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.

Nerdin About Pod: Güt for your Health

A new episode of the Nerdin’ About Pod drops tomorrow with Desiree Neilsen, Rd. Episode here.

Open any social media app, and you’re bound to be bombarded with ads and images of “wellness”. But can our health be hyped by adding or removing a single food? What’s the science behind gluten and could a sprinkle of something special support your thyroid? Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietician, is here to debunk some diet myths and share how taking a more holistic approach rather than subscribing to the latest fad will be more beneficial to our health. A transcript of the episode can be found here:

Find Desiree on her website or on Instagram @desireenielsenrd

Check out Desiree’s podcast The Allsorts Podcast, which covers nutrition science with a roster of very cool guests.

Or try some recipes from Desiree’s cookbook “Eat More Plants” for nutrition-packed plant goodness.

Also mentioned in this episode: Ask an Astronomer with Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn and the Maintenance Phase podcast.

Nerdin’ About Season 3 Launches October 6th

The Nerdin’ About Podcast is back with Season 3! This season we are bringing you ten more conversations with scientists, creators, policy nerds, wildlife detectives, and storytellers. We’ll also be bringing back one of our favourite aspect of in-person events: GIVEAWAYS!

Follow @NerdNIteYVR on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for updates on episodes and to participate in this season’s giveaways.

A big thank you to all of you in the Nerd Herd who have continued to support Nerd Nite by listening to the pod. We’re so grateful to you and this community!

Art by Armin Mortazavi

Nerdin’ About Live

It’s been over one year since Nerd Nite Vancouver cancelled their last show in March 2020. But as the saying goes: one door closes and another socially distanced door opens, as the event has turned into a podcast. Now in its second season, Nerdin’ About features conversations with scientists, artists, educators, creators, and overall pretty amazing people about their work and interests.

Join us live for a gathering of three guests from Season 1. Dr. Sam Yammine aka Science Sam from our very first episode on communicating about COVID-19, Pramodh Senarath Yapa from episode 8 on superfluids and helium, and Kim Senklip Harvey from episode 9 an Indigenous storyteller on decolonizing theatre.

We’ll get updates on their work, share what we’ve been nerding out about lately, and you’ll be able to ask questions. Most of all we’ll be doing what Nerd Nite has always been about – learning together and building community!

When: May 12th 2021 @ 6 – 7PM PST

Where: The Interwebs – Link to be shared to registered participants

Tickets: Eventbrite

In lieu of a ticket, if you are able we ask that you donate what you can to the BC Cancer Foundation (or your local organization). This request is made in support of our friend, colleague, and Nerdin’ About Season 2 guest Dr. Greg Bole who has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.


Dr. Samantha Yammine (she/her) is a neuroscientist and science communicator. Samantha earned her PhD from the University of Toronto studying stem cells and the brain. Over the past year Samantha has been communicating about COVID-19 using social media. Sam is also a co-founder of Science is a Drag, and helped launch #ScienceUpFirst, a social media movement to counter misinformation around COVID-19.

Kim Senklip Harvey (she/her) is a proud Syilx and Tsilhqot’in and is an Indigenous Theorist and Cultural Evolutionist. Kim is interested in Indigenous artistic works dismantling and troubling colonial systems and honouring artistic epistemologies confronting imperial art practice whilst contributing to present day cultural creations. Especially those activating and nourishing Indigenous power by centering joy, Indigenous love and sovereign creative processes. She has a particular focus on the resurgence of Indigenous Matriarchal led methodologies and stories with emancipatory journeys. Kim has her Master in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria.

Pramodh Senarath Yapa (he/him) is a Theoretical Condensed Matter Physicist and PhD student. Pramodh studies the properties of matter when it is cooled to near absolute zero, and explores how quantum mechanics leads to the formation of new states of matter. In 2019, Pramodh was chosen as the winner of the Dance Your PhD competition sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his swing-dancing rendition of electron behaviour, “Superconductivity: The Musical!”.

Introducing “Nerdin’ About”, a Nerd Nite Vancouver Pod

Nerd Herd Assemble (Remotely)!!

Although we may all be apart (a minimum of 2m apart to be exact) we are still in this together! We’ve been wanting to start a Nerd Nite Vancouver podcast for a while to catch up with past speakers and connect with more amazing nerds everywhere. Introducing the Nerd Nite Vancouver Podcast: “Nerdin’ About”.

