University of Saskatchewan

July 28, 2014   

Research News Issue 51 December 2008

December 08, 2008 Research News

Produced by Research Communications for the University of Saskatchewan

December 2008 Issue 51

Research News covers the latest results and benefits of U of S research, scholarly, and artistic work, as well as the services and outstanding faculty, students, and staff that advance the university's $140-million-a-year research enterprise.

In This Issue

Top Stories
Frogs Smell Death Before Birth
Study Links Childhood Activity to Long-term Bone Health
U of S and Partners Launch Caribbean Nursing Initiative
CLS and Brazilian Synchrotron Sign Agreement
Morris Industries Provides Support for U of S Crop Research
Social Website Antidote to Women’s Isolation in Male-dominated Professions
Canada West Foundation Opens Sask. Office in Edwards School of Business
Funding for Canadian Journal of History
Award-winning Saskatchewan Health Researchers Tackle Pain, Anxiety, Senior Fitness, and Schizophrenia
Geochemist and Cameco Honoured for Uranium Waste Research
Sask. Book Awards Have U of S Connections
U of S Vocal Major Wins Opera Competition
Grad Student Honoured at NSERC Innovation Challenge Awards
Innovation Poster Wins National Prize
Filling You In: News from the OVPR
New ILO Appointment
Calls for Papers/Proposals
Call for Applications: Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research
Call for Proposals: Global Partners II
Call for Nominations: CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s Competition
Call for Papers: Conference on the St. Lawrence Seaway at 50
SHRF Funding Facts
From the Research Newsroom
Distinguished Researcher Videos Highlight Cancer Researchers
Has Your Research Had an Impact? Tell Us Your Story

Top Stories

Frogs Smell Death Before Birth

Wood frog tadpoles, such as the one pictured above, can detect predators before they are hatched.

Frogs can detect the scent of danger when they are still tadpoles, says a paper published this week in New Scientist by U of S biology PhD candidate Maud Ferrari.

Ferrari and her research team soaked wood frog eggs in water that used to hold fire-bellied newts, a common predator. Half of the tadpoles were also exposed to an infusion of crushed tadpoles, which carried chemicals signaling death.

When tadpoles hatched, those exposed to the “smell of death” froze in place, a common defense against predators, while those who were not exposed continued swimming on as they normally would.

The team’s studies are believed to be among the first demonstrating that animals can learn a predator’s smell before they are born. They are now investigating whether fish have the same ability.

For more on this study, visit the New Scientist at:

Study Links Childhood Activity to Long-term Bone Health

This week a group of University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researchers published one of the first studies in the world that followed kids’ physical activity over a long time period of 17 years.

The research group, which includes kinesiology professors Adam Baxter-Jones, Saija Kontulainen, and Robert Faulkner, published a paper in Bone: Official Journal of the International Bone and Mineral Society proving that kids who are physically active have better bone health when they’re older.

The paper drew its data from the Saskatchewan Pediatric Bone Mineral Accrual study that has been running at the U of S since 1991.

The finding builds on a seminal paper—cited over 200 times—published by Professor Emeritus Don Bailey in 1999. Bailey’s study showed children who were more active in adolescence had stronger bones. The present paper shows that this bone health benefit has been maintained into young adulthood.

U of S and Partners Launch Caribbean Nursing Initiative

U of S associate nursing professor Pammla Petrucka.

The U of S College of Nursing announced a $1.15-million international development initiative this week that will take a technology-based approach to providing better access to health information to nurses in the Caribbean.

Through a partnership with the International Development Research Center (IDRC), the Canadian Nurses Association—NurseOne, and SaskTel, the College will provide nurses in five developing Caribbean countries with personal digital assistants (PDAs) linked to a wireless network.

Canadian researchers will work in close collaboration with Caribbean-based health experts and practitioners in Barbados, the Dominican Republic, the Commonwealth of Dominica, St. Kitts-Nevis and St. Lucia, with the aim of promoting knowledge exchange and strengthening local capacity in the areas of nursing training, care and quality of health services.

