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A P R I L 2 0 11 | VOLUME 10 | ISSUE EIGHT Species discovery the UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE Hall ready to unveil Earth Into Property Dr. Theresa Burg sits with a juvenile albatross. On the right, two albatrosses pose for the camera. Photo on left by Scott Schaffer, San Jose State University Langevin brings national focus to Horns rugby Sopko takes advantage of internship Melnyk revels in leading alumni chapter The U of L Legend is published monthly during the academic year by the communications unit within University Advancement. Submissions, comments and story ideas are always welcome. The Legend reserves the right to refuse any submitted advertisement. The Legend can be found online at legend. Next content deadline is Apr. 29, 2011. A DV E R T I S I N G For ad rates or other information, contact: CREDITS Editor: Trevor Kenney Designer: Stephenie Karsten CO N T R I B U TO R S: Amanda Berg, Diane Britton, Bob Cooney, Jane Edmundson, Nicole Eva, Abby Groenenboom, Tamera Jones, Suzanne McIntosh, Kali McKay, Heather Nicholson, Rob Olson, Stacy Seguin, Zyna Taylor, Jaime Vedres, Katherine Wasiak and Richard Westlund University of Lethbridge 4401 University Drive Lethbridge, AB T1K 3M4 BY BOB COONEY I t’s not every day that you get to make a definitive decision on a new species. But after a number of years of review, research submitted for peer review in 2008 by Dr. Theresa Burg and thenundergraduate student Derek Raines has been recognized as being a key factor in distinctly defining a group of endangered albatrosses located on remote Amsterdam Island in the South Indian Ocean. “When it was first discovered in 1984, researchers described it as a new species because its plumage resembled a juvenile wandering albatross, which was a darker colour and in other groups whitens as it matures,” says Burg. “They have a different breeding date and are smaller, and they have juvenile plumage. That gave me the idea they were different, but some research had lumped them in with other species. There had been research done on more slowly evolving genes, and there was no difference found. We looked at the other groups and found there were three other groups separated by seven to nine (genetic) differences.” Burg argued that the longer the GLOBAL EVENT HITS HOME BY STACY SEGUIN On Mar. 11, 2011, the world watched in horror as Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake followed by a crushing tsunami that left behind a mass of death, destruction and devastation. Stirred by human compassion, many people want to help during such tragedies but often don’t know how – so they wait for someone to take the lead. For Mieko Okutomi, a University of Lethbridge student with family in Japan – waiting was not an option. “When it first happened I was at home and I saw my friends on Facebook writing about Japan. I wasn’t too concerned because Japan often has large earthquakes – but when I saw all the media coverage I time that there has been a separation of genetic information, the better the chance the birds were distinct – and her peers agreed. The challenge of physically getting the research done can be daunting, because as Burg describes it, the island is in the ‘middle of nowhere’ near Antarctica. Getting there would typically involve a plane trip to the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, a long boat ride courtesy of the British Navy and either a helicopter ride or, more typically, being cast into the freezing water in a small boat to reach the island. The upside? E-mail through a satellite phone. The downside? Aside from the trip and weather, dodging cranky fur seals that, despite their slow ‘look’ can outrun a person, headhigh clumps of grass and a long turnaround time to return samples to a lab – sometimes weeks, depending on passing mail boats. Her doctoral research began at Cambridge University in the UK where as part of her program she was researching fur seals near the Falkland Islands. She was approached to work on albatrosses because there was less research available and the opportunity seemed unique. The challenge now is to look for more opportunities to protect the species, since albatrosses are a threatened group of birds. “Of the 22 different known species, 75 per cent are threatened, and this population in particular is critically endangered,” says Burg. “They are a small population to begin with because of a breeding cycle that produces a single egg every two years and they face further challenges from rats introduced from whaling ships which eat the egg, and death by long-line fishing.” Burg’s research these days is less distant and more accessible. She is focusing on genetic markers in chickadees, woodpeckers and jays, where her research is showing evidence of the evolutionary changes in these birds since the last ice age. “There appears to be higher levels of variation in the species in areas that were not covered in ice, versus areas that were,” Burg said. “Understanding this can help us to determine what process led to the creation of species of birds.” started to realize this was different,” recalls Okutomi, whose home is only 100 km away from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. “I felt really bad because at first I couldn’t reach some of my family members. It took a while to find out they were OK. That was what initially prompted me to get involved in the fundraiser. I felt compelled to do something. I knew I would never be able to look at myself in the mirror if I hadn’t done anything.” Responding to an plea from the International Centre for Students (ICS), Okutomi, Ayuno Nakahashi, Ryosuke Imura, Sayu Ishimine and Emma Wight met with staff and came up with the idea to fundraise money to aid Japan through the Red Cross. The students created displays and brochures detailing the tragedy and set up donation boxes on campus. The fundraiser took place Mar. 16-18. “The ICS provided the students with logistical support, organizing tables on campus, supplying presentation material and signing the contract with Red Cross so that the fundraiser could happen,” says Trish Jackson, acting manager ICS. “I am just so impressed by how much enthusiasm, love and care the students brought with them and how well it was received around campus.” During the fundraiser, Okutomi became aware of an extraordinary achievement by Yuko Yokota, the wife of Dr. Eiichi Yokota, a visiting professor from Hokkai Shouka Daigaku, Hokkai School of Commerce in Japan. Mrs. Yokota had made more than 1,700 traditional paper cranes that she was willing to donate to the University. In Japan, the crane is a very important symbol of hope and peace, and legend says that if you fold 1,000 cranes you are granted a wish. CONTINUED ON PG. 7

The Legend April 2011

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