scotia there are 3 species with significant populations, and a few others that are irregularly recorded here. These irregulars likely represent vagrant individuals finding their way to Nova Scotia during the fall migration period. Of the resident populations the northern long-eared and little brown bats are found throughout the province, whereas eastern pipistrelle bats appear to be restricted to SW Nova Scotia. Northern long-eared bat and eastern pipistrelle bats tend to be strongly associated with forested areas and little brown bats tend to be less restricted in distribution. Each species is highly social and spends 7- 9 months of the year hibernating in caves and mines. Regardless of all that we have learned about these species over the last few decades there is still a lot of fascinating aspects of their life history yet to be unraveled. In the last couple of years a major threat to the conservation of bat populations has arisen. In the northeastern United States large percentages of bat populations are dying by a condition known as white-nose syndrome. Although the condition has not yet been fully characterized it is almost certainly related to a fungus growing on the animals when they are hibernating. Although it is not possible to confidently predict the implications of this condition to local populations, it is very possible that the consequences will be dire.


Winter 2009

5 January 2009


Uranium and gold extraction — Can it be done safely in Nova Scotia?

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Scotia Bank Conference Theatre, Sobey building, Saint Mary’s University
Panel Discussion


Panel Disussion:  Uranium and gold extraction:
Can it be done safely in Nova Scotia?

  • Marcos Zentilli
    Dalhousie University
  • Michael Parsons
    Natural Resources Canada
  • Paul Smith
    Acadian Mining
  • Marc Lamoureux
    Saint Mary’s University

  • David Richardson
    Saint Mary’s University and President of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science


2 February 2009

How to be a good eye-witness – memory and crime

Speaker: Veronica Stinson, Saint Mary’s University

Science has made great strides in understanding the psychological factors associated with memory, including eyewitness memory. Researchers focusing specifically on eyewitness memory for events such as crimes or vehicular accidents have identified numerous factors that influence what we attend to, what we remember, how much we remember, and how these memories can become tainted. This presentation will discuss the psychological factors involved in eyewitness memory within the context of crimes and accidents. The psychological factors involved in memory acquisition, storage, and retrieval will be discussed. Which factors threaten the amount and accuracy of eyewitness reports? Which factors enhance memory? The presentation will conclude with some evidence-based strategies that should minimize memory distortions and forgetting in these contexts.


2 March 2009

Research at the top of the world – the changing climate and the International Polar Year

Speaker: Glen Lesins, Dalhousie University

With the ongoing International Polar Year, and with recognition of the potential impacts of global warming on the Arctic, much of the geoscientific world is focused on the polar regions. Canada is mounting an ambitious research effort to understand the physical processes associated with climate change at Eureka on Ellesmere Island. I will present a brief overview of the science behind global warming, why the Arctic is particularly vulnerable, and describe some of the new instrumentation that is currently measuring the atmosphere from Eureka.


6 April 2009

To be a bee or not to be – threats to pollinators and consequences in Nova Scotia

Speaker: Richard E.L. “Dick” Rogers, Wildwood Labs Inc, Kentville, NS

Pollinators have received a great deal of attention over the past decade or more because of what appears to be declining abundance and diversity of insects and animals that pollinate wild and cultivated plants. Most recently, the increased mortality of honey bee colonies has grabbed the attention of the media, politicians, scientists, and the public. Since honey bees are the most important managed pollinators, the apparent devastation they are suffering is a real concern. Since 2001 Mr. Rogers has been investigating the threats to honey bee health and he will present a brief overview of the history of bee losses, describe many of the factors that are currently affecting honey bees, describe a few of the ways we can help the bees, and provide a pollination prediction for Nova Scotia.


4 May 2009

Annual Dinner and General Meeting

Location: University Club, Dalhousie University
After Dinner Speaker: Brian Hall: Department of Biology, Dalhousie University
Title:What Charles Darwin was doing on the 4th of May