Top Ten

August 6, 2021

Laurentian professor discovers what may be the oldest fossil record of animal life

Laurentian University professor Dr Elizabeth Turner’s new discovery, recently published in Nature, has caused a stir in the scientific community, reports CTV News. Turner found a specimen while doing research on microbial rocks in the Northwest Territories that did not fit the pattern of her research, and set it aside for research at a later time. After further research, Turner found that the fossils were 890 million years old, which may be the oldest fossil record of animal life. Turner subsequently published “Possible poriferan body fossils in early Neoproterozoic microbial reefs,” an article that uses the find as proof that life on earth could have existed 350 million years earlier than it was previously believed to exist. “My purpose here was to present this novel kind of information, and give what I think to be the most parsimonious explanation, logical interpretation that is minimalist, and then just put it out there for the scientific community to evaluate,” said Turner. CTV News | | Chicago Sun Times | Nature (ON)

Canada invests $7.9M in sustainable salmon research, aquaculture science

The Government of Canada has invested $7.9M in seven projects through the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF) which will support sustainable salmon research and aquaculture science. The projects are led by industry and First Nations organizations, and involve partners such as the University of Victoria, Vancouver Island University, Excel Career College, and government bodies. The funded projects include work on developing a set of Climate Action Priorities for Salmon, as well as six other projects on sockeye harvested by sport fishers, water intake system repair, new shellfish processing and handling methods, energy-efficient methods of producing feed algae, a fish habitat survey, and an aquaculture survey. Canada | Canada (Projects List) (National)

ON Court of Appeal quashes ON appeal over SCI

Ontario’s Court of Appeal has unanimously dismissed the Government of Ontario’s attempt to overturn a decision by Ontario’s Divisional Court to quash the Student Choice Initiative (SCI). The SCI, which was intended to give students the ability to opt out of fees that were considered “non-essential,” was struck down by a court challenge in 2019 from the Canadian Federation of Students and the York Federation of Students. “[G]iven the role played by student associations in university governance, the framework is a profound interference in university autonomy — not a mere fettering of the universities’ discretion, as the Minister submits,” wrote Justice Grant Huscroft. ON has been ordered to pay $20K to the CFS and YFS. CBC | Queen’s Journal | The Varsity (ON)

Residence near UManitoba, MITT opens to provide safe housing for students

The Arc, a new residence located across from the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry campus, has been completed and has opened its doors. The student residence had its timeline for opening pushed back due to a fire in December 2019 as it was being constructed. The residence will serve students from UManitoba and the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology. It includes 368 student-oriented, furnished rental units, and a variety of amenities in the building including a gym and commercial spaces that will house a dentist office and restaurant. Winnipeg Free Press (Paywall) (MB)

Institutions must choose between mandatory vaccination and vaccine promotion: Opinion

In a recent article for The Conversation, University of Toronto professor Peter A Newman and University of Windsor Associate Professor Adrian Guta discuss institutional stances on vaccination. The authors discuss the health and social concerns about two common stances–mandatory vaccination and vaccine promotion–and discuss how they could be used in postsecondary institutions. The authors argue that institutions implementing mandatory vaccination would need to provide flexible alternatives for the unvaccinated and address issues around privacy and shaming. Newman and Guta say that vaccine promotion would make vaccinations available for students while allowing them to return to campus. “Universities have a short window to be proactive about the fall and winter semesters,” write the authors. “They need to consider what a gentler return home for students might look like this time compared to 2020.” The Conversation (Editorial)

UPEI faculty, staff call for improvements to campus building ventilation

Faculty and staff at the University of Prince Edward Island are calling for improvements to ventilation for some campus buildings to improve the air quality on campus. Members of the UPEI Faculty Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1870 have requested a “robust” ventilation strategy, cleaner air, and transparency about the university’s improvements to air quality. Association president Michael Arfken said that buildings such as the Main Building have not had upgrades to their ventilation system since the 1980s. “Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions,” said Arfken. UPEI responded to the concerns by saying there are a variety of ways they are meeting health and safety standards for air quality, including mechanical and natural ventilation. CBC (PEI)

International enrolments recovering at Canadian institutions

At several Canadian postsecondary institutions, preliminary figures indicate that international student numbers may be about to increase from their pandemic low. The University of Saskatchewan saw the numbers of applicants to undergraduate direct-entry programs increase around 40% in early July compared to the year before, with confirmed admission offers up two-thirds. York University has seen a “modest increase” in international student enrolment compared to the same time last year, while the Université du Québec à Montréal expects to welcome 4% more international students in regular programs. Saint Mary’s University’s VP, academic and research Malcolm Butler said that their dip in international enrollments may also be over. University Affairs (National)

UoGuelph, UOttawa, U of T announce vaccine requirement for athletics, extracurriculars

COVID-19 vaccination requirements have been extended to those who participate in athletics and other extracurriculars at the University of Guelph, University of Ottawa, and University of Toronto. UofGuelph announced that it would require all varsity athletes to be fully vaccinated for the 2021-2022 season. UOttawa has announced that Gee-Gees athletes will need to provide proof that they have received at least one dose of a vaccine by this upcoming Sunday. U of T has announced that students will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to study music or participate in activities such as varsity sports and academic placements. UoGuelph | Ottawa Citizen (uOttawa) | The Star (UofT) (ON)

UNB receives $336K from Canada for research project with Clinic 554

The University of New Brunswick has received $366K from the Government of Canada to work with Clinic 554 on research on the challenges women face in accessing surgical abortions in New Brunswick. The research will involve UNB Adjunct Professor and Lakehead University Dean of Law Dr Jula Hughes and Ryerson Assistant Professor Dr Tobin Haley. “Getting a clearer picture of the abortion services needs in the Province of New Brunswick will allow governments, health authorities and health care providers to make better, more evidence-based decisions that are responsive to the constitutional and legislative mandates for accessible and equitable health care,” said Hughes. Global News reports that the federal government recently accused NB of violating the Canada Health Act by not providing out-of-hospital abortions, and that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit against NB. Canada | CBC | Global News | Country 94.1 (NB)

Imposter feelings more common in fields that value “brilliance” over training: Study

A new study from the Journal of Educational Psychology has found that women, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows who are working in fields that are understood to value genius or “brilliance” over training are more likely to experience imposter feelings. Since imposter feelings can be linked to a lower sense of belonging within a field, the study’s authors recommended that imposter syndrome should be viewed as a workplace problem. “Rather than placing the responsibility on the individual, the focus should be, ‘What in the field or workplace can be changed so that people don’t question their ability and success?’” said lead author Melis Muradoglu. Inside Higher Ed (Editorial)