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Monday, May 17, 2004

  • $3 million project for Iraq's wetlands
  • Student sparkles at diamond firm
  • The search for two deans
Chris Redmond

World Telecommunication Day

[Tall reeds, low boat]

Scene in Iraq's wetlands in the late 1970s, from a web site by visiting professor Yasser Tabbaa at Oberlin College, Ohio.

$3 million project for Iraq's wetlands

Government and UW officials announced Friday that UW will play a role in restoring "an important and environmentally sensitive region in southern Iraq", the Mesopotamian marshes, which were almost destroyed during the 1990s.

The $3 million project was announced by local MP Andrew Telegdi on behalf of the federal Minister for International Cooperation and the Canadian International Development Agency. "Canada's participation in international efforts to restore the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq supports our commitment to improve the quality of life of the Iraqi people," Telegdi said. "But beyond that, our support for this project will benefit the region and global environmental efforts."

CIDA overview: Canada's work in Iraq

UW news release

World Wetlands Day marked in 1999

The marshes in Iraq, particularly the Mesopotamian marshes located in the south where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet, are the largest in the Middle East and are seen as having regional and global significance both for biodiversity and for human culture. During the 1990s, the wetlands were reduced to seven per cent of their original size -- mostly turned into parched desert -- because of dam projects upstream in other countries and actions by Iraq's own government. The population of the marshes has dropped to 50,000 people from 500,000 -- the majority of whom were displaced. Recently, local people, including the Ma'dan, have started to return to their homeland and are making attempts to re-flood some areas.

UW's Wetlands Research Centre, the only university-based research centre focusing on wetlands in Canada, will contribute scientific expertise in the restoration efforts which will help in the repatriation of the Ma'dan peoples to Iraq and the re-establishment of their traditional lifestyles and culture. It will also support the building of wetland science and restoration expertise in Iraqi institutions, and facilitate the development of a National Wetland Program and Strategy in coordination with existing programs in the Middle East and internationally.

Said UW president David Johnston: "The work done here at our Wetlands Research Centre by Dr. Barry Warner and his colleagues helps Canada to play a major role in international wetland issues given the large proportion of the world wetland resources situated in this country."

The $3 million initiative will support the provision of Canadian expertise from universities, research institutes and museums, nature federations and non-governmental organizations. It will also support graduate programs and professional training for Iraqis, as well as the establishment of wetland restoration demonstration sites in cooperation with various Iraqi institutions.

Considering that Foreign Affairs Canada has issued a "restrictive travel advisory" for Iraq, this project will not involve any Canadian experts actually going to Iraq until further notice, an announcement said.

The CIDA funding starts with $200,000 for the design phase of the project and will continue with $2,800,000 for the implementation phase "subject to government and university approval".


Student sparkles at diamond firm -- by Nancy Collins, from the UW Recruiter employer newsletter

As one of the world's most sought-after natural resources, diamonds symbolize many things, including love, engagement and success. Here at CECS, we are proud of our own precious resource -- our junior co-op students. Full of enthusiasm and motivation, they are always up for a challenge.

Kyle Murray (right), a 1A environmental engineering student, is no exception. When a job was offered to him at BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc., Kyle said goodbye to his cozy Waterloo life and ventured nearly 5000 km northward to BHP Billiton's EKATI diamond mine, located 300 km northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc. is part of the world's largest diversified resource company, BHP Billiton Group. Its EKATI mine is North America's largest operational diamond mine, yielding 4 per cent of the world's diamonds by weight and 6 per cent by value. An estimated $1.7 million worth of diamonds are extracted daily at this massive operation.

In EKATI's isolated tundra environment, where winter temperatures can reach minus 40 degrees C plus windchill, Murray spent his winter in the Environment Department where he worked on a 4/3 rotation, with 4 days working and living at the mine site and 3 days off in Yellowknife. As a member of the environment team, he assisted with a variety of field, lab and office activities, such as extracting water samples and documenting spills. While this type of work may sound routine enough, as he pointed out, life in a tundra environment can turn even ordinary activities into new challenges. "The clothing required to venture outside in minus-40 weather is very bulky. Goose down filled parkas, large snow pants, as well as multiple pairs of mitts. Trooping up and down a few flights of stairs wearing this type of equipment can tire you out quite quickly."

