Tag Archive | Canada

Ride for Lyme!


These aren’t the ticks you’re looking for…These are Dermacentor andersoni, the Rocky Mountain wood tick. They do not transmit Borellia, but nonetheless are a spectacularly ornamented hard tick. Male is in the centre, flanked by two females.


This weekend, Catherine and I went out to Victoria to spend Mothers Day with my mom, who years ago suffered a debilitating illness caused by a spirochaete, Borrelia burgdoferi.  This spirochaete, as far as we know, is transmitted in an enzootic cycle between ticks and various small mammals, reptiles and birds. When it spills over into the human population, it can cause symptoms ranging from mild rash and arthritis to fatal swelling of the brain and other organs, with just about everything in between represented. It is the most common arthropod-borne illness in North America, with hundreds of thousands of infections annually.

Primarily this disease is transmitted by black-legged ticks (Ixodes ricinus), but Ixodes pacificus, the Pacific black-legged tick is also a competent vector. While the main hotspots for Lyme transmission in Canada is southern Ontario and Quebec, there is growing evidence that locally acquired infections in BC may be becoming more common.

Nonetheless, the disease is often misdiagnosed, unrecognized, or otherwise not regarded as serious by a large proportion of the medical establishment, who are convinced that a quick round of antibiotics will kill the parasite. This is often true, but it seems that it is not always the case. Some of the most severe manifestations of Lyme disease go on to be persistent, leading to progressive debilitating symptoms. This chronic form of Lyme is the most controversial, as the leading treatment orthodoxy does not recognize the existence of long-term infection.

The existing diagnostic criteria are often insufficient, for while they pick up the so-called classic Lyme symptoms very well, an unknown percentage of sufferers never experience the characteristic bulleseye rash (erethema migrans) or early arthritic symptoms. Molecular techniques used for diagnosis are designed only for those sufferers presenting with classic Lyme symptoms, and even at this they have very poor performance. So the situation in Canada is there is transmission of a debilitating parasite, which can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and medical and disease-control officials are unwilling to acknowlege the extent and nature of the problem.

Anyway, something is being done to address this illness, both from a public information perspective as well as from a fundraising one.


Two young fellows from St. Catharines, Ontario are undertaking a cross-Canada bicycle ride to raise money for and awareness of the disease. Daniel Corso and Tanner Cookson have a friend named Adelaine who was recently affected by Lyme disease, and realized what a tough and enduring problem the disease would be in her life. Discovering that the treatment options and diagnostic situation in Canada need to be updated, the two decided that their love of athletics may offer some kind of solution in the form of an endurance fundraiser. If nothing else, their ride might help raise Adelaine’s spirits.

On Sunday, they began their effort with a rally at Victoria’s Centennial Square, where they announced the ride and introduced their support team (their dads!). Since it was Mothers Day, they also made a special effort to acknowledge the mothers affected by the disease (like mine).

For more information on Lyme borelliosis in Canada, visit the CanLyme website, and to follow along with Tanner and Daniel’s ride, check out rideforlyme.ca.

This is a really important health issue in Canada, and this is a great way to raise awareness and funds for research. If you happen to be on their route, be sure to go and cheer them on!

Below are some pictures from the Victoria events.

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Stand Up For Science!


Yesterday, I crawled my sick ass out of bed to meet Catherine and attend an important event in downtown Vancouver: the Stand Up for Science Rally. This Canada-wide action was a call to arms for citizens and scientists alike to protest the Canadian Conservative Government’s abysmal track record on science.

We heard from many speakers, listing the long dark tale of the Conservative reign over science policy: from backward steps like closure of the Experimental Lakes Area, gutting of the Fisheries Act, persecution of drug harm reduction programs, the list really goes on and on. The long and terrible record on science is explained in great detail at Confessions of a Science Librarian, where John Depuis has amassed a vast and depressing catalog of Conservative-led attacks on science in Canada.

Hopefully this event will raise public consciousness about the current threats to science and science policy in Canada, and our voices will be heard. Catherine and I were glad to do our part and felt the day well worth it.  So sit back, enjoy the photos and click some links to find out about some of the great science advocates we have in this country.


Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee explains how exactly the Conservative War on Science will affect wildlands management.


Dr. David Suzuki, documentarian and geneticist (and a childhood hero from “The Nature of Things” lays into Harper big time!


NDP Deputy Critic for Fisheries Fin Donnelly explains the Harper-led destruction of federal fisheries protections.


Dr. Tzeporah Berman, author and activist from Greenpeace and  ForestEthics, delivered a fiery speech outlining how Harper’s Big Oil love affair has landed us in hot water with our international climate commitments. I knew Tzeporah from way back when I was a forest protection activist during the 1993 Clayoquot Sound Campaign.


Dr. Sarah Otto of UBC makes the leap from evolutionary biology to science policy, by outlining the failure of the Canadian Government to take seriously the Species At Risk Act . Of over one hundred SARA submissions in the last 2 years, representing years of effort by conservation scientists, only 2 have made it to Cabinet.


Dr. Alexandra Morton, former whale researcher and now staunch defender of the wild coast, gave an impassioned appeal for unfettered research and science communication at the federal level. Her organization has had to undertake their own research and monitoring in order to help police the coast, something that the Feds should have been on long ago.


Dr. Thomas Kerr, an addictions specialist working with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS explains the Conservative-led attack against the proven results of Vancouver’s Insite safe injection site and other harm-reduction initiatives in Canada.


SFU’s Dr. Lynne Quarmby, algal researcher got everyone fired up about basic research and the unexpected discoveries that misguided policies cannot anticipate.


Bregitte DePape (a gutsy activist) and others from ShitHarperDid role play the Conservative antagonism to Science.


Protest Dogs


A super-cute puppy travelling with Alexandra Morton!


A seasoned protest dog, this venerable beast inhabited the steps right below the PA!


Keeping an eye out, in case Harper sneaks up from behind.


Social interactions!


results of the Weekend Expedition to Comox


As I suspected might be the case, this Weekend Expedition was more of a working holiday, as we went over to help Catherine’s parents move. The ferry rides  provided the majority of the good photo opportunities, but this is not a bad thing! A trip from the mainland to Vancouver Island provides a lot of photographic potential. Check out the results below to see what I mean.


Regular ferry service between Vancouver and Vancouver Island principally services two cities: Victoria and Nanaimo (home of the Nanaimo Bar). We took the trip from Vancouver to Nanaimo, from which we got a ride  to Comox (thanks Sidnee!).


The mist-enshrouded evergreen hills of BC. I used to fantasize about living here when I was a boy, imagining all the amazing animals in this relatively unspoiled province.


Winter light on the seascape can do some odd things.



One of my favorite things to do on the ferry decks is shoot gulls. It is one of the best opportunities to practice in-flight shots from all angles.


On the outbound trip, there was even some blue sky. The gull looks surprised too.


Saturday evening we took in some local culture. In Cumberland, there was a Taiwanese Lantern Festival.


These large lanterns made for an interesting backdrop. Bounced flash off the ceiling allowed some detail to come out in Catherine and Julia.


Shooting in the dark!  The ambient lighting is interesting at least.

The lantern festival culminated in a launch of aerial lanterns. I sewed up some stills into a movie to give a sense of what that looked like.


This was the view on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, the wind was raging, and dozens of eagles flew right by the window. It was too dark for photography however.


The return ride was a little more choppy, but the seas are quite pretty in a grim and cold sort of way.


Vancouver from the north with 18 mm (check out the boring composition…how not to use a wide lens!). This shows the full extent of downtown to UBC.


Vancouver as seen from the North with a 300 mm lens.


This would be the faster way to go!


Vancouver is crowded, but this looks a bit isolated even for me!

Weekend Expedition 2: Stanley Park with Wild Research

This weekend expedition was much like any you might venture to make on a winter day in Vancouver: grey and rainy! The rain was not severe though, so with the camera protected by a big umbrella, I headed out with Wild Research for a birdwatching trip led by Elly Knight, a grassland songbird researcher at SFU. The mission today was to get out and see some waterbirds as well as some passerines that make their homes in wintertime Vancouver. I was along to document the fun, as well as to offer my own, often unreliable, ID help! Click on any image below to see a gallery of the resulting shots.