“Nurses in these countries struggle to find up-to-date medical information. If their hospitals have medical libraries at all, the books are often out of date. In some cases, they have to rely on public libraries. All of this cuts down on the time and quality of care they are able to invest in their patients,” says Pammla Petrucka, the U of S associate professor of nursing who heads the project.

To read the full news release, visit:

CLS and Brazilian Synchrotron Sign Agreement

Jeffrey Cutler, CLS Director of Industrial Science, speaks at the signing ceremony. At the table (L to R) Paul Hunt, Canadian Ambassador to Brazil; The Hon. Stockwell Day, Canadian Minister of International Trade; Cutler; José Antonio Brum, Director-General of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory.

Representatives from the Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS) officially agreed to collaborate on developing state-of-the-art synchrotron instrumentation last month in Campinas, Brazil, with Stockwell Day, Canada's minister of international trade, in attendance.

“This memorandum of understanding is the first step to what will be a very productive relationship between the synchrotrons of Canada and Brazil,” said Jeffrey Cutler, CLS Director of Industrial Science. “Both of our facilities have similar mandates to apply synchrotron tools and techniques to areas that benefit our countries’ scientific and technological strengths.”

Speaking on behalf of the Brazilian contingent, José Antônio Brum, noted, "Synchrotrons have developed into one of the most valuable scientific tools for developing new materials biomedical samples, and biological and chemical processes."

Under the agreement, the respective synchrotron staffs will collaborate on projects and exchange ideas, information, and staff. Such cooperation is already underway, with CLS and LNLS jointly designing and building components to use in X-ray diffraction facilities planned at the synchrotrons.

For the full news release, visit:

Morris Industries Provides Support for U of S Crop Research

U of S plant breeding research received a major boost last month thanks to a combined $100,000 cash and in-kind donation from Saskatoon-based implement manufacturer Morris Industries Ltd.

The donation provides the U of S Crop Development Centre with the use of innovative seeding equipment for three years, as well as a significant cash donation towards the CDC’s new Grains Innovation Laboratory (GIL) now under construction and slated for completion in the fall of 2009.

“This generous sponsorship from Morris Industries will enable the CDC to gain new efficiencies in managing its farmlands and breeding programs and will contribute to the successful completion of the new lab,” said CDC managing director Dorothy Murrell.

For the full news release, visit:

Social Website Antidote to Women’s Isolation in Male-dominated Professions

Zina Sahib, U of S computer science graduate student and WISEtales creator.

It’s not a stretch to say that women remain underrepresented in most areas of science and engineering.

Instead of dwelling on this depressing fact, Zina Sahib, a U of S computer science graduate student, decided to do something about it by developing WISEtales, a new online community that allows women at different stages of their studies or career in these areas to share their personal stories.

"People learn best from telling and listening to stories", says Julita Vassileva, Zina's advisor and NSERC/Cameco Prairie Chair for Women in Science and Engineering. “Positive stories provide advice, inspiration and confidence, while negative stories serve as cautionary tales and allow women to vent some of their frustrations.”

The WISEtales community serves as a collective blog where women can post stories and reflect on their experiences from their study and work life. It has attracted visitors of all ages and from all continents, across both from academia and industry.

Visit the site at or

Canada West Foundation Opens Sask. Office in Edwards School of Business

Canada West Foundation (CWF), a public policy think tank, has opened a Saskatchewan office within the U of S Edwards School of Business.

Under the leadership of Jack Vicq, a U of S professor emeritus, the new location will provide more opportunities to actively collaborate with Saskatchewan’s public policy community.

Though there is no formal affiliation between the CFW and the Edwards School, or between the CWF and the U of S, the Foundation expects the new location will lead to extensive research partnerships and collaborative events.

In Saskatchewan, the CFW will be working closely with the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, the Edwards School of Business and other organizations interested in constructive public policy discussion and debate.