We’ve got questions, and nerds have answers! Fuelled by a curiosity to understand the world around us – from the critters beneath our feet to the far reaches of the galaxy – Nerdin’ About is a podcast where passionate nerds tell us about their research, their interests, and what they’ve been Nerdin’ About lately. A spin-off of Nerd Nite Vancouver, Nerdin’ About is here to explore these questions with you. Listen to episodes of Nerdin’ About on podbean or anywhere you get your podcasts. You can also find transcripts of each episode on our website.

Is there a past speaker you’d love to hear from again? Anyone you think we should interview? Slide on into our DMs and let us know.

We miss you! Be well nerds.

Nerd Nite v51: The Speculum, Pufferfish, and the Language Behind Insults

Have you ever heard a phrase and wondered – where the heck did that come from? What’s the history behind this? For example, have you been telling people they’re a “shoo-in” thinking it’s referring to shoes? Nerd Nite co-boss Kaylee certainly has. It turns out that this phrase actually originated from horse racing in the 1920s, where a horse was urged on to win by “shooing” it, often referring specifically to cases where a race was fixed so that all the horse needed to do was be waved across the finish line. Today, the term is used to refer to those who are well liked or destined to win, and we think we’ve got three shoo-in talks for you this coming March 18th! Join us to learn about the history of the speculum, the language behind insults. And round it all off with some beautiful images and fun facts about pufferfish!

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday February 26th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Music by: DJ Burger


1. The History of the Speculum

Jacqueline Seppelt

Most people who have visited a gynaecologist have met the vaginal speculum, the duck-billed medical instrument used to hold open the vagina during a pelvic exam. Today, the speculum is used to diagnose, treat, and take swabs from the cervix and vagina. Most individuals would agree that these medical examinations are pretty awkward and go on without any sexual tension. However, that wasn’t the case when the vaginal speculum was reintroduced to modern medicine during the 19th-century. The vaginal speculum has a dramatic history filled with sexual accusations and questionable professional integrity. This history continues to have implications on the people behind the vaginas it meets today.

Bio: Jacqueline is an undergraduate student pursuing her BA in Sociology at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include sexuality, gender inequality, and women’s health. She also enjoys learning about the vagina, and applying her sociological lens to the social issues surrounding reproductive and sexual health. Jacqueline is by no means an expert on the vaginal speculum, but she worked very hard on a research paper about it and would like to share it with the world outside of academia.


2. The Fascinating world of… Pufferfish

Amy Liu 

The pufferfish might be considered an overlooked fish… But watch out- the pufferfish can inflate up to three times their size and is considered the second most poisonous vertebrate on Earth, and yet, its flesh is considered a delicacy in certain parts of the world. Here’s a lesser known fact: Pufferfish are very curious and intelligent. They can be taught tricks, learn to memorize different shapes and patterns, and recognize their owners. They have also made their names both in culture and science, from ingredients in the infamous Haitian Zombie Powder to being the first vertebrate to have their whole genomes sequenced (Completed 4 years before humans!). Their relatives include the great Mola mola, the spiny porcupinefish, and the interestingly shaped boxfish. Learning about the fascinating world of Pufferfish helps understand the diversity of these amazing animals, and the challenges they are facing.

Bio: Amy Liu (she/they) is a self-proclaimed pufferfish (family Tetraodontiformes) enthusiast, and a masters student studying fish genetics at The University of British Columbia. Always drawn to the fascinating fishy science, Amy has worked closely with both fish and people at the Vancouver Aquarium, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Parks Canada, and local aquarium stores. If there was a happy place on earth for them, it would be going back to snorkel in Belize, happily swimming with the puffers in the blue ocean.


3. F*ckpuffins and sh*tgibbons: the secret life of new swearwords

Anne-Michelle Tessier

By the time you’re an adult, you’ve had decades of experience with your native 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 terrific obscenity along the way.

Bio: Anne-Michelle Tessier just joined the UBC Linguistics faculty in 2019. She received her BA from McGill University and her Ph.D. from UMass Amherst; she has also held professorships at the University of Alberta, the University of Michigan and Simon Fraser. 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.

