Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

New research has determined the global population for people living in high-altitude, like this village in Namche Bazaar, Nepal is more than 500 million. (photo courtesy of Alex Hansen)

New research has determined the global population for people living in high-altitude, like this village in Namche Bazaar, Nepal is more than 500 million. (photo courtesy of Alex Hansen)

Knowing how many people live and thrive at high altitude key for researchers

New findings detailing the world’s first-of-its-kind estimate of how many people live in high-altitude regions, will provide insight into future research of human physiology.

Dr. Joshua Tremblay, a postdoctoral fellow in UBC Okanagan's School of Health and Exercise Sciences, has released updated population estimates of how many people in the world live at a high altitude.

Historically the estimated number of people living at these elevations has varied widely. That’s partially, he explains, because the definition of “high altitude” does not have a fixed cut-off.

Using novel techniques, Dr. Tremblay’s publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms there are about 81.6 million people who live 2,500 metres above sea level. From a physiological perspective, researchers typically use 2,500 metres as an altitude benchmark for their work.

Dr. Trembly says an important part of his study was presenting population data at 500-metre intervals. And while he says the 81 million is a staggering number, it is also important to note that by going to 1,500 metres that number jumps to more than 500 million.

“To understand the impact of life at high altitude on human physiology, adaption, health and disease, it is imperative to know how many people live at high altitude and where they live,” says Dr. Tremblay.

Dr. Joshua Tremblay conducts research at the Everest Pyramid Laboratory which is at an altitude of about 5,050 metres.

Dr. Joshua Tremblay conducts research at the Everest Pyramid Laboratory which is at an altitude of about 5,050 metres.

Earlier research relied on calculating percentages of inconsistent population data and specific country-level data that has been unavailable. To address this, Dr. Tremblay combined geo-referenced population and elevation data to create global and country-level estimates of humans living at high altitude.

"The majority of high-altitude research is based upon lowlanders from western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic countries who ascend to high altitude to conduct their research,” says Dr. Tremblay. “Yet, there are populations who have successfully lived at high altitudes for thousands of years and who are facing increasing pressures.”

Living at high altitude presents major stressors to human physiology, he explains. For example, low air pressure at high altitude makes it more difficult for oxygen to enter a person’s vascular systems.

“When low-landers travel to high altitudes our bodies develop inefficient physiological responses, which we know as altitude sickness,” he says. “However, the people we studied have acquired the ability to thrive at extremely high altitudes. Their experiences can inform the diagnosis and treatment of disease for all humans, while also helping us understand how to enhance the health and well-being of high-altitude populations.”

With only a fraction of the world’s high-altitude residents being studied, the understanding of the location and size of populations is a critical step towards understanding the differences arising from life at high altitude.

Dr. Tremblay notes it’s not just a case of understanding how these populations have survived for generations, but also how they thrive living in such extreme conditions. Especially as climate change continues to impact, not only the air they breathe, but every aspect of their daily lives.

“We tend to think of climate change as a problem for low-altitude, coastal populations, but melting snow, glaciers and extreme weather events limit water and agriculture resources,” he explains. “High-altitude residents are on the frontlines of climate change. We need to expand this vital research so we can understand the effects of climate change and unavoidable low levels of oxygen on high-altitude populations.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Virtual event brings the world of research to everyone’s living room

UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing, in partnership with the University of Alberta and the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology (IIQM) will host the international Thinking Qualitatively Virtual Conference this summer.

The worldwide virtual summit will bring together some of the world’s brightest thinkers and prolific researchers. The conference will be entirely virtual for 2021 and will be organized around seven regions based on time zones, with world leaders in qualitative research leading each regional program. Established 20 years ago by the International Institute of Qualitative Methodology, the annual conference provides opportunities for researchers to present oral papers, share their knowledge and connect with others in similar fields.

But conference chair Karin Olson, who teaches in the UBCO’s Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, says the event is not just for scientists. In fact, she encourages the general public to tune in and be amazed by the wonders of thinking qualitatively.

Can you explain the term “thinking qualitatively?”

