Seminars

Day-long seminars address topics at the intersection of science and society.

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Climate Change in Northern Latitudes

Revealing the Universe

Unlocking Biology's Potential

 

Climate Change in Northern Latitudes

In the Northern regions, the melting of Arctic ice is just the tip of the iceberg. The consequences of global warming could have worse effects than suspected. This frozen region “hides” 1,700 billion tons of organic carbon, the melting of which could accelerate warming. This seminar also spells out the various contributors to relative sea-level changes in the Northeast Pacific, examines likely adaptations, and demonstrates how climate change influences forests and the way they are managed.

Northern Soils: What if They Thaw?

Public perception is focused on the melting of arctic ice as one of the indicators for climate change. However, 1,700 billion tons of organic carbon are kept in the soils of regions above the latitude of 50° N, representing 16 percent of global land surface. Organic carbon in soils is the biggest terrestrial carbon pool and presents an important factor in future climate change projections. Permanently frozen grounds, together with extensive peat lands, ensure that those soils are a significant carbon sink. Thawing could lead to substantial release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and an increase in global warming. Other consequences include the disruption of infrastructure and urban areas from the thawing of the underlying permafrost. Researchers aim to address these topics through extensive monitoring of the status of these soils as well as through modeling of possible scenarios affecting this part of the globe.

Organized by Luca Montanarella and Geraldine Barry, European Commission, Joint Research Center (JRC)

SPEAKERS

    Luca Montanarella, JRC Institute for Environment and Sustainability
    What Lies Beneath the Soils of the Northern Circumpolar Region?

    Charles Tarnocai, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    Soil Organic Carbon Pools in the Northern Circumpolar Region

    Charles Koven, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Frozen Soil Carbon and Its Impact on Climate Change

Causes and Effects of Relative Sea-Level Changes in the Northeast Pacific

How will the Northeast Pacific be affected by relative sea-level changes during the 21st century and beyond? In part the effects will depend on causes, both global and regional. The familiar global list includes interactions among the solid Earth, atmosphere, oceans, and cryosphere in response to orbital and anthropogenic climate forcing. Regional variations on these themes include earthquake-induced subsidence as large as 1.5 meters, as happened during the great subduction-zone earthquakes that struck Cascadia in 1700 and Alaska in 1964, and localized effects of glacial isostasy, sediment loading, and groundwater overdraft. But the effects will also depend on ecological and human adaptations. This session first reviews the various contributors to relative sea-level changes in the Northeast Pacific, and then examines likely adaptations with an emphasis on shores in British Columbia.

Organized by Brian F. Atwater, U.S. Geological Survey, Seattle; C.K. Shum, Ohio State University; Ester Sztein, U.S. National Academies

SPEAKERS

    John J. Clague, Simon Fraser University
    Impacts of Rising Seas on the British Columbia Coast in the 21st Century

    Denise J. Reed, University of New Orleans
    Surviving Sea-Level Rise: What Can Be Done To Maintain Viable Coastal Wetlands?

    David Flanders, University of British Columbia
    Flood Adaptation Near Vancouver: A Regional Adaptation Collaborative

DISCUSSANTS

    Margaret Davidson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Philip R. Hill, Geological Survey of Canada

Forest Fires in Canada: Impacts of Climate Change and Fire Smoke

Canada is a country that is defined by its forests. It is a nation for which the social, economic, and ecological importance of its forests cannot be overstated. This session brings together a team of researchers who have a demonstrated track record of interdisciplinary collaboration to discuss climate change impacts on the risk of forest fires, challenging problems in fire management and health effects, and the analysis of local fire history using paleontological and statistical methods.

Organized by Charmaine Dean, Simon Fraser University

SPEAKERS

    Mike Brauer, The University of British Columbia
    Fires, Smoke, and Health: Impacts and Prevention

    Fay Johnston, University of Tasmania
    The Estimated Global Mortality Burden Attributable to Landscape Fire Smoke

    Mike Flannigan, Natural Resources Canada
    Global Fire and Climate Change

    Francis Zwiers, University of Victoria
    Has There Been a Human Effect on Surface Air Temperature Extremes Regionally?

