Nerd Nite v53: Air Quality, Small Stars, and the Physics of Toilets

Welcome to Nerd Nite v53! Join us for a fun and nerdy evening filled with fascinating talks on Air Quality, Small Stars, and the Physics of Toilets. Get ready to expand your mind and learn something new! The event will take place on Wed Apr 24 2024 at 7:00 PM at the Fox Cabaret in Pacific Daylight Time. Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to geek out with fellow nerds!

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday April 24th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Justin Fernandes – Cleaner Air Spaces

Indoor air quality from subsequent wildfire smoke exposure is a primary concern within Metro Vancouver due to geographical susceptibility and climate change. Warmer and drier wildfire seasons as a result of climate change will increase both the frequency and severity of wildfires.Within our regionanticipated air quality advisories driven from wildfire smoke will increase in frequency over the course of the next coming decades. This talk will dive into the use of low-cost air quality sensors to evaluate cleaner air spaces and empower community partners through data. This talk aims to highlight the value of low-cost sensor data in building climate resilience within Metro Vancouver.

Bio: Justin Fernandes (he/him) is a Master of Public Health candidate at Simon Fraser University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Health Science from York University. Upon the COVID-19 pandemic, he shifted his interest from clinical care to population health. His primary interests in public health include environmental health and climate change, specifically examining air quality and the built environment. As a climate change advocate, he believes in the power of data utilization in supporting climate action and reducing health inequities.

Anna Hughes – Small Stars

This will be a talk about the lives of the smallest stars in the universe, their wild behavior, and their stormy relationship with the planets in their orbit. I’ll talk about where life could be – or rather, where it couldn’t – and how lucky we are to be here at all.

Bio: Anna Hughes is an astrophysics PhD and former quantum machine learning (a real thing!) researcher, now working in the climate and sustainability space. She’s a seasoned snowboarder and hiker, and a truly terrible surfer.

Colin Enderud – The Physics of Toilets

Physics is everywhere! It’s dancing with atoms, spinning with galaxies, and even hanging out under your butt while you’re scrolling social media. There are some surprisingly elegant principles behind the humble toilet. Find out how four-dimensional space-time and fluid dynamics influences your household hygiene along with practical tips like how to flush when the water’s turned off.

Bio: Colin Enderud got his Bachelor’s of Science in Physics at UBC. He designs superconducting circuits for quantum processors professionally but has recreationally used toilets for most of his life. His appreciation for indoor plumbing has only increased after spending the last year and a half changing diapers. He will use any excuse, no matter how thinly veiled, to make poop jokes in a public forum.

Nerd Nite v52: Pufferfish, Phages, and the Psychology of Learning

Kicking 2024 off with exciting news nerds! We are so excited to present Nerd Nite on the stage again, and this year we’re going to spread out the fun by doing 4 amazing events. If you’ve been with us before, you know how these go, but for those potential Nerd Nite newbies we’re a social evening with talks, and science revelry hosted by the Rat Detective Dr. Kaylee Byers, and Space Michael Unger.

This month we have another talk originally scheduled in that fateful March 2020 in pufferfish! Amy Liu back then was at UBC we had them on Nerdin’ About Season 2 which you can find on your podcasting platforms or read the transcript. Amy has come over from Victoria just to nerd out on pufferfish.

However that’s not the furthest nerd traveller as we one of our favourites from the Beakerhead Science Communication Course at Banff in Miranda Stahn who’s coming from Edmonton to nerd out with us on phages! 

Finally Robin Barrett is going to put all of this in perspective with how we learn.

You’re bound to learn something, but most definitely you’ll have a lot of fun. Our first event back sold out quickly so get you tickets while they last!

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday February 28th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

1. Amy Liu – 15 Minutes to Convince you that Pufferfish are Amazing

Everyone has that one interest they won’t stop talking about. For Amy, it’s Pufferfish. Perhaps you’ve seen pictures or videos of Pufferfish eating carrots, or making silly faces, or even as a unique emoji on your phone. But what’s so special about these funny-looking fish? And why do people continue to be fascinated by them? From their deadly toxins, inflatable personalities, their contributions to science, to their surprising intelligence, and even beautiful works of art, by the end of this Nerd Nite, you’ll leave with a new appreciation for these humble fish.