Thinking Qualitatively is the name of the summer school run for the past 20 years by IIQM at the University of Alberta. It has historically been a series of workshops intended to build capacity in qualitative research methods. This year, it is combined with the Qualitative Methods conference normally offered annually by IIQM. As a result, both oral presentations and poster presentations are welcome this year.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research typically uses data from sources such as interviews, observations, reports, organization charts, minutes of meetings, video, photographs, audio and social media rather than numerical data. It addresses questions about how, why, when and to whom things happen. Often qualitative research is conducted when there is limited information about a phenomenon.

Why would members of the public tune in?

Thinking Qualitatively provides an opportunity for people who have not formally studied qualitative research during their university years to build up the skills needed to do quantitative studies. Much like a TedEX event, it also provides opportunities for registrants to hear directly from world leaders in the field through keynotes and workshops.

How has going virtual benefited this year’s Thinking Qualitatively Conference?

One of the major barriers for many of our interested scholars in the past was travel costs and getting visas. It’s been particularly heartbreaking because people have worked for years to try to come to one of these and not been able to get a visa on time. Now, finally, we can have people participate from around the world in a much more affordable and accessible way.

Organizers have also managed to put an unprecedented slate of software training opportunities together on July 9, with four different qualitative software companies instructing on their platforms.

Is there a particular highlight at this year’s conference?

The international committees did an exceptional job lining up some of the biggest names in qualitative research methods, including:

July 5: David Morgan in the morning, Luca Berardi in the afternoon in North America, Maria Cecília Minayo in Latin America

July 6: Marit Kirkevold in Scandinavia and Cecilia Vindrola-Padros in UK and Ireland

July 7: Hadass Goldblatt in Africa and the Middle East, Giampietro Gobo in Continental Europe

July 8: Victoria Palmer, in the morning and Anna Cohen Miller in Australia, New Zealand and Asia that afternoon.

In addition, workshop instructors include a slate of training opportunities. There are workshops daily during the conference and on July 9 there is a showcase of different qualitative research software training opportunities, including ATLAS.ti, Quirkos, DeDoose and NVivo, with others queuing up to take part.

How do people register? And is there a cost?

In keeping with the aim of making TQ2021 more accessible and affordable, prices are based on the World Bank country classifications by income level: Fees will be based on a participant’s primary passport country. All prices are in Canadian dollars.

For more information, to register and to submit an abstract visit: tq-2021.ok.ubc.ca

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

A UBC professor says the WHO exercise guidelines for people with disabilities miss the mark because they are not based on people who exercise mainly with their arms.

A UBC professor says the WHO exercise guidelines for people with disabilities miss the mark because they are not based on people who exercise mainly with their arms.

Physical activity guidelines for people living with disabilities miss the mark

A UBC researcher is calling out the World Health Organization’s newly introduced activity and sedentary guidelines for people living with disabilities.

Kathleen Martin Ginis is director of the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management and a professor with UBC’s Department of Medicine and UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. She holds the Reichwald Family Chair in Preventive Medicine, is a researcher with the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries and works to help people living with spinal cord injury maintain a physically active lifestyle.

Martin Ginis discusses the WHO’s recently-announced global guidelines and how they missed the mark.

Much of your research focuses on physical activity guidelines for people living with disabilities. Can you explain why getting exercise is so important for this population?

People with disabilities are at just as much risk for inactivity-related chronic diseases (heart disease, Type 2 diabetes) as the general population, if not more so. We also know that physical activity is important for mental health. However, people with disabilities do far less activity than the general population because of the countless barriers to activity that they face in their daily lives.

You have recently written an article for the Human Kinetics Journal, questioning the World Health Organization’s new physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines for people living with disabilities. What did they get wrong?

I’ve got several concerns with these guidelines. My biggest is that the guidelines are based on scientific evidence derived from studies of people without disabilities. Admittedly, there are still relatively few good studies that have measured the role of physical activity in preventing chronic diseases and improving the health of people with diseases. But in the absence of those types of studies, the WHO decided to simply extrapolate the research evidence for the general population and apply it to people with disabilities.