Nerd Nite v.50 Space Poop, Movie Making, and Our Drinking Water

Nerd Nite Vancouver is a lot like the sugar molecule sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide meaning that it is made up of two molecules – glucose and fructose. Your Nerd Nite hosts are much the same – while they’re both nerd molecules, they’re passionate about very different things but are stuck together by the glycosidic bond that is Nerd Nite. And that sweet little bond has now existed for 6 years! So, we’ll be celebrating our 6 year Nerdiversary and 50th event with a little sugar! Joining us for our anniversary show are three amazing nerds, who will be talking about water, space poop, and film making. Celebrate your 50th with us and bring your sweet tooth (teeth?).

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday February 26th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Music by: DJ Burger


1.  “Astroplastic: From Colon to Colony” aka Plastic from Space Poop

Alina Kunitskaya

Waste management and the development of on-site manufacturing capabilities are two major challenges for future manned missions to Mars. To address both challenges, “Astroplastic” process was developed to turn astronauts’ fecal waste into bioplastic using genetically engineered bacteria. The produced bioplastic could be used to 3D print tools for astronauts. This talk will explore why recycling of waste and providing on-site manufacturing capabilities will be crucial for long-duration human spaceflight and how the “Astroplastic” project aims to address these challenges. The speaker will share personal experiences of conducting space-related research including experiencing microgravity on a parabolic flight (aka “Vomit Comet”) and making a poop simulant based on a recipe from NASA.

Bio: Since high school, Alina’s dream has been to become an astronaut. With no clear career path to becoming an astronaut, Alina has focused on finding a field she is passionate about and striving to excel in that field. She graduated with a BSc in Chemical Engineering with Biomedical Engineering specialization from the University of Calgary. Her passion for solving space exploration challenges led to her involvement in developing a process to recycle astronauts’ fecal waste into 3D-printable bioplastics, developing and flying a scientific payload in microgravity, developing an oxygen production process on Mars, and completing a simulated sub-orbital spaceflight in a centrifuge-based flight simulator to help scientists examine the physiological and psychological impacts of g-forces associated with spaceflight. Alina is currently pursuing a MASc degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia focusing on bioprocess development for cell-based therapies with a goal of completing a PhD in this discipline. Learn more about her projects at and by following her on Twitter at @akunitsk.

2. “The Why, What and How of Movie-Making”

Ed Douglas

Bio: Ed Douglas is a videogame developer and filmmaker from Vancouver, BC, with passion for sci-fi and an obsession with astrophysics. He’s worked on some great game series like Mass Effect and Need for Speed, and some terrible movies like “Lightning: Bolts of Destruction” (where killer lightning chases our heroes while scientists come to the rescue), and “Belly of the Beast” (where Steven Seagal chases his career straight into the direct-to-DVD bin). After ambling around the world telling stories with companies like EA and Ubisoft, he’s back in BC refocusing back on film & TV.”

3. A User’s Guide to Water in Vancouver

Alan Shapiro 

What exactly is (and isn’t) in your tap water? How does bottled water compare? Why do we keep hearing about boil water advisories, lead contamination, and chemicals with multiple syllable names, and what does it all mean for you? In this talk, Alan will explore all these topics, as well as the age-old question: “How long does it take to boil a cup of water by shouting at it?”

Bio: Alan Shapiro is a water, sustainability, and science communication professional who spends much of his time thinking and drinking water. Alan is the co-founder of Science Slam Canada and Scientific Communications Manager at STEMCELL Technologies. He is an instructor at SFU and BCIT and an advisor for Toronto’s Climate Ventures Earth Tech incubator.

Nerd Nite v. 49: Waterslides, Oil Tankers, and Predator-Prey Relationships

When you were young, did you spend your summers zooming down waterslides? We remember days where our calves ached from climbing stairs, and sore bums from well… you know. And, if you were like us, you also stared at those slides and thought “How are these things made? And, is it going to disassemble while I’m on it?”. Today, we spend more of our summer days staring out at the oil tankers lining the shore, or watching seagulls dive down to retrieve waste left behind by tourists on Granville Island, but we maintain that curiousity about the things around us! So, splash into a New Year with us to learn about all three: waterslides, oil tankers, and predator-prey relationships.