Bio: Hi I’m Amy (They/She), a lover of Science Communication, and self proclaimed Pufferfish enthusiast. I completed my masters in Zoology at UBC on char and trout genetics, and have worked in many science outreach positions including Parks Canada, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, and the Vancouver Aquarium. Currently I work for Fisheries and Oceans Canada using the latest genetic technologies to answer fishy questions. You can find my twitter at @tetraodontidaes

2. Miranda Stahn – Ph-antastic Phage

Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses which exclusively attack bacteria, albeit a boring definition which doesn’t do them justice. These amazing viral entities are the unwritten superheroes of the microbial world. They may hold the key to humanity taking down pressing issues such as antimicrobial resistance, developing cleaner ways of extracting alternative plastics, and having unique ties to human gene editing through CRISPR. In 15 minutes, I want to share why I feel phage is fantastic and why you should too – and if that all fails, I hope to impress you with a dance move or two.

Bio: Miranda (she/her) is an Alberta-based science communicator, writer and STEM professional. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master of Science from the University of Alberta, focusing her academic research on bioengineering and synthetic biology, defending her thesis in 2019, which specifically explored the applications of phage. Outside of work, she is a classically trained ballet and contemporary dancer. She has founded the Fission 2 Fusion Dance project – a science communication initiative that uses dance as a means to communicate science to broader audiences. They can be followed on Instagram as f2fdance.

3. Robin Barrett – Psychology of Learning

Even though studying is perhaps the most important skill to being successful at learning, so few people have ever been shown by their teachers how to study. Likewise, “study hacks” shared on social media are often full of well-intentioned, but misinformed recommendations that don’t have much evidence to support their use. There’s 50+ years of research on how learning, memory, and problem-solving work, but so little of this has made it to the public in the form of usable tools to improve learning right away. In this “greatest hits” style presentation, I’ll introduce “The RISES Principles” which are five of the top skills recommended by leading experts in cognitive and educational psychology, and we’ll cover some of the experiments that have demonstrated their effectiveness. Whatever skills you want to improve, learning more about the RISES principles will help you to study more effectively and efficiently so that you can spend less time working and more time having fun!

Bio: Robin C. A. Barrett (they/them) is a specialist in learning and memory finishing their Masters degree at Simon Fraser University in Psychology where they study how the design of virtual reality learning environments can influence attention and learning. They have worked as an educator both inside academia and in industry for 8 years and have a Certificate in University Teaching and Learning. During their Masters, they spent 3 years as the Teaching Assistant for a cognitive science class on how to study using evidence-based techniques. Inspired by the impact this course had on their students, Robin has been working to bring this material to a wider audience, becoming the Sessional Instructor for that same class while having also spent the last year teaching at high schools across the Greater Vancouver Area and to the general public. If you have ideas on how we can partner up to bring evidence-based learning methods to your community or company, be sure to get in touch!


WE’RE BACK!!!!!! NN 51 Take Two

We’re baaaaaaack! We are so excited to present Nerd Nite on the stage again! If you’ve been with us before, you know how these go, but for those potential Nerd Nite newbies we’re a social evening with talks, and science revelry hosted by the Rat Detective Dr. Kaylee Byers, and Space Michael Unger.

We’re back with two guests that we featured on our podcast Nerdin’ About that we did 3 seasons of from 2020-2022! Check out their episodes below, abstracts are further down. Seriously we honestly can’t believe we’re back. Can’t wait to get the nerd herd back together!

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday November 29th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

1. Dr. Alex Moore – Coastal Ecosystems

Global change stressors, such as climate change, pollution, and habitat loss, are altering the structure of ecological communities with significant implications for the functions and services that ecosystems provide. Coastal zones are particularly susceptible to such stressors, yet our collective understanding of the cumulative effects of global change on these systems is limited. Which global change stressors are most common across coastal ecosystems? What are the impacts of these stressors? How can these impacts be mitigated? This talk likely won’t answer any of these questions, but will instead provide an overview of their importance and the research I plan to do moving forward.

