York Capstone Day celebrates innovation and creativity  

Cross Campus Capstone Classroom FEATURED image for new YFile

York Capstone Network’s (YCN) annual York Capstone Day event will take place virtually on Friday, April 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Funded by the Business in Higher Education Roundtable, the annual showcase welcomes students from any Faculty at York to present their completed capstone projects. Bringing project partners and mentors as well as York community members together, the event celebrates the innovation, creativity, ambition and impact of York students. 

Both pre-capstone and capstone students are welcome to share their research-design projects in thematic panels throughout the day and compete for five campus-wide monetary prize awards, including:  

Sustainable Development Goals Award 
The award will be presented to the team whose project demonstrates an exceptional commitment to advancing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in keeping with York University’s SDG Challenge as outlined in the current University Academic Plan. Learn more.  

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award 
The award will be presented to the team whose project demonstrates an exceptional commitment to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in alignment with priorities identified by York University. Learn more.  

High Impact Award 
The award will be presented to the team whose project exhibits the greatest potential to demonstrate a long-term, positive impact for stakeholders and society as a whole. Learn more

BEST Lab Award 
The prize will be presented to the team whose project demonstrates exceptional innovativeness and inventiveness, impact in addressing an important societal issue, and the viability of the project. Learn more.  

Emerging Leaders Award  
The award will be presented to the team whose project touches on at least one of the main award themes of sustainability; equity, diversity, inclusion; high-impact; or technology. Learn more.  

Interdisciplinary student panels with alumni and partners will form the primary events of the day. There will also be a variety of professional development and networking opportunities for students, created in partnership with Career Education and Development, York University Libraries, and Innovation York.  

Most of the projects shared at Capstone Day come from the Project Commons, an interdisciplinary lending library of SDG-linked, real-world projects for any York classroom. Professors who check out projects from the Commons receive one-on-one support from experiential education (EE) experts, who help them customize the project(s) for their classroom and its unique learning goals. Participating students are connected with project partners eager to support student learning. To learn more about the Project Commons and how it can help you infuse the SDGs and EE into your classroom, click here to book an appointment. 

Capstone Day is a free and open event for all York community members. Participation applications are due Friday, April 1. Event registration will open in April. Visit the YCN webpage for more information.  

York presents first Sustainable Development Goals virtual teach-in day

United Nations SDGs

In collaboration with York University’s Teaching Commons and in advance of the 10th annual Teaching in Focus conference, the York University SDGs-in-the-Classroom Community of Practice offers its first United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) virtual teach-in half-day.

The event, Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals: The World’s Challenges Can Be Found in Your Classroom, takes place May 10 from 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. online.

The event is open to those beginning to explore how the 17 UN SDGs might intersect with the subjects in their classrooms or those who have deep research and teaching familiarity with these goals. The half-day teach-in will include panel discussions, interactive sessions and experiential learning about teaching the SDGs. Together, organizers and participants will share approaches to working with the SDGs as a learning framework, discover strategies for engaging students with SDG-focused lessons, and share experiences as teachers and learners in the SDG classroom.

Organizers are planning an SDG-tasting, where participants can drop into virtual classrooms and experience 30-minute activities instructors use to infuse the SDGs in their program. Live coaching is also available for those who would like ideas on how to get started on infusing the SDGs into their own classroom.

Co-Chairs of this event are Professors Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, Sandra Peniston and PhD student Nitima Bhatia.

Visit this page for more information, or register for the event here.

York University researchers receive infrastructure funding from CFI

research graphic

The CFI funding was awarded through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), which helps institutions recruit and retain outstanding researchers. The funding, which was announced on Feb. 22, will also support the development global legal epidemiology, an emerging area of research that evaluates the role and impact of international law on global health.

“We are grateful for the continuing support and investment provided by the Government of Canada through CFI,” says Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “The infrastructure funding provided by CFI plays a critical role in supporting important research that will have a positive, transformative impact on society, particularly in areas related to health, sustainability and food security.”

