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Monday, June 4, 2001

  • UW enters 150th international link
  • All new staff will be members
  • Golf meet raises funds for athletics
  • Also happening this grey day
  • Computing courses in June

UW enters 150th international link -- from the UW news bureau

UW has signed its 150th international agreement, for a collaborative research project aimed at saving coral reefs -- "the lungs of the ocean" -- around the world.

A $31,750 grant from the National Geographic Society has sealed a joint agreement between the Waterloo Laboratory for Earth Observations, based in UW's faculty of environmental studies, and the National University of Singapore to conduct work on the remote sensing of stressed tropical reefs. As well, an equipment grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has paid for a newly designed underwater hyper-spectral radiometer, which provides in-situ (in position) validation of image analysis of submerged coral reefs.

[LeDrew] "This collaboration marks the 150th international agreement at UW," said Drew Knight, director of the international programs office. "Waterloo has steadily increased institutional partnerships with education and research organizations abroad. Such activity has provided many enriching opportunities for our students."

Geography professor Ellsworth LeDrew (left), co-director of the project with Heather Holden of Singapore, said coral ecosystems are the oceanic equivalent of the tropical rain forests: "Reefs are the lungs of the ocean, doing the same job as rain forests do for the atmosphere. Their health has an impact globally on the environment."

In the past few years, as much as 10 per cent of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed or badly damaged because of land-based pollution, mining, over-fishing and climate change. It's been estimated that at the present rate of devastation, another 60 per cent could be destroyed in the next 20 to 30 years.

"Compounding these problems are issues related to climate change, particularly ocean temperature fluctuations due to El Niño events that have imposed considerable stress on the biological vigor of coral reefs, commonly known as coral bleaching," LeDrew said.

In the coral reef project, joint research teams will utilize remote sensing analysis and in-situ measurements to monitor and assess changes to reef ecosystems in Fiji, Indonesia and Malaysia. They will be measuring the spectral signature of healthy and stressed coral and the spatial coherence of those spectra. "Healthy coral has a changing spectral signature from area to area, but damaged coral is more homogenous," LeDrew said.

The researchers are seeking to validate an algorithm to process satellite data to assist in mapping changes in coral health. Ultimately, such an approach could use satellite reconnaissance to provide early warnings of changes in coral systems.

To date, according to figures from the international programs office, UW has established 81 student exchange programs, 31 contribution agreements for research and development studies, and 38 memorandums of understanding to facilitate a broad range of collaborative activities in more than 60 countries. About 700 students go abroad each year for co-op work placements, exchange programs, research assignments and study tours.

All new staff will be members

Everybody who starts work in a staff job at UW, as of September 1 this year, will automatically be a member of the staff association, under a constitutional change approved at the association's annual general meeting Friday.

Only one person, among about 50 who attended the meeting, voted against the proposed change, brought forward by the association's executive.

Walter McCutchan, winding up his term as association president, defended the proposal. "All we are doing is changing the default," he said. And while all newly hired staff will start out as members, they don't have to stay that way: "People can still withdraw." He stressed that the change has no effect on anybody who's already working at UW or starts here before the end of August.

The constitutional change comes with a clause that says the staff association executive can suspend the compulsory-membership provision if it wishes. McCutchan said that would happen if there are difficulties getting "cooperation from the university's administration" to collect $3.50-a-month dues from the automatic new members.

However, he added, the plan has been discussed twice in the UW staff relations committee, and administration representatives seemed to welcome it.

At present, the meeting was told, about 55 per cent of eligible UW staff are members of the association.

The meeting also included a lively discussion of pension and benefits issues, and a warning from McCutchan that the university's pension and benefits committee is looking at ways of "managing benefit costs". "I just don't know that I see much chance of anything good coming out of it," he said. "I think 'managing benefit costs' is a euphemism for cuts."