My name is Dr. Alex Moore (they/them), and I am an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia. I completed my PhD at the Yale School of the Environment where my research focused on how predator-prey interactions impact the health and functioning of wetland ecosystems. At UBC, I am expanding upon on this work by branching out into new wetland ecosystems while exploring the cultural implications of habitat restoration and conservation. Through this work, I hope to engage in the co-creation of knowledge and sustainable solutions with local communities most directly impacted by conservation practice and policies.

2. Dr. Anne-Michelle Tessier – F*ckpuffins and sh*tgibbons: the secret life of new swearwords

By the time you’re an adult, you’ve had decades of experience with your particular language(s)’ words and sound patterns, and you can use that amazingly fine-tuned linguistic experience to perform advanced tasks like inventing new obscene insults for your least favorite people on the internet. As it turns out, English-speaking people have fairly consistent intuitions about which swear words sounds best — but those intuitions rely on our unconscious knowledge of English, and they come from a variety of cognitive sources and biases. What are those sources and biases? Where do they come from? And why is it so satisfying to call someone a sh*tgibbon? … The science of linguistics has answers, and there’s a lot of swearing to be done along the way. (For science.)

Anne-Michelle Tessier is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at UBC. She received her BA from McGill University and her Ph.D. from UMass Amherst; she has also been appointed at the University of Alberta, the University of Michigan and Simon Fraser University. Most of her work focuses on how children learn to sound like native speakers of their language(s) — e.g. why they sometimes say ‘lellow pitchiks’ instead of ‘yellow pictures’ — but sh*tgibbons are one of her favorite professional hobbies.

Nerdin’ About Pod: Running up that Climate Hill with Economics

How is everyone doing with their existential crises these days? If you’ve listened to past episodes you know we’ve got climate change on our collective minds, and in this episode of Nerdin’ About we talk to someone who is tackling this wicked problem with tangible solutions in economics and politics!

Dr. Devyani Singh (she/her) is a Post-Doctoral Economist Fellow working on Energy and Climate policy at the Environmental Defence Fund. Devyani nerds out with us on how she’s integrated economics into climate change solutions and advocacy. We also explore how Devyani is closing the gap between science and policy as she pursues a position in politics. A transcript of the episode can be found here.

Follow Devyani on Twitter and Instagram @Kumari_Devyani and follow her pup Zephyrus @WestCoastPandaBoi 

Kaylee’s new podcast Nice Genes! from Genome British Columbia can be found here:

Nerdin’ About Pod: Wetlands: The Original Wet ‘N Wild

Grab your hip waders and waterproof phone case, because this week we’re getting ‘bog’ged down in wetland ecology! Dr. Alex Moore (they/them), who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Princeton University High Meadows Environmental Institute, takes us on a journey to coastlines and salt marshes to explore what wetlands are and how species shape these spaces. We also meander to mangroves to marvel at the benefits they provide for people and animals, as well as the threats they face in a warming world. 

Listen to the episode here.

A transcript of the episode can be found here.

Follow Dr. Moore on Twitter @Dr_AlexM and on their websites:

You can check out the bat mortality study mentioned in this episode here:

And the study mentioned about cats depredating on rats and other wildlife here:

Nerdin’ About Pod: Who Run the World? Ants!

The ants go marching one by one… but how and also why? In this episode we’re joined by Aaron Fairweather (they/them) a PhD student at the University of Guelph who has been an entomologist for as long as they could hold a crayon. Join us as we learn about how ants are more than just picnic disruptors – they’re farmers, architects, pollinators and so much more! Don’t let their size fool you – they leave a very large footprint on our ecosystems (6 footprints to be exact).

Listen to the episode here.

A transcript of the episode can be found here.

Follow Aaron @InsectAaron, and their “fursona” Nasidoe on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube @Entobird

Also check out Phlya and Fandom, a nerdy podcast merging the worlds of science and furry!