    Richard Routledge, Simon Fraser University
    Fire History in Ponderosa Pine Grasslands: Lessons from the Past

    Douglas Woolford, Wilfrid Laurier University
    Detecting Temporal Changes in the Seasonality of Forest Fire Risk in Canada

Revealing the Universe

Space missions are typically multi-national because of their expense, and the expertise required pursuing them often spans nations. These collaborations cause a flattening of the science of astronomy through the creation of the observatory, by opening the time allocation of the observatory to the whole world of astronomers through competitive proposals and the resulting public data bases of observations.

The Life Cycle of Matter in Galaxies: Results from the Herschel Space Observatory

The panel will describe some of the exciting results from the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency led mission with significant collaboration from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, that touch on all aspects of the life cycle of matter in galaxies. It has the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope, and will collect long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the universe. In addition, Herschel is the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimeter. The mission is designed to study the formation of galaxies in the early universe and their subsequent evolution; investigate the creation of stars and their interaction with the interstellar medium; observe the chemical composition of the atmospheres and surfaces of comets, planets and satellites; and examine the molecular chemistry of the Universe

Organized by Margaret Meixner, Space Telescope Science Institute

SPEAKERS

    Paul Goldsmith, Jet Propulsion Lab
    The Herschel Space Observatory: An International Astronomical Submillimeter Observatory

    David A. Neufeld, Johns Hopkins University
    Results on the Astrochemistry of the Interstellar Medium

    Peter G. Martin, University of Toronto
    Herschel's Insights on Star Formation in the Milky Way: Cold, Dusty Beginnings

    Christoffel Waelkens, Instituut voor Sterrenkunde
    The Mass Loss Return from Stars to the Interstellar Medium

    Christine Wilson, McMaster University
    Dust, Gas, and Star Formation in Nearby Galaxies: New Results

    Asantha R. Cooray, University of California, Irvine
    Dust, Gas, and Stars: Astrophysics of Matter in High-Redshift Galaxies

The Fermi Gamma Ray Mission: Transforming Our View of the High-Energy Universe

Since launch in 2008, NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Mission has made major findings on the nature of the high-energy sky. Fermi's Large Area Telescope surveys the entire sky every 3 hours and has discovered more than a thousand new sources of gamma-rays. These include detections of hundreds of active galaxies, providing fresh insight into how supermassive black holes can accelerate jets of particles moving close to the speed of light. Fermi has found scores of new gamma-ray emitting pulsars, a huge leap on the six known prior to launch. The gamma-ray sky is constantly changing. The panel will discuss the implications of these observations and report on the latest exciting new results.

Organized by Saeqa Dil Vrtilek, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Julie McEnery and Neil Gehrels, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

SPEAKERS

    Julie McEnery, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
    The Fermi Mission and the High-Energy Gamma-Ray Sky

    David Smith, Observatoire de Bordeaux
    Pulsars

    Peter Meszaros, Pennsylvania State University
    Gamma-Ray Bursters

    Alan Marscher, Boston University
    Gamma Ray Blazars: Jets from Super Massive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei

    Luca Latronico, Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
    The Spectrum of Cosmic Ray Electrons and Positrons

Unlocking Biology's Potential

These sessions address timely topics of deep impact, permeating almost every aspect of global development, including natural processes that affect food, water, energy, the environment, and human health.

Predictive Medicine

The historical pattern of medicine has been responsive; symptoms appear and then they are treated. Recent scientific and technical advances, however, open the prospect of predictive medicine, in which the appearance of disease in an individual or region is foretold and prepared for or even prevented. Advances in biological sciences support lifelong, detailed monitoring of body chemistry, with an eye to early detection of changes. In vitro cell biology and physiological measurements provide unprecedented insight into the condition of individual humans and the levels of environmental stressors. Web queries have famously been used for early detection of the arrival of flu in a city. Finally, on the largest scale, satellite imaging can support predictions of the impending outbreak of vector-borne diseases in entire regions.