Earlier in the meeting, he said staff leaders are "kind of pissed off" at the state of UW's finances and the squeeze that's being put on salaries. "The university is facing tough times," he said, "but I feel that they've had enough trips to our well." He said the problem is "not on campus" but with government support, or lack of it, for higher education, and he urged staff members to join the chorus telling Ottawa and Queen's Park that "enough is enough!"

"Will unionizing at UW help?" he asked. "I don't believe it will."

New executive members for 2001-02 took office at the end of the meeting, including Ed Chrzanowski taking over for McCutchan as president. (In Friday's Bulletin, I mistakenly referred to Paul McKone as the 2000-01 president; he actually was president in 1999-2000.)

Steve Breen becomes president-elect; Chris Henderson takes another year as vice-president; Doug McTavish continues as treasurer; Anne Jenson continues as secretary. Directors will be Paul Ludwig, Nancy O'Neil, Brian Whitfield and Bruce Woods.

Golf meet raises funds for athletics

Friends of UW are golfing today at Blue Springs Golf Club in Acton, as UW holds its first "President's Golf Tournament", sponsored by Descartes Systems Group of Waterloo.

The tournament is a collaborative effort between the UW office of alumni affairs and the department of athletics and recreational services. The purpose is to raise funds for a new initiative called the "Athletics Excellence Fund" in support of UW athletes and teams competing at major championship competitions.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for friends and alumni of the University of Waterloo to come together in support of a great cause," says UW president David Johnston. "Our student athletes are tremendous ambassadors of the University of Waterloo and this event will create a legacy of support to be enjoyed by many future generations of athletes who carry the Waterloo banner with pride."

Corporate support "has been highly encouraging", says a news release, including a leadership gift by Descartes Systems Group. Peter Schwartz, chairman and CEO of Descartes, said: "The University of Waterloo contributes a great deal to the region and the business community. This is Descartes' chance to give something back." Other major sponsors include Sun Microsystems of Canada, Ernst & Young, Hogg Fuel & Supply and Merrill Lynch. The tournament also has 18 "Championship Participant" sponsors, each sponsoring a hole on the course.

The organizing committee, chaired by local businessman and UW alumnus Peter Paleczny (president of Able-One Systems), hopes to raise more than $30,000 for the Athletics Excellence Fund. "This event will become the largest annual fund-raiser for athletics thanks to a extremely active committee and very supportive university," said Paleczny. In addition to tournament entry fees and sponsorship, funds will be raised through a silent auction.

Also happening this grey day

Today's a good day to sign up for the "green commute" challenge, which invites people to walk, cycle, bus or carpool to work tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.

An artificial intelligence seminar is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in Davis Centre room 1302: Gord McCalla of the University of Saskatchewan speaks on "Life and Learning in the Electronic Village: The Design of Intelligent Systems to Support Learning in a Fragmented Social and Technological Environment".

The executive committee of UW's senate meets at 3:30 in Needles Hall room 3004, to set the agenda for the senate meeting of June 18. Among items listed: the annual report of the University Tenure and Promotion Advisory Committee.

An open house is scheduled for today, 4:45 to 6 p.m., at Waterloo city hall (on Regina Street South) to show off the "building design concept" for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, to be built on the site of the now-closed Waterloo Arena between UW and downtown Waterloo.

Amazon.com has an employer information session scheduled for 6:30 tonight in the Ground Zero restaurant in the Student Life Centre (which is closed all this term, except for special events). Amazon is looking for "computer science, electrical engineering or math" graduates and co-op students to hire.

Co-op employer interviews for teaching students start today, as the general interview period continues. Job postings for architecture students begin tomorrow at noon.

Computing courses in June

The information systems and technology department (IST) is offering computing courses in June to UW faculty, staff and students. The following courses are listed: The following courses are part of the Skills for the Academic e-Workplace program, and are offered to faculty, graduate students, and staff with instructional responsibilities: More information and a course registration form are available on the web. New courses will be taught every month, and advertised at the same web location.


[UW logo] Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca | Friday's Bulletin
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