The upshot is that the guidelines for people with disabilities are now exactly the same as for the general population—150 to 300 minutes each week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity and strength-training twice per week. One problem with this is that people with certain types of physical impairments do not have the same physiological response to exercise as the general population. We don’t know if they will get the same benefits from the recommended guidelines as the general population.

Also, none of the guideline evidence is based on people who do their exercise with their arms (e.g., to push a wheelchair or use an arm-cycle). No studies have looked at the long-term effects of 150 to 300 minutes a week of arm exercise so we don’t know the benefits or the risks. Even for people with disabilities who would be expected to have the same physiological response to exercise as the general population (e.g., people with visual or cognitive impairments), we cannot simply assume that that amount of physical activity will mitigate the many other risks to well-being that people with disabilities constantly face, such as poverty, lack of access to health care and social isolation.

Your paper talks about the tremendous societal barriers to participation. Can you explain what some of these barriers might be?

There are so many! People with disabilities are often turned away from fitness centres and recreation facilities not just because those spaces are physically inaccessible, but because the people who work there have misconceptions or a complete lack of knowledge about how to support a person with a disability in a physical activity setting.

A lack of transportation is also a huge barrier—one of the most common. People with disabilities are mostly excluded from public health campaigns and advertisements promoting physical activity. There’s the old adage ‘’if you can see it, you can be it.” Unfortunately, people with disabilities don’t see themselves represented in physical activity settings as often as they should.

If people living with disabilities decide these guidelines are unrealistic and unachievable, do you think they will simply stop trying to be active?

Yes. That’s my concern. The studies that we do have on physical activity for people with disabilities suggest that they can achieve significant health and fitness benefits by doing much less than 150 minutes a week. For instance, people living with spinal cord injury can improve their cardiometabolic health by doing 90 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise each week.

Given the plethora of barriers to physical activity experienced by people with disabilities, and evidence of significant benefits from lower doses of physical activity, it does not make sense for the WHO to promote the general population’s guideline as being an appropriate guideline for people with disabilities. I understand the WHO had good intentions to be inclusive with this guideline, but my concern is that the guideline will actually put people off, and further exclude people with disabilities from physical activity.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

The newly-created MOTIVATE-T2D team will connect people living with Type 2 diabetes with health specialists through wearable technology and online exercise coaching.

The newly-created MOTIVATE-T2D team will connect people living with Type 2 diabetes with health specialists through wearable technology and online exercise coaching.

Funding connects UBCO and British researchers to develop novel technology

A UBC Okanagan professor is the Canadian lead for a 13-person team that recently won an internationally-competitive one million dollar award to accelerate diabetes research.

Dr. Ali McManus, professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, says both British and Canadian researchers possess impressive records in diabetes research. In 2019, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, in partnership with the UK Medical Research Council, launched a novel funding opportunity to unite each countries’ efforts to improve the lives of people with Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition in which sugar, or glucose, levels build up in a person’s bloodstream, says Dr. McManus. By 2022, 2.16 million new cases of diabetes are expected in Canada, resulting in a predicted $15.36 billion in health-care costs related to managing the disease.

“Being physically active and exercising is critical for the management of Type 2 diabetes,” she adds. “Exercise helps people with diabetes control their blood sugar and reduce other serious health risks associated with the condition.”

Yet, she admits, it’s been proven that sticking with exercise is difficult for a lot of people. Research is needed to help create new ways that will help people exercise regularly. The unique fund, which will bring the team together, was developed to support world-leading collaborative research aimed at making exercise easier for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Building on their existing partnership, the cross-disciplinary team will conduct the MOTIVATE-T2D clinical trial based out of Kelowna, and Liverpool, United Kingdom. In MOTIVATE-T2D, participants will exercise at home while mobile technology is used to provide feedback to an exercise specialist. That person will counsel and personalize the exercise prescription to maximize health benefits.

Participants with Type 2 diabetes will be given cloud-connected heart rate monitors and receive individually-tailored feedback from an exercise specialist to help them start, and stick with, exercise over a one-year period. Given that the exercise is performed at home and the counselling delivered virtually, the team in Kelowna is recruiting participants from across Canada for this research study.