The CWF is a leading source of strategic insight, conducting and communicating non-partisan economic and public policy research of importance to the four western provinces and all Canadians.

For more information on the Canada West Foundation, see

Funding for Canadian Journal of History

The U of S history department’s Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes has been awarded a $66,600 Aid to Scholarly Journals grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

The award will cover operating expenses—and the cost of expanding the Journal’s online presence—during the 2008-2011 period.

The CJH/ACH was established by the history department in 1966 as a way of giving Canadian scholars in all history fields a larger academic audience, both in and outside Canada.

The Journal has been published at the U of S since its inception. In 1991, it established an annual Graduate Student Essay Competition, and it celebrated its 40th anniversary in December 2005. The CJH/ACH looks forward to many more years of continued academic excellence.


Award-winning Saskatchewan Health Researchers Tackle Pain, Anxiety, Senior Fitness, and Schizophrenia

U of S associate psychology professor John Howland was one of five U of S researchers honoured at the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation’s Santé! Awards Dinner. (Photo courtesy of SHRF).

Five Saskatchewan researchers were recognized last Thursday for excellence and achievement in exploring links between chronic pain and anxiety disorders, the causes of schizophrenia, maintaining physical activity for health in seniors, the link between pets and gastrointestinal disease, and the role of community-based organizations in public health policy.

“We are pleased to provide support to the important work of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation in its fifth year of funding health research in this province,” said Saskatchewan Minister of Health Don McMorris. “We have remarkable talent in Saskatchewan, doing leading edge research in the health sciences.”

The researchers are the award recipients from the annual Santé! Awards Dinner in Saskatoon presented by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF).

Gordon Asmundson, a psychologist from the University of Regina (U of R) and an adjunct psychiatry professor at the U of S, received the 2008 SHRF Achievement Award for career achievement and groundbreaking work in chronic pain management and in particular how such pain can be worsened by fear and anxiety disorders.

This year’s SHRF Top Researcher Awards winners are John Howland, Lawrence Brawley, and Bonnie Chaban from the U of S, and Gloria DeSantis from the U of R.

For more information, including a full listing of funded researchers and summaries of their work, visit

Geochemist and Cameco Honoured for Uranium Waste Research

U of S geochemist Jim Hendry.

A U of S geochemist has received a national award and $200,000 in research funding for his collaborative research with the world’s largest uranium producer to minimize the environmental impact of mine waste.

The research partnership between Jim Hendry and Cameco has earned the 2008 Synergy Award for Large Companies, a recognition by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) of their 15-year effort to protect groundwater from toxins stored in uranium tailings ponds.

“Both partners bring different skill sets to this effort to understand what could happen to the minerals in the tailings that bind the toxins over the next 10,000 years,” says Hendry. “We can then use that knowledge to try to predict their long-term impact on nearby lakes and rivers.”

Hendry is currently in an unprecedented third five-year term as NSERC Industrial Research Chair. This research draws on both Cameco’s knowledge of engineering and processing and Hendry’s expertise in the behavior of toxic elements and their movement through water systems.

To read the full news release, visit:

To view an interview with Jim Hendry and his Cameco research partners, visit

Sask. Book Awards Have U of S Connections

James Youngblood Henderson, U of S Native Research Centre Director.

James Youngblood Henderson, associate member of the college of law and director of research at the Native Law Centre, won in the Scholarly Writing category for Treaty Rights in the Constitution of Canada at the 2008 Saskatchewan Books Awards, held on November 29 in Saskatoon.

Henderson’s book places the legal analysis of treaty rights in the broader context of the respective histories of First Nations and of Canada.

U of S history professor Bill Waiser was nominated in the Saskatoon Book Award category for Who Killed Jackie Bates? Murder and Mercy during the Great Depression.

And Carey Rigby-Wilcox, a Saskatoon graphic artist and mother of four, was nominated for Book of the Year. Rigby-Wilcox, whose My Mummy Couldn't Read tells the story of her journey to literacy from her son's point of view, benefitted from having English professor Lisa Vargo as her literacy volunteer.