Organized by Richard C. Willson, University of Houston; Russell Lefevre, IEEE-USA

SPEAKERS

    Larry Gold, University of Colorado and Somalogic
    Unlocking Biomarker Discovery

    David Ewing Duncan, University of California, Berkeley
    The Experimental Man

    John Haynes, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
    NASA's Use of Remote Sensing To Enable Predictive Health

Can Proteomics Fill the Gap Between the Genome and Phenotypes?

This session focuses on the unexpected, the mislocalized, and the misunderstood proteins in proteomics. By considering how proteolytic processing, splicing, non-conventional trafficking, and protein-protein interactions lead to new and unexpected roles for protein systems then the proteomics of tomorrow in the Human Proteome Project today can fill the gap between genomics and phenotypes. Panelists highlight how information is generated in a system that as yet cannot be predicted from the genetic code, protein sequence, or expression data.

Organized by Christopher Mark Overall, University of British Columbia; Gilbert S. Omenn, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

SPEAKERS

    Christopher Mark Overall, University of British Columbia
    Travelling to the Ends of the Proteome World with Terminomics and Degradomics

    Andrew Emili, University of Toronto
    A Hidden Connection Is Stronger than an Obvious Connection in the Proteome World

    Pascale Gaudet, Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
    The Next Big Thing: Bringing the Human Proteome Project to the World

Seeing Biosphere's Dark Matter: Genomic Methods on Unculturable Microbial Diversity

A decline in biodiversity poses dramatic consequences to almost every aspect of human development, either directly or indirectly, from food supply to global health, from climate change to the economy. Our ability to respond to these threats depends on efficient and thorough exploration, classification, and interpretation of biodiversity. Some components of the biosphere are visible to the eye, such as plants and animals, and have obvious importance. But microorganisms, the invisible majority of living forms on planet Earth, play critical roles in regulating global-scale processes and driving essential nutrient cycles that support all life forms. This session will illustrate the challenges of exploring microbial diversity in natural habitats such as the open oceans, deep into the ground, or inside our own bodies.

Organized by Claudio Slamovits, Dalhousie University; Patrick J. Keeling, University of British Columbia

SPEAKERS

    Alexandra Z. Worden, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
    Activity, Diversity, and Genetic Make-Up of Wild Marine Photosynthetic Eukaryotes

    Patrick J. Keeling, University of British Columbia
    Bringing Molecular and Genomic Data to the Uncultivable Masses

    Forest Rohwer, San Diego State University
    The Human Virome

Delivering on the Promise of the Human Genome Project

During the 11 years since its completion, the human genome project induced many advances in science and medicine, ranging from deeper understanding of disease development and progression, to expanding bioinformatic and diagnostic tools, to development of novel therapeutics for cancer, metabolic disorders, and other ailments. A direct application of the vastly expanded genetic information is the development of siRNAs and microRNAs as targeted therapeutics for cancers, skin disorders, and other disorders. These readily synthesized and specific modulators of messenger RNA expression have huge potential for selective and specific treatment. However, the complications of delivering these biologicals to the cytoplasm of target cells stand in the way of harvesting the therapeutic fruits of the human genome project. This session will examine the problems encountered by academia and the pharmaceutical industry and discuss cutting-edge and current efforts to circumvent these barriers.

Organized by William T. Beck, University of Illinois, Chicago; M. Guill Wientjes, Ohio State University

SPEAKERS

    Daniel D. von Hoff, Translational Genomics Research Institute
    The Human Genome Project 11 Years Later: New Medical Treatments for Humanity

    Anil K. Sood, MD Anderson Cancer Center
    Small Interfering RNA, Promises for Treatment, Problems in Delivery

    Patrick S. Stayton, University of Washington
    siRNA Delivery Through Advances in Polymer Carriers and Nanotechnology