The development of the novel mobile technology counselling was created by a team of interdisciplinary experts, including behaviour change scientist Dr. Mary Jung, exercise physiologist and diabetes researcher Dr. Jonathan Little, endocrinologist and clinician-scientist Dr. Charlotte Jones and public health and clinical trialist Dr. Joel Singer.

The UK team is led by Dr. Matthew Cocks who will conduct the same study for people who live in Liverpool, and allow for comparisons between delivery and outcomes across each country.

“Now more than ever, we need to meet the needs of individuals living with Type 2 diabetes by helping them manage their condition from home. We are very excited that this evidence-based technology enables us to provide quality care from the comfort of people’s homes.”

McManus says the interdisciplinary team will work across disciplines and oceans with the shared pursuit of one strategic aim, to accelerate diabetes research and improve the lives of those living with diabetes in Canada and the UK.

To learn more about the trial, or to become a participant contact the MOTIVATE-T2D team at motivate.t2d@ubc.ca or visit the study website at: motivatet2d.com

Dr. Ali McManus, a professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, is leading an international team of Type 2 diabetes researchers.

Dr. Ali McManus, a professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, is leading an international team of Type 2 diabetes researchers.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Members of the integrated knowledge translation guiding principles team at the consensus meeting in Vancouver, November 2019.

Members of the integrated knowledge translation guiding principles team at the consensus meeting in Vancouver, November 2019.

New principles aim to close the gap between spinal cord injury research and practice

For many scientists, seeing their discoveries make the leap from the lab into the hands of the public can be a major challenge.

With funders and research users continually pushing the importance of the translation of scientific evidence into practice, one UBC Okanagan researcher has developed new tools to help her colleagues make those connections.

The gap between discovery and the application of research is of particular concern for people living with spinal cord injury (SCI), says UBC Okanagan Associate Professor Dr. Heather Gainforth. Often people living with SCI—whose lives could be enhanced by research discoveries—feel their needs and voices are not reflected in the research process.

Although it is clear that knowledge translation is needed to narrow the gap, Gainforth argues that engaging research users as partners throughout the entire process is key to closing that gap.

Driven to respond to the SCI community’s calls for there to be “nothing about us, without us,” Gainforth engaged a North American team of SCI researchers, organizations, people with lived experience of SCI, health professionals and research funders to develop the first rigorously co-developed, consensus-based guidance to support meaningful SCI research partnerships.

“Meaningful engagement of the right research users at the right time throughout the SCI research process helps to ensure that research is relevant, useful and useable,” says Gainforth.

The multidisciplinary group systematically co-developed the set of integrated knowledge translation (IKT) principles that can be used by all partners—researchers, research users and funders of SCI research.

Using data regarding 125 principles of partnered research, the group systematically collected evidence from multiple sources, before meeting as a multidisciplinary expert panel to establish consensus, select the guiding principles and draft the guidance.

“The panel reached 100 per cent consensus on the principles and guidance document,” says Gainforth. “More importantly though, survey data showed that the principles and guidance document were perceived by potential end-users as clear, useful and appropriate.”

Gainforth explains that the co-production approach can help foster meaningful engagement in research, support quality research partnerships and close the gap between research and practice.

“The principles are a foundational tool. Partners who use the guiding principles—early and throughout the entire research process—have the potential to improve the relevance and impact of SCI research, mitigate tokenism and advance the science of partnership.”

“And, this is just the first step,” says Gainforth.

The multidisciplinary team is currently studying the use and impact of the new IKT Guiding Principles.

To learn more visit: ikt.ok.ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

It will be an unusual Christmas for many as virtual gatherings have become the norm this season.

2020 will go down as one holiday season that’s hard to forget

While it’s true that Christmas 2020 may not go down in history as the most joyous, a team of UBC Okanagan experts suggest it doesn’t have to be a holiday season to regret. The experts’ advice includes everything from online shopping tips and getting some exercise to curling up with a good book.

Careful while shopping online, suggests Faculty of Management researcher Ying Zhu.

“Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, people should be more mindful of their shopping budget. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the world of online shopping. Balance joyful feelings with a budget.”

Ying Zhu suggests putting down the tablet or smartphone when holiday shopping online, especially when you plan to buy indulgent products in an effort to stem pandemic stress. Her research has shown that study participants were more likely to indulge in guilty pleasures when shopping online with a touchscreen device (i.e., a smartphone) versus a desktop computer. The reason is that using a touchscreen evokes consumers’ experiential thinking, which resonates with the playful nature of hedonic products.

Find creative ways to get some exercise, says School of Health and Exercise Sciences’ Matthew Stork.

“Due to the winter weather and current COVID-19 restrictions, finding ways to stay physically active is more challenging than ever. Try new outdoor activities like skiing or snowshoeing, go for socially distant walks or find creative ways to be active at home.”

If you’re busy, or overwhelmed this holiday season, add some “exercise snacks” into your day. Go up and down the stairs three times in a row, or take a five-minute walk to the end of the street and back. Even short bouts of exercise can add up and can help keep you fit at home.

And if you want to get a bit more out of your workouts—add tunes.

“Music is a simple, yet powerful strategy that can enhance your exercise and make it more enjoyable.”

Okanagan School of Education Associate Professor Stephen Berg focuses on active, healthy children and youth.

Berg has several suggestions for making sure children, and the entire family, have a good holiday season. The idea is to stay active.

“It may seem simple, but getting outside and going for a walk is beneficial. With limited daylight hours, getting outside, even if it is for a short time, will help boost the immune system and provide some much-needed energy.”

Other tips include limiting the treats, trying something new—like a YouTube workout the family can do together, volunteering, and setting basic and small goals, like getting outside for 30 minutes a day.

“My final tip would be to do your best to stay balanced,” he adds. “Quite simply, this has been a unique year. Let children have some fun, relax and breathe. Connect with them. Play board games, find out what they are doing online.”

Alex Hill, who teaches astrophysics at UBCO, suggests people look to the stars as a new activity this holiday season.

When there are clear skies during the holidays, grab a pair of binoculars and get outside after dark, says Hill. The next few days will be spectacular because Jupiter and Saturn will pass quite close to each other—a 400-year benchmark.

“To find them, look southwest as it gets dark, which is nice and early this time of year, about 45 minutes after sunset. If you hold your fist at arm’s length, they’ll be a bit more than two fist lengths above the horizon. They’ll be the brightest ‘stars’ by far and easy to see.”

With binoculars, you should also be able to see the rings of Saturn and the four largest moons of Jupiter. While Jupiter and Saturn are both spectacular with binoculars, they are visible without.

“They won’t look quite like they do in Hubble Space Telescope images you might see in books, but it’s still amazing to be able to see the rings and the moons with your own eyes.”

Fall in love with reading all over again suggests Marie Loughlin, who teaches in UBCO’s English program.

Her advice to anyone is to get settled comfortably with a good story. Loughlin and colleagues suggest books to help relieve stress, help with loneliness or fill in time spent alone.

George Grinnell suggested Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys (Penguin/Random House 2020). “This is easily one of the most compelling and artistically complete novels I have read in a long time.”

Margaret Reeves suggests Thomas King’s newest novel Indians on Vacation (HarperCollins, 2020), saying it is well worth reading for its wry sense of humour.

Joanna Cockerline recommends Idaho (Chatto & Windus, 2017) by Emily Ruskovich; it is set in the rugged mountains of Idaho and is tied around a devastating secret that impacts the life of a man facing early dementia.

Sean Lawrence suggests Andrew Kaufman’s All My Friends Are Superheroes (Coach House, 2003); the ordinary guy Tom has a close group of friends and a wife, all of whom are actually superheroes.

Finally, suggests Loughlin, Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales, of which the author’s iconic reading will be featured on CBC over the holidays.

Try something completely new or outside your comfort zone, suggests psychology Professor Lesley Lutes.