Professor Vargo, involved with READ Saskatoon for 18 years, began working with Carey in 1991. She says the two have developed a happy and longstanding learning partnership through their joint book reading.

For more information on Rigby-Wilcox’s story, visit and

To view the complete list of Saskatchewan Book Award winners, visit:

U of S Vocal Major Wins Opera Competition

U of S vocal music major Jordie Hughton.

U of S vocal major Jordie Hughton’s baritone impressed judges at the Gordon C. Wallis Memorial Opera Competition, earning him the $5,000 top prize.

The singer performed works by Mozart, Schumann and Gounod in a hotly contested 11-person competition.

Winning the Wallis competition provides Hughton the opportunity to perform with the Regina and Saskatoon symphonies in their upcoming seasons.

Hughton is the second U of S student to win the Wallis competition, joining soprano Laurien Gibson who won in 2002.

The U of S music department was well represented at the event by five students and a recent graduate.

Held every two years, the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association’s Wallis competition is intended to support young singers in their opera studies.

Grad Student Honoured at NSERC Innovation Challenge Awards

U of S animal and poultry science graduate student Sarah Helgeson (centre) receives Innovation Challenge Award from Doug Gill, managing ILO director (right) and Jackie Presnell from Innovation Place (left).

Sarah Helgeson, a M.Sc. graduate student in animal and poultry science, received an honorable mention and $1,500 cash award as the only female finalist at the 2008 NSERC Innovation Challenge Awards in Halifax.

The annual contest involved universities nominating graduate students who were developing commercial applications and products through their research.

Helgeson’s thesis work, under the supervision of Sheila Schmutz, focuses on a genetic variation in a cattle appetite gene shown to significantly affect back fat measurements, tenderness and palatability.

“These findings could be marketed to producers and breeders to improve the consistency of beef products,” Helgeson says.

Helgeson is also looking at improving finishing time predictions.

“Between the time cattle enter the feedlot and the time they go to slaughter, they produce the bulk of their muscle and fat. It costs money to feed them while there, so the less time they’re there, the greater the profitability for producers.”

For more information on the NSERC Innovation Challenge awards, visit:

Innovation Poster Wins National Prize

U of S MSc student Victor Das presents the poster that won him and an interdisciplinary research group the Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technology’s annual poster competition.

An interdisciplinary U of S research group won the Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technology (ACCT) annual poster contest at a competition held in Ottawa last month.

M.Sc. student in Interdisciplinary Studies (biotechnology and society) Victor Das, his supervisor George Khachatourians (food and bioproduct sciences), and political studies professor Peter Phillips co-designed the poster, which beat out the University of Toronto for first prize.

Entitled “Analysis of a Canadian Innovation: Study of Commercialization of Plant-Derived Vaccines,” the poster outlines evolving strategies for commercializing vaccines in Canada.

Victor Das is currently investigating how to translate early stage biotechnology innovations into practical vaccines for human use. He also works with the U of S Industry Liaison Office (ILO) as a graduate student assistant.

Filling You In: News from the OVPR

New ILO Appointment

Annie Meng has been appointed as an information systems administrator at the Industry Liaison Office (ILO).

Meng has significant database administration experience and was previously with the U of S College of Nursing.

“My new appointment brings excitement, but will also entail multidisciplinary challenges due to the uncertain global economy,” Meng says.

“The ILO has been providing excellent support for the researchers since 2004. I am energized and looking forward to being part of the team.”

Calls for Papers and Proposals

Call for Applications: Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is welcoming applications for its Top Achievements in Health Research competition.

This new competition will recognize Canadian health research achievements that have had a significant impact on health, health care, and health research by improving our understanding of health and human diseases, tackling health challenges, and improving our health system.

CIHR has partnered with the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) to showcase significant Canadian achievements. The Top Health Research Achievements, as selected by an independent review committee, will be considered for publication in the CMAJ.

