Profs Featured in National News

November 22, 2010 - In the News

Prof. Marie-France Boissonneault and her new book Every Living Being: representations of nonhuman animals in the exploration of human well-being is featured in today's Toronto Star.

In the article, the adjunct professor with the Ontario Veterinary College discusses how portrayals of animals in television, books and movies shape people's views of animals. However, she argues that these fictional representations are often nothing like the way animals and pets behave. In particular, she talks about how assuming animals' facial expressions are similar to humans, or to what is shown in cartoons, can be problematic. For example, a dog with its mouth open may be interpreted by a child as a smiling dog because that is how it is depicted in cartoons, but in reality that might not be the case.

This topic is just one of many covered in Boissonneault's recent book. The book is an analyses of the historical integration of the role of animals in care-giving positions, and their depiction in popular Western culture. It establishes the degree to which nonhuman animals, domesticated and wild, have contributed to the emotional lives and care of humans in contemporary Western culture. In examining the historical depiction of animals in literature and art, as well as their interpretations in contemporary mass media, the aim of my book is to provide an in-depth analysis of the cultural interpretation of animals as they interconnect with a diverse array of human-constructed realities principally in the area of 'wellness and suffering.'

Prof. Brenda Coomber was featured in Monday's Globe and Mail discussing her latest research findings which show that a prescription drug thought to have anti-cancer properties when used off-label may not only be less effective than claimed but may actually protect some kinds of cancers.

Coomber's researcher, which was published recently in the journal Cancer Letters, examined the impact the drug sodium dichloroacetate (DCA) has on colorectal cancer tumour cells. DCA was developed three decades ago to treat a rare serious metabolic disorder in children and has recently been touted as a safe, inexpensive anti-cancer drug.

Studies of brain tumours have found that DCA selectively kills cancer cells without damaging normal tissue. However, the biomedical sciences professor has found the drug doesn't bring the same success with colorectal cancer. The study revealed DCA had no impact on the tumours studied and in some cases encouraged tumour growth. Based on these findings, Coomber argues that the same treatment can't be used for all types of cancers.

Also featured in Monday's Globe and Mail is a book review by Prof. Janice Kulyk Keefer.

In the article, Kulyk Keefer reviews the novel Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick. The English professor explains that the novel is a response to The Ambassadors by Henry James that also manages to introduce new characters and fresh elements of plot, and uncovering supplementary, sometimes radically different meanings in the events narrated.

In the review, Kulyk Keefer also describes the language used as "over-the-top-and-down-in-the ditch prose" filled with alliterations, exclamation points and literary allusions.

Research by Prof. James France and PhD student Jennifer Ellis, was featured in Saturday's Toronto Star.

Their latest study has discovered that mathematical equations used in predicting cows' methane emissions are inaccurate and need improvement to help dairy farmers mitigate greenhouse gas releases.

The study, co-authored by Canadian and Dutch scientists, was recently published in the journal Global Change Biology.

These researchers used data from studies in Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to assess how well widely used equations predicted methane production. They found that nine equations used in whole-farm greenhouse gas models over- or underestimate cows’ methane emissions.

Research by another U of G professor has received national media attention. Prof. Patricia Wright's research on the amphibious mangrove killifish, one of the world's most unusual fish, was featured recently in U.S. News and the Vancouver Sun.

Wright's study, which was recently published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, reveals the reason why the tropical fish can survive out of water for as long as two months.

Wright, along with a team of researchers, discovered how the small, swamp-dwelling fish is able to use its skin to process oxygen and maintain a crucial ion balance — the way its gills do when submerged — whenever its coastal freshwater habitat dries up.

The killifish can stay alive while stuck in a wet log or stranded in mucky sediments for the duration of the dry season — as long as 66 days — in habitats ranging from Florida to Brazil.

U.S. scientists who documented the fish’s remarkable out-of-water survival capability in 2007 described it as a potential window into evolutionary history and the gradual transformation of many aquatic species into terrestrial ones.

The Canadian study sought to answer how the fish survives out of water. The research involved laboratory experiments with killifish that demonstrated the species’ ability to automatically alter its skin chemistry in dry conditions — effectively turning its entire body surface into a makeshift set of gills.

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