List of CFI JELF awards:

Building infostructure for quasi-experimental analysis in global legal epidemiology – Steven Hoffman (Faculty of Health, Osgoode Hall Law School)
Award amount: $200,000

Global legal epidemiology is an emerging research field that seeks to understand how international laws, policies and norms shape the causes, distribution and prevention of disease and injury. Led by Dahdaleh Distinguished Chair in Global Governance and Legal Epidemiology Steven J. Hoffman – in collaboration with York Research Chair in Global Health Equity Mathieu Poirier, Assistant Professor Tarra Penney, and Associate Professor Adrian Viens – York University’s Global Strategy Lab will develop the world’s first research program built from the ground up to conduct global legal epidemiologic evaluations. With the funding from CFI, the Global Strategy Lab will regularly conduct global policy and outcome surveillance; rigorously evaluate international laws, policies and norms using quasi-experimental methods; improve the equity and effectiveness of international laws and policies; and become a global centre of excellence for training and education in this emerging field.

Multifunctional aerogel innovation platform – Thomas Cooper (Lassonde School of Engineering)
Award amount: $140,000

Society desperately needs new solutions to address climate change, energy security and access to clean drinking water. Assistant Professor Thomas Cooper’s research seeks to accelerate and enable the development of the next generation of multifunctional aerogel materials to help address these societal challenges. Aerogels are highly porous solid foams with interconnected pores ranging in size from the nanoscale to the macroscale. Their unique structure affords them many remarkable properties, making them excellent candidate materials for meeting multifunctional requirements needed in energy, water and sustainability applications.

With support from CFI, the team will develop the critical research infrastructure that can enable high-throughput fabrication and systematic characterization of next-generation aerogels for innovative applications focusing on renewable energy, clean water and sustainability. The research program will generate novel materials for Canada’s rapidly expanding environmental and clean technology industry.

Novel targets of whole-food dairy products for human musculoskeletal and cardiometabolic health – Andrea Josse (Faculty of Health)
Award Amount: $125,000

The incidence of chronic disease, including obesity and diabetes, continues to increase in Canada, contributing to a major health burden on our citizens and an economic burden on our health care system. Assistant Professor Andrea Josse‘s research focuses on creating and testing strategies of lifestyle modification (via nutrition and exercise) and their underlying mechanisms to improve body composition, bone, cardiovascular and metabolic health. She uses innovative, multidimensional and collaborative approaches to explore novel targets and make key discoveries regarding the effects of whole-food dairy products, which contain important nutrients that can promote health, mitigate disease and/or augment the beneficial adaptations associated with exercise.

The funding provided by the CFI will support the acquisition of vital infrastructure for exercise training and testing, body composition assessment, and physiological biomarker quantification to expand the research.

Research apiary to study honeybee behaviour, genetics and health – Amro Zayed (Faculty of Science)
Award Amount: $212,990

York Research Chair and Professor Amro Zayed’s research aims to advance knowledge on the genetics and evolution of the social behaviour of honeybees. Despite nearly a century of inquiry, the evolution and genetics underlying sociality in animals remains a mystery. The social behaviour of these insects has been extremely difficult to study at the genetic level because the typical tools for studying the genetics of behaviour in solitary organisms are not directly applicable to social animals. The funding will support Zayed by enhancing the capacity to experiment on honeybee colonies to support cutting-edge research on the genetics and health of these important pollinators. The research will lead to better understanding of honeybees and their role in supporting food security and sustainability.

Changes to prey distribution due to climate shifts show in polar bear diet

Polar bear on tundra. Pexels image by Dick Hoskins

How are warming temperatures and a loss of sea ice affecting polar bears and their marine mammal prey in the Arctic? A York University-led research team used a novel approach to the question by monitoring what polar bears eat across Nunavut and where they are catching their prey.

They found that polar bears can be used as indicators of environmental shifts and highlight how these changes are disturbing the normal distribution of marine mammal prey populations in the Arctic.

The researchers, including Faculty of Science PhD Candidate Melissa Galicia, who led the research, and Professor Gregory Thiemann of the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, have found polar bears, originally thought to eat mainly ringed and bearded seals, are actually flexible eaters. They will eat what’s readily available and this makes them ideal as a monitoring tool to track environmental changes in the Arctic.

“Polar bears need the sea ice to hunt. When there is a reduction in the sea ice, they’re hunting less or they’re potentially hunting different prey species,” says Galicia. “Prey species, like whales and seals, also need certain habitat conditions and because of environmental changes in the Arctic, some marine mammals, such as prey species of bears, are redistributing. You’re getting an increase in more sub-Arctic species, like killer whales for instance.”

The researchers analyzed harvest samples of polar bears from across Nunavut, provided by subsistence hunters over a period of about eight years, and identified spatial hot spots of prey species. The study suggests polar bear diet may provide early evidence of changes in the distribution of mammals due to climate change.

“I’m getting a large geographic representation of bears, especially in areas that tend to be less studied,” says Galicia, who was able to analyze the fatty acids, such as omega 3s and omega 6s, in the fat tissue of bears.

“Each bear will have a specific fatty acid signature, a kind of fingerprint for individual bears and because of that you can see what that particular individual is eating and what percentage of their diet that represents.”

They found bowhead whale carcasses were increasingly becoming more common in polar bear diet potentially linked to killer whales venturing further north and staying for longer periods of time.

The researchers say changes brought on by a warming climate – the Arctic ecosystem is experiencing climate warming up to three times faster than any other region – will likely force widespread species redistribution, particularly in polar environments. The polar bears in Nunavut aren’t experiencing climate changes to the same degree as some subpopulations in western Hudson’s Bay or Beaufort Sea areas, but ultimately that will likely change.

“As temperatures across the Arctic warm and sea ice loss increases, there will be profound cascading ecological consequences. What’s not known is how that will affect species, such as seals and whales, but by monitoring the seasonal prey consumption of polar bears, scientists can better keep track of where marine mammal prey species are showing up and their seasonal distribution,” says Thiemann.

There is currently little information on the abundance and distribution of marine mammals across the Arctic so this study offers a way to gain further insight and highlight potential range shifts.

The researchers say future studies of polar bear diets should include prey species not typically found in the region and help predict the severity and influence of climate-induced change.

The paper, “Polar bear diet composition reveals spatiotemporal distribution of Arctic marine mammals across Nunavut, Canada,” online now will be published in the December issue of the journal Ecological Indicators.

Faculty members can co-create community of practice on UN SDGs

United Nations SDGs

Calling all faculty who infuse the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their classrooms!

Provostial Fellow Cheryl van Daalen-Smith is searching across York’s campuses to identify faculty who have begun to find ways to infuse the UN SDGs into their teaching, courses and classrooms. Whether it’s incorporating SDGs though guest lectures, linking SDGs to disciplinary foci and in-class discussions, providing options to students to consider the SDG of an assignment, or other examples of teaching and learning with a UN SDG focus, van Daalen-Smith wants to hear from any and all faculty members.

The goal of the call-out is to co-create a community of practice, and perhaps organize a teach-in, to highlight what is already happening at York and inspire others to “see the SDGs” in their respective areas.

Many faculty members are finding innovative ways to tether their disciplinary/programmatic/course focus to an SDG, or several – with some selecting their relevance by the 3P model of dividing the SDGs up into people, prosperity or planet. Students are reporting a zeal for the ability to consider real-world issues and to look at them through their own disciplinary lens. Faculty members in departments including dance, engineering, nursing, kinesiology, biology, children’s studies, business, and gender, sexuality and women’s studies are already finding ways to tie their existing foci to the SDGs.

Faculty members interested in participating are invited to contact van Daalen Smith as soon as possible by emailing cvandaal@yorku.ca with the subject line “SDGs in my classroom.”