Crime, Bugs and the Physics of Fire Ants


We all know bugs are important in the function of ecosystems but did you know about their importance in the world of forensics, or in the study of physics? This week on Terra Informa, we go to Chris Chang-Yen Phillips to discuss a murder investigation with a forensic entomologist. And after we hear about the physics of fire ants from our partners over at Science Faction.

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Investigating with Bugs

Piecing together a crime can be a messy business. Police can run up against unreliable witnesses, or destroyed evidence. But what if the animals around a body could tell you a story about what happened? Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has this story from forensic entomologist and Simon Fraser University professor Gail Anderson in Vancouver.

Science Faction

Here is a link to Science Faction’s website. This was the first episode in an 8-part miniseries.

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Photo by: AV Design

Photos, Fires, Iron and Earth


They say photos speak louder than words, but what words have the people taking the photos? This week, we’ll listen to the thoughts of photographers Edward Burtynsky and Sara Lindstrom. As well, Kerry Oxford, a spokeswoman for Iron & Earth, voices the environmental conscience of those who work in the Alberta Oil Sands, the men and women directly exposed to the dilemma of our modern existence.

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Iron & Earth

If support for the oil sands and support for the environment were concentric circles, Iron & Earth is an organization that is occupying the apparent no man’s land in between. But Iron & Earth’s position is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Terra Informer Tasmia Nishat spoke to Kerry Oxford about how the organization aims to bridge the gap.

Environmental Photographer of 2016 – Sara Lindstrom

Raised in Sweden, Sara Lindstrom is a globetrotting photographer who won the 2016 Atkins Ciwem environmental photographer of the year award with the above photo of a wildfire in the southern Alberta rocky mountains. Terra Informer Shelley Jodoin speaks with Sara about the winning shot, and her goal of using her impressive photography talent to inspire people to take care of the earth.

Burtynsky’s Photos Speak For Themselves

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has photographed extreme landscapes made by humans: abandoned marble quarries, mountains of e-waste, never-ending freeways, infinite suburbs. Rather than putting any judgement on the people who created these landscapes, he tends to let his photographs speak for themselves.

Terra Informa’s Trevor Chow-Fraser works at the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability and helped bring Edward Burtynsky to Edmonton for International Week in January 2014. That’s how Chris Chang-Yen Phillips got a chance to speak to the photographer about his approach.

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A Tour of Edmonton’s Waste Management Centre


Photos by Amanda Rooney

This week on Terra Informa, we bring you along on our field trip of Edmonton’s Waste Management Centre, one of the leading waste management facilities in the world.

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Edmonton Waste Management Field Trip

This past September Terra Informers Tasmia Nishat and Amanda Rooney took a trip to the Edmonton Waste Management Center. The Edmonton  Waste Management Center is well known throughout Canada as a leading innovator  in the business of dealing with municipal waste. The Center is able to divert 50% of the city’s residential waste from the landfill every year. In this piece we join a group on their tour of the Center and it’s facilities. Free tours of the facility are available to the public, every Friday morning at 9am and every Friday afternoon at 12:30pm. The tour is 2 hours long. Reservations are required. Call 780-496-6879.  

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Flora of the Rare, Indigenous, or Arctic Kind


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How Arctic Plants Adapt

Terra Informer Julianne Hayes explains how arctic plants adapt to a warming tundra.

Maintaining the Biodiversity of Alberta’s plants

We all know that even now species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Tasmia Nishat met with Jenine Pederson, a Master’s student in Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, to talk about her research on preventing the loss of biodiversity. Jenine studies rare plants, and looks at how we can save them from the most devastating effects of climate change.

ID Cards for Plants

Have you ever wondered about which plants are indigenous to the area you are living in?  What are the different uses for the plant and what are the plant’s names?  What has contributed to the dwindling of indigenous species of plants in some areas and what are the impacts?  Terra Informa’s Annie Banks asked John Bradley Williams and Jennifer McMullen to tell us about a set of Indigenous plant identification cards that they’ve created.  The cards help readers identify plants on the unceded Coast Salish Territories of Vancouver Island.  John Bradley and Jen describe the cards and the ideas behind their creation.

Image Credit: Ghislain118 on Wikipedia

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Speciesism + Science Faction


Painting by P. Mathews from 1838 of the Trial of Bill Burns. Burns was prosecuted for beating his donkey under the Martin's Act for cruelty to animals (1822). The case is memorable because the donkey was brought into court.

Painting by P. Matthews (1838) of the trial of Bill Burns, a man prosecuted for beating his donkey.

This week’s theme is speciesism! Speciesism refers to the belief that the human species is superior to all other species. Mark Devries is the filmmaker behind “Speciesism: The Movie,” a film that documents the immense scale of pig farms in North Carolina using drone surveillance. Inspired by the animal rights discussion, we’ve included a podcast episode produced by Science Faction that discusses the evolution of land species from fish.

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Mark Devries, Speciesism: The Movie

Mark Devries is a filmmaker interested in the ethics of livestock practices used in North Carolina. His documentary, Speciesism: The Movie, shows how large-scale livestock farms raises the issue of animal rights and raises concerns about environmental protection and human health. Tasmia Nishat interviewed Mark Devries about the visual impact of these livestock farms, his ethical concerns, and the methods he used to capture film of private farm property, including using a small plane and drone surveillance.

