Have you ever been somewhere and overheard two people having a spontaneous, intensely interesting talk but then you had to get off the bus? Or plane? Or crowded subway? You think to yourself: I wish I could have heard the rest of that conversation.
At UBC, our researchers are having remarkable conversations every day about nearly every subject you can possibly imagine, explored by minds that have spent their entire lifetimes devoted to their areas of expertise. Conversations as diverse as the subjects they teach. Important conversations. Human conversations. World-changing conversations.
But it isn’t often we have the chance to listen in. In this story, we offer a glimpse into a few of our highly distinguished faculty in conversation with one another — outside the classroom, coffee in hand, and walking through UBC’s beautiful Vancouver campus.
Herewith, the smartest coffee talk you may ever overhear.
Imagine it: Seeing the forest as it really is. Vulnerable. Diseased. Full of pathogens that threaten to spread into an epidemic. Invasive species lurking silently, just waiting for their chance to colonize and wreak havoc on the delicate ecology of our precious forests. Known sometimes as “Dr. Doom,” this is how Dr. Richard Hamelin, a forest pathologist and professor at the Faculty of Forestry at UBC, uses genetic and genomic research to better understand forest disease, experiences the forest. With the help of highly advanced DNA monitoring tools he can identify, track — and therefore help prevent harmful pathogens from gaining a foothold in Canadian forests. Yet despite his dark moniker, Hamelin’s demeanor is anything but serious — full of life, quick to laugh and launch into a colourful story, he is an ideal person to have a coffee and conversation with.
Professor Lori Daniels, Hamelin’s counterpart in the Faculty of Forestry, and herself jokingly referred to as “Dr. Gloom,” studies the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbance and climate variation on temperate forest dynamics. She joins Hamelin on a typical West Coast day with a blue-black storm threatening and rain readying to pour down — in a place in which they’re both most comfortable: the forest.
Take a walk with them and discover a deeper story of our forests — one that you may not have had the ability to see before now.
What happens when a seasoned journalist from New York City meets up with a West Coast sessional lecturer of economics to talk about sex, money and marriage? A conversation you never want to end.
Dr. Marina Adshade, UBC sessional lecturer and frequent media guest on the CBC and Global TV, and writer for such publications as Times.com and, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, among others, she is not to afraid to expose controversial data to the light of day; Adshade clearly relishes the politics of economics. In 2008 she launched the undergraduate course The Economics of Sex and Love, which became an instant success with students. Published in 2013, her book Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love catapulted her to international fame. Adshade is a consummate blogger at marinaadshade.com where she writes about the trials and tribulations of love and sex through an ‘economist’s lens.’ Whatever the forum, she is not afraid to drag hard data out into the light to make a point most others would find a little uncomfortable to know.
Most others but not Peter Klein. As a seasoned producer and Emmy Award-winning journalist, he isn’t easily made uncomfortable by anything or anyone. Which is why Klein, director of the UBC School of Journalism (and producer for CBC News’s 60 Minutes) is an ideal conversation partner for Adshade. Despite living on the laid-back West Coast for eight years, Klein brings not-a-little New York style to a serene UBC setting — the UBC Botanical Garden — where with frank but keen curiosity, he asks some tough questions about love, marriage, equality, power and just what economics has to do with it all.
If you’ve ever wondered about what really makes the ‘marriage market’ tick, tag along behind Klein and Adshade to find out.
The way a story is told by Wade Davis is unlike that told by any other person; it moves through him with a force that calls you to listen, to lean closer, quiet your own voice so as to hear the nuances of his as he describes one breath-taking adventure after another. His skill is informed, in part, from experiences most other humans would consider ‘on the edge’ of civilization. Wade might argue they are not on the edge but rather in the heart of it.
Davis asserts he’s not just an anthropologist or enthobotanist — he’s really a storyteller. His accomplishments as a storyteller read like a ticker tape of seven or eight researchers’ CVs — it is truly remarkable that it belongs to only one man. As a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who has been described by David Suzuki as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity,” Davis’s work draws us closer to understanding indigenous cultures. Through his stories, he quietly reveals a deeper knowledge of what it is to be alive and exposes our complex relationship to what he calls the ‘ethnosphere.’
In 2013, Davis left Washington, DC, to return to Vancouver and join UBC in July of 2014 as a professor of Anthropology. In his course description for Anthropology 100, he tells students that their first obligation is to “fill your eyes with wonder.”
You can too. Discover more of Davis’s remarkable and deeply inspiring photos, films and books on his site.
Jennifer Gardy, a highly accomplished researcher and science communicator, shifts between her roles as assistant professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, to senior scientist in molecular epidemiology at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, to frequent host of CBC’s popular television show The Nature of Things.
Like Davis, Gardy constantly seeks new knowledge about ancient biological systems but hers is on the molecular level, looking at emerging outbreak situations, bacterial and viral, through genomic epidemiology, a method that uses a bacterium’s or virus’s genome sequence as a tool for understanding how infectious disease spreads. As a self-described ‘disease detective’, Gardy has a passion for discovery that extends beyond the lab: she’s an outspoken advocate for science communications and can be found on multiple digital platforms writing, presenting, and tweeting @jennifergardy.
With a coffee, appropriately from the Ideas Lounge at UBC, Davis and Gardy delve into stories ending up at the Museum of Anthropology on UBC’s Vancouver campus. On the surface, these two researchers may seem an unlikely pairing but there is something in common you will hear if you listen close: a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world, the science behind the life that inhabits it and the more mysterious forces at work in its spirit.
A Place of Discovery
Whether it be over a coffee on campus, writing a grant, analyzing a genome sequence, engaging in ancient rituals, sharing lab space or interdisciplinary IP, researchers are engaging with one another, in part, because they share a common desire: the thrill of discovery.
At UBC, you could say “discovery” is part of our DNA. As a community, we collaborate in order to lead in research that can affect change in the world in a measurable way. As a university, we want to inspire students and provide a place of learning where discovery is achievable every day. Even if it just starts with a coffee and a conversation, anything is possible if you look around with “eyes filled with wonder.”
If you would like to know more about research at UBC, please visit our UBC Research website for information and resources.
Thank you to our interviewers and interviewees: Dr. Richard Hamelin, Professor, Faculty of Forestry and Dr. Lori Daniels, Associate Professor, Faculty of Forestry; Dr. Marina Adshade, Sessional Lecturer, Vancouver School of Economics and Mr. Peter Klein, Director and Associate Professor, School of Journalism; Dr. Wade Davis, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Dr. Jennifer Gardy, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine.
Special thanks to: The Great Dane & Andrew McKee; Blenz coffee in Wesbrook Village & Aman Dhanoya; Ideas Lunch and Wine Bar & Kevin Dueck; Katie Teed, senior manager, marketing and communication, UBC Botanical Garden; Celeste Moure, manager, marketing and communication, MOA.
We are also grateful for our student volunteer and staff who helped with the filming of our short films including: Lu Zhang, Arjun Hair, Justin Lee, and David Wong.
Story team: UBC Communications and Marketing — Margaret Doyle, Digital Storyteller; Lina Kang, Web Coordinator; Adrian Liem, Senior Web Coordinator; Jamil Rhajiak, Communications Coordinator, Digital Information Channels; Laura Stobbe, Communication Designer; Matt Warburton, Manager, Graphic Design; Aida Viziru, Web Interaction Designer. Additional support — David Leidl, Copy Editor and Researcher; Lou Zhang, Assistant Videographer.
Published: January 2015