Interested in learning more about ant sounds? The sound clips in this episode were shared by Dr. Ronara de Souza Ferreira-Châline whose exciting research on this topic can be found here

Nerdin’ About Pod: BEARing Down on Conservation

Our clocks have just sprung ahead which means we’re getting closer to sunny days and sweet summer berries! And with the change in seasons comes opportunities for sharing the outdoors with our wild neighbours. But sometimes these interactions can lead to conflict with implications for conservation. This week we talk with PhD Candidate Lauren Eckert (she/her) about her research in conservation science with a particular focus on the curious black bear.

Listen to the episode here or read the transcript here.

Our communities are wild spaces. Even in cities, humans are navigating relationships with wildlife – relationships that are critical to supporting conservation efforts. This week we’re joined by Lauren Eckert (she/her), a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria who studies the intersection between social and ecological systems. From bears to orcas, we explore how conflicts shape our interactions with wildlife and each other. And, we gather some helpful tips to reduce conflict with our fellow adventuring bears. Lauren is also involved with Hidden Compass, which is seeking to tell science stories in new ways. Lauren is also the magical human behind The Witch Podcast, which looks at the legacies and power of women and femmes throughout history and today. So much to cover in such little time, thanks for listening, and bearing with us! A transcript of the episode can be found here:

Twitter-Instagram: @LaurenEEckert

Hidden Compass:

The Witch Podcast:

And the paper about bear genetics and Indigenous languages mentioned in this episode can be found here:

Nerdin’ About Pod: Watery Dewing About Water?

And we’re back with the second half of Season 3 of the Nerdin’ About pod! We’ve “mist” you, and we’re very excited to get back to what we love most – listening to our favourite people “pour” their hearts out about their work while also trying to come up with as many puns as possible. And who better to “dew” this with than water consultant Alan Shapiro?

Listen to the episode here or read the transcript here!

From rushing rivers to vast oceans, the planet is covered in dancing droplets of water. But even in places where water is abundant, access to clean drinking water isn’t a guarantee, and many of our water-based challenges are likely to increase with climate change. In this episode, water and sustainability consultant Alan Shapiro joins us to talk about what makes water so special, how we manage water in Canada, and why we all need to talk more about water. A transcript of the episode can be found here:

Follow Alan @watercomm on Twitter!

Nerdin’ About Pod: The Science of Swearing

Hold onto your flippin’ butts! We’ve got a new episode for you, all about the linguistics of swearing with Dr. Anne-Michelle Tessier! Listen to the episode here or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Would you rather read than listen? Find a transcript of the episode here.

When was the last time you swore? Maybe you were sitting in traffic, or you stubbed your toe on a stray shoe stranded in the hallway of your home (was that too specific?). While you may be well versed in the classic four-letter words that make up the English swearing vocabulary, in this episode Dr. Anne-Michelle Tessier (she/her) takes us on a phonologic foray of swear words, from sh*t-whistles to a**-badgers. We explore what makes some cursing compounds more compelling and how we’re constantly doing linguistic math, even without thinking about it. A transcript of this episode can be found here:

You can read Dr. Tessier’s original paper here

Visit Dr. Tessier’s personal and phonology lab websites.

Nerdin’ About Pod: Science Policy of Truth

A new episode of the pod is hot off the audio presses! Join us as we chat with Farah Qaiser all about science for policy, and policy for science! Listen to the episode here.

Have you ever wondered how politicians make decisions using science? Or about how politics shape what’s dissected under the microscope?

This is why we need people like Farah Qaiser (she/her) to better understand the role of policy for science, and science for policy! 

Farah is the new Director of Research and Policy at Evidence for Democracy, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization aimed at promoting the use of evidence in Canada’s decision-making. We explore the changing landscape of science policy and how investmenting in Canada’s scientists impacts our national capacity to ask and answer innovative and creative science questions. We’ll also explore Farah’s dedication to advocating for under-represented scientists in her role as a member of 500 Women Scientists‘ leadership team. A transcript of the episode can be found here.

Learn more about Farah Qaiser on her website, and follow her on social media @this_is_farah

Also mentioned in this episode: Science Diction podcast.