Science Faction: Fish with Feet

Science Faction is a Canadian miniseries that explains scientific research using 1000 of the most commonly used words. “Fish with Feet” takes listeners on a journey to the lab of Dr. Emily Standen at the University of Ottawa to learn about fish that can walk. They discuss how Dr. Standen’s lab is raising fish out of water and how her work elevates our understanding of the evolution of ancient fish species into land species.



Reflecting on 2016, Environmentally


Happy Holidays everyone! This week we bring the holiday feels with some archive pieces – we discuss whether artificial or real trees are the way to go, and we speak to Tasmia Nishat’s bus driver on his experience growing up with chinooks. The Terra Informers also reflect on the year, environmentally, and their hopes for the future.

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Christmas Tree Showdown

We’re starting to get to that time of year when many of us are on the lookout for a new Christmas tree for our living rooms. We’re usually faced with one of two options: springing for the real deal, or going artificial. But who wins in the ecological showdown between the two types of trees? Each has its pros and cons, but when it when it comes to deciding which is naughty and which is nice, the answer isn’t so cut-and-dried. Before sprucing up your den this holiday season, you might want to hear some of the facts, which Hamdi Issawi will take us through.

Growing up with Chinooks

Is it shi-nook or chi-nook? And you can actually smell them coming?! These are the things Tasmia Nishat gleaned when speaking with her bus driver last year about his experiences growing up with the chinook in Calgary.

Image Credit: Madereugeneandrew on Wikipedia

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Standing Rock Unfolding


This week on Terra Informa, we bring you a Standing Rock special. We got stories reported from Standing Rock, with a timeline of events up to the December 4th 2016 Denial of Easement from the Army Corps of Engineers. Terra Informa speaks with a Standing Rock Elder, a volunteer lawyer, a sacred fire keeper, participants in a Veteran’s Day direct action, and a longtime resident of the camp.

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Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Image Credit: Tasmia Nishat

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Future of the North, Future of Nigeria


On this week’s episode of Terra Informa, we interview one of the world’s leading climate change scientists on the future of the North. Then we have a piece from Climate Radio discussing the climate challenges facing Nigerian communities, accelerated by deforestation.

Laurence C. Smith and the Future of the North

How will the combination of a booming global population, climate change, and rising sea levels transform the world? To Laurence C. Smith, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, the North is set for major gains. Smith will give audiences a glimpse into the future, and describes the world that we are leaving to our children and grandchildren — one that is wholly different from the world we know today.

The Ordeal of Mitigating Climate Change in Nigeria

Forest communities in Cross River State in the southeast Nigeria are losing rights and livelihoods as their forests are being locked down by the government which seeks increased revenues through a United Nations backed ‘carbon trading’ scheme that promises to pay cash for projects that claim to preserve forests to alleviate global climate change.

With deforestation believed to be responsible for about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism was introduced through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to focus on  controlling the rate of deforestation from logging and degradation.

Social Action, an NGO fighting for the rights of indigenous people in Nigeria, is one of the civil society organizations at the COP22.

Ken Henshaw from Climate Radio enlightens us the ordeal faced by communities in the cross river state of Nigeria.

What’s Happening

19th Annual Wildlights Festival

In Kamloops, BC, throughout December The BC Wildlife Park will be hosting their 19th annual Wildlights Festival. Great for kids, there will be a scavenger hunt, a family farm, a maze, lights, and even visiting with Santa Claus. Tickets range from $8 to $12 for single admissions, to $45 for a full family pass.

Planning for Climate Change

On Tuesday, December 13th, in Haliburton, Ontario, marine biologist Peter Sale will be speaking about how communities can prepare for climate change. Hear how the Muskoka Watershed Council developed its report, how its recommendations were received, and what actions are being planned or taking place already. The presentation will take place at Haliburton United Church at 7:30.

Intro to Camp Cooking

On Thursday, December 15th in Edmonton, Alberta, MEC will be hosting a free camp cooking skills workshop at 7 PM at the MEC Edmonton South location.  Learn about stoves, fuel and cooking for different activites. MEC will also share some of their top-secret tried and tested recipes.

Celebrate Winter Solstice at Stanley Park

On Sunday, December 18th in Vancouver, BC from here will be a winter solstice walk and an Indigenous Solstice dinner. From 1:30-3:30, you can explore the history and customs of mid-winter festivals on a two hour walk through Stanley Park. See the plants that have played pivotal roles in the traditions and decorations that we associate with the holiday season, and hear stories from different cultural traditions surrounding the shortest day of the year. Meet at Lost Lagoon Lakehouse. Tickets range from $5 to $12.50 for members or non-members.

Later in the evening, there will be a fundraising Indigenous dinner for Stanley Park Ecology Society’s education programs. Tickets are $75, and this fundraiser evening’s narratives tell the story of solstice through a First Nations perspective. This event has a set menu with locally-sourced, indigenous dishes.

Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz – NASA Earth Observatory via Wikipedia

Download the program log here.