Senate graduate and research council, 10:30, Needles Hall room 3001.

'The Velveteen Rabbit', children's performances by Touring Players, today and tomorrow 10:00, 11:45 and 1:30, Humanities Theatre.

'Cultural biology' distinguished speaker series, department of philosophy: Steven Quartz, CalTech, today through Thursday, 3 p.m., Humanities room 334. More information online.

UW senate, 4:30, Needles Hall room 3001. Agenda includes a report on proposed school of pharmacy and health sciences campus.

'Job search strategies for international students", career development workshop, 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208.

'Printing and Scanning Made Easy', seminar at UW Graphics, Tuesday 11:00, graphics conference room, call ext. 2210 to register.

Drought-Tolerant Perennials workshop by Lenore Ross, U of Guelph Arboretum, Tuesday, May 18, noon, Math and Computer room 2066, sponsored by Employee Assistance Program, preregister with Johan Reis, health services.

'Building Students' Learning Skills in the Transition to University", teaching resources workshop, Tuesday noon, CEIT room 1015 (note change of location), more information online.

Germanic and Slavic studies, second Departmental Conference, Thursday, program online.

The cold created another interesting challenge for Murray, in the form of a special project. Working independently, he researched the effects of cold weather on the accuracy of field instrumentation, an effort which allowed him to mesh the practical aspects of his job into a unique research study. Project opportunities like this one are something that BHP Billiton's environment department always offers its students, as a means of supporting their development in the area of environmental studies. Jim Millard, an environmental specialist at the EKATI mine, emphasizes that the company is dedicated to providing students with enriching work experience. "What I see from BHP Billiton, especially from the environmental department, is 100 per cent support of students," he said. "We really believe in supporting students to give them the experience they require to become good environmental scientists or engineers."

This support extends to students at all levels. As a first work term student, Murray was the most junior UW student to have filled the environment position at BHP Billiton. Regardless, his positive attitude and motivation allowed him to excel and, according to Millard, attitude is what counts the most in a student. "If somebody has a really good attitude, it doesn't matter if they're first year, or second year, or third year," he said.

The search for two deans

Committees are at work picking two of UW's future deans -- one for mathematics and one for applied health sciences. Both are to take office July 1, 2005.

The committees, announced earlier this year, are seeking successors to Alan George of math and Mike Sharratt of AHS. Sharratt will have been dean for eight years, the usual maximum. George, dean 1980-86 and again since 1998, "has informed me that he does not wish to serve beyond the end of his current term", according to a memo from UW provost Amit Chakma.

Each committee "has held its first meeting", Chakma writes.

About AHS, the provost's memo summarizes the procedure for finding a dean, as set out in UW Policy 45. The committee will invite nominations, it will advertise the job, "and it will establish criteria against which nominations and applications may be measured. . . . After screening candidates, the committee shall select the person it regards as most suitable for the position, and shall submit its recommendation for the appointment of that candidate to the regular faculty members of the Faculty." Nominations eventually go to the president, the UW senate and the board of governors for final approval.

As for mathematics, the memo gives a progress report, saying that by the end of May "members hope to have identified the important issues facing the Faculty so that the characteristics to be sought in the next Dean can be developed in context. . . . Members intend to consult broadly, so don't be surprised if your views are sought."

Each nominating committee for a dean's position is chaired by Chakma as the vice-president. The other committee members:

AHS: Margaret Burnett, staff, kinesiology; Caley Cramp, undergraduate student, kin; Sherry Dupuis, faculty, recreation and leisure studies; Geoffrey Fong, psychology; Rhona Hanning, health studies and gerontology; Richard Hughson, kin; Alison Pedlar, rec; Lisa Sailor, graduate student, rec; Terry Stewart, staff, dean's office; Patricia Wainwright, HS&G; Richard Wells, kin.

Math: Sue Ann Campbell, faculty, applied math; Brian Forrest, pure math; Peter Forsyth, computer science; Ian Goulden, combinatorics and optimization; Greg Hines, undergraduate student; Jerry Lawless, statistics and actuarial science; Tamer Özsu, CS; Lucy Simpson, staff member; Craig Sloss, graduate student; Ursula Thoene, staff; John Thompson, biology.


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