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday January 22nd; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Music by: DJ Burger

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1. Ecology

Zachary Sherker 

An array of opportunistic foragers (e.g. brown trout, Caspian terns, double-crested cormorants, common mergansers, river otters, mink, Pacific harbour seals) are suspected of preying on salmon smolts in rivers and estuaries during their outmigration from natal streams. These predators may account, in part, for the poor survival to adulthood in Salish Sea salmon populations. However, there is another piscivore predator that has been left off the list of usual suspects-the Pacific great blue heron. We investigated the role that herons may be playing in the decline of salmon by estimating rates of mortality caused by herons on wild and hatchery-reared smolts implanted with PIT tags in the Cowichan River, Big Qualicum River, and Capilano River from 2008-2018. We scanned under the nests at local heron rookeries (within 35 km of the river systems) using a Biomark IS1001 mobile array and recovered over 1,200 smolt tags in fecal remains under the nests, representing annual minimum predation estimates of 1-3% in all rivers. The distribution and timing of tag depositions under the nests indicated that most herons take part in salmon smolt predation and that consumption takes place during the chick-rearing phase of the breeding season. Predation occurred primarily in the lower river or upper estuary and was highest in years of critically low river flow. Smaller salmon smolts were significantly more susceptible to heron predation in all systems and predation rates were comparable between wild and hatchery-reared smolts. Recovering so many tags at heron rookeries was not expected and indicates that blue herons are a major predator of wild and hatchery-reared juvenile salmon. The location of heron rookeries relative to salmon bearing rivers is likely a good predictor of the impact on local salmon runs, and a potential means to assess coast-wide effects of great blue herons on salmon recovery.

Bio: Zachary is completing an MSc at UBC investigating freshwater and estuarine predation on juvenile salmon during their out-migration from natal rivers and works as a part-time contract biologist in the lower mainland. Prior to coming out west, Zach completed an interdisciplinary BSc in Aquatic Resources and Biology at St. F.X. University in Antigonish, N.S. During his undergraduate degree, Zach ran field and lab experiments to explore predator-induced phenotypic plasticity in intertidal blue mussels exposed to the waterborne cues of a drilling predator snail. He also conducted biological surveys on lobster fishing boats and worked as a fisheries observer for the offshore commercial snow crab fleet.

2. Waterslides

Shane Jensen

You may have enjoyed waterslides around Vancouver or West Edmonton Mall. However, you’ll only find the best ones in larger or warmer cities.

This talk will cover some of the basics required to be a good waterslide tester, some aspects of waterslide design, and recommendations for how to enjoy a world-class waterpark experience.

Bio: Shane is a professional mechanical engineer whose career transitioned from submarine designer to waterslide tester. He is currently a product manager for waterslides at WhiteWater West.

3. Oil Tankers 101

Kayla Glynn 

When you hear tankers, what comes to mind? Oil tankers are a hot topic in Vancouver. They’re in the news all the time and everyone has an opinion on how safe they are, or what risks they pose. However, many don’t know the basics. Get the facts. Learn the information you need to be informed and join the conversation on marine safety.

Bio: Kayla is an ocean enthusiast. She earned her Masters in Marine Management at Dalhousie University, studying compensation for environmental damage caused by ship-source oil spills. Passionate about sharing her knowledge of the ocean with others, Kayla’s shifted her focus to the realm of science communication to help more people foster a deeper relationship with science and the ocean. Kayla now works as a producer at The Story Collider, a non-profit dedicated to sharing true, personal stories about science, where she hosts live storytelling events and leads workshops on behalf of the organization. Follow her at @kaylamayglynn and catch her live on the Story Collider stage on February 11th, 2020!

Nerd Nite Solstice Spectacular

With only one month left in 2019, it’s time to celebrate Nerd Nites past. Join us for our 3rd annual Solstice Spectacular – a night of shenanigans, sasquatch and science! We’ve invited all of 2019’s Nerd Nite speakers to join us and we’re hoping you’ll join in too! Come and mingle, grab a drink, and watch past speakers and audience members play “Powerpoint Karaoke,” where presenters are given 5 minutes to present using a slide deck they haven’t seen before. Want to play? Put your name in a hat to present and win prizes! And true to Nerd Nite tradition, this Solstice will feature special guest speaker Jay Ingram (host of Discovery Channel’s ‘Daily Planet’, CBC’s ‘Quirks and Quarks’, and author of the book series ‘The Science of Why?) who will be delving into the complex science of the impacts of climate change on the sasquatch. THESE ARE THE BIG QUESTIONS EVERYONE!

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday December 18th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

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