‘We must never give up,’ Jane Goodall tells York community

Jane Goodall at podium BANNER

On April 9, at a special ceremony to award Jane Goodall with an honorary degree, the renowned primatologist and anthropologist shared stories from her life and career with attendees. She also shared why – despite the immense challenges the natural world faces at the expense of climate change – she has hope for the future.

“I still don’t really understand what’s happened to me,” she told the York audience about a career that has led her to become one of the world’s most famous anthropologists and primatologists. Nonetheless, she made an attempt to help those in attendance understand how she became the world-renowned figure she is today from – what she considers – a simple beginning.

“I was born loving animals,” Goodall explained, recounting how as a young child she would climb a tree and watch birds, squirrels, spiders and other creatures. If she couldn’t observe the magic of the natural world directly, she’d read about it indirectly through fantasy-tinged books like Tarzan of the Apes and The Story of Doctor Dolittle. With both novels’ ties to Africa, a seed was planted early for Goodall: she wanted to see the continent herself.

President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with Jane Goodall
President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with Jane Goodall.

Goodall recounted how many questioned the logic of that newfound desire to travel to Africa and – perhaps – live with the wild animals like Tarzan and write books about them. “Everybody laughed at me,” Goodall said.

Throughout her address, she returned to the importance of the people most important to her journey, and among them was her mother who – even when she was young – never laughed at Goodall’s interest in animals. Once, when Goodall was very young, her mother found she had brought a handful of earthworms to bed. “Jane, you’re looking at them so earnestly, as if you’re monitoring how they’re walking without legs,” she noted. Then, very quietly, she nudged: “We better take them back to the garden.”

Goodall received a similar degree of gentle motherly guidance as she considered pursuing her interest in animals in Africa. “If you really want to do something like this, then you have to work really hard, take advantage of every opportunity, and if you don’t give up, hopefully you’ll find a way,” Goodall recalls her mother saying. “That’s the message I take around the world, particularly to young people, particularly to girls in disadvantaged communities.”

Goodall certainly took that message with her at the time, and did find her way to Africa, becoming a secretary to renowned British paleontologist Louis Leakey in Kenya. As Leakey began seeing Goodall interacting with local animals, he saw something in her. “He apparently decided that I was the person he’d been looking for to be the first to study chimpanzees in the wild,” Goodall said.

So, she did.

For a while, everything that would happen next – the exposure and support she received through National Geographic, the leadership she would demonstrate in guiding science to completely reconsider chimpanzee behaviour and more – would have seemed unlikely to Goodall when she began her immersive study.

The first few weeks were difficult. “For four or five months, the chimps took one look at me and vanished into the forest,” she recalled. She felt like she was making no progress. Goodall’s mother, who had volunteered to come with her to Tanzania, saw it differently, pointing to how in that limited time Goodall had already learned much about the chimpanzees: what they ate, how they communicated and what their communal dynamics were. “She said, ‘You’re learning more than you think,’” Goodall recalls of her mother.

Soon after there also came a turning point in the form of a chimpanzee she would come to call David Gray Beard. “He began to lose his fears [of me] before the others,” she said, which led to her getting close enough to him to observe an – at the time – revolutionary insight: chimpanzees could make and use tools. “That really changed everything,” Goodall said.

Jane Goodall with a special friend
Goodall with a special friend.

In time, Leakey wanted her work to be recognized by the scientific community, elements of which rejected her. Notably, they questioned the empathetic connection Goodall formed with the apes – something she, to this day, is known and beloved for. “’You cannot have empathy with animals and be a good scientist. You have got to be objective. You cannot be objective if you have empathy,’” she recalled being told.

That revolutionary empathy has been a landmark of not just Goodall’s work with apes, but advocacy for the natural world. That was something that especially flourished when she returned to Tanzania to start a research station after her first immersive study among the chimpanzees.

“I got to understand the ecosystem of the forest,” she said. “I see it as like a tapestry. And every time a species disappears from that ecosystem, you pull that thread from a tapestry. And if you pull in other threads, that ecosystem will collapse.”

She began to wonder what would happen if climate change were allowed to run unabated, or if humans don’t do something to control biodiversity loss. She could see first hand the impact poverty has on the environment, “because when people are poor, out in the rural areas, they’re destroying the environment simply to survive.” And the young people she would encounter were similarly concerned with the future. “Young people were losing hope. They were angry,” she said.

Addressing the students in the audience, Goodall admitted the old had have been compromising the future of the young for generations. However, Goodall said there is much that gives her hope. “If we get together, we can start to slow down climate change,” she said. She’s encouraged by many people throughout the world wanting to work to solve the challenges the Earth currently faces. “I’m sure there are students even right here working to try and solve particular problems,” she added.

“There is always hope,” she said. “We must never give up.”

York research advances flood risk management with AI

flood surrounding traffic sign BANNER

In a recently published paper, Rahma Khalid, a PhD candidate in the Civil Engineering Department at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, and her supervisor, Associate Professor Usman Khan, proposed a promising new model for flood susceptibility mapping (FSM) that incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning (ML) methods.

Flood susceptibility mapping – the process of identifying potential flood-prone areas based on their physical characteristics – is a valuable technique used to identify areas that are vulnerable to flooding and inform risk mitigation and protection strategies. Unfortunately, conventional FSM methods rely on time-consuming physical and mathematical models that are also limited in their ability to predict flood risk across large regions.

Rahma Khalid
Rahma Khalid

“We have seen that physical and mathematical models can be very inconvenient for flood susceptibility mapping, especially when it comes to analyzing large areas,” says Khalid. “From a research perspective, we know that using machine learning can improve the speed and efficiency of different processes. This is why we proposed a flood susceptibility mapping model that is leveraged by machine learning for more accurate, rapid and reliable results.”

In their paper, titled “Flood susceptibility mapping using ANNs: a case study in model generalization and accuracy from Ontario, Canada,” Khalid and Khan document how they put their idea to the test and utilized an ML model to map out different regions in southern Ontario and determine their flood susceptibility.

Usman Khan
Usman Khan

They did so by using previously gathered data from different regions across southern Ontario, allowing the model to interpret, identify and predict areas that are at risk of flooding.

The model’s performance was also compared against conventional physical and mathematical models, as well as various emerging ML methods.

“When it comes to flood susceptibility mapping in real-world scenarios, machine learning models have not really been used,” says Khalid. “Industry members are also hesitant to apply these models because there is very little information about their accuracy and reliability.”

Khalid and Khan’s proposed model addressed limitations of other FSM models through training and testing that proved it to be a superior method for flood susceptibility mapping, outperforming other models. It even demonstrated novel capabilities that can help advance the future of flood risk management.

“Our model demonstrated a novel ability to accurately predict flood susceptibility, even across areas that we did not provide training data for,” says Khalid. “Knowing this, we can work towards training our model to understand more about different regions and further improve its ability to predict flood susceptibility in larger areas.”

Currently, Khalid and Khan are working on enhancing the performance of their model with a particular focus on improving data resolution, as well exploring the possibility of supplementing their model with additional ML methods.

Research explores use of artificial shrubs for animal protection

Lizard beside a shrub in the desert

Mario Zuliani, a York University researcher and teaching assistant in the Faculty of Science, is making inroads in the field of ecology with his novel study on the association between imitation plants and animal species.  

Expected to complete his PhD at York in August, Zuliani has already made significant contributions to ecological science, including a recently published paper in Restoration Ecology titled “The Relative Effects of Artificial Shrubs on Animal Community Assembly.” 

Zuliani’s environmental research took root during his master’s program in biology at York, where from 2018 to 2020 he focused on ecological conservation and restoration, particularly through studying the relationship between shrubs and animal species. Building on this earlier work, Zuliani’s latest study digs deeper into the facilitative interactions between shrub and animal species, exploring how structures that mimic shrubs might be utilized by animal species in the wild.  

Explaining the motivation behind his research, Zuliani highlights the importance of shrub species in arid ecosystems such as those found in Southern California. These shrubs play a crucial role in providing shelter, food and protection for a diverse range of animal species, mitigating the harsh conditions of the desert environment.  

Fake shrubs serve much of the same purpose, Zuliani and his team have found, providing compelling evidence that artificial shrub structures can replicate the benefits of natural shrubs, attracting similar animal communities and providing essential resources for survival. 

“From our study, we found that artificial shrubs can produce the same benefits that natural shrubs produce. They reduce the temperature under their canopy and even have the same animal species associating around them,” Zuliani says. “We also found that animals prefer being closer to either artificial shrubs or natural shrubs, rather than in areas where there are no shrubs. This is important because it shows that these artificial structures will be used as a resource by animals.” 

The implications of Zuliani’s research are far-reaching, offering valuable insights for conservation and restoration efforts in disturbed ecosystems.  

“One of the biggest actions I am hoping to come about from these findings is the use of artificial shrubs as a short-term solution to promote animal communities in areas where natural shrubs have been disturbed, or in areas where there are endangered animal species,” he says. “Finding that these dry-land animal species utilize these artificial shrubs suggests that they can be used, at least for a short time, while natural shrubs are able to grow in size and provide the same benefits.” 

By demonstrating the effectiveness of artificial shrubs as a temporary solution to promote animal communities, Zuliani also hopes to pave the way for sustainable initiatives that support endangered species and mitigate the impacts of habitat loss and climate change.  

“Utilizing artificial shrubs – and by extension artificial structures – could have positive impacts on sustainability initiatives, as they can all be used temporarily while disrupted ecosystems recover,” Zuliani says. “As well, using these types of structures, even for just a short period of time, would relieve stress that animals experience when they have lost habitats or when their environment has become increasingly harsh from global climate extremes.” 

Lassonde accelerates green mobility revolution with electric cars

SARIT vehicles on York's Keele Campus with Frank Stronach
SARIT vehicles on York’s Keele Campus with Frank Stronach

In the 18 months since a prototype of a tiny, three-wheeled electric commuter car took a first test drive at York University, much progress has been made in driving the vehicle to the forefront of the green revolution in urban transportation.

Arundhati Kandan Ramdas
Arundhati Kandan Ramdas

Arundhati Kandan Ramdas, mobility project manager at Lassonde School of Engineering, reports that the mini car known as SARIT (safe, affordable, reliable, innovative transit vehicle) is now in production, harnessing some of the ideas and new technologies developed soon after it arrived on York’s Keele Campus in 2022 for intensive rounds of study.

“We have successfully tested and integrated AI-powered vision systems for pedestrian detection into the SARIT, which will allow us to address potential concerns about pedestrian collisions, and to deploy the vehicle in popular Toronto locations, such as the Toronto Zoo, Exhibition Place and the new Markham Demonstration Zone, where York is a partner,” Ramdas says.

University researchers also added trailers to the SARIT to facilitate cargo transportation of everything from parcels to food, and fertilizer for agriculture.

“As well, we are deploying keyless entry for ignition to enable vehicles to be more easily shared, replacing the traditional key with an app for a smartphone,” she adds.

SARIT vehicle
SARIT vehicle

Initiated by Canadian automotive maverick Frank Stronach (his Magna International company in Aurora, Ont., designed the prototype), the SARIT project epitomizes York University’s “living lab” concept, serving as a vital testing ground for sustainable transportation solutions.

A former York governor, Stronach contributed $100,000 to develop the SARIT as a next-generation vehicle.

“I chose York University because its living lab and entrepreneurial mandates are perfectly aligned with SARIT’s objective to revolutionize the personal transportation space,” Stronach said at the time in an interview with The York University Magazine.

Stronach’s significant investment in the SARIT initiative underscores a shared commitment to sustainability and innovation. His generous donation will drive ongoing research, development and testing of SARIT electric vehicle prototypes, cementing York’s position as a trailblazer in sustainable urban mobility.

The SARIT’s top speed of 32 kilometres per hour makes it ideal for commuting – it’s safer and more comfortable than alternatives such as e-bikes. It also costs less than standard electric vehicles, with operating, insurance and electricity costs averaging under $300 per year, Ramdas says.

“The SARIT offers a unique solution to the challenges of converting to zero-emission vehicles, providing a variety of single-use and share-use solutions that enhance mobility and reduce transportation costs with zero emissions.”

Looking ahead, SARIT’s expansion involves forming partnerships to address mobility challenges and showcasing its effectiveness and environmental benefits at various community events. An entrepreneurial challenge to be launched at the University will also aim to leverage SARIT’s mobility capabilities for creating unique ventures, fostering innovation and sustainability.

“We are excited to start to see how the ideas and technologies we have been working on at York lead to commercial success,” Ramdas says.

York conference inspires next generation of environmentalists

Change Your World conference 2024 team. Photo credit: Daniel Horawski

With news of environmental crises coming at us at an increasingly alarming rate, it can be easy to dwell on the doom and gloom of it all. York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) is doing its part to prevent that with its annual conference, Change Your World, which aims to empower Ontario’s youth to be the next generation of global changemakers.

Last week, some 500 Ontario high-school students and their teachers from more than 25 schools gathered in Vari Hall on York’s Keele Campus for the conference, where they spent the day learning how they can make a sustainable and equitable difference in the world – and its future – through a series of activities and workshops hosted in partnership with environmental and community partners from across the province.

Change Your World conference attendees gathered in Vari Hall. Photo by Daniel Horawski.

“At a time when there is a great deal of despair and ‘eco-anxiety’ concerning the state of the planet, it was inspiring to see young people coming together as active citizens to envision a different future,” said Philip Kelly, interim dean of EUC. “Connecting schools and environmentally-focused organizations for thoughtful discussions through events like Change Your World is an important role for the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change in our wider community.”

Pictured, left to right: keynote speaker Joanne Huy, EUC Interim Dean Philip Kelly, keynote speaker Alicia Richins. Photo by Daniel Horawski.

Students began the day by hearing from the conference’s keynote speakers, beginning with Interim Dean Kelly and ending with alumna Alicia Richins, director of strategy and governance for youth sustainability leadership organization Leading Change Canada and creator of multimedia platform the Climateverse.

Richins challenged the audience to consider their passions when choosing what change they should focus on and encouraged them to boldly share ideas, work collaboratively and never give up on their goals to make positive change.

“This annual event is all about showcasing ways youth can lead the change we need in our communities and around the world,” said Lily Piccone, strategic enrolment and communications officer at EUC and Change Your World conference co-ordinator. “Through inspiring keynote speakers, like our very own YU alumni Alicia and Joanne, and our community partners, the students can see local citizens that have turned their passion into a profession and are making positive change for people and the planet”

Toronto-based singer-songwriter and climate activist Brighid Fry performed at the 2024 Change Your World conference.

The students were then able to let their interests guide them by choosing two breakout sessions to participate in from a variety of offerings, including: a workshop on how to build resiliency in the face of anxiety about the future; a giant, immersive board game about power, peace and the planet; hands-on time with wind turbine models and solar panels; a tree identification walk; talks on green infrastructure, climate futurism, the importance of wetlands; and much more.

Following their lunch break, participants were treated to a special guest performance by Toronto-based singer-songwriter and climate activist Brighid Fry, recognized as one of the Top 25 under 25 by non-profit organization the Starfish Canada for her work on sustainability in the music industry. Students wrapped up their day of immersive learning with another workshop and enjoyed one final keynote address by community engagement professional and York alumna Joanne Huy, who shared her passion for transforming lives and communities through learning experiences and making local change in the York University and Jane-and-Finch communities.

Watch the video recap of the day’s events below:

For more information about the annual conference, visit the Change Your World website.

One Fare Program to launch Feb. 26

Student walking away from subway on York University Keele Campus

The government of Ontario has partnered with Greater Toronto Area transit providers to make getting to campus more accessible and affordable by integrating fares across systems.

Starting on Feb. 26, transit customers paying with a PRESTO card, PRESTO in Google Wallet, debit or credit card (physical or in a mobile wallet) will be able to transfer for free between the TTC, Brampton Transit, Durham Region Transit, MiWay and York Region Transit, due to Ontario’s new One Fare Program. Also, TTC customers paying single-ride fares connecting to and from GO Transit will benefit from a fare discount, making their TTC fare free.

“York University commends the Ontario government for eliminating the need for double fares by creating a more integrated fare system,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “The new One Fare Program will have a significant impact on our community, as over 74 per cent of our students, and most of our faculty and staff, commute to campus via GO Transit as well as the two subway stations on our Keele Campus. An integrated fare system will not only create a more affordable, accessible and efficient transportation network but also continue to provide a sustainable transportation option that will help to reduce our community’s carbon footprint.”

Metrolinx will be on the Keele Campus for a community engagement event on Monday, Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Vari Hall to discuss the new One Fare Program and the in-progress Finch West Light Rail Transit (LRT) line.

For more information on PRESTO, the electronic fare payment system available across 11 transit agencies in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and Ottawa, and how to obtain a PRESTO card, visit PRESTOcard.ca.

Upcoming lecture looks at practice of evidence-based hope

Two hands holding black heart

The late professor David V.J. Bell, former dean of York University’s Faculties of graduate studies and environmental studies, had a passion, commitment and dedication to sustainability and education that left a lasting imprint on policymakers, educators and youth across Canada and abroad.

David V.J. Bell
David V.J. Bell

Honouring his legacy, the Annual Dr. David V.J. Bell Memorial Lecture is intended to help bridge the gap between research and what is practised in educational institutions by identifying Canadian thought leaders to share their insights on education for sustainable development as it applies to policy, teacher education and practice, and student empowerment.  

This year, the Fifth Annual Dr. David V.J. Bell Memorial Lecture, hosted by national charity Learning for a Sustainable Future in partnership with York’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, features keynote speaker Elin Kelsey presenting a talk titled “How to be hopeful in a world of doom: the practice of evidence-based hope.” The virtual lecture will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

Elin Kelsey
Elin Kelsey

Kelsey is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Victoria School of Environmental Studies and Western Washington University’s School of Environment. She is also an award-winning author, speaker and thought leader for the evidence-based hope and climate justice solutions movement, helping people to believe that desired change is possible. Her work focuses on the reciprocal relationship between humans and the rest of nature, particularly in relation to the emotional implications of the narrative of environmental doom and gloom on children and adults

To register for the lecture, visit lsf-lst.ca/forms/dvj-lecture-registration. Details on how to join the session will follow.

For further information about the event, email elaine@LSF-LST.ca. To learn more about the keynote speaker, visit elinkelsey.org.

Two profs earn awards for postdoctoral mentorship excellence

Audience clapping

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) honoured two exceptional professors, Alison Crosby and Amro Zayed, with the Postdoctoral Supervisor Award during an FGS council meeting on Dec. 7. The award is presented annually to a faculty member in any department and program at York who demonstrates exemplary support for postdoctoral scholars.

This award serves to applaud Crosby and Zayed for exceeding general supervisory expectations to their postdoctoral Fellows while acknowledging the important work performed by both the professors and Fellows. Alice MacLachlan, vice-provost and dean of graduate studies, said the two recipients embody the award’s spirit of mentorship creativity, excellence and dedication. “You serve as a role model for all of us to follow,” she added.

“This is the kind of work that places York in the top 40 globally in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, through our work as a progressive, research-intensive institution,” said Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic.

Alison Crosby

Alison Crosby
Alison Crosby

Crosby is an associate professor and interim Chair of the School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies. Her research projects and publications use an anti-racist, anti-colonial and transnational feminist lens and participatory methodologies to support protagonists’ multifaceted struggles to redress and memorialize harm in the aftermath of political violence, with a particular focus on Guatemala, where she has worked for over 30 years.

Crosby is currently working on the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council-funded project “Remembering and Memorializing Violence: Transnational Feminist Dialogues,” which brings together feminist scholars, artists, activists and community practitioners from a wide range of contexts and disciplinary perspectives to explore the transnational dimensions of how we collectively remember and memorialize colonial, militarized and state violence. The project also provided Crosby’s postdoctoral Fellow, Ruth Murambadoro, with a space to house her research and become part of this digital community.

“Professor Crosby embodies Ubuntu principles of communitarianism, humility, mutual respect, hospitality and so much more, which have enabled me to integrate and chart a new pathway for my career in Canada,” noted Murambadoro in her nomination letter. “She remains a key player in my life and role model, who taught me fundamental lessons on collegiality, humanness and effective mentorship. I value the contributions that Prof. Crosby has made in my research, scholarly and personal development over the time we have worked together.”

In response to the award win, Crosby said, “It’s my pleasure, privilege and honour to work with postdoc Fellows.” Of her nominator, she said, “I look forward to my collaborations with her for many years to come.”

Amro Zayed

Amro Zayed
Amro Zayed

Zayed, a professor in the Department of Biology and York Research Chair in Genomics, is currently the inaugural director of York’s Centre for Bee Ecology, Evolution & Conservation, leading a research program on the genetics, genomics and behaviour of social insects, using the honey bee as a model organism. 

Zayed’s lab provides opportunities to conduct research and network with academics and industry partners worldwide. Since 2009, Zayed has supervised eight postdoctoral Fellows who have collectively produced a total of 28 peer-reviewed publications and 71 conference presentations. He aims to equip postdoctoral Fellows with the skills necessary to successfully navigate the increasingly competitive job market.

“His approach to leadership has inspired us to seek creative solutions in research and to collaborate with diverse groups of stakeholders,” stated Sydney Wizenberg and Sarah French in their letter of nomination. “To this end, Amro exemplifies all of the characteristics one would expect of an intellectual leader and role model. He provides a unilateral environment of support to his research group. He is personally invested in our success and well-being, going above and beyond to help with professional skill development. He is actively involved in our career development, prioritizing our long-term success over our short-term role in his group.”

Zayed was caught off-guard by the award. “I was really surprised by this,” he admitted. “When I started my career, I never appreciated the joy of having postdocs.”

The Postdoctoral Supervisor of the Year Award accepts nominations annually by no later than June 1 of each year. Nomination letters should provide evidence that the nominee meets the following criteria: is a role model for intellectual leadership and professionalism in research; fosters an environment of support for professional skill development; promotes a climate of respect and collegiality; and offers advocacy and guidance in long-term personal and professional developments.

For more information, visit gradstudies.yorku.ca/postdoctoral-fellows/supervisor-award.

Student film exploring community-based sustainability screens at COP28

film camera

A documentary short created by York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi and supported by CIFAL York was competitively accepted to screen on Dec. 11 at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, as part of COP28’s Canada Pavilion events program.

York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai
York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

In collaboration with CIFAL York and EnviroMuslims, A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability examines an innovative, community-based sustainability program that a group of volunteers at the Jaffari Community Center (JCC) in Vaughan, Ont., undertook during the holy month of Ramadan while hosting and feeding more than 2,000 individuals every night. The film shows how the community was able to significantly minimize food and plastic waste and take major steps towards contributing to sustainability goals at the community level.

“Screening at COP28 is an exciting and exceptional opportunity for me and the film to further spread its message,” says Naeemi, who is currently at the conference in Dubai to take part in events and promote his film. “Considering the focus on the role of culture in climate change action at COP28, this documentary brings an example of such contribution, as faith is rooted in our culture.”

A second-year PhD student in York’s Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), Naeemi – who also puts his skills to use assisting CIFAL York’s multimedia unit – filmed, edited, directed and produced the film himself, with support from his PhD supervisory committee.

Using an interview style, Naeemi says the film seeks to highlight the following: the role of faith in initiating sustainable programs; the impact of family and community engagement in teaching sustainable practices; the role of Muslim women as sustainability leaders; and the advantages of using passionate youth to drive innovative sustainability practices.

“This documentary is very much in line with our focus area in developing learning materials around advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” says Ali Asgary, director of CIFAL York, a professor of disaster and emergency management, and one of Naeemi’s PhD supervisors. “Screening this documentary at COP28 is very significant, as it highlights the importance and connections between the SDGs and the climate change.”

Adjunct Professor Mark Terry, another member of Naeemi’s supervisory committee, who helped produce the film through his Youth Climate Report project, calls A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability “a remarkable film.”

“I’m very proud of Peyman for making a film that Canada wanted to showcase at this year’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai,” he says.

At COP28, Naeemi looks forward to receiving expert feedback on the film and learning from peers about how to expand its reach on a global scale. Attending the conference, he hopes, will also enrich the theoretical part of his thesis, giving him exposure to the world’s leading experts on environmental action.

Regarding his future plans, Naeemi says A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability will screen at the JCC, at York and potentially other universities, and at film festivals like the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film Festival. It will then be available for public viewing online, on the CIFAL York and CIFAL Global websites. On the academic side, Naeemi plans to use the documentary as a case study in an upper-level undergraduate course, highlighting the role of digital media in environmental and social movements.

Collaborative project on global climate modelling wins prestigious supercomputing award

concept of digital technology

Miles Couchman, a York University assistant professor in applied mathematics, Faculty of Science, is part of an international research collaboration featuring a multidisciplinary network of researchers – including applied mathematicians and mechanical, civil and environmental engineers – that has been been awarded a highly competitive 2024 Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) Supercomputing Award.

ork University Assistant Professor Miles Couchman (left) and collaborator Professor Steve de Bruyn Kops (right) in front of the Frontier Supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest supercomputer in the world
York University Assistant Professor Miles Couchman (left) and collaborator Professor Steve de Bruyn Kops (right) in front of the Frontier Supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest supercomputer in the world.

The winning collaborative project looks to better understand turbulence in stratified flows, notably scenarios where a fluid has variable density. One application of particular interest is developing more robust mathematical models for characterizing the turbulence-enhanced mixing of heat in the ocean, a leading area of uncertainty in global climate modelling and a topic of direct importance to global society.

The INCITE program, run by the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), grants 75 computational intensive science projects access to the world’s fastest supercomputers, located at the DOE’s Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories, to further innovation across the fields of science, engineering and computer science.

Couchman’s co-project was among 108 total proposals received by INCITE this year from international researchers or research organizations asking for supercomputer access. The evaluation process was highly competitive, with proposals evaluated over the course of four months based on computational readiness, the scalability of a project’s code and algorithms, and more.

Couchman’s team was awarded use of Frontier, the largest supercomputer in the world, in 2024 to perform numerical research simulations, allowing the researchers to simulate turbulent processes with unprecedented resolution, leading to more accurate and universal turbulent models. They hope what they learn won’t just apply to the mixing of heat in water, but how pollutants mix in the atmosphere and more.

The research team is made up of individuals from Duke University, the University of Washington and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the U.S., as well as the University of Cambridge in the U.K.