“My students suggested we do an online cooking class together,” says Lutes. “I must admit, my first thought was ‘oh lord, this is going to be a disaster.’ But I said yes because they suggested it and I could see they were struggling. I had never done anything like this before and had no idea how it would go.”

Lutes picked a favourite recipe and purchased all the ingredients, including a candy cane and gluten free dessert. It was a great success and she would do it again in a heartbeat.

Lutes shares other suggestions on how to make the most of this atypical Christmas:

  • Try and accept this holiday season for what it is, instead of what it should have/could have been.
  • If you can connect virtually with friends—do it!
  • Deliver, either virtually or to front doors of your friends and loved ones, gestures of your love/affection/appreciation.
  • Try and find humour and levity in the moment—and put it to good use.

“This was truly one of the most challenging years in modern history,” Lutes adds. “I hope everyone can take some time to slow down, reflect and find safety, love, and feelings of hope during these final days of the year. May 2021 bring us all some much-needed relief but also the resolve to make everything that happened this year matter.”

 

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko stands at a landmark called Kala Patthar with Mount Everest in the background.

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko stands at a landmark called Kala Patthar with Mount Everest in the background.

Accomplished researcher wins Governor General’s top academic honour

Although he climbed numerous mountains to conduct high-altitude research, UBC Okanagan’s Mike Tymko admits the peak of his academic career might have arrived in his inbox a few weeks ago.

Tymko is UBC Okanagan’s winner of this year's Governor General Gold Medal. The award is presented to the university’s most accomplished doctoral graduate each spring. Tymko, who has published more than 60 research papers, is beyond talented says his supervisor Professor Phil Ainslie. The pair have worked together since 2012, when Tymko, an undergraduate at Mount Royal University, was invited to join one of Ainslie’s research expeditions to Nepal.

“At the time UBC Okanagan was much smaller and Professor Ainslie was relatively new into his appointment, but you could tell the research team he was building was extremely unique even at that time,” says Tymko. “That was such an amazing trip to me from both a life and scientific perspective.”

Within months, he was a student in UBCO’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, working on his master’s degree with another colleague from the Nepal project, Associate Professor Glen Foster, also fairly new to the Okanagan. The pair got along during the 2012 Nepal expedition and created a dynamic and busy research team when reunited at the Kelowna campus.

“I knew that as Professor Foster's first student I would be privy to more one-on-one training. I appreciate everything that he has taught me over the years and I wouldn't be the scientist I am today without his mentorship.”

Foster’s laboratory studies how the respiratory, cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems interact to control blood flow and ventilation in health and disease. And Ainslie, a Canada Research Chair in Cerebrovascular Physiology in Health and Disease, studies cerebral blood flow regulation, how that can be influenced by environmental stress—heat, altitude, pressure—and how exercise can also affect cerebrovascular function. The research teams would work together for a number of years studying basic aspects of helping people under extreme conditions—whether that be where they live, or an illness they have—be able to breathe better.

Tymko explains there are many people—such as those living in Nepal, the Andean mountains and Ethiopia—who live in high-altitude regions. And more than 200 million tourists travel to high-altitude destinations each year. However, his research also impacts millions of people who never get the chance to travel.

“From a more clinical standpoint there are many pathologies that are characterized by low oxygen, such as people living with heart failure, obstructive sleep apnea and lung disease,” he says. “Studying healthy human adaptation to low oxygen in both the laboratory and in the field has implications to better understand the physiological consequences that occur in these clinical states. The findings from these studies are applicable not only to Canadians, but people worldwide.”

There were several highlights for Tymko while working on his doctorate, but Ainslie notes he is a natural leader. During his studies, he has trekked to Nepal in 2012 and 2016, as well as White Mountain, California in 2015 and Peru in 2018—where Tymko co-led more than 40 scientists at a research station at Cerro de Pasco.

“This was undoubtedly Michael’s most impressive feat during his doctorate,” says Ainslie. “So far more than 10 research manuscripts have been published based on data collected during this expedition and many others will come in due course.”

Tymko is humbled by the gold medal win, and says, like the expeditions, this is not something you accomplish alone.