The competition is open to individuals or teams working in Canada in the health field, including: health researchers, health professionals, administrators and those involved in public health or public policy.

Applications must be submitted to CIHR by December 31, 2008.

For more information about the competition or the application process, refer to the Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research.

Call for Proposals: Global Partners II

With support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the OVPR’s International Research Office (IRO) and the College of Arts and Science are offering a seed grant program called Global Partners II.

Global Partners II will enable researchers and graduate students to develop and expand their international collaborations by providing grants for research and travel, support for international lecturers, and collaborative research opportunities.

Grants include:

  • Standard grant: Up to $10,000 per project (up to 6 projects will be funded)
  • Enhanced grant (by invitation): One or two meritorious projects will be invited to apply for an additional $10,000 per project to enhance their activities and results in three strategic areas: student mobility, research and/or knowledge translation
  • Graduate student scholarships: Up to $5,000 per project (up to 2 projects will be funded)

A half-page Statement of Intent is due on December 17, 2008, to inform the selection committee of your interest in the program and provide a brief description of proposed activities.

Full proposals may be submitted any time between now and 4:30 pm, January 16, 2009.

Please follow the link below for application form and guidelines:

If you have questions or require assistance, please contact Le Li, U of S International Research Facilitator at

Call for Nominations: CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s Competition

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is calling for nominations for the 2009-2010 Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s Competition, also known as the Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarships.

Applications are due in to the College of Graduate Studies and Research office, located on the first floor of the Room C180, Administration, on January 16, 2009. Results will be released by CIHR in early summer, 2009.

For more information contact the College of Graduate Studies and Research at 966-5760.

Call for Papers: Conference on the St. Lawrence Seaway at 50

The Middle Atlantic and New England Council for Canadian Studies (MANECCS), in partnership with The Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker Centre for the Study of Canada (DCC) at the U of S, will host a two-day interdisciplinary colloquium commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The St. Lawrence Seaway at 50: An Interdisciplinary Colloquium will be held at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre in Saskatoon, May 4-5, 2009.

Conference organizers are calling for papers on the waterway’s history, its human costs, its role as a transportation highway, or its economic environmental implications for the surrounding communities.

Participants will be encouraged to circulate their draft presentations prior to the colloquium and can expect engaged discussion of their work.

Abstracts of between 250 and 500 words, along with a short biography or CV, should be submitted electronically to both colloquium organizers: and

All proposals should be submitted by January 25, 2009.

For more information, visit the MANECCS website:


SHRF Funding Facts

The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is extending an open invitation to an information meeting for anyone interested in finding more about SHRF’s new investigator grants, research fellowships, group and team grants, and research connections funding.

Where: Fireplace Room, Faculty Club

When: Wednesday, January 7, 2009.

Time: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

For more information, call the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation at (306) 975-1680.

From the Research Newsroom

Distinguished Researcher Videos Highlight Cancer Researchers

Wei Xiao, U of S Spring 2008 Distinguished Researcher and Roanne Thomas-MacLean, U of S Fall 2008 Distinguished Researcher.

Research Communications and Educational Media Access and Production have released two new videos spotlighting this year’s U of S Distinguished Researcher Award winners, Wei Xiao and Roanne Thomas-MacLean.

Xiao and his research team have hit upon a ‘9-1-1’ signal that prompts cells to battle such cancer-causing agents as UV and industrial toxins.

Thomas-MacLean, a sociologist, is working with 745 breast cancer survivors across Canada to learn more about the impact of arm morbidity disabilities that often plague survivors.

To view their video interviews, visit:

Has Your Research Had an Impact? Tell Us Your Story

Has your CFI, CIHR, NSERC, or SSHRC grant led to an important discovery or breakthrough? Has it led you to the development of new products or influenced policy or practice? We would like you to share the answers to these questions by sending an email to us at

Please explain in a few sentences how the findings from CFI or tri-council funded research are making a difference. Your story may be forwarded to the granting agencies to be highlighted on their web pages and in U of S Research Communications publications.

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