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Meeting Summaries – 2009-2010

5 October 2009

Feel the force: Mechanoreceptors and Mechanoreception in Spiders

Ulli Hoeger, Department of Physiology & Biophysics, Dalhousie University

The ability to feel touch, movement, acceleration, pressure and other mechanical forces is one of the oldest and most vital sensory capabilities of organisms. Yet we know very little about its fundamental mechanisms of mechanoreception. Other senses like smell and taste, or vision are understood down to the molecular level. A spider, an arthropod clad in a rigid exoskeleton, faces the challenge to perceive environmental mechanical stimuli. To overcome the sensitivity limitations, imposed by hard shelled body armour, spiders and their kin evolved an arsenal of efficient and highly sensitive mechanoreceptors on their exoskeletons. The presentation will focus on the diversity of spider exoskeletal mechanoreceptors, discussing the anatomy, morphology, role, and functional significance of hair- and hole- type sensilla found on the animal’s body surface and will emphasize the lyriform organ VS-3 and its role in recent and current research conducted here in Nova Scotia.

2 November 2009

The Mathematics Behind the Music

Jason Brown, Faculty of Computer Science, Dalhousie University

Mathematics and music are a match made in heaven. The ancient Greeks elevated both to the same level, and even the most unschooled rock musician uses more mathematics than he or she realizes. Dr. Brown will survey some of the most interesting relationships, including:
• trigonometric identities and tunings
• small fractions and musical intervals
• circular seating arrangements, scales and rhythm guitar
• derivation of the blues and graph colourings
• the musical art of being ambiguous (or not)
• musical and mathematical transformations
Dr. Brown will end off the talk with a discussion of the application of mathematics as carried out on some musical mysteries surrounding The Beatles.

18 November 2009

The First Circumnavigation of the Americas – A Personal Account
(A Special Lecture to mark the Hudson 70 Anniversary)

Speaker: Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics, Cambridge University, UK

“Hudson 70” was a year-long oceanographic expedition carried out by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in1969-1970.This week marks the 40th anniversary of CSS Hudson’s departure from Dartmouth, N. S. The expedition was both the first, and only, circumnavigation of the Americas and the last of the big multidisciplinary global oceanographic expeditions that established our basic knowledge of ocean structure, water masses and currents.

“Hudson 70” made discoveries in many spheres and many areas of the world, namely the first survey of the Chilean fjords; the first direct measurements of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current; and a host of geosciences discoveries in northern waters, including the structure of Baffin Bay, the existence of ice scouring along the Beaufort Sea coast, and the plate structure of the North Pacific.

As a junior scientific assistant Dr. Wadhams was privileged to stay on the vessel for the entire voyage. In this talk Dr. Wadhams will cover the story of the voyage from this personal viewpoint, and try to show why we should be celebrating “Hudson 70” as a great contribution by Canada to the science of the oceans.
7 December 2009

Is the Forest Moving North? Consequences for Northern Communities

Speaker: Karen Harper, School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University

The arctic treeline, a prominent biogeographical boundary, may be shifting due to climate change thus affecting both regional biodiversity and northern communities. A large research project sought to investigate the causes and consequences of climate change on treeline at over a dozen locations in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Manitoba, northern Quebec and Labrador. Yes, the forest is moving north, although not everywhere and not always following the same pattern. Although there may be common processes involved in the establishment of new trees at treeline, local factors are very important. Changes in tree density in these areas are undoubtedly impacting northern ecosystems and communities.


4 January 2010

Land protection in Nova Scotia – How do we get to 12%?

Panel discussion – Scotia Bank Conference Theatre, Sobey Building, Saint Mary’s University

Presentations by:
• David MacKinnon – Protected Areas Branch, Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour
• Andrea Doucette – Forest Sustainability, NewPage Port Hawkesbury Ltd.
• Dennis Garratt, Conservation Manager, Nova Scotia Nature Trust
• Albert Marshall, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources


1 February 2010

Perspectives and Outlook for Bioenergy: from Fossil Fuels to Holy Grails

Speaker: Patrick McGinn, National Research Council, Institute of Marine Biosciences, Halifax

There is now overwhelming evidence that the combustion of fossil fuels and the associated release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is responsible for the warming our planet is currently experiencing. The short- and longer-term effects of a rapidly warming planet on such things as biodiversity, weather patterns and climate are difficult to predict but will undoubtedly be significant and potentially catastrophic. There is a growing realization that our dependence on petroleum is not environmentally sustainable and that alternative energies strategies must be developed to displace, if not entirely replace, fossil fuels. There is currently growing interest, in Canada and elsewhere, in the development of plant biomass as a source of energy, particular as a feedstock for the production of liquid transportation fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Other forms of biomass are also being considered as energy feedstocks, notably microalgae and seaweeds. This talk will set out to describe recent research developments in the exploitation of plant and algal biomass as potential future energy sources.


1 March 2010

Greenhouse effect and ozone depletion-monitoring: trace gas-detection by spectroscopic techniques

Speaker: Karine Le Bris, Department of Physics, St. Francis Xavier University

Anthropogenic trace gases have a great influence on the chemistry and radiative balance of the atmosphere. Substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons, are known for damaging the ozone layer. Enhanced emissions of greenhouse gases may now be leading to a global warming of the Earth’s climate. Reliable modeling of climate change and stratospheric ozone monitoring can only come from an accurate knowledge of the composition of the atmosphere. Over the last 20 years, an unprecedented number of satellite, balloon and ground-based measurement programs have been developed to sound the atmosphere using optical spectroscopy. The presentation will provide an overview of the current optical techniques of trace gas detection as well as an introduction to new techniques under development.


Monday, 5 April 2010

Conservation Genetics and Blanding’s turtle in Nova Scotia

Speaker: Steve Mockford, Centre for Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Acadia University

The field of Conservation Genetics has a brief history. This history has been defined by rapid developments in DNA technology, advances in computer technology, and the development of new statistical techniques for analysis of the data that can now be generated. It has also been defined by increasing recognition of the role that genetics can play in helping to understand how species are distributed, the historical processes that underlie that distribution, and how this affects conservation and recovery. Within this brief historical context I will explore work done in Nova Scotia on the Conservation Genetics of Blanding’s turtle and how it has contributed to the management and recovery of this charismatic reptile.

3 May 2010

Annual Dinner and General Meeting
After Dinner Speaker: Sonya Dehler: Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada
Title: Using Large Earthquakes to Study Local Geology