“These research projects are never led by one person, they are a product of dozens of people working together towards one goal,” says Tymko, crediting Ainslie, Foster and dozens of colleagues for years of support. “The best part of these trips are the people you meet—researchers from all over the world. But it’s also a fantastic feeling knowing that your research is meaningful and impactful within the academic community."

Ainslie credits Tymko’s diverse interests, skills, leadership and dedication that made him an outstanding doctoral student.

“Not only can he operate as a high-level academic but he can also design, implement, build and lead high-level scientific initiatives,” he says. “His research interests expand those from normal laboratory-based experiments to the translation of the work into Indigenous populations at high altitude. He is a true allrounder and, importantly, also values the importance of scientific teaching and education. As an exceptional young scientist, he is fully worthy of this recognition.”

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko takes ultrasound measurements of the internal carotid artery and vertebral artery while conducting research on the neural control of blood flow to the brain.

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko takes ultrasound measurements of the internal carotid artery and vertebral artery while conducting research on the neural control of blood flow to the brain.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Virtual ceremony takes place Wednesday as more than 1,900 students graduate

UBC Okanagan’s Convocation of 2020 will go down in history as a unique event. Instead of students, parents and faculty joining together on campus, the celebrations will be held virtually.

“The context of 2020 has made necessary a very different approach to our graduation ceremony this year,” says Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2020.”

This year, 1,925 students have qualified for convocation from UBC Okanagan—that includes 1,600 undergraduates, more than 270 students who have earned a master’s degree and 45 newly-conferred doctorate degrees.

While convocation is a time of celebration, it’s also a time of long-kept traditions. The program will begin with Chancellor Lindsay Gordon presiding over the virtual ceremony. UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono and Buszard will both address the Class of 2020 live, dressed in full academic regalia. And graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono.

UBC has arranged for Canadian icon and comedian Rick Mercer to deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Students have had the opportunity to purchase graduation regalia, special graduation gifts, create a personalized commemorative graduation video clip, download congratulatory signs and sign a guest book with congratulatory messages.

The virtual ceremony will last 45 minutes and it will be livestreamed on June 17, with a pre-show beginning at 2:30 p.m. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. and a 20-minute virtual alumni reception takes place at 3:55 p.m. The ceremony can also be watched on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries. To find out more, visit: www.virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

“These are, indeed, unusual times, and UBC students have shown once again their resilience and ability to cope and thrive in the face of change,” says Buszard. “With everything they have accomplished over these past months and over the course of their studies, I couldn’t be more proud of the extraordinary UBC Okanagan Class of 2020. Congratulations.”

This year’s medal recipients

  • Governor General's Gold Medal: Mike Tymko
  • Lieutenant Governor's Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Dominica Patterson
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Aiden de Vin
  • UBC Medal in Arts: Ellie Jane Fedec
  • UBC Medal in Science: Nicholas Kayban
  • UBC Medal in Education: Alyssa Pembleton
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Christopher Popel
  • UBC Medal in Management: Amanda Campbell
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Madison Pows
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Tyler Ho

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO Associate Professor Jonathan Little discusses how just the right amount of exercise can help build immunity.

UBCO Associate Professor Jonathan Little discusses how just the right amount of exercise can help build immunity.

UBCO professor provides exercise guidelines during COVID-19

By now, everyone has read some guidelines on how to stay healthy while living with the COVID-19 stay-at-home policy. Tips include keeping a routine, eating well, not staying up too late and getting exercise regularly. But how much exercise? And is there such a thing as too much exercise?

UBC Okanagan Associate Professor Jonathan Little, who conducts research with the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, answers some of these questions.

Can getting regular exercise really increase my immunity? If so, how?

Being inactive is linked to poor metabolic and psychological health and a less functional immune system. Most people know that regular exercise can improve markers of metabolic or psychological wellbeing, but what is less appreciated are the effects of exercise on the immune system.

Working through multiple pathways, research shows that the right amount of exercise can boost immunity.

If I’m eating properly, and getting the right amount of sleep, do I really need to exercise?

That’s a great question. Certainly, eating healthy and sleep are very important for overall health. But I think the evidence showing how exercise has such wide-ranging health benefits, including improving our immune system, suggests that our bodies have evolved to function optimally when we are regularly active. So, I don’t think anything can substitute for regular physical activity when it comes to optimizing health.

Is there such a thing as too much exercise?

We can think of exercise as medicine for boosting our immune function; too little and we have no effect but too much might actually be bad. There is evidence that after extreme exertion, like a marathon or very strenuous bout of prolonged exercise, our immune cells don’t work as well to fight off infections.

Finding the sweet spot right now by engaging in regular moderate exercise is probably the best approach.

With all this extra time people have these days, is now a good time to train for a marathon or CrossFit competition?

You don’t want to be inactive but it’s probably also not the best time to be tripling your regular exercise routine because you have extra time on your hands.

I wouldn’t discourage anyone from creating a realistic goal or new challenge but using some common sense, increasing your mileage or minutes moderately, and keeping within your limits is best right now. We also don’t know when races or competitions are going to start up again so that probably should come into consideration.

The gyms are all closed. What should people be doing to keep themselves fit? And sane?

If you are a regular gym-goer and can’t keep up with your routine, I think now is the time to try out some different activities like hiking, jogging, cycling and bodyweight exercises that you can do from home. Naturally, there are a lot of great resources online to help guide you and many gyms are maintaining online fitness classes to provide some guidance and direction.

I think it’s important to remember that exercise, even if it is moderate intensity such as a walk or hike, helps to reduce stress, improve mood, and as discussed above improve metabolic health and immune function.

So even if you can’t bang out your regular workout at the gym, preventing yourself from being inactive during these times is probably one of the best things that you can do for yourself. And it’s something that you can control.

Can you provide a few tips on how to get started?

There are lots of great online resources out there, especially right now. Whether it is fitness or yoga classes, video demonstrations, or virtual cycling there seem to be options for everyone. However, just getting outdoors for a walk or hike (while maintaining physical distancing, of course) will have benefits to many aspects of your health.

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Nobel Night 2016

Learn about the world-changing discoveries and achievements

What: Nobel Night panel discussion at UBC Okanagan
Who: University researchers discuss the 2019 Nobel Prizes
When: Tuesday, December 10, beginning at 7 p.m., refreshments to follow
Where:  Room COM 201, The Commons building, 3297 University Way, UBC Okanagan, Kelowna

Planets, poverty, peace and powerful batteries. The science and activism behind all of these are tied together this year by the lasting legacy of Alfred Nobel’s annual recognition for game-changes.

On December 10, thousands of kilometres away from the Okanagan, world leaders will gather in both Stockholm and Oslo to watch as the 2019 Nobel Prizes are presented. This year, 15 laureates will be honoured for discovering planets outside our solar system, working to reduce global poverty in all forms or trying to stop a war.

At UBC Okanagan’s Nobel Night -- a tradition upon its own -- university professors will explain why these awards and the recognition they garner are relevant in today’s changing world. UBC professors will discuss each award, the winners and why they matter.

The event, emceed by UBC Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation Phil Barker, takes place in the Commons lecture theatre. Following the presentations, there will be an opportunity for audience questions and a social with refreshments.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information and to register visit: 2019nobelnight.eventbrite.ca

The Nobel Prize in Physics

Tim Robishaw, adjunct professor in the department of computer science, mathematics, physics and statistics will talk about James Peebles work on theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology. The award is jointly shared this year with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for their discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Jian Liu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will discuss the work of John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Glen Foster, assistant professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, will highlight William G Kaelin Jr, Peter J Ratcliffe and Gregg L Semenza’s discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

The Nobel Prize in Literature

Bryce Traister, professor of English and dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, will talk about Peter Handke for his influential work with linguistic ingenuity.   

The Nobel Peace Prize

Professor of Political Science Helen Yanacopulos will speak to the accomplishments of Abiy Ahmed Ali for his efforts to achieve peace and resolve the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Economic Sciences

UBC Provost and Vice-President, Academic Ananya Mukherjee Reed will discuss the work of Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca