Research at UVic

Bioligist Helps Brazilian Fishers

UVic biologist, Dr. Jack Littlepage, is heading a $9.3 million CIDA-funded project to help Brazilian fishers develop a sustainable fishery in local species of shellfish and fin-fish. Littlepage hopes that once trained in mariculture-the farming of sea creatures-the poverty-stricken fishers will set up their own small operations and greatly increase their incomes. He has been working on similar projects in Brazil since the late 1980s and is enthusiastic about the changes he's seen.
"It's very rewarding. We have so many friends who had nothing, who lived in driftwood houses on the beach, and now own a seafood restaurant, oyster culture farm, trucks, and houses."

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Horror, Not Honour for Many Elderly

Elderly women are often victims of abuse and typically from people they trust, say School of Nursing researchers Drs. Elizabeth Pittaway and Elaine Gallagher. They collected data from service agencies across Canada, interviewed clients and reviewed more than 540 records of clients from 55 to 103 years of age-74 per cent were women.
The researchers' findings were shocking. Forty-one per cent of the women had been psychologically abused, 29 per cent physically abused, 27 percent financially abused and 12 per cent neglected. Even more shocking were the statistics on the abusers: 27 per cent were sons, 24 per cent were husbands and 11 per cent were daughters of the victims.
"It is tragic that violence and oppression does not stop in old age. But until we critically reflect on our own ageist attitudes and how we view older people, it is likely that many will remain the silent victims of elder abuse," says Pittaway, who is continuing her research into the elderly.

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Researchers Score Big

While national funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is being reduced over the next three years, UVic researchers received their biggest research and equipment grants ever-more than $5.6 million. Overall, 95 per cent of UVic applications for funding were approved, well above the national average success rate of 80 per cent.

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Off-Road and On-Line: StressNet Builds a Better Bike

When Dr. Ged McLean (Mechanical Engineering) describes a mountain biker as being "wired" he's not talking about attitude. He's referring to a UVic-developed network of tiny, postage stamp-sized computers attached to significant points of a bike to test the durability of its components under actual performance conditons. McLean and his research team initially developed StressNet for Delta-based Rocky Mountain Bicycles to help the company test the bike components it imports and builds.
The portable computer network is connected by one single cable to a frame-mounted radio link that transmits data collected during tough wild, off-road rides to a laptop computer for analysis. The system weighs about the same as a water bottle.
Rocky Mountain Bikes, whose clientele includes world-class racers in North America, Asia and Europe, was so impressed by StressNet that it asked UVic to build the company a completely new bike testing lab. Now installed in Delta, the lab ensures that the company's Race Face components not only exceed industry standards, but meet the higher levels of performance and durability Rocky Mountain can develop in the lab.
Stress Net has applications beyond handlebars and seat posts. Dart Aerospace in Sidney, B.C. is using it to test and develop helicopter landing gear. The lightweight technology can also be used to monitor and maintain static structures, like bridges.

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Research May Help Study of MS, Arthritis

The work of a UVic researcher may lead to a better understanding of auto-immune diseases. Geneticist Dr. Ben Koop, Centre for Environmental Health, and Drs. Lee Rowen and Leroy Hood from the University of Washington, have uncovered the complete genetic structure for one of the major genes in the human immune system, the Human Beta T cell Receptors Locus. The gene is responsible for recognizing all foreign molecules in the body.
"The critical new information we uncovered will help in the study of diseases such as MS, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes," says Koop. Their findings were published in the June 1996 issue of Science, the world's leading science magazine.
Koop has been conducting gene research for almost 10 years, four of them at UVic. His research is part of the Human Genome Project, an international effort to the complete genetic basis of humans.

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One Small STEP for Safety

Canadian streets may be safer for seniors thanks to a program introduced by UVic's School of Nursing. During a nine-month period in 1995, people in the Capital Regional District (CRD) were asked to call the STEPS (Seniors Task Force for Environments which Promote Safety) Hotline to report accidents or dangerous conditions. Eight hundred people responded. Their main complaints? Uneven and slippery surfaces.
Falls to seniors cost the CRD more than $2 million annually in treatment and hospitalization. According to project director Dr. Elaine Gallagher, the study's results have already led to an improvement in the region's streets and city engineers are welcoming the public's involvement in identifying hazards.
The STEPS program has produced a video and manual for municipalities and community groups across the country that illustrates how to make streets and public walkways safer. Call the School of Nursing at (604) 721-7954 for more details


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Retire Old Approaches to CPP

Critics say the beleagured Canada Pension Plan (CPP) could be bankrupt by the year 2015, but Drs. Newman Lam and Michael Prince and Professor Jim Cutt of UVic's School of Public Admininstration say the plan can be saved. They say a five-fold reform package will save the plan which had a shortfall of $4.3 billion in 1995-contributions provided $12 billion in income while payouts to the 3.5 million people who collect CPP were $16.3 billion. They recommend that:

"We believe the plan has a real place in the fabric of Canadian society and it is not inherently flawed. But it must undergo some drastic changes if it is to survive into the next century," says Lam.

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UVic Astronomers Topple the Hubble

During the visit of the comet Hyakutake last April, UVic's astronomy department gained world-wide attention when CNN scrapped its plans to use images of the comet produced by the space-based Hubble Telescope in favour of a short animation created by UVic's David Balam. Researchers at the Atlanta-based news network saw Balam's animation on the Web and were immediately impressed. Balam linked 80 still photos in a sequence of 10 to 12 exposures to produce the first-ever moving images of a comet. The photos were taken atop the Climenhaga Observatory on the Elliott Building. Check them out at

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