Pesticide commonly used on Canadian farmland linked to bird declines

4_barnswallow1-nicksaundersControversial pesticides, which are used “prophylactically” on millions of hectares of Canadian farmland, have been linked to not only the declines in bees, but also birds. A Dutch study released Wednesday provides the strongest evidence yet that neonicotinoids are harming insect-eating birds like swallows, which are in sharp decline.

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Changing climate at root of ‘utterly unprecedented’ summer flood

Floodwaters inundate a farmstead near Gainsborough, Sask.  ~ CP Don Healy

Floodwaters inundate a farmstead near Gainsborough, Sask.
~ CP Don Healy

Published July 6, 2014

Smith Creek in southeastern Saskatchewan normally runs dry in July. Last week it hit an all-time high and the stream gauge that scientists have been monitoring for decades is now under water.

So are countless homes and farms in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where the province has declared a state of emergency and called in the military to help deal with the stunning summer flood.

“It’s utterly unprecedented,” says John Pomeroy, director of the centre for hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan. While as horrified as anyone by the flooding he is perhaps not quite as surprised. Continue reading

Last chapter for many federal science libraries

Books and reports from a Department of Fisheries library at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont Joli, Que., tossed into a dumpster, according to scientists distributing the photo.

Books and reports from a Department of Fisheries library at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont Joli, Que., tossed into a dumpster, according to scientists distributing the photo.

January 9, 2014 – Environment Canada has a phone number for its library in Calgary. But a meteorologist answers, and he can’t say what’s become of the books.

It’s a similar story in Edmonton and Quebec City where federal libraries, with shelves loaded with reference books and scientific reports on everything from beluga whales to songbirds, now exist only in name.

Environment Canada lists the libraries on its website but the books are long gone. Continue reading

Closure of fisheries’ libraries called a ‘disaster’ for science

Rare books on the shelf at DFO's St. Andrews library ~  SOS

Rare books on the shelf at DFO’s St. Andrews library ~ SOS

April 14, 2013 _ The libraries are home to the 50 illustrated volumes from Britain’s Challenger expedition that sailed the seas in the late 1800s exploring the mysteries of the deep.
The shelves heave with reports detailing the DDT pollution that wiped out young salmon in New Brunswick’s “rivers of death” in the 1950s. And they contain vivid reminders of native fisheries, Canada’s once vast cod stocks and the U.S. submarines that prowled the quiet fjords along the B.C. coast in the 1940s — history that is being packed into boxes as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans “consolidates” its world-class library collection.

Seven DFO libraries across Canada are to close by the fall, including two that have been amassing books and technical reports on the aquatic realm for more than a century. Continue reading

A “muzzle and snitch line” for Library and Archives Canada

Published 13/03/15 

Jim Turk, executive director of CAUT ~ photo by Pat McGrath

Jim Turk, executive director of CAUT ~ photo by Pat McGrath

Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada.

Given the dangers, the code says the department’s staff must clear such “personal” activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”

The code, which stresses federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government,” also spells out how offenders can be reported.

“It includes both a muzzle and a snitch line,” says James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which represents more than 68,000 teachers, librarians, researchers and academics across the country.

He and others say the code is evidence the Harper government is silencing and undermining its professional staff. Continue reading

When federal cuts kill thousands of living things; Across Canada, scientists are aghast at cuts

Ottawa Citizen Mon May 14 2012

By Margaret Munro 

Federal cuts are a life-and-death issue for Lynne Sigler.

As curator of one of Canada’s largest collections of fungi, Sigler has 11,500 strains of living organisms under her care, from the fungi killing North American bats with white nose syndrome to soil microbes that help rare orchids thrive.

The microfungus collection and herbarium at the University of Alberta has been nurturing fungi for more than 50 years. And since 1990 it has been considered a “unique” national resource worthy of federal money.

No more. Funding for the collection, and dozens of other “major” and “unique” science facilities and resources across Canada, has been hit by federal cuts in what is being described as a “disaster” for Canadian science.

“It’s very dismaying,” Sigler says of a moratorium the federal government has slapped on the program that pays for the technician and supplies that help keep the fungus collection alive. Continue reading

Scientists urge Harper to rescind cuts to basic research

Vancouver Sun Jun 6 2012

By Margaret Munro  Postmedia News

Opposition to federal science cuts is getting louder, with top researchers and academics urging the Harper government to rescind curbs on basic research and its plan to close a unique experimental lakes facility.

An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the environment and fisheries ministers was released Tues-day, denouncing the decision to stop funding the Experimental Lakes Area, a celebrated federal research facility in northwestern Ontario which was instrumental in banning phosphorus in deter-gents and stopping acid rain.

Meanwhile, Steve Perry, the dean of science at the University of Ottawa, has fired off a letter to Harper and several cabinet ministers decrying recent cuts to discovery-